Friday morning's business news

Sir Richard Branson’s bid for Northern Rock has suffered a blow after the crisis-hit lender reportedly placed rival suitor Olivant on an equal footing.

Sir Richard Branson’s bid for Northern Rock has suffered a blow after the crisis-hit lender reportedly placed rival suitor Olivant on an equal footing.

A Virgin-led team was the firm’s preferred bidder, but Olivant, an investment company led by former Abbey boss Luqman Arnold, has now been given access to the company’s banks and management, according to national newspaper reports.

Olivant had threatened to pull out of the running after the beleaguered lender blocked its efforts to hold talks with a consortium of banks putting up loans of up to £15bn to finance a rescue bid.

Details of the BBC’s spending habits were published today. The Corporation doubled its spending on temporary staff hired via recruitment agencies last year - at a time when thousands of permanent employees faced the axe.

Expenditure in this area, which comes under the heading of ``People and Resources“, rose from £26.3m in 2005-6 to £52.8m in 2006/07.

Most of the temps were brought in to work on one-off technology projects such as the BBC iPlayer.

Property Week publisher United Business Media said today it had enjoyed its most profitable month of trading in the last five years.

The strong performance in November came as UBM said group-wide revenues and earnings per share growth accelerated in the second half of the year.

However, it warned the weak dollar would continue to hamper its overall results, with the depressed exchange rate knocking £11m from revenues and lowering operating profits by £3m in the half-year period.

The pound at 10am was 2.0343 dollars compared to 2.0389 dollars at the previous close.

The euro at 10am was 0.7157 pounds compared to 0.7157 pounds at the previous close.

The FTSE-100 index at 9:45am was up 38.5 at 6402.7.

For more on these and other stories, stay up-to-date with nebusiness.co.uk and buy The Journal tomorrow.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer