Ocado and Marks and Spencer have completed their £750 million deal for the high street retailer to buy a 50 per cent stake in the online supermarket's UK retail business.

The deal will see M&S's strategy director, Melanie Smith, become chief executive of the new business - Ocado Retail Limited - and current boss Lawrence Hene will return to a "senior role" within the Ocado group, the companies said.

Shareholders in Ocado voted the deal through in May, with the new venture's board made up of Ocado's Tim Steiner and Duncan Tatton-Brown, along with M&S chief Steve Rowe and its food boss Stuart Machin.

Although the deal is completed, Ocado will not start selling M&S food on its website until September 1 2020, once the current arrangements with Waitrose come to an end.

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Tim Steiner, chief executive of Ocado, said: "Ocado Retail's future, as part of a joint venture with M&S, is full of opportunity.

"The new company will be able to offer customers even greater range, service, quality and value."

Steve Rowe, chief executive officer at M&S, said: "I have always believed that M&S Food could and should be online.

"The addition of Ocado to our family of businesses marks M&S's first truly transformational step in shaping our future as a digital first retailer, as we combine the magic of M&S food with Ocado's award-winning service to create a new and compelling proposition."

The deal also officially brings together Ocado chairman Sir Stuart Rose and M&S, where he was chief executive and chairman, back together again.

An international consortium of investors has offered to buy easyHotel, the budget hotel chain set up by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

Canadian investment fund Ivanhoe Cambridge and Luxembourg-based ICAMAP Investments have offered to buy out current shareholders for 95p a share - a 35% premium on the closing share price on Friday evening - valuing the business at £138.7 million.

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EasyHotel chairman Jonathan Lane said the deal was "fair and reasonable", and would help accelerate expansion into major European cities "where it sees significant opportunity, underpinning the long-term growth and prosperity of the EasyHotel brand."

Harm Meijer, managing director and founding partner of ICAMAP, which already has a 38.7% stake in EasyHotel, said: "We continue to believe in the long-term strategy of the business.

However, we also believe that the company needs a change in its shareholder base in order for easyHotel to become a true leading pan-European budget hotel player."

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of EasyHotel and a 27% shareholder via his easyGroup investment company, called the bid for the business too low.

He said: "I find the offer from ICAMAP to be very low and I urge all other shareholders to take no action (ie not accept the ICAMAP offer) until the true value and future potential of EasyHotel can be evaluated.

"It should be noted ICAMAP themselves paid 110p (per share) only 18 months ago and the stock has been as high as 128p just 15 months ago."

Listed British firms posted their weakest performance in three years over the last quarter as the economic slowdown took its toll, data has revealed.

Brexit uncertainty and trade tensions weighed on the UK's biggest public companies, according to the Share Centre's Profit Watch UK report for the three months to June.

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The retail stockbroker's analysis revealed that a third of FTSE 350 companies posted lower sales in the second quarter.

Firms saw revenues inch up 1.6% for the period, but growth was largely sustained due to the devaluation of the pound, amid traders' concerns over the increased likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.

Average bottom lines also improved, moving 3.1% higher, although analysts at the Share Centre again highlighted that this was "only made possible by a lower exchange rate", which boosted the value of revenues and profits from overseas.

Without this positive effect, sales and profits would have been slightly lower year-on-year, it said.

However, strong growth in revenues and profits among the country's 40 largest listed companies helped to boost the figures, with smaller firms reporting a decline in revenue for the first time in five years.

The 40 largest firms also reported significantly larger than average profits, while more than half of the companies reported lower profits.

"The slowdown in the world economy, compounded by a deteriorating picture at home, meant UK plc posted its weakest set of growth results in three years in the second quarter of 2019," the report said."

The top-line performance was poor for larger and smaller companies alike."

Analysts have slightly pulled back stocks forecasts for the rest of the year, with median earnings growth forecast to be 3.9%, a cut to the outlook from March.