A WEEK IN BUSINESS

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Wimpey shares rocketed by 21 per cent to 125p after the group struck an asset swap deal with Tarmac which massively increases its exposure to the housebuilding sector. (See Blue Chip, page 6.)

Tail-ender

Sterling plunged into uncharted territory, hitting an all-time low of DM2.18 to the pound on Friday. Currency analysts now warn that it could breach the DM2 barrier, amid expectations of interest rate cuts.

Greasy pole (up)

Peter Middleton abruptly quit the Lloyds of London insurance market to head the investment bank Salomon Brothers in the UK and Europe on a pounds 1.8m first-year package.

Greasy pole (down)

Ray McEnhill, chief executive of the National Express coach operating group, will retire early due to heart problems. He is 55.

Nice little earner

The 1.4 million policyholders at Legal & General are to share a pounds 160m special bonus, thanks to a restructuring of the insurance group's long- term UK fund.

Jobs lost

Rupert Murdoch's News International closed Today, the pioneering newspaper originally set up by Eddie Shah, because of accumulated losses that had reached pounds 140m. It said it would try to find other jobs for the 300 staff.

Jobs gained

A Taiwanese company, Chungwha Picture Tube, is to set up a TV and computer components factory in Lanarkshire, creating 3,300 jobs.

Product launch

Pet City, a chain of 34 out-of-town pet superstores selling everything for the pet owner including pounds 32.99 tarantula starter kits, unveiled plans to come to the stock market.

Sound bite

"They [penal rates of tax] are gone for good. I want a tax regime where through hard work, risk and success people can become wealthy." - Tony Blair, the Labour leader, at the CBI conference.

M'learned friends

Richard Branson's Virgin TV is to seek a judicial review against the Independent Television Commission's decision on the award of the Channel Five licence. Virgin lost out to a bid from Pearson and MAI.

Under fire

South Wales Electricity was disappointed with its meeting with Welsh Water on Friday. Welsh is seeking a merger with Swalec.

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