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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 18 December 2013

Public to take on Network Rail debt

The task of cutting the deficit got harder yesterday as the Office for National Statistics decreed Network Rail's £30bn debts should count as public sector debt from next September, adding to the UK's £1.4 trillion debt pile. The rail operator's £3bn-a-year borrowings over coming years will also swell public sector net borrowing.

EU plans 10-year limit on best deals

The Big Four accountants – PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, EY and Deloitte – could be stripped of their most lucrative audit deals every 10 years under European Union proposals. The EU has gone further than UK reforms unveiled this year and said the incumbent bean-counter will not even be able to pitch for the role again.

Co-op investors vote for rescue

The final tranche of Co-op Bank bondholders have voted in favour of its recapitalisation scheme, which will see hedge funds ending up owning 70 per cent of the business. The plan to fill the bank's £1.5bn balance sheet shortfall needs to be approved at a court hearing today and is likely to be declared final by the end of this week.

Babcock gambles on cyber security

The Government contractor Babcock International has taken a gamble on the growing need to fight off cyber terrorists with the £32m purchase of IT consultant Context Information Security. Babcock chief executive Peter Rogers wants to use the 15-year-old cyber guardian's nous to protect the group's plethora of sensitive clients.

Financial services pays £65bn in tax

The UK's financial services sector swelled the Treasury's coffers by an estimated £65bn in the year to March, up 3 per cent on the previous year, according to the City of London Corporation. The industry contributed 11.7 per cent of the total tax take, marginally up from 11.6 per cent.

M&S hires Brittain to revive fortunes

Marks & Spencer has appointed Lloyds Banking Group's retail director, Alison Brittain, to the board as a non-executive director. She will be expected to keep close tabs on the retailer's efforts to revive its flagging fortunes, especially in its clothing division where sales have fallen for several quarters in a row.

Littlewoods pulls Christmas jumper

Littlewoods has agreed to withdraw a Christmas jumper from its online business after a court heard claims that the company stole the design from an independent retailer. Zatori said its best-selling jumper from last year was ripped off by Littlewoods – part of Shop Direct .

Thais spending as much as Chinese

Tourists from Thailand have caught up with the Chinese in the UK and are now the joint biggest-spending international spenders on the high street. Visitors from both countries spent an average of £742 per transaction, according to retail tourism business Global Blue.

Costain lands big repair contract

Costain has been awarded a five-year contract by Network Rail expected to be worth an initial £60m. The projects will include under-bridge repair and replacement, footbridge construction and works to tunnels and station platforms.

NWF profits grow according to plan

Agriculture distribution business NWF said profits for the half-year to November 30 should be ahead of a year earlier and in line with the Cheshire-based firm's expectations, driven by a good performance from the company's feeds division.

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