Tuesday evening's business bulletin

Northern Rock sees sharp fall in people withdrawing money from the group; Department store chain Selfridges remains upbeat over future prospects; Cake and bread maker Finsbury Food posts record results.

Northern Rock said today there had been a sharp fall in the number of people withdrawing money from the group.

The Newcastle-based lender said that at 10am today there were short queues outside just four of its 76 branches, in marked contrast to the long queues seen in recent days.

At the same time, it said its call centres were receiving just 9% of the volume of calls they were getting yesterday, with 80% of the people contacting the bank wanting to reinvest their money.

Department store chain Selfridges has remained upbeat over future prospects after profits soared last year, it emerged today.

The privately-owned group, which more than doubled trading profits to £26.8m in the 53 weeks to February 3, said it was ``confident of maintaining its current levels of performance" despite increasing competition.

Selfridges added that key uncertainties for the group included a ``highly competitive retail market, the economic environment and the impact of interest rates on consumer demand" in results posted at Companies House.

Cake and bread maker Finsbury Food posted record results today as it said it was well placed to ride out soaring dairy and flour costs.

The company, which makes premium-end cakes for supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, has seen ``significant turbulence" in commodity costs but agreed higher prices with the vast majority of customers.

Cardiff-based Finsbury said turnover had soared 50% to £109.8m in the year to June 30 following the £37.5m acquisition of Celebration cakes business Lightbody in February.

Internet and telephone bank First Direct announced plans today to scrap interest payments on its current accounts .

The group said it would instead be reinvesting the money to give its customers a better deal on overdrafts and savings.

This will include sending customers free text messages when they are approaching their overdraft limit, not charging interest on the first £250 of an overdraft and reducing unauthorised overdraft interest rates.

The pound at 4:30pm was US$1.9970 compared to US$1.9930 at the previous close while the euro at 4:30pm was £0.6945 compared to £0.6952 at the previous close.


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