In Brief

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The Independent Online
Energis, the telecommunications business owned by National Grid, yesterday slashed its international call prices to business customers by up to a third, in a move that could ignite a price war with British Telecom. Energis introduced a new tariff for business customers who spend about pounds 70 or more a month on calls. Calls to France, Germany and the USA will fall to 10p a minute. Mike Grabiner, Energis chief executive, claimed this made Energis the cheapest mainstream telephones business in the world. He said he intended to raise the group's share of the UK's pounds 1.5bn- a-year international call market from under 1 per cent to 5 per cent. Energis also insisted it could make a profit on the new tariff.

AT&T unveiled a fixed wireless technology to carry high-speed digital communications directly to residential customers across the US at many times the capacity and speed of existing telephone lines. The new technology will initially provide each household with two telephone lines and the capability for high-speed Internet access. Customers will be able to use their existing touch-tone wired telephones and keep current phone numbers. The company said it would begin testing the new system in Chicago later this year. John Walter, president of AT&T, said: "We are announcing the creation of what we believe will be the communications medium of the 21st century."

Rebel shareholders in Christian Salvesen promised a radical shake- up of the group if they were successful in voting down management plans to split up the transport and hire divisions and pay a pounds 100m special dividend. Launching their rival plans, Sir Gerald Elliot, the former chairman who leads the dissidents, attacked the "poor performance and lack of vision" of the current board. In a document being sent to shareholders, he said the management team would be strengthened and incentivised if they won, with the appointment of former Lucas finance director John Grant as new chief executive. There would also be strategic reviews of both the logistics and Aggreko operations.

Birmingham Midshires Building Society reported an increase in taxable profits from pounds 63.9m to pounds 70.7m for 1996. Mike Jackson, chief executive, said the society "does not feel itself under any pressure to link with another organisation simply because other societies have decided to do so". He said the society "continues to research all the options so as to ensure that it is fulfilling its duty to act in the best long-term interests of the society". He said there were plans to extend the product range by launching a credit card, motor and travel insurance products. Separately, Coventry Building Society announced a drop in pre-tax profits from pounds 41.7m to pounds 24.15m due to the "planned narrowing" of the interest margin.

Matthew Clark, the troubled cider producer, has appointed Robert MacNevin as group marketing director with effect from 1 May. Mr MacNevin joins from Guinness Brewing Worldwide, where he is currently marketing and business development director for Europe after four years working as marketing director of Guinness Brewing GB.

Penny Hughes has joined the board of Mirror Group, joint owner of The Independent, as a non-executive director. She was president of Coca- Cola Great Britain & Ireland until January 1995. She also holds other non-executive directorships at Next, Berisford and Body shop.

Company cars continue to be a popular benefit, with many companies increasing the value of vehicles allocated and some decreasing the replacement intervals after a period of tightening up on cost in the wake of the recession, according to the latest company car policy survey by remuneration advisers Monks Partnership. Report editor David Atkins added that tax changes had done little to reduce the attraction of cars, with few drivers tempted to accept a cash allowance instead.

Due to an inadvertent error in yesterday's edition the pre-tax profit 1996 for Leeds & Holbeck Building Society was incorrectly stated, and should have read pounds 18.27m.

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