What made the nationals: sponsored by PressChoice
In brief: Unemployment falls to its lowest level for a year + Britain’s Most Wanted tax fugitives
UK unemployment hits lowest in a year
By Sarah O’Connor, Economics Reporter
Unemployment in Britain fell to its lowest level in nearly a year even as the country’s double-dip recession deepened.
The number of unemployed people fell by 46,000 in the three months to the end of June, bringing the unemployment rate down to 8% from 8.2% in the first quarter.
Half of the new jobs were created in London, prompting some analysts to put it down to a temporary boost from the Olympics. But Kevin Daly, economist at Goldman Sachs, cautioned that the job growth numbers were too large to be attributed to the Olympics.
By Steve Hawkes, Business Editor
The founder of JJB Sports fears his former high street sports chain is doomed.
Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan yesterday told Sun City: “I can’t see how they’re going to survive.”
The City veteran was talking as JJB shares plunged 24% to 3.3p on a shock move by its US backers.
Libor scandal: Seven banks summoned in US probe
Seven banks, including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, are to be questioned in the US for alleged manipulation of the Libor inter-bank lending rate.
The other banks receiving subpoenas by the New York attorney general are Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and UBS.
Firstgroup caps rail bid liability
By Michael Bow
Rail group FirstGroup yesterday reassured investors that potential losses on the hotly-contested West Coast main line could not exceed £265m, as shares in the firm slumped on news it had won the contract.
The rail operator yesterday beat off a bid from incumbent operator Virgin Rail Group to land the Scotland to London route, with promises it will pay the government £5.5bn over 13 years. Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson branded the bid “insane”.
George Osborne faces calls from leading economists for U-turn on austerity
By Larry Elliott, Economics Editor
Pressure on George Osborne for a softening of the government’s hardline economic strategy intensified on Wednesday after leading economists who backed the chancellor’s plans in opposition called for immediate action to lift Britain out of double-dip recession.
In a blow to the chancellor, almost half the economists who strongly supported the Conservative party’s deficit-reduction proposals in the runup to the 2010 election said it was time for a rethink and urged the Treasury to take advantage of low borrowing costs to boost spending on infrastructure projects.
Most wanted: The 20 tax fugitives who have conned the government out of £765million
By Gerri Peev
Britain’s 20 most wanted tax fugitives who have conned the exchequer out of a staggering £765million been named and shamed in an FBI-style government campaign.
HM Revenue & Customs has unmasked the tax cheats in a bid to help hunt them down, issuing photographs and profiles on a new website from this morning.
Standard Chartered faces total fines of up to $1bn before it settles US charges
By Louise Armitstead, Chief Business Correspondent
The British bank confirmed it is braced to pay more fines to a raft of other state and federal authorities in America despite agreeing to pay $340m to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).
The total charges are expected to top $700m while some analysts said it could be as high as $1bn. Sources at the bank said talks were progressing with the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Justice Department and New York, but that an agreement was “not expected imminently.”
StanChart shares bounce after settlement
By Sharlene Goff and David Oakley in London and Shahien Nasiripour in Washington
Standard Chartered’s shares staged one of their biggest rallies of the year after the bank settled claims by New York state regulators that it had breached US sanctions against Iran.
A week after mounting a robust defence against allegations that it hid $250bn of illicit Iranian transactions, StanChart responded to investor pressure to reach a swift agreement with the New York state Department of Financial Services and avoid the possible revocation of its New York licence. “The overwhelming message from investors was get this behind you,” said someone close to the bank.
New Resolution at Friends Life
By Peter Cunliffe
Insurance group and Friends Life owner Resolution unveiled a massive overhaul of the business yesterday in an attempt to avoid losing its coveted FTSE 100 place and revive its flagging share price.
The company is to simplify its management structure and scrap plans to expand with an aggressive campaign of acquisitions.
It dropped plans to split in two and float Friends Life as a separate stock market-listed company.
Former loyalist accuses Merkel of crushing dissent
By Tony Paterson
Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a fresh onslaught from within her own party yesterday as a senior Christian Democrat delivered a withering critique of her leadership style and accused her of crushing dissent, stifling debate and making it impossible for anyone to succeed her.
The outspoken attack followed a series of critical comments from other normally loyal party members. This time it came from the influential conservative MP Josef Schlarmann, who heads Germany’s powerful small business association – a group considered to represent the backbone of the country’s economy.
Balfour profits rise despite drop in construction orders
By Dominic Jeff
Balfour Beatty continued to realign its business away from construction in the first half of the year as government cutbacks south of the Border squeezed the sector.
The group’s chief executive for UK construction, Mike Peasland, said that the building market in Scotland had been more robust than the English regions, but globally it was the professional services division which had “picked up the slack”.
Ikea Branches Out Into ‘Budget Design’ Hotels
Homeware and furnishings retailer Ikea is planning to build a budget hotel chain across Europe.
The Swedish company, best known for its flat-pack furniture, aims to create a range of “budget design” hotels at affordable prices.
It follows a trend for cheap-but-funky boutique accommodation such as Base2Stay in London driven by low air fares and increasingly price-conscious business travellers.