In addition, the company announced that Brown & Root will be its partner in the pounds 2.1bn modernisation of the West Coast Main Line track, and that GEC-Alsthom will be in charge of improving the track's signalling system which will cost between pounds 500m and pounds 1bn.
The contracts are part of Railtrack's agreement last October to upgrade the line. Railtrack and Virgin pledged to spend pounds 2.1bn to help the track accommodate high-speed trains by 2005.
Railtrack has said it will spend pounds 17bn over 10 years to refurbish and maintain the UK rail network.
Billiton, the mining company, fell 8.1 per cent after it announced plans for a joint venture to build a $1.3bn aluminium smelter in Mozambique. Although Mozambique's mineral resources are attractive to investors, shares fell on concern that supply may grow faster than demand.
New smelters in Nigeria and Iran are expected to force prices down. "The discipline of aluminium producers in bringing on production seems to have fragmented," said Alan Williamson, analyst with Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. "Billiton may well be coming on to the market in a period of oversupply."
Companies involved in emerging markets were sold after rioting in Indonesia. "It's not rational but it has an effect," said Melanie Hucherard of Goldman Sachs.Reuse content