The Office for National Statistics estimates that the rate of economic growth in the UK slowed to 0.5% in the final quarter of 2014. The rate of growth for the third quarter of the year was 0.7%. In the fourth quarter output increased by 0.8% in the services sector and by 1.3% in agriculture but decreased by 1.8% in construction and 0.1% in production. Gross Domestic Product for the whole of 2014 was up 2.6% on 2013. The estimate is subject to revision as more data becomes available, but revisions tend to be small.
The American private equity firm KKR has acquired thetrainline.com from Exponent Private Equity. thetrainline.com, which sells rail tickets to consumers and business online, was established in 1999 and currently has 4.7m active customers.
Hutchison Whampoa, owner of Three, has entered into exclusive negotiations with Telefónica regarding the acquisition of O2 for £10.25bn, in a move which would reduce the number of major mobile phone operators in the UK from four to three. The deal would see Telefónica exit the UK market and focus on Spain, Germany and Brazil, where it recently agreed to buy broadband operator GVT. O2 operates 2G, 3G and 4G networks across the UK, as well as owning 50% of Tesco Mobile. Rival operator EE is currently in discussions with BT regarding a multi-billion pound takeover as the industry undergoes consolidation.
Firefly BioWorks, an American developer of cellular technology, has been acquired by Abcam for £18.5m. The type of molecule that Firefly specialises in, microRNA, is one of the fastest growing areas of biomarker and scientific research.
Eversholt Rail, owner of 28% of the UK’s passenger train fleet, has been bought by a joint venture led by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, the largest publicly listed infrastructure company in Hong Kong.
NCC Group has increased the range of services it offers with the acquisition of the Belgium and Luxembourg based Open Registry Group. The £15m deal means that NCC will now provide registry, registrar and trademark protection services in addition to web security.
Rex Features, Europe’s largest independently owned photographic press agency, has been acquired by the American licensed photographs provider Shutterstock for £22m. With offices in London and Los Angeles, Rex’s clients include magazines, websites, newspapers, agencies and broadcasters.
Birmingham City Council has agreed to sell NEC Group to the private equity firm LDC. The £307m deal includes the National Exhibition Centre, the Genting Arena, the Barclaycard Arena, and the International Convention Centre, venues which together attract four million visitors to 750 events. In addition, The Ticket Factory and the catering company Amadeus are included in the deal. Birmingham City Council will retain the freehold of all the NEC sites, which as part of the deal have had their existing uses protected.
The Spanish glass company Vidrala has acquired the container glass manufacturer Encirc. With two manufacturing plants in Northern Ireland and Cheshire, Encirc is one of the leading providers of container glass to the food and drink sectors.
The rate of inflation fell to 0.5% in the year to December 2014, down from 1.0% in November. This equals the lowest UK inflation rate since comparable records began in 1989. The main contributions to the fall came from the December 2013 gas and electricity price rises falling out of the calculation and the continuing drop in motor fuel prices.