Thursday morning business bulletin

Northern Rock bosses under pressure to arrange shareholder meeting; Banking stocks on the front foot; Digger maker JCB celebrates year of soaring sales.

Bosses of stricken bank Northern Rock were facing pressure today to arrange a potentially stormy shareholder meeting.

Northern Rock has until Christmas Eve to send out documents for an emergency general meeting called for by two major shareholders to discuss the future of the bank.

According to the Financial Times, Northern Rock chairman Bryan Sanderson has been unsuccessful in trying to stave off the meeting, expected to be held next month.

Banking stocks were on the front foot today as investors welcomed signs of an easing in the rate at which financial firms lend to each other.

Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC were among those higher after Libor rates fell in the wake of injections of cash by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank in recent days.

The FTSE 100 Index was 44 points higher at 6328.5 in the first hour of trading, even though there was little in the way of corporate news.

One of the biggest gains of the session came from ITV after the Competition Commission recommended BSkyB reduce its holding in the company to below 7.5%.

Digger maker JCB is to give its entire UK workforce a £1,000 Christmas bonus following a year of soaring sales, it emerged today.

All 5,500 staff at the Staffordshire-based manufacturer will get the windfall after sales topped £2bn for the first time this year. Turnover is up from the previous record of £1.75bn in 2006.

The privately-owned business said it would make more than 70,000 machines in 2007, compared to 55,000 last year.

It has made this year the most successful in the firm’s 62-year history, the company added.

The pound at 9am was US$1.9922 compared to US$1.9970 at the previous close while the euro at 9am was £0.7201 compared to £0.7185 at the previous close.

Journalists

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