Business Diary: US foreign policy begins with the banks

Alistair Darling eat your heart out. Despite taking stakes in some of our largest banks, the Chancellor doesn't seem able to influence their lending policies. They're so much more ambitious in the US, where Reuters reports that the bailed-out Bank of America Merrill Lynch has been forced by the government to drop one client because of its links with Iran. So both economic and foreign policy goals are delivered in one.

U-turn for car dealer

Who complained that the car scrappage scheme introduced three months ago would be "not enough to make a material difference to customer behaviour"? Step forward Trevor Finn, boss of the car dealer Pendragon, who was celebrating better sales yesterday thanks to scrappage and appealing for the Government to extend the scheme until next spring.

The black horse wins

Will Europe's regulators take the same relaxed view to the merger of HBOS and Lloyds Bank as those in the UK? While ministers were happy to tell competition watchdogs to wave through the deal last year, the European Commission has since been making noises about breaking up the bank. The Council of Mortgage Lenders might help it come to a decision, revealing yesterday that Lloyds now has a 30 per cent share of the UK home loan market, more than any other player in history.

Picking the wrong fight

The chaps at the US hedge fund Pacificor should be afraid. Very afraid. They're being sued by the producers behind Terminator Salvation after helping to finance the production of the film. And you know what will happen if the lawsuit is unsuccessful? They'll be back.

The black horse gets even fatter

Some media analysts reckoned Sky would feel nervous about the arrival of ESPN in the UK after the demise of Setanta. After all, might a giant US media corporation have more chance of taking it on? Still, £80m a year should be some compensation for the stress – that's how much analysts at Citigroup reckon Sky will make selling ESPN's sports channels across its platform.

Number of the day: 3%

The annualised rate at which South Africa's economy shrank in the second quarter, its third successive decline.

businessdiary@independent.co.uk

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