Monday lunchtime business bulletin

Fresh consolidation hopes among miners push London's leading shares into positive territory; Northern Rock refutes speculation over job cuts; BSkyB offers to give up a slice of its ITV voting rights.

Fresh consolidation hopes among miners helped push London’s leading shares into positive territory today.

The heavily-weighted stocks accounted for the FTSE 100 Index’s top seven risers after Xstrata offered £1.4bn for Australian nickel firm Jubilee Mines and an upgrade from JP Morgan lent support to the sector.

The Footsie was 30.6 points up at 6691.9 by mid-morning, but early forays above the 6,700 mark for the first time in three weeks were offset by downbeat mortgage approvals data from the Bank of England.

Mortgage lender Northern Rock has refuted claims that it will have to cut up to 2,000 jobs after a slowdown in new business.

The Daily Telegraph reported today that Northern Rock would be forced to cut a third of its 6,000-strong workforce following its recent crisis.

However, Northern Rock has moved quickly to refute the claims.

A spokesperson for the company said: "We refute today's unhelpful press speculation about job cuts. What we can say is that we have confirmed a number of times our intention to have no compulsory redundancies and recruitment has been frozen.

"We do expect natural staff turnover to take place over the course of time."

BSkyB has offered to give up a slice of its voting rights in ITV in an attempt to hold on to its controversial 17.9% stake in the broadcaster.

The group said in a letter to the Competition Commission - made public for the first time late last week - that it was prepared to concede 3% of its voting rights to allay fears over its influence on ITV’s strategy.

The pound at noon was US$2.0612 compared to 2.0520 dollars at the previous close while the euro at 12pm was £0.6993 compared to £0.7015 at the previous close.

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