(Adds company news items)
* COUNTRYWIDE: Real estate agent Countrywide CWD.L said it had accepted realty management firm Connells Ltd's sweetened buyout offer for the British company, which gives it an enterprise value of about 223.1 million pounds ($304.06 million). This is the second time Connells raised its bid. FIRSTGROUP: British transport operator FirstGroup Plc FGP.L said it had sold three properties related to its Greyhound bus service for $137 million as it looks to cut costs from the struggling U.S. intercity business. ALDI: Britain's fifth-biggest supermarket Aldi on Wednesday said it plans to increase the amount of food and drink it buys from British suppliers by 3.5 billion pounds ($4.77 billion) within the next five years as the company continues its rapid expansion across the United Kingdom. COVID-19: The EU drug watchdog is looking at when people should be given the second dose of AstraZeneca AZN.L and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine, rather than at the size of the first dose, as part of its review of the shot, a source at the agency said on Wednesday. BREXIT: The United Kingdom exits the European Union's orbit on Thursday, turning its back on a tempestuous 48-year liaison with the European project for an uncertain Brexit future that will shape the fortunes of its people for generations to come. OIL: Global crude oil markets have lost about a fifth of their value in 2020 as strict coronavirus lockdowns paralysed much of the global economy, but prices have rebounded strongly from their lows as governments rolled out stimulus. GOLD: Gold prices fell as hopes for an economic recovery next year increased risk appetite, although the precious metal was set to wrap up the year with its best performance in a decade. The UK blue-chip index .FTSE lost 0.7% on Wednesday, reversing early gains as fears over a fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus led to most of the country being placed under tighter restrictions, even as Britain approved AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on: LIVE/
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
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