The Week That Was: The plot thickens in the stock exchanges saga

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The Independent Online

On Tuesday, the seemingly interminable saga of the London Stock Exchange reached page 1,595 with a new sub-plot. It emerged that the world's big banks were getting together to build a platform for trading shares in Europe's biggest companies. The move would put them in direct competition with stock exchanges including the LSE, Euronext and Deutsche Börse.

The news emerged as it was revealed that Deutsche Börse was about to drop its plan to merge with Euronext. LSE shares, which had more than doubled over the past year, fell back almost £1 to 1,215p.

Vodafone, the giant of the mobile phone sector, produced an eye-watering £3.3bn loss for the six months to 30 September. The company had been knocked by an £8bn impairment charge on the goodwill of its Italian and German businesses. However, analysts said the figures were better than expected.

On Wednesday, J Sainsbury announced that Jamie Oliver's omnipresence and a concentration on healthy food had helped sales jump 8 per cent to £9.7bn. Chief executive Justin King claimed he was beating supermarket rival Tesco on some measures. Andy Bond, Asda's chief executive, announced recently that he was hiring 1,800 staff to launch a massive expansion of its internet operations.

It was announced on Thursday that Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher's favourite eco-nomist, had died at the age of 94.

Meanwhile RTL, Europe's biggest broadcaster, was mulling an offer of at least £5bn for ITV. The UK's main commercial broadcaster has already been approached by NTL and is waiting for a formal offer from the US-listed cable group.

The Farepak debacle continued to evolve. There has been shock and awe among conventionally hard-nosed financial commentators that a company that appeared to do little more than take money from the less well-off and then give it back to them in the form of vouchers at the end of the year could go into administration.

The general feeling seems to be that a monumental failure of management by the Christmas hamper company is responsible for leaving savers out of pocket to the tune of £40m. But news that Farepak lent a total of £35m to its parent and sister companies cannot have helped.

By the end of the week things were looking up - at least for teenage boys, whatever their age or gender. As New York's clocks struck midnight on Thursday, Sony began to shift the first units of its vaunted and bedevilled PlayStation 3. The games console has suffered production delays and software problems, and a parts shortage had limited the initial sale run to 400,000 machines.

Angel Paredes was first in a line of about 1,500 people waiting in the rain along Madison Avenue. He said: "I'm going to shower, nap rest, hook up the system and play a little bit."

His sense of classic British understatement came too late to guarantee him a part in Casino Royale, which opened this week, but may put him in line for the role of the next James Bond.

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