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The Independent Online
The Accountants' Joint Disciplinary Scheme is to investigate Arthur Andersen over its audit of Wickes, the troubled DIY retailer, where "serious accounting irregularities" were discovered last year. Michael Chance, executive counsel of the JDS, said yesterday his remit was to investigate Andersen as auditors of Wickes as well as any employees of Wickes who are chartered accountants. "I would be disappointed if the investigation is not completed within a year," Mr Chance said. At the end of the inquiry the JDS will decide whether there are grounds for a complaint to be heard by an independent Joint Disciplinary tribunal.

A dramatic increase in outsourcing revenue, from pounds 116m to pounds 359m, helped British management consultancies' income rise 35 per cent to pounds 1.7bn, according to figures from the Management Consultancies Association. However, the industry body's annual report, published yesterday shows declines in public- sector and information-technology work.

Aegis, the media group, is making three acquisitions in the US and Sweden for a total of up to pounds 30m. In the biggest deal it is paying up to pounds 18m for International Communications Group, an independent media specialist with headquarters in Los Angeles. The news came as Aegis reported an 18 per cent improvement in pre-tax profits to pounds 39.6m last calendar year on turnover 2 per cent higher at pounds 3.45bn. Earnings per share rose 17 per cent to 3.0p while a 0.6p dividend is recommended.

Bowthorpe's shares rose 5.5p to 394.5p as the UK electronics maker announced a better-than-expected growth in underlying earnings. Its 1996 pre-tax profit fell 6 per cent as it made an pounds 8.5m provision to close three companies in the data-acquisition and environmental industries. Pre-tax profit fell to pounds 72.9m for the year ended 31 December 1996, down from pounds 77.5m last time.

Simon Engineering plunged to a loss for 1996 of pounds 50.6m against a profit of pounds 8.4m last time, largely due to an exceptional charge of pounds 57.4m regarding the sale of the engineering businesses of the access division. Simon's management now says the reorganisation is complete.