Business round up: Defence orders could secure 10,000 UK jobs

• More than 10,000 UK jobs could be created following the announcement of two defence orders worth £5bn. A £1.5bn order for air-to-air missiles to arm the RAF’s new Eurofighter aircraft has been won by Matra Bae Dynamics, part of the European consortium Meteor, creating or sustaining 1,200 jobs. And long-term plans by the RAF to order 25 European Airbus A400M aircraft at a cost of £3.5bn from the Airbus Military Company could eventually create more than 10,000 jobs in the UK. The orders were announced in the House of Commons by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who said the A400s will provide the RAF with its own strategic “heavy lift” aircraft.

Safeway suffers massive profits drop

• UK supermarket giant Safeway has seen a massive 30 per cent drop in profits in the financial year ending April 1. Safeway blamed the fall on a profit margin of £236m on intense pressure in the UK’s retailing sector. But chief executive Carlos Criado-Perez, who joined the company in November, said the group is beginning to make a “solid and sustainable turnaround”. Safeway announced earlier this month it would abandon its loyalty card scheme and spend the £50m it saves on keeping prices down. Price cuts have led to an increase in sales volume, which rose by five per cent over the year to £8.32bn and by ten per cent in the past six months.

BT blames investment for fall in profits

• BT has announced a fall in annual profits of 32 per cent in the past financial year, blaming the fall on investment in technology, global expansion and domestic competition. But despite this, the company achieved record turnover growth, with a 20 per cent increase to £21.9bn for the year to April 2000. This compared to a turnover of £18.2bn for the year before. Chairman Sir Iain Vallance said: “This is a good achievement against the background of considerable change within the industry, the cost of building new business and intense competitive pressures.” Analysts said the figures had been confused by reclassification of product lines and the reaccounting of Concert, the company’s joint venture with US-based AT&T.

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