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Nadhim Zahawi, the former chancellor, is to be named as chairman of one of Britain’s biggest online retailers, days after confirming that he would step down from parliament at the next general election.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Zahawi is to be appointed non-executive chair of Very Group, the largest remaining part of the Barclay family’s business empire.

Sources said the appointment, which will see him replacing interim chair Aidan Barclay, would be announced on Monday.

His arrival at Very Group will come during a period of turbulence for the Barclay family, who own The Daily Telegraph but are unable to exert influence over it under a government order while its future ownership remains uncertain, subject to a forthcoming auction.

Mr Zahawi’s appointment at Very Group, first revealed by Sky News in March, is likely to prompt a search for fresh equity investment in the near term, as well as a broader review of its capital structure.

The company, which owns the Very and Littlewoods brands, is weighed down by debt, but has nearly 4.5 million customers and significant expansion targets.

Based in Liverpool, it sells electrical goods, homewares and fashion, backed by a large consumer finance arm.

It is said to have performed resiliently despite uncertainty over its ownership.

The company recently said it had secured £125m of new debt funding from Carlyle Global Credit and IMI, which the company has said is designed to support future growth.

Mr Zahawi, the MP for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010, had a brief stint as chancellor of the exchequer, while he also held ministerial posts at the Department of Health and Social Care – where he oversaw the vaccine rollout during the COVID pandemic – the Department for Business and as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

He was made Conservative Party chairman by Rishi Sunak but was dismissed for failing to disclose he was being investigated by HMRC and the National Crime Agency over a multi-million pound tax dispute related to the sale of shares in his polling firm YouGov while he was chancellor.

He said he had made a “careless and not deliberate” error after initially saying he had no knowledge of the investigation and had “paid all taxes”.

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February 2023 – Zahawi: Starmer grills Sunak

Mr Zahawi’s announcement last week that he would not stand again at the next election meant he joined the likes of Theresa May, the ex-prime minister, and former Conservative Party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis in deciding to leave parliament.

Prior to his political career, he was the founder of YouGov, while he is now a patron of the Adam Smith Institute, the economic thinktank.

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Mr Zahawi has been playing a role as an intermediary between the Barclay family and the Abu Dhabi-based investor IMI Investments since its interest in participating in a bid for The Daily Telegraph emerged last summer.

He had been tipped to chair the newspaper group if RedBird IMI, a vehicle fronted by former CNN president Jeff Zucker, had been successful in buying it.

However, a fierce backlash from Conservative parliamentarians prompted Downing Street to intervene and amend legislation to prohibit ownership of British newspaper titles by investors connected to a foreign state.

RedBird IMI is now finalising preparations to conduct a further auction of the Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine.

The Barclays, who used to own London’s Ritz hotel, have already lost control of several of their corporate assets.

In February, Yodel Group, their parcel delivery business, narrowly averted insolvency when it was sold to a consortium backed by executives at Shift, a rival.

The parent company of ArrowXL, another delivery firm they own, had been forced into administration by HSBC, its principal lender.

Half of the £1.2bn loan that the Barclays took from RedBird IMI and IMI was secured against their media assets, with the bulk of the remainder said to have been secured against other assets including Very Group.

At various points in the last decade, the Telegraph proprietors have explored a sale of the online shopping business, having valued it at over £3bn.

Very Group and Mr Zahawi both declined to comment.

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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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