Business Information Service: Last week

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The Independent Online
JOB LOSSES dominated the week as the Government attempted to take its axe to the British coal mining industry with the announcement that 20,000 jobs would have to go, with the closure of 31 mines, before Christmas at a cost of pounds 1bn to the taxpayer.

Despite a rise in the FT-SE 100 index on the day, Norman Lamont's meeting with the Commons' Treasury Committee on Monday, where he gave further details of his economic policy, failed to inspire investors.

Lucas Industries, the automotive and aerospace group, reported a slump in pre-tax profits from pounds 82.8m to pounds 22.5m for the year to 31 July. It also announced an pounds 88.4m restructuring programme, involving the closure of 16 factories and the loss of 2,750 jobs, to improve efficiency.

News that Kuwait had chosen US battle tanks came as a blow for Vickers, the struggling defence contractor and owner of Rolls-Royce cars. The loss of the deal - estimated to be worth pounds 1bn - is expected to increase rationalisation costs, including further job losses.

Making their debut, the Stock Exchange's new share indices, the FT-SE 250 and FT-SE 350, registered a loss of 7 points and a rise of 8 points on the week respectively.

The rise in the price of goods leaving Britain's factory gates was reported on Tuesday to be at its lowest level for nearly a quarter of a century in September at 3.2 per cent. The Treasury welcomed the figures, but some believed the eventual impact of sterling's devaluation on input prices would lead to rises in factory gate prices and ultimately in retail prices.

A consortium led by Carlton Communications, which takes over the London television weekday licence in January, launched a pounds 30m rescue bid for ITN amid reports of trading losses and staff defections.

Receivers to Clarke Foods remained optimistic about keeping the cash-strapped ice cream company trading as a going concern while they agree a restructuring plan.

Ten months after the sudden departure of the infamous John Clegg, it emerged that printing group Wace had taken on Tony Grice as its new chief executive.

On Wednesday, Sir Terence Conran effectively got the go-ahead for continuing his bid to invest in a package to rescue Fitch, the troubled design group, after a High Court judge refused to grant an injunction preventing him from investing in Fitch.

It emerged that BT could lose up to pounds 500m of its annual income following reports that cable television could provide telephone services that undercut BT prices by as much as 15 per cent.

Thursday saw taxable profits from Lloyds Chemists, the acquisitve pharmacy chain, increase from pounds 20.8m to pounds 36.9m in the year to June, after sales more than doubled to pounds 509.4m. A three-month contribution from Macarthy, the rival it bought earlier this year, helped to lift profits.

Amid warnings from leading industrialists of a new downturn, Pilkington, the glass manufacturer, announced plans to shed 6,000 jobs internationally.

Share prices rose sharply on Friday after the Bank of England's cut in lending rates from 9 per cent to 8 per cent.

The market had slipped back from earlier highs on disappointing public sector borrowing requirement data, but picked up following the rate cut. However, dealers said underlying sentiment still remained depressed by political concerns ahead of the reconvening of Parliament this week.

Ranks Hovis McDougall said it would demerge into three separately listed companies in a move to thwart a hostile bid from Hanson. Dealers said RHM's move rules out the possibility of a higher bid by Hanson.