Thursday morning business bulletin

Northern Rock chief steps down; FTSE 100 opens 1% down; ITV makes "measurable progress".

The under-fire chief executive of Newcastle mortgage lender Northern Rock has left his job.

Adam Applegarth has stepped down as head of the crisis-hit firm with immediate effect after 24 years with the business.

Mr Applegarth, who had intended to leave by next February, said: "It is time to hand over to management who I’m confident will be part of the company’s future. I wish them and the board every success."

The FTSE 100 Index opened 1% lower today as co-ordinated action by leading central banks failed to ease volatility in world stock markets.

A depressed session for Asian stocks prompted London’s latest sell-off, with the Footsie down 56.4 points at 6503.4 in the first hour of trading.

The top flight index surged by 74 points yesterday after the Bank of England joined counterparts in pumping extra liquidity into credit markets.

ITV boss Michael Grade today said the broadcaster made "measurable progress" in 2007 after better on-screen and advertising performances.

The company’s executive chairman reported a 2% lift in net advertising revenues for flagship station ITV1 during November and said there had also been an upturn in its audience share.

Mr Grade rejoined ITV at the start of this year with the aim of making the broadcaster the UK’s favourite source of free entertainment by 2012.

The pound at 9am was US$2.0415 compared to US$2.0469 at the previous close while the euro at 9am was £0.7207 compared to £0.7177 at the previous close.

Journalists

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