News in brief – 5 November

Fall in foreign investment

British companies are severely curbing foreign investments, according to the latest KPMG corporate finance survey on international takeover activity. It shows that the value of cross-border deals struck by British businesses in the third quarter of 1998 was $16.6bn (#9.8bn), down from $19.69m in the second quarter.

Euro guide for small firms The English ICA’s euro awareness steering group has collaborated with Lloyds TSB Group and brewer Bass to produce a cash management guide for small businesses. The guide explains how euro trading will affect UK companies and describes the services banks will provide when the euro is introduced.

Big Five hold over Scotland The Big Five accountancy firms dominate the audit marketplace among leading companies in Scotland, according to a new survey. The total audit fee generated by the top 100 Scottish companies is #18m, of which 99% is shared by the Big Five. The survey by Scots ICA journal CA Magazine shows that Ernst & Young earn 40% of these fees, followed by PricewaterhouseCoopers with 34%.

Ulster jobs scheme slated Official efforts to create jobs in Ulster have been criticised in a report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office. Over the past decade, nearly #400m of public money has been spent on promoting some 15,200 jobs in an inward investment programme. But the NIAO discovered that ‘a substantial proportion of jobs promised were not in fact created, and a significant percentage of created jobs were of limited duration’.

Court rules for liquidators The Appeal Court this week upheld the principle that liquidators cannot be sued for debts owed by companies they administer. Three appeal judges dismissed an appeal by Finian Mason, a former managing director whose company went into receivership in 1988.

New tax credit for disabled Employers will be able to offset payments to staff against their PAYE and NIC liabilities, under new tax credits for working families and disabled people, the Treasury said last week. Setting out the workings of the new credits – which will be paid through payroll – Treasury financial secretary Dawn Primarolo said employers whose liabilities were too small would be able to apply to the Inland Revenue for direct funding. The credits will replace family credit and disability working allowance in October 1999 and the Revenue has promised to give companies time to adjust their payroll before payments start.

Clerk in court over debts Barry Bradshaw, sacked town clerk of Ilfracombe Town Council in Devon, was due to appear at a magistrates’ court yesterday on charges of misconduct in public office and false accounting.

It follows a report by District Auditor Frank Ingram revealing that the council had been ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘lost control of its activities’ after becoming responsible for several new services. The report found that, as debts ballooned, inaccurate figures were reported to councillors.

Embezzler jailed An accountant who swindled #230,000 so he could emulate the luxurious lifestyles of his bosses was jailed for two years last Friday after pleading guilty to ten charges of theft and asking for 86 other similar offences to be taken into consideration.

Trevor Phipps, 29, who worked for Stevens, Hewlett and Perkins, a partnership dealing in patents and trademarks, spent thousands on foreign holidays, dinners at top restaurants, and designer clothes.

He also showered his girlfriend with jewellery, clothing and perfume.

Related reading