At least five people have been killed in an explosion at a chemical factory in central Japan, according to news reports.

People and Business: Second thoughts

YESTERDAY AT midday we received a fax from Mitsubishi Motors saying that Stephen Dixon was stepping aside as managing director of Colt Car Company, the UK distributor for Mitsubishi cars, after four years with the company.

Mitsubishi's UK staff await fate

UK employees of Mitsubishi Electric were left uncertain of their jobs yesterday when its Japanese parent said it was axing 14,500 jobs but gave no details. The televisions-to-elevators group announced a three- year reform plan, including 8,000 job cuts in Japan and 6,000 abroad. Mitsubishi, facing its second year of losses, has been hit by the chip slump and Japanese and Asian economic woes.

Ruth Lea My Biggest Mistake: The wings came off

Ruth Lea, 51, read economics and statistics at York and Bristol before joining the Civil Service. In 1988, she became senior economist, then chief economist, at Mitsubishi Bank. She left to join Lehman Brothers, then spent a year as ITN's economics editor. She was appointed head of policy unit at the Institute of Directors in 1995

Rallying: McRae victory hopes raised

COLIN McRAE'S hopes of victory in the Rally of Portugal were unexpectedly boosted yesterday when officials were forced to cancel the day's last two stages because of fears for the safety of spectators.

Car buyers pay for dealers' dirty tricks

CAR DEALERS are giving misleading advice to British consumers to deter them from going to the Continent to buy a cheaper car, a consumers' organisation claimed today.

Rallying: Road to Timbuktu takes Burns in right direction

RICHARD BURNS thrust his way into the lead of the Safari Rally at the end of a dramatic day in Kenya. Burns, who won the event last year, is nearly 27 seconds ahead of Spain's Carlos Sainz, with fellow Briton Colin McRae well placed in third.

Motoring: Big brother is watching

After the success of the Shogun, Mitsubishi's new 4x4 has a lot to live up to.

RALLYING: Burns exploits Makinen's slip

BRITAIN'S Richard Burns made a promising start to the defence of his Safari Rally title in Kenya yesterday as Tommi Makinen, the world champion, suffered a double setback.

Racing: Obstruction to Route plan

DIRECT ROUTE could be forced to miss a run in the Mitsubishi Shogun Ascot Chase on 20 February because of the lack of a suitable jockey. If the Cheltenham Gold Cup leading fancy Teeton Mill has his Festival warm- up in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One race - as seems likely - he will be ridden by Norman Williamson. That would leaving Johnson with the task of replacing the Irishman on Direct Route, whom he partnered to success in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December.

Motoring: Kings of the road at knockdown prices

If you have got to have a 4x4, then the current market slump means now is the time to pick up a bargain

Tokyo Market: Rising yen clouds positive outlook

Japanese stocks may have mixed fortunes this week, with banks getting a boost from expectations that mergers will improve profits, while exporters worry that a rising yen will reduce their earnings.

Rallying: KTM riders shine in Spain

BAD WEATHER in Southern Spain yesterday forced organisers to replace the 115km first timed stage of the Dakar Rally with a 5km stage held on the same course as Thursday's prologue. Wind and rain prevented the field, which later embarked for a short crossing of the Mediterranean to Morocco, from battling it out in the hills of Andalucia.

Motoring: The pick-up - or how to be a cowboy in Clapham

Pick-up sales are booming but unlikely to overtake 4x4s - we fancy ourselves as squires, not cowboys

Rallying: Sainz's hell on Burns' night

RICHARD BURNS believed it was his destiny to win the British Rally, but no one could have scripted the accompanying drama of the final act yesterday.

Broker Nikko warns of $1bn loss

NIKKO SECURITIES, Japan's third-biggest brokerage, yesterday warned it would lose as much as $1bn (pounds 600m) in the year to March and would cut 2,000 of its 8,500 staff in Japan.
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