Business news in brief

Germany and Austria reiterated their determination to stick to the Maastricht criteria for European economic and monetary union (EMU) yesterday. Speculation that Germany was likely to seek a delay of the project because it might not meet all the entry criteria deeply unsettled world financial markets on Friday. The rumours were denied both by the Bundesbank and the German finance ministry.

Dixons has promoted three of its senior managers to its board with effect from the start of its next financial year in May. Sir Stanley Kalms, chairman, said the appointments reflected the growth of the business and its focus on UK retail activities. The three are: David Gilbert, managing director of Currys; David Hamid, managing director of Dixons Group Commercial Services, who controls the groups after sales, distribution and marketing support services; and Ian Livingston, finance and systems director.

Banks are less likely to lend to companies with a poor environmental record as more sophisticated credit risk-assessment highlights the different ways in which environmental factors can affect a borrower's ability to repay a loan. According to a survey by the Green Alliance, a lobby organisation devoted to ensuring that green issues are a prime consideration in all decision-making, banks still have much to do to improve their environmental credentials.

The majority of owner-managed businesses in Europe believe there is still some way to go before the promised benefits of the European single market are realised. According to a survey published today by accountants Grant Thornton, more than 60 per cent of respondents claimed the single market had not reduced their costs in any way. Almost two-thirds said expanding their business had not become any easier. A similar proportion said there had been no reduction in red tape.

British business is turning against a single currency according to a survey to be published today by 3i, the venture capital group. Despite more than 80 per cent of the companies surveyed being exporters, with Europe the big market, opinion has shifted sharply in the past year away from a single European currency, from an even split last year to 10 per cent more respondents now being in opposition than in favour. The survey also showed a strong majority against the Social Chapter. However, 80 per cent thought the introduction of a statutory minimum wage at pounds 4 an hour would have no effect on their business.

Guinness Mahon and Hambros have agreed in principle to merge Hambros Fund Management with Guinness Flight to create Guinness Flight Hambro Asset Management. The retail funds of the combined business will trade under the Guinness Flight name. The companies said that a merger would provide the new business with greater financial strength, an enhanced product range and investment competence in managed currency funds, Asian equity funds and cash and fixed interest management. Following the merger, management will hold 15 per cent of the enlarged group's shares.

Sir Rocco Forte has re-entered the hotel business with the purchase of the 186-bedroom Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh from the Bank of Scotland. The Balmoral is the first hotel to be operated by a management company set up by Sir Rocco after the takeover of Forte by Granada at the beginning of last year.

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