Business news in brief

David Sharratt, former finance director of Swithland Motors, was convicted of fraudulent trading by a jury at Oxford Crown Court in a case brought by the Serious Fraud Office. Two other former executives of Swithland, brothers John and Richard Hayes, also face the same charge of fraudulent trading contrary to section 458 of the Companies Act. The jury retired for the night to consider the charges against them. The prosecution alleged that on or between 1 November 1991 and 26 November 1993 the three were knowlingly party to the carrying on of business at Swithland Motors with intent to defraud creditors of the company.

Several nominated advisers to companies listed on the junior AIM market faced public censure or being struck off unless standards of service to clients improved, the Stock Exchange warned. Reviewing the performance of 51 nominated advisers active on AIM, the Exchange said it had found "one or two cases" where business practices were "sufficiently unsatisfactory to warrant disciplinary action". "In these cases further investigations and disciplinary procedures are being pursued," the report said.

Labour's shadow economic secretary, Mike O'Brien, yesterday called on the Government to ensure Parliamentary time was given to the Building Societies Bill, which aims to give societies greater powers and gives limited protection against hostile predators. Mr O'Brien claimed that unless time was given this week, the Bill would not be able to complete its stages before the general election.

The Bank of England wants senior managers of banks it supervises to take more formal responsibility for internal controls, a key lesson from the collapse of Barings. In a consultation paper published yesterday the Bank also said it wanted to meet directly with banks' auditors. The Bank already holds meetings with reporting accountants but these are also attended by the bank which has been audited. The Bank expects lively debate on the paper and has called for comments by 18 April.

Avon Rubber has sold its tyre business based in Melksham to an Ohio- based company, Cooper Tire & Rubber, for $110.4m (pounds 69m), giving Cooper its first overseas tyre factory. Cooper Tire's acquisition includes the land and plant in Melksham, distribution companies in France, Germany and Switzerland, and the right to use the Avon name on tyres, inner tubes and retreading materials. The deal will be completed within five weeks.

HF Ahmanson & Co, the largest Savings & Loan group in the US, launched a hostile $6bn (pounds 3.75bn) bid for Great Western Financial Corporation yesterday. Ahmanson then launched legal action to stop its target from putting up takeover defenses. Ahmanson offered stock valued at $42.53 for Great Western's shares. The deal would create an S&L, similar to a British building society, with $93bn in assets and 600 branches.

The US and the UK resumed "open skies" talks yesterday, a State Department spokeswoman said. The talks are scheduled to continue until Thursday. The US has made approval of the proposed alliance between American Airlines and British Airways conditional on the US and UK reaching an "open skies" agreement on liberalising air traffic between the two countries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 78.5 points to close last night at an all-time high 7067.46. Analysts said the rally was prompted by several factors, including the strength of the US dollar. It was the 13th record close this year.

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