In Brief

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John Castle, former managing director at the building materials group Marley, is to become the new chief executive of Taylor Woodrow, the construction group, when Tony Palmer retires in May. Mr Castle's appointment came as Taylor Woodrow posted a 45 per cent increase in 1996 pre-tax profits to pounds 66.8m. Sir Colin Parson, the chairman, said housing markets in Canada, the US and the UK were all showing positive signs.

Singer & Friedlander, the medium-sized London merchant bank, enjoyed a rise in pre-tax profit last year of 57 per cent to pounds 54.8m, boosted by fees from stockbroking and investment management and a one-time gain from an asset sale. Stripping out the pounds 16.5m exceptional gain from the sale of Singer's stake in the People Phone Company still left it with profits up 22 per cent to pounds 41.7m. Shares of Singer fell 10.5p to 141p. Chief executive John Hodson said the company would ideally like to buy something that would enhance its fund management business, at the right price. Funds under management rose 58 per cent to pounds 6.0bn and earnings per share rose 74 per cent to 17.96p including the exceptional profit. Mr Hodson concluded that "so long as the markets stay active we continue to prosper".

National Power, Britain's biggest electricity generator, has appointed Sir John Collins to succeed John Baker as chairman. Mr Baker, chairman since April 1995, played an important role in the privatisation of Britain's electricity industry and the creation of National Power in 1990. He will retire in December at the age of 60. Sir John, 55, joined the National Power board as a non-executive director last October. A former chairman and chief executive of oil giant Shell UK, he is also currently a director of British satellite broadcaster BSkyB and merchant bank NM Rothschild & Sons, as well as being chairman of drugs group Cantab Pharmaceuticals.