Business and City Summary

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Walker trial nearing end The trial of George Walker, the former Brent Walker chief executive, could end this week after a four-month hearing thought to have cost well over pounds 1m. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, QC, is expected to complete his summing-up by lunchtime today.

Mr Walker and Brent Walker's finance director, Wilfred Aquilina, are accused of conspiracy to falsify accounts through fraudulently inflating profits by pounds 19.3m.

Mr Walker denies three charges of theft totalling pounds 17m and two charges of false accounting. Mr Acquilina denies one charge of theft of pounds 4.5m and three charges of false accounting.

Rate rise opposed Almost six out of 10 company managing directors thought the Chancellor was wrong to raise interest rates, according to a survey published today by Dun & Bradstreet, the business information service. Business confidence is at its highest level since pre-recessionary days of 1988, but was based more on expectations for increased exports than on an increase in consumer confidence, which has weakened since the interest rate rise.

Extra time Non-executive directors are spending on average 50 per cent more time on each of their companies than they did three years ago for the same total fees, according to a survey by 3i, the venture capital company, and Top Pay Research Group.

The report shows that in 1991 the average non-executive committed 15 days to each company, whereas that figure has now risen to 22 days. The average fee of pounds 15,000 per directorship has not risen, the survey found. It says the bigger time commitment is partly explained by the increasing use of non-executive directors to chair board subcommittees at larger companies and by their involvement in recruitment and shareholder matters at smaller ones.

Tenders invited British companies are being invited to tender for a slice of a dollars 7.5bn deal for new contracts in China. Excem, the US trading and investment group, has signed agreements for power stations, road building and technology projects.

Virgin cola deal Iceland, the 700-outlet retail chain, has signed a deal with Richard Branson's Virgin to launch Virgin Cola, the airline company's rival to Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Malcolm Walker, Iceland's chairman, said: 'We are a big player in the soft drinks market, so Iceland is an obvious launch pad for Virgin Cola. At Christmas our percentage increase in sales is well above the grocery multiples, so Richard and ourselves are keen to be in partnership together.'

Smith New Court, the stockbroker, is predicting that Virgin Cola will win 17 per cent of the British market next year.

Oil adviser Lehman Brothers Asia is to advise Vietnam's state oil firm PetroVietnam on raising dollars 100m to build a natural gas pipeline. 'Lehman's role is to negotiate the best possible terms for PetroVietnam before convincing international banks to finance the deal,' the Vietnam Investment Review said.

Chinese clamp China's leaders have clamped down on freewheeling officials, ordering them to hand over their luxury cars and drive modest home-produced models.

'China's high-ranking officials should use government cars made in China,' the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday, quoting from new rules issued by the Communist Party and government.