Wednesday morning business bulletin

Bradford and Bingley linked to move for Northern Rock's assets; FTSE 100 investors await interest rate guidance; set to hit targets despite credit market volatility.

Bradford and Bingley was today being linked to a possible move to buy assets from the troubled lender Northern Rock.

The move could form part of a private sector rescue of the crisis-hit firm, although Bradford and Bingley is not looking to buy Northern Rock outright, the BBC said.

According to the BBC report, the bank is interested in taking on some of Northern Rock’s mortgage assets and could do a deal with either of the consortia looking to rescue the firm.

Two private sector firms - a consortium led by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin and the Olivant investment group - are vying to take control of Northern Rock, which was hit by soaring borrowing costs in August.

The FTSE 100 Index stuck close to its opening mark today as investors awaited guidance on the next move for interest rates.

Ahead of minutes from the Bank of England’s December meeting, the Footsie trod water with a fall of 8.2 points to 6271.1 in the first hour of trading.

Housebuilders made the biggest strides in the session, with Charles Church owner Persimmon ahead 19.5p at 788.5p and Taylor Wimpey 4.05p stronger at 200.25p. said today it was on track to hit annual earnings targets despite volatility in credit markets.

The website, which covers the money, insurance and travel sectors, said it has so far seen "limited impact" from the turbulence, with some loan firms raising prices and lending criteria. It also noted the withdrawal of a number of firms from the sub-prime sector.

The company, which floated in June, said full-year underlying earnings would be "no less" than forecasts of £51.3m on revenues of least £160.9m.

The pound at 9am was US$2.0123 compared to US$2.0135 at the previous close while the euro at 9am was £0.7147 compared to £0.7148 at the previous close.


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