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The Independent Online
Jersey yesterday formally began the passage of a law to allow the establishment of limited liability professional partnerships on the island. The legislation, first announced late last year, comes as US-based investment bank Goldman Sachs announced it was converting to limited liability status at the end of the fiscal year. The Jersey law, based on similar provisions in the US state of Delaware, has been developed in consultation with leading accountancy firms Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young, which are among growing numbers of accountants, law practices, investment banks and other professional organisations anxious to protect themselves in this way from the effects of large negligence claims. Jersey's new law should be in operation by the end of the year.

Housing market recovery hopes were given a fresh boost yesterday after building societies said that advances for home loans in April were 25 per cent up on the same month last year. Although mortgage lending dropped from pounds 1.03bn in March to pounds 830m last month, it was still higher on a seasonally adjusted basis. At the same time, Britain's main banks reported a slight increase in consumer confidence, with their lending figures showing the sharpest monthly rise in consumer credit since 1991, up from pounds 335m in March to pounds 566m last month. However, mortgage lending fell slightly from pounds 633m to pounds 556m.

The German Economics Ministry said the economy shrank for the second consecutive quarter. By Anglo-Saxon definitions that means Germany is in a recession, but German officials contest that label. Gross domestic product fell 0.5 per cent in the first quarter, with the construction sector particularly hit by cold weather. The economy contracted by the same amount in the last quarter of 1995.

Lufthansa said it may consider taking a stake in British Midland. Klaus Schlede, the finance director, said he would not rule out such a move but added that the German airline had not held talks with the British carrier. His comments followed a statement from British Midland that it had been approached by several airlines with a view to taking a stake in it.

Swiss Bank Corporation, one of the big three international Swiss banks, is to be reorganised into four divisions from 1 January 1997. The new business will be centered around investment banking and headquartered in London.

Shareholders in Inchcape, the international trading group, voted in favour of a new long-term incentive scheme for directors at the company's annual meeting yesterday in spite of criticisms from the floor. Several shareholders questioned Inchcape's chairman, Sir Colin Marshall, on the level of executive pay, the length of their contracts and the high levels of pensions contributions.

More than half of small businesses have been victims of crime in the last two years, according to a nationwide survey for Business Pages. Nearly a quarter of 400 companies questioned by NOP Corporate and Financial had experienced crime in the past three months, with the average business suffering five crimes in the last two years.