Tuesday's markets close

Credit concerns continue to hang over London market; Virgin Media chief steps down; National Savings and Investments achieves record results.

Credit concerns continued to hang over the London market today after it emerged the Bank of England made an emergency loan of £314m.

The Bank’s standing facility, which allows banks to borrow unlimited amounts at a penalty rate of 6.75%, was tapped for the first time since the liquidity crisis began.

The identity of the firm involved was not disclosed, but the move cast a cloud over the FTSE 100 Index, which closed a mixed session 7.4 points higher at 6086.1.

There was also uncertainty on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the back foot amid anxiety about what the Federal Reserve might do next to steady the markets.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson earlier attempted to soothe jittery investors by insisting the US will safely get through the credit crisis.

One of the most closely watched stocks in London was Northern Rock after it issued a statement last night clarifying its exposure to the US asset classes that lie at the centre of the market’s credit concerns.

The chief executive of Virgin Media left the company today after just 18 months at the helm.

The cable company said Steve Burch’s departure was immediate after he decided to return to the United States for ``family and personal reasons“.

The move will be seen as a fresh blow to the company, which has suffered from falling customer numbers and a slower-than-expected take-up of its ``quadplay“ services.

Mr Burch joined cable firm NTL from US company Comcast in January 2006, before overseeing mergers with Telewest and then Virgin Mobile. The tie-ups created the UK’s first ``quadplay“ company, combining cable television with broadband, landline and mobile phone telephone services.

He has been largely credited with the transformation of the group, however trading has become difficult after Virgin Media became involved in a highly publicised row with BSkyB over pricing.

Earlier this month, the company said the battle had cost it around 40,000 customers after Sky pulled its basic channels from the cable service, including hit shows such as Lost and 24.

Extra £1 million jackpot prizes to celebrate the 50th year of Premium Bonds helped National Savings & Investments (NS&I) achieve a sales record today.

The Government-backed savings and investment provider said an advertising campaign featuring Sir Alan Sugar, star of the BBC show The Apprentice, had also been a ``huge success“ in raising the profile of NS&I.

Sales were up 18.2% at £14.17bn in the year to March 31, with a record £78.9bn in funds invested by 27 million customers, up 7.6% on 2005/06.

Online sales almost doubled from £1.25bn to £2.43bn and telephone sales increased sharply, from £1.68bn to £2.16bn.

Much of the interest was driven by the introduction of five £1m Premium Bond anniversary jackpots in 2006. However, NS&I also pointed to a joint advertising campaign with the Post Office and the launch of its Direct ISA.

The FTSE Mid-250 index closed down 64.5 at 10639.3.

The pound at 5pm was US$1.9804 compared to US$1.9839 at the previous close while the euro at 5pm was £0.6807 compared to £0.6790 at the previous close.


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