Business news in brief

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. His call was backed by Nationwide building society, whose chief executive, Brian Davis, said unless the Bill became law other societies would come under pressure to demutualise.

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.

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 filed a lawsuit yesterday morning at Delaware Chancery Court, a state court where most takeover fights are waged. Earlier yesterday, 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.

Colt Telecom, the UK-based business telephony group which specialises in business customers, yesterday reported a 281 per cent surge in its turnover to pounds 35m for last year as its network became established. Colt recently floated part of its shares on the UK and US stock markets, raising pounds 180m. Direct customer connections to buildings rose by 96 per cent to 580. Colt has networks in central London and has been moving into service provision in Germany and France in preparation for the liberalisation of the European telecommunications market in 1998. Total losses for the year increased from pounds 2.7m to pounds 11.2m.

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