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Windfalls draw record society complaints

Thousands of people protesting at being excluded from their building society's windfall payouts took the number of complaints received by the Building Societies' Ombudsman to a record level in the year to March. The total number of complaints was up 13 per cent to nearly 15,000, more than 4,000 of which were from customers disgruntled about windfalls, according to the annual report from the Ombudsman. However, only 10 per cent of the windfall complaints fell within the ombudsman's jurisdiction, because he cannot currently rule on complaints relating to membership rights of societies, and so far he has not ruled in favour of an individual in any windfall dispute. Complaints about mortgages fell for the first time last year, although the number of disputes about home loans that required fuller investigation and arbitration increased.

LVMH bags pounds 10m more Grand Met shares

LVMH, the luxury goods company run by combative Frenchman Bernard Arnault, has paid more than pounds 10m for another 1.75 million shares in Grand Metropolitan as part of a concerted campaign to scupper its planned pounds 24bn merger with Guinness. The French group paid more than pounds 800m for a 6.37 per cent stake in the British food and drinks giant. Mr Arnault wants GrandMet and Guinness to adopt his proposals to merge their drinks divisions with LVMH's drinks subsidiary Moet Hennessy. It is understood he will continue to buy shares, probably taking his holding beyond 10 per cent, but it is thought unlikely that he will requisition an extraordinary general meeting to consider his proposals even though he would be entitled to do so with a 10 per cent holding. He needs 25 per cent of GrandMet's shares to block the merger outright.

Computer firm pays pounds 300m to outsource

Computer company Digital Equipment Corporation has signed a pounds 300m, eight- year deal with EDS under which it will outsource the customer administration arm of one of its biggest units. Under the arrangement, which will be managed from the US-based outsourcing specialist's London office, 800 Digital employees will transfer to EDS. Digital said the deal was "a bold step" designed to make it easier for customers to do business.

Telewest denies CWC takeover talks

Telewest Communications "emphatically denied" it was in takeover talks with Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) following a press report, though the group declined to rule out the possibility of a merger at some stage in the future. A Telewest spokesman said: "It would be foolish for anyone to rule out a merger but we are not in discussions with CWC about it." Telewest's shareholders, US West, SBC and Cox Communications, also announced an undertaking not to sell their stakes for 12 months. Telewest shares rose 5p to 99p, while CWC's shares were 10.5p higher at 319.5p.

Oftel confirms ban on BT `win-back' deals

Oftel, the telephone's watchdog, has made a final order banning British Telecom from offering special deals to win back customers who deserted to the cable companies. Yesterday's ruling confirms a preliminary decision by Oftel to stop the campaign on the grounds that it unfairly targeted other companies' customers. Don Cruickshank, the regulator, said the "win- back" reconnection offer involved two breaches of BT's licence: it had been offered at less than the cost of providing the service and discriminated between different classes of customer.

Majestic Wine profits up a heady 60%

Majestic Wine, the UK's largest wine warehouse chain, announced a 60 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 1.98m for the year to March in its first results since floating on the Alternative Investment Market last November. The figures came on the back of strong demand for fine wines and champagne, with Chilean and New Zealand wines proving notably popular. Chief executive Tim How plans to double the size of its 65-strong wine chain to create a national presence by opening around 10 warehouses a year. He is seeking new sites in places such as Newcastle, York and Cardiff to expand Majestic from its heartland in the South of England.

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