Business in brief

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The UK's owner-managed businesses grew rapidly last year, according to a survey today by accountants KPMG, creating almost 37,000 extra jobs. It translates into an average of 12 new employees per company, an increase of 6 per cent over 1995. The survey, based on a sample of 3,000 companies, said owner-managed businesses' operating profits grew by 14 per cent and turnover by 13.5 per cent to pounds 64.5bn. However growth varied sharply across Britain. In the South-east profits surged by 18.5 per cent, while in the North-east they rose by half the figure.

The Stock Exchange is to create a new screen-based market for trading in covered warrants, a form of options to buy shares. The Exchange said there were currently more than 100 current warrants issues, but trading was conducted on a number of different systems. The new service should make prices more visible, the Exchange said, allowing a wider range of investors access to information.

Manufacturers are increasingly having to tailor or customise product ranges to suit the requirements of customers, according to a survey by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Foundation for Manufacturing Industry and IBM. Of the manufacturers questioned, 97 per cent said customer preferences were changing faster than they were five years ago and 84 per cent said customers were increasingly demanding individualised products or services, made possible by Japanese-style lean manufacturing techniques.

Royalblue Group, a computer software company specialising in financial trading and telephony systems, is to raise pounds 10m through a stock market flotation valuing the business at around pounds 40m. Employees, who own 40 per cent of the shares, are likely to emerge with substantial paper windfalls. John Hamer, chief executive, could see his 8 per cent stake in the company worth more than pounds 3m after the flotation. Mr Hamer, who joined the company as a five- person concern in 1983, said about 90 employees were members of a broad share option scheme. Mr Hamer said: "It's a thin-cat scheme rather than a fat-cat scheme. It's available to as many staff as possible."

Around 13,000 employees of the Goodyear Tyre & Rubber company, the largest tyre maker in the US, went out on strike yesterday in a dispute over a new three-year contract. Management later held discussions with union leaders in Chicago, but the talks foundered over the issue of job security.