(Alliance News) – The following is a summary of top news stories Monday.

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COMPANIES

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William Hill’s US joint-venture partner Caesars Entertainment confirmed that it has made a possible GBP2.9 billion offer for the FTSE 250-listed bookmaker. The US hotel and casino operator confirmed a 272 pence per share offer, which it noted is a 58% premium to William Hill’s closing price of 172.55p on September 1, the day before Caesars first made an approach to acquire the UK gambling firm. Caesars however, warned that it would terminate its US joint-venture with William Hill should Apollo Global Management end up acquiring the company. William Hill on Friday confirmed it had also received an approach from Apollo. Caesars also announced plans for an equity raise.

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Johnnie Walker whisky maker Diageo said it has made a good start to financial 2021 with improvements in its performance across all regions following the gradual re-opening of the on-trade channels such as in bars and hotels in most markets. The FTSE 100-listed company continues to expect an improvement in organic net sales and operating profit for first half ending December 31, versus the second half of financial 2020, which ended on June 30. However, compared to the first half of financial 2020 – the six months from July to December 2019 – it still expects lower organic net sales and margin dilution. Diageo said its US business is performing strongly and ahead of expectations in the first half, reflecting resilient consumer demand. Spirits continuing to gain share within the total beverage alcohol market. Increased retailer confidence is resulting in some re-stocking in the off-trade channel, it noted. Looking ahead, Diageo said the outlook for the first half of financial 2021 has improved since the year-end, reflecting the good start to the year, particularly for the US business.

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Imperial Brands said the EUR1.23 billion sale of its global premium cigars business has been delayed slightly due to Covid-19. The deal is now penned to be completed on October 29. The FTSE 100-listed consumer goods firm – which owns the Davidoff and Winston cigarette brands – agreed the sale back in April. Gemstone Investment Holding is to buy Premium Cigar USA for EUR185 million with Allied Cigar Corp acquiring the company’s Rest of the World cigars business for EUR1.04 billion. The Rest of the World business includes a 50% stake in Cuban cigar manufacturers and distributors Habanos, Altabana, Internacional Cubana de Tabaco, Promotora de Cigarros. It also includes non-Cuban premium handmade cigar sales operations outside the US, including Vegafina brand, and cigar manufacturing facilities in Honduras and Dominican Republic.

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MARKETS

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London shares were sharply higher making a strong start to the week, which includes Brexit trade talks and the first 2020 US Presidential debate. William Hill was the worst midcap performer, down 11%. US stock market futures were pointed to a higher open.

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FTSE 100: up 1.3% at 5,921.19

FTSE 250: up 1.6% at 17,322.05

AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.2% at 956.17

GBP: up at USD1.2850 (USD1.2700)

EUR: up at USD1.1646 (USD1.1623)

GOLD: down at USD1,851.32 per ounce (USD1,863.20)

OIL (Brent): flat at USD41.70 a barrel (USD41.76)

(changes since previous London equities close)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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New local lockdowns, further restrictions and tough new fines for failing to self-isolate come into force across parts of the UK on Monday. People across England will be legally required to self-isolate from this week if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by the test & trace service. If they do not they risk being hit with new fines starting at GBP1,000 and increasing up to GBP10,000 for repeat offenders or serious breaches, the Department of Health & Social Care said. People who test positive for Covid-19 will also be fined if they knowingly provide false information about close contacts to the test and trace service. But people on low incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result will be eligible for a new GBP500 test & trace support payment.

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Uber Technologies will be granted a new licence to operate in London after a judge ruled the firm was “fit and proper” to work in the capital. The company was denied a licence by Transport for London in November 2019, citing breaches which compromised passenger safety and issues with transparency. On Monday, Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram ruled Uber is now suitable to hold an operator licence “despite historical failings” after hearing three days of arguments at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. In his judgement, Ikram said: “Despite their historical failings, I find them, now, to be a fit and proper person to hold a London Private Hire Vehicle operator’s licence”. The judge added: “Uber has presented no real challenge to the facts as presented by TfL though has challenged the suggestion that breaches were not taken seriously and any suggestion of bad faith on their part. Their approach has really been to explain why events took place as they did.”

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Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he is “not optimistic” that Britain will strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. Martin said there was still the “potential for a deal”, but warned that the UK government’s controversial legislation which enables the UK to break international law had “eroded trust”. He told the i newspaper in an interview to be broadcast at the Liberal Democrat conference on Monday that the UK Internal Market Bill “damaged the credibility” of agreements already entered into. Asked if he believes a free trade agreement is likely, he said: “I’m not that optimistic, if I’m honest. Just to let you know that the [Irish] government is preparing its budget in three weeks’ time on the basis that there will be a no-deal Brexit. That’s the basis on which we’re preparing the budget and we’re warning and alerting businesses to that terrible reality.”

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European businesses are concerned about the lack of progress in the ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU and warned of a no-deal Brexit. “We are sleepwalking into a precipice,” Markus Bayrer, director general of the employers’ association Business Europe, said in a statement published Monday. Business Europe expressed concern regarding the complexity of issues that still needed to be discussed in the little time that was left and called on both sides to find compromise. The last round of Brexit talks is scheduled for Tuesday.

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More than one million people have died from coronavirus, according to an AFP toll, after the deadly disease emerged less than a year ago in China and swept around the globe. The pandemic has ravaged the world’s economy, inflamed geopolitical tensions and upended lives, from Indian slums and Brazil’s jungles to America’s biggest city New York. Sports, live entertainment and international travel ground to a halt as fans, audiences and tourists were forced to stay at home, kept inside by strict measures imposed to curb the virus’s spread. Drastic controls that put half of humanity – more than four billion people – under some form of lockdown by April at first slowed its pace, but since restrictions were eased cases have soared again. On Sunday 2230 GMT the disease had claimed 1,000,009 victims from 33,018,877 recorded infections, according to an AFP tally using official sources.

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US President Donald Trump on Saturday nominated conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, a move that could tilt the top court to the right for years to come. The president was widely expected to pick Barrett, a 48-year-old Trump-appointed federal appeals court judge who was a Republican favourite because of her previous stances on abortion, gun rights and immigration. Supreme Court nominees must be confirmed by a majority in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. On Sunday, the New York Times alleged the billionaire president paid just USD750 federal income taxes in 2016 – the year he won the White House – and 2017, and no federal income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years because he reported losing more money than he made. Trump immediately dismissed the accusations as “totally fake news”.

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