Wednesday lunchtime business bulletin

Competition commission set for final BSkyB verdict; Hopes of miners merger fuelled; FTSE 100 on the back foot.

The Competition Commission is expected to send its final verdict on BSkyB’s controversial 17.9% stake in rival ITV to the Government by the end of the week, reports said today.

The watchdog is understood to be outlining a recommendation that Sky cuts its stake to between 5% and 10% within six months of the official decision, according to the Financial Times.

The Commission provisionally found in October that Sky’s holding operated ``against the public interest" and restricted competition.

Hopes of further takeover moves among the world’s major miners were fuelled today after Xstrata confirmed consolidation talks with rivals.

The London-listed firm, which has a lead refinery in Northfleet, Kent, said it was in ongoing discussions over "a range of topics of mutual interest such as industry consolidation".

Xstrata added the "very preliminary" talks had not so far led to any bid approach to the company, or resulted in a move for a rival.

The FTSE 100 Index was on the back foot today as the US Federal Reserve’s overnight decision on interest rates put pressure on global markets.

The widely-expected 0.25% cut was accompanied by a lack of firm signal over future reductions to aid the economy - disappointing investors and sparking losses on Wall Street which spread to Asian markets.

The Footsie shipped more than 100 points earlier today, but recouped some losses to stand 57.9 points lower at 6479.3 by mid-morning as traders looked for US markets to bounce back later this afternoon.

The pound at noon was US$2.0431 compared to US$2.0389 at the previous close while the euro at noon was £0.7187 compared to £0.7211 at the previous close.

Journalists

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