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Bovis and Costain form roads venture

Bovis and Costain, the construction groups, have formed a joint venture to bid for the Department of Transport's private-sector road initiatives. The new company, National Road Operators, has also forged alliances with the RAC, the Granada Group and Centre-file, a subsidiary of the National Westminster Bank.

Hang Seng tops for profitability

Hang Seng Bank, 60 per cent owned by HSBC, the parent of Midland Bank, is the most profitable in the world, according to the annual rankings of IBCA, the UK credit rating agency. The Hong Kong bank pushed Banco Popular of Spain, last year's winner, into second place.

HSBC as a group came 29th in the rankings which cover the 300 largest banks. In terms of actual profits, HSBC was the world's top bank, making dollars 3bn. At the other end, Credit Lyonnais of France and Banesto of Spain made the largest net losses, of dollars 1bn and dollars 4bn respectively.

Flotations record

This year is on track to be a record one for flotations, according to KPMG Peat Marwick, the accountants. So far, 182 companies have come to market in 1994 and KMPG says activity in the last quarter should see new listings exceed the 1986 total of 203.

Subdued shoppers

Consumer demand has turned down in the second half of this year as shoppers absorb the impact of higher tax and interest rates, according to Verdict Research. Retailing 1998, its annual five-year forecast of retail activity, predicts disappointing sales in the coming Christmas season and no pick-up in consumer demand until next summer.

Shell's Smart move

Shell, Britain's second-largest petrol retailer, is launching a Smart card for its giveaway scheme for motorists. Points collected on the card can be exchanged for gifts or for Air Miles but not petrol.

Cruiseliner deal

Chantiers de l'Atlantique, the French shipyard which is part of the GEC Alsthom group, has won a provisional order for two 1,000-cabin luxury cruiseliners from Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but French shipping sources said it could be worth up to dollars 600m.

Pension top-up claim

The Banking, Insurance and Finance Union is to ask Barclays to top up the pensions of part- time women staff employed as far back as 1976. It will be one of the first claims emerging from a European Court ruling last week on part-time women workers.

Sometimes on Sunday

John Lewis, one of the fiercest opponents of Sunday trading, has bowed to commercial pressure and is to open two of its department stores on the two Sundays before Christmas.

A spokesman for John Lewis described the decision to open in High Wycombe and Brent Cross, north London, as 'an experiment' and said there were no plans to extend it to its other 20 stores or to other times of the year.