Business Information Service: Last Week

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The Independent Online
THE bank holiday Monday provided a respite for the pound although most of the main markets in Europe and around the world were open for business as usual.

On Tuesday, Persimmon reported a fall in pre-tax profits from pounds 12.5m to pounds 7.3m for the first half of the year. It said it would maintain the final dividend.

A survey of top directors' pay revealed Lord Hanson was the highest-paid in the UK last year with pounds 1.38m. He was closely followed by Robert Bauman, chief executive of SmithKline Beecham, on pounds 1.33m.

Reports that the big high street banks were planning to introduce banking charges for personal customers were quickly denied by the banks.

On Wednesday, Touche Ross, the accountants and management consultants, said the number of companies that had gone into receivership or administration had fallen by 30 per cent last month compared with the same month last year.

Unipart, the motor parts group, showed how well it was faring in the recession with a 26 per cent rise in half-year pre-tax profits up from pounds 7.2m to pounds 9.1m.

With 110 days to Christmas, and little prospect of a turnaround in consumer demand before then, whisky producers were reported to be gearing up for a price war.

On Thursday, the Government managed to convince the City that it would not devalue the pound against the mark in the ERM if the French public vote against the Maastricht treaty in the referendum on 20 September. The Treasury announced it would borrow pounds 7.25bn to support the pound in the foreign exchange markets over the next six months. It helped to allay fears in the markets of an imminent rise in interest rates. The equity market responded with a 68.9 point rise in the FT-SE 100 index.

A rise in Ladbroke Group's pre-tax profits from pounds 98.2m to pounds 103.2m for the half-year to June was not enough to prevent City brokers downgrading their full-year profit forecasts. County NatWest and BZW scaled back their forecasts after scrutiny of the company's hotels operation revealed the division had made lower profits before property disposals.

Trimoco gave up its fight to remain independent against a pounds 30m bid from Hartwell, a rival car dealership, after a raid on Trimoco's shares lifted Hartwell's stake to 46.5 per cent.

Kevin Maxwell, the son of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, was declared bankrupt after he was ordered to pay pounds 406.5m in damages for the benefit of Maxwell pensioners.

From the close of business on Friday, Warburg Securities stopped market-making in 362 small companies quoted on the Stock Exchange. Low trading volumes and profit levels from dealing in the small companies prompted the move, which is likely to worsen liquidity in small company stocks.

News that the total number of new cars sold in August had beaten the 307,804 sold a year earlier by 1.64 per cent was greeted with mixed feelings. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders praised car makers for improving on comparable figures, but said the industry was unlikely to see a revival in domestic sales before 1994.

Isosceles, operator of the Gateway supermarket chain, reported a rise in pre-tax profits from pounds 3.6m to pounds 18m, helped by lower interest charges following the refinancing of its debts last January. It also announced a relaxation of its debt agreement with its bankers after it agreed a refinancing that extends the group's senior debt to July 1995.

Receivers were appointed to Berkertex, the privately owned fashion retailer.

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