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Business: News In Brief

Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK

UK euro policy hits steel industry

The UK steel industry wants to see stronger backing from the government for the European single currency.

The sector estimates the strength of the pound has cost it 60m a month in lost export earnings.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the president of the UK Steel Association, Peter Siddall, said entry into the currency would offer some price stability.

""If the government of the day is pro-euro it should be nailing its colours to the mast more than perhaps they are doing," Mr Siddall told the newspaper.

The steel industry has been hurt by rising imports as Asia's economic problems freed up a flood of cheap supplies.

"We would like to think that the UK Government would support anti-dumping penalties but their approach has been extremely blinkered," said Mr Siddall.

Virgin to sell mobile phones

Richard Branson's Virgin Group and British mobile phone group One2One confirmed on Tuesday that they were linking up for a 100m ($161m) joint venture to sell Virgin-branded cellphones.

The companies said the 50/50 deal, called Virgin Mobile, would become Britain's fifth mobile brand, create 500 jobs in its first year and become the biggest mobile retailer in Britain's high streets with more than 300 Virgin outlets.

Virgin Mobile will be open for business in time for Christmas. Virgin will sell the phones from its Our Price and Megastores music and games stores.

Virgin's airline business, Virgin Atlantic has also been given permission to start London to Chicago flights from 1 November.

The new service is expected to create 200 jobs, about 150 of them in the UK.

Virgin, which has been given approval by the US transportation department, will operate a daily service from Heathrow airport using Airbus A340s. There will be a special launch return fare of 249 plus taxes.

Internet auctioneer expands, the European online auctioneer gearing up for a stock market flotation, has announced the acquisition of eSwap and Humpty Dumpty - two of its leading rivals.

Humpty Dumpty and eSwap merged earlier this year. They specialise in collectable items ranging from Beanie Babies and antiques

Wal-Mart profits jump

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has announced a sharp rise in profits.

Earnings at the group, which is in the process of buying UK supermarket chain Asda, jumped 21% to a record $1.25bn in the second quarter of the year - beating Wall Street expectations.

Wal-Mart's imminent entry into the UK has stunned Asda's rivals and sparked a round of price reductions from the major supermarket chains.

Biscuits might be broken up

United Biscuits has confirmed that is considering selling off its chilled and frozen foods business, which includes brands such as Linda McCartney meals and San Marco pizzas.

The company said it had instructed advisers to begin sales discussions with companies in the trade as well as general investment firms. The operation could fetch up to 275 million, analysts believe.

Grimsby-based UB sees its future in developing its international biscuit and snacks business, whose products include Hula Hoops, Penguins and Jaffa Cakes.

Possible bidders for the business are tipped to be foods groups Unigate, Perkins and Northern Foods.

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