Business News In Brief

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The Independent Online
The Bank of England yesterday announced a review of the future of British Invisibles, following growing concern in recent years that the City needs a more effective body to promote the financial services industry. The review working party will be chaired by Douglas Hurd, the former foreign secretary who is now deputy chairman of National Westminster Bank.

The Bank of England said the working party was being launched with the agreement of BI itself, the City Corporation and Scottish Financial Enterprise. It will cover promotion of inward investment, improvement of access to overseas markets and better statistics. The retirement of the chairman of BI, Sir Brian Pearse, and its director general, Alison Wright, "presents an opportunity to review the evolution of the promotion of the whole of the UK's financial services".

Shares in Cedardata collapsed by 139p to 123.5p after the accounting software group warned that profits would be "considerably below market expectations". It said orders had been delayed mainly due to the impact of the Private Finance Initiative which had pricing increasingly competitive in the health sector. Analysts slashed profit forecasts for fiscal 1997 from pounds 5m to pounds 1m.

Jardine Matheson Holdings has sold its half-share in the life assurance group Jardine CMG Life to its joint venture partner, Colonial, for $163m (pounds 100m). Colonial is making the acquisition through its subsidiary CMG Asia.

Halifax Building Society, the UK's biggest mortgage lender, is coming into line with its rivals by cutting interest rates on all its fixed-rate mortgage offerings. Two-year fixed rates now start at 6.45 per cent, down from 7.25 per cent previously, three-year fixed rates at 6.90 per cent down from 7.85 per cent, and five-year fixed rates at 7.65 per cent down from 8.45 per cent.

Renault, the French car and truck maker, warned that its 1996 operating loss would be considerably higher than the market expected because of a difficult economic climate.

A government-backed company unexpectedly agreed to cover the entire losses suffered by Kizu Credit Co-operative, once Japan's largest credit cooperative. The Deposit Insurance Corporation said it will give 1,034bn (pounds 5bn) to a special bank set up to dispose of the bad loans.

The World Trade Organisation has asked Japan to narrow the gap between taxes on domestically produced liquors and imported ones by 1 February 1998.