In Brief

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The Independent Online
John Hayes, the former chairman and founder of Swithland Motors, was jailed for five years for fraudulent trading. Judge Richard May at Oxford Crown Court also disqualified Hayes from acting as a company director for 10 years. He sentenced David Sharratt, the car dealership's former finance director, to a three-and-a-half year jail term and disqualified him as a company director for seven years. The jury failed to reach a verdict on the same charge brought against Richard Hayes, the operations director and brother of the chairman, and the judge ordered that the charge remain on file. The case was brought after Swithland's aborted stock market flotation in November 1993. Receivers established that, contrary to accounting documents, the car dealership was grossly insolvent to the tune of pounds 25m.

Pearson has sold its 10 per cent stake in Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts for pounds 111.2m, two years after it paid pounds 106.2m for the stake. It has received dividends worth pounds 3.5m during its ownership. Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said: "Our commitment to the growth of our businesses in Asia/Pacific is as strong as ever, but we have decided that this investment is no longer effective in developing either our television business or our interests in the region." However, Pearson said it would continue in its Indian joint venture with TVB, the Hindustan Times, Carlton and Schroders.

Official figures confirmed that the British economy grew by 0.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 1996. The annual rate of GDP growth was revised upwards by 0.1 percentage points to 2.7 per cent for 1996 as a whole. Consumer spending once again proved the driving force behind growth, rising by 0.9 per cent in the last three months of 1996. However investment remained weak, growing by only 0.2 percentage points after a large fall in the third quarter. Domestic demand as a whole grew by 0.6 per cent, easing the pressures on the Chancellor to raise interest rates.

Philippe Bourguignon, chairman of Euro Disney who is credited with reviving the fortunes of the troubled Disneyland Paris theme park, yesterday unexpectedly left the company to join Club Mediterranee, another troubled leisure group. His departure comes just two weeks after Euro Disney's finance director Xavier de Mezerac also left unexpectedly. "It is great news for Club Med and a disaster for Euro Disney," according to Nigel Reed, analyst at Paribas Capital Markets.

France intends to knock state bank Credit Lyonnais into shape to privatise it in two years, a finance ministry spokeswoman said. She added that the ministry would hold off on submitting a rescue plan for the bank to the European Commission for approval until the end of March as it looked for ways to limit the drain on public funds. The rescue plan, the third in four years, had been expected to be lodged in Brussels this week.

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