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The world’s second-largest steel company has warned the government that a planning verdict due this week could lead to a key division quitting the UK.

Sky News has seen a letter sent by ArcelorMittal to Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, in which it says that a decision to allow the closure and redevelopment of part of Chatham Docks would have “seismic adverse consequences… [for] the British economy and multiple strategic industries”.

In the letter from Matthew Brooks, who runs ArcelorMittal’s construction solutions arm in the UK, the company urges Mr Gove to issue an urgent order to allow fuller government scrutiny of the redevelopment proposals ahead of Wednesday’s decision by Medway Council.

“This is highly time-sensitive – calling in the application after next Wednesday will not be possible,” Mr Brooks wrote.

He warned that if the proposals were approved, ArcelorMittal would “regrettably be left with no alternative but to leave Chatham Docks and, more than likely, cease operations in Britain, given the lack of suitable alternative sites”.

“This, too, would likely be the case for the majority of businesses at the Docks,” Mr Brooks wrote.

“This would have a significant impact on Britain’s manufacturing and construction industries, delay countless critical national infrastructure projects, come at a significant cost to the economy, and leave Britain vulnerable and exposed to the volatility of international supply chain shocks.”

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The application, submitted by Peel Waters, part of the industrial conglomerate Peel Group, would see the site used to build housing and commercial facilities in place of part of the docks.

It has already been recommended for approval by local planning officers, according to reports last week.

ArcelorMittal uses the site in Kent to transport materials produced by its construction materials arm.

If the application was approved, it warned, it would “spell the end of Chatham Docks and have a significant impact on the UK reinforcement industry, leading to serious, potentially irreversible long-term harm, with immediate consequences for the resilience and carbon intensity of the sector”.

ArcelorMittal, which has operations in more than 60 countries, is an integrated steel and mining company, serving the automotive, construction, household appliances and packaging industries.

The company, which is based in Luxembourg, is chaired by Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian businessman.

It is a significant supplier of steels in Britain, and has been involved in construction projects such as Wembley Stadium, Crossrail and the O2 arena in southeast London.

“Our concern is that Peel’s application to redevelop Chatham Docks is not only wrong for Britain but has proceeded with little scrutiny and a lack of public awareness,” Mr Gove was told in the letter.

“Many key stakeholders are therefore unaware of the consequences if it were to proceed.

“As the largest operator in the Docks, we of course believe that the application should be rejected.

“However, our sole request today is for an Article 31 holding direction so you can secure the time to assess whether to call in this application for consideration at the national level.”

According to ArcelorMittal, Chatham Docks – which it described as “a 400-year-old thriving commercial port with a proud naval heritage” – employs nearly 800 people and generates economic value equivalent to £112,000 per worker, which it argued was “considerably higher than the Medway average of £63,900”.

“This is in direct contrast to proposals put forward by Peel, whose economic proposition is unclear,” Mr Brooks wrote.

He added that the redevelopment plan would spell the end for £20m of new investment with the potential to create nearly 2,000 jobs.

“However, none of this can be realised while there is uncertainty about the future of our lease on Chatham Docks,” Mr Brooks warned, adding that £5m of investment had “already been delayed by Peel’s application”.

Peel Waters could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

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Indian pharma group readies swoop on anti-smoking aid Nicotinell

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Indian pharma group readies swoop on anti-smoking aid Nicotinell

An Indian pharmaceutical group is closing in on a deal to snap up Nicotinell, the anti-smoking aid, from Haleon, its FTSE-100 parent company.

Sky News has learnt that Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories could be within days of acquiring the brand and a number of lesser-known European products from Haleon.

Sources said a deal was likely to be announced as soon as this week.

It was unclear on Sunday how much Dr Reddy’s might pay for the Haleon-owned assets, although it is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds.

Should it be completed, it will be the latest in a string of acquisitions for the Indian- and US-listed company.

Dr Reddy’s has a market value in New York of about $11.7bn, having been established in 1984.

In Britain, the company has had a presence since 2002, and includes commercial offices and a research and development centre in Cambridge.

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It also operates an active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing site in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.

Dr Reddy’s has been in talks for months about acquiring the Nicotinell brand from Haleon, the over-the-counter products giant spun out of FTSE-100 drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

Haleon, which has a market capitalisation of close to £29.5bn, is chaired by the former Tesco chief executive Sir Dave Lewis.

GSK sold its remaining stake in Haleon earlier this month.

Haleon owns some of the most recognisable over-the-counter healthcare brands in Britain, including the multivitamin supplement Centrum, Panadol pain relief tablets and Sensodyne toothpaste.

Nicotinell, which is sold in patch, gum and lozenge form, is said to be the second-largest nicotine replacement therapy product globally.

Its prospective sale will come days after Rishi Sunak’s administration failed to pass his flagship anti-smoking bill after he called a surprise summer general election.

Haleon declined to comment.

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FTSE-100 housebuilder Persimmon weighs £1bn bid for rival Cala

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FTSE-100 housebuilder Persimmon weighs £1bn bid for rival Cala

One of Britain’s biggest housebuilders is exploring a £1bn takeover bid for Cala Group, a rival player in the sector which has been put up for sale.

Sky News has learned that Persimmon, which has a market value of £4.74bn, is leaning towards submitting an offer for Cala ahead of a bid deadline next week.

City sources said it would be a strong contender to buy Cala, whose homes have a significantly higher average sale price than those of Persimmon.

Insiders expect Cala, which is being auctioned by Legal & General (L&G), to command a price tag of about £1bn.

If Persimmon is successful in the auction, it would mark the York-based company’s biggest acquisition for years.

Under Roger Devlin, its chairman, and chief executive Dean Finch, the company’s share price has rallied by over 20% in the last year.

In a trading update last month, Persimmon said it was on track to deliver growth in new home completions this year to up to 10,500.

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The Cala auction comes amid a general election campaign in which new home provision is expected to figure prominently.

Both main parties are likely to set out new policies to stimulate housebuilding growth, according to sources.

Analysts said this weekend that other housebuilders were also expected to consider bids for the L&G-owned company.

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These could include, they said, Persimmon’s larger rival, Taylor Wimpey, and Avant Homes, which is owned by Elliott Advisors and Berkeley DeVeer.

Persimmon is the UK’s third-largest housebuilder by market capitalisation, behind Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments.

Both Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey were among eight housebuilders named by the Competition and Markets Authority in February over suspicions they had exchanged commercially sensitive information.

A takeover of Cala by another major housebuilder would underline fresh momentum in the industry’s consolidation, after Barratt Developments unveiled a £2.5bn deal to acquire rival Redrow.

The prospective sale of Cala represents the first significant strategic move by its new chief executive, Antonio Simoes.

Bankers at Rothschild are overseeing the auction.

Mr Simoes described Cala as “a very strong business” during an earnings call earlier this year on which he was quizzed about the housebuilder’s future ownership.

L&G took full control of the business in 2018.

Cala reported a slide in half-year profits last autumn, citing a “challenging market”.

The company has a long-term goal to build 3,000 homes annually.

Persimmon and L&G declined to comment on Saturday.

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Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells admits removing reference to Horizon IT system from Royal Mail prospectus

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Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells admits removing reference to Horizon IT system from Royal Mail prospectus

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has admitted to amending the legal document Royal Mail issued to would-be investors before it became publicly owned to remove mention of the flawed Horizon IT system.

Data from the accounting software created by Fujitsu was used to prosecute more than 700 sub-postmasters for theft and false accounting.

Many more victims lost their homes, livelihoods and good reputation to repay non-existent shortfalls.

Now the inquiry set up to establish a clear account of the introduction and failure of Horizon has heard during Ms Vennells’s third and final day of questioning that she removed “at the very last minute” reference to Horizon from the prospectus Royal Mail issued before it was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A prospectus is a legal and financial document detailing key information for potential company investors.

It was the first time the issue was raised with Ms Vennells.

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Paula Vennells breaks down in tears again

She said: “It was flagged to me that in the IT section of the Royal Mail prospectus, there was reference to – I can’t remember the words now – but risks related to the Horizon IT system… the line that was put in said that no systemic issues had been found with the Horizon system.”

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Ms Vennells wanted the reference removed as, “the Horizon system was no longer anything to do with the Royal Mail group” she said, and contacted the company secretary to have the reference removed.

Based on this action Ms Vennells wrote to a colleague “I have earned my keep on this”.

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She was at the top of Post Office for 12 years and served as its chief executive for seven of those, from 2012 to 2019.

In at times emotional testimony, Ms Vennells said she “loved the Post Office” and worked “as hard as I possibly could to deliver the best Post Office for the UK”.

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