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Businesses near to the Buncefield fuel depot in Hertfordshire were counting the cost of the massive explosion on Sunday, with fashion retailer ASOS suspending trading of its shares and three companies reporting damage to their offices.

The fuel depot is adjacent to a business park and distribution centre. While the fire disturbed business for a number of companies during the busy Christmas period, most said that they had been insured against loses to stock or disruptions to sales.

Scottish & Newcastle, the UK largest brewer, said the main distribution centre for Waverley, its wines and spirits wholesaler, had been damaged by the fire.

While it estimated costs from the incident would be “significant”, the company said it believed “all asset and subsequent trading losses will be fully recovered from our insurers.”

The brewer, which owns brands such as Foster’s and Strongbow, added that it was trying to minimise “inevitable disruption” to its customers.

DSG International, owner of electrical retailers Dixon and Currys, said its stores were trading as usual despite the closure of their Hemel Hempstead head office.

A company spokesman said: ``There is some damage to the building as it is pretty close to the site, but until we get access we are not in a position to offer more information than that.’’ No staff were injured in the blast.

ASOS, the internet fashion retailer, suspended its shares and all services on its website after the explosion damaged the company’s warehouse in Hemel Hempstead.

In a statement released on Monday morning, the company said that it was still assessing the cost of the fire, and that “ASOS is fully insured for stock loss and business interruption.”

The company, which sells celebrity-styled clothing, reported sales of £8.3m in the six months to September, up by 78 per cent from £4.7m last year. ASOS.com is the second most popular UK clothing website, attracting more than 1.1 million visitors.

ASOS, which stands for As Seen On Screen, said it had been unable to meet Christmas demand in 2004 and had invested heavily in warehouse capacity as a result.

Northgate Information Solutions, a IT service and specialist software provider, also reported “serious damage” to its head office near to the fuel depot.

The fire badly damaged the equipment and inside of the building, as well as knocking out the company’s back-up systems. Although business will be effected, Northgate said that unaffected data storage centres and other offices around the country will be used to keep the business functioning.

The company, which provides human resources and payroll software to clients such as Tesco and Manchester United, said any financial exposure would be limited by insurance cover, making the board “confident that the long-term impact of this incident is unlikely to be material.”

Earlier this month Chris Stone, chief executive, announced plans to accelerate the company’s growth through a series of European acquisitions. Northgate made a 68 per cent increase in revenues to £162.7m in the six months to the end of October.

Four staff were in the Northgate head office at the time of the explosion. Three were taken to hospital for treatment and have since been discharged.

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