Business Information Service: Last week

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The Independent Online
The latest quarterly survey from the Building Employers' Confederation, released on Monday, showed that the construction industry was experiencing its worst recession since the depression years of the 1930s. It predicted job losses of more than 300,000 by the end of this year.

British Aerospace faced the prospect of returning to the European Court of Justice as it emerged that the European Commission may demand repayment of the UK Government's pounds 44.4m sweetener to BAe to buy Rover in 1988.

British Rail announced the creation of a new wholly-owned subsidiary, Union Railways, to take on responsibility for the Channel tunnel high- speed rail link and any large-scale railway infrastructure plans.

Robert Gregory, one of the senior executives involved in the transfer of pension funds following the death of Robert Maxwell, was cleared of any wrongdoing in an internal inquiry.

On Tuesday the quarterly survey of industrial trends from the Confederation of British Industry revealed there was little hope of a pick-up in industrial activity before the end of the year. However, CBI economists said there was no evidence in the survey to support the fears of some industrialists and economists that the recession could worsen significantly.

Nuclear Electric announced 3,500 further job losses over the next three years, as pre-tax profits for the year to March rose 48 per cent to pounds 482m.

Despite finding that the pounds 500m joint venture between Allied Lyons and Carlsberg would in some respects be detrimental to competition, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission cleared the deal, subject to certain conditions.

On Wednesday, shares in Yeoman, the Irish leasing company, were delisted by the London Stock Exchange. The Exchange believed the shares to be of no value unless Yeoman, which is suing SG Warburg and Linklaters and Pain, won its legal action.

BAT Industries, the Anglo-American tobacco and financial services group, lifted some of the dividend gloom with a 9 per cent increase in its interim payment to 14.6p. This accompanied a 55 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 645m, helped by a sharp reduction in provisions against mortgage guarantee business at Eagle Star.

The Government decided to examine the sale of the Post Office, which has 197,000 employees and a turnover of more than pounds 5bn. The decision, which increased the possibility of privatising the Royal Mail, drew warnings from Labour and trade unions of higher prices, poorer standards and cherry- picking of profitable services by the private sector.

BT revealed an increase in staff cuts this year from its planned 20,000 to 29,000 after announcing a 28 per cent drop in first-quarter pre-tax profits to pounds 596m.

Thursday's demerger announcement from ICI overshadowed a 17 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to pounds 507m. Sir Denys Henderson, chairman of ICI, said a division would enable it to respond better to economic conditions.

Midland Bank, reporting for the last time as an independent company, announced an pounds 89m interim pre-tax profit compared with a pounds 71m taxable loss previously. Provisions for bad and doubtful debts were reduced from pounds 530m to pounds 335m.

On Friday, British Gas was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission as talks with Ofgas over increasing competition collapsed.

Lloyds Bank increased pre-tax profits to pounds 369m ( pounds 331m) for the half year to June, but the bank's chief executive, Brian Pitman, said trading conditions were likely to remain tough. The dividend was raised to 5.9p from 5.4p, but operating profit fell to pounds 697m ( pounds 729m).

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