Heads may roll after ‘computer problems’

Last week will be remembered as one of the most dramatic since the October
1987 stock market crash. On Tuesday, investors in the US experienced a short,
sharp shock when Nasdaq went into free-fall during the day’s trading session,
before regaining some of the lost ground. The following day, it was catastrophe
in London. Investors were unable to trade for almost eight hours on the London
Stock Exchange (LSE) due to mysterious failure of the LSE computers. The LSE
information system, London Market Information Link (LMIL) took several hours to
reboot, and when the fault was eventually fixed, trading had to be extended to
enable transactions to be executed. Some analysts share a conspiracy theory.
They believe the timing of the fault was too much of a coincidence and the time
it took the LSE to sort things out compounded their frustrations. It could not
have happened on a worse day – the last day of the financial year, one of the
busiest days on the stock markets, and only hours after the high drama in the
US markets. They think there was more to it than just computer problems.
Whatever the cause, the fiasco appears to have dented London’s standing and the
official inquiry which has been launched may lead to heads rolling at the LSE.

Snapshot of future technology in photo booth partnership

Photo-Me International, the photo booth operator in the UK, is to go into
partnership with BT to set up Internet-enabled PhotoPlanet booths with a new
range of facilities such as on-line shopping, Internet access, e-mail and customised
postcards, unlike the existing booths with only the passport photograph
facility. Ten new booths have already been installed in the London area, and
the company plans to install 1,000 more over the next nine months and 3,000
within 18 months. At least half the existing 6,000 booths in the UK will be
replaced. The company also revealed that its half-year pre-tax profits
increased by more than a third to around £11m. It forecast that each
PhotoPlanet booth would produce about £25,000 turnover per annum. Other
strategic partners in the project include ebookers.com, thetrainline.com, buzz
and Loot. Photo-Me stock price rose sharply on the news, but BT stock price
headed south.

Oil giants link up to provide shipping business on the Web

BP Amoco and Shell International Trading & Shipping are joining forces
to set up an on-line shipping exchange, LevelSeas.com. The Internet business
will serve the interests of all the participants in the industry and could
control a large share of the bulk commodity transportation market. Other
partners in the new business are Clarksons, the shipbroker, and Cargill, the
food processor and distributor. The news made little or no difference to the
stock prices of the companies involved. However, during Thursday’s trading
session, BP Amoco stock price fell after PIRC, the UK corporate governance
advisers, encouraged investors to back a motion by Greenpeace to block BP Amoco
from expanding its operations in Alaska and the Arctic Circle.

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