December 12: Counting the cost of Hemel havoc

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December 12: Businesses are counting the cost of the oil depot fire at Hemel Hempstead (there are amazing pictures on FT.com). ASOS, the internet-based fashion retailer, has asked for its shares to be suspended while it assesses the damage done to its nearby warehouse. Thousands of customers have placed orders which the company – whose name is short for As Seen on Screen – says it won’t be able to fulfil. Scottish & Newcastle said the fire badly hit its main distribution centre for its Waverley wines and spirit wholesale business. Northgate Information Solutions, an IT company, said its head office was seriously damaged.

Lloyds TSB has had to make yet more provisions against endowment mortgage mis-selling. Such is the regularity of such charges at Lloyd’s that they are scarcely one-offs any more. The bank also says its retail operations have seen slower growth in lending for credit cards and other unsecured products in the second half and a further deterioration in credit quality, resulting in increased bad debts. Nevertheless, the group is on track to meet analysts’ expectations for this year, it says.

The London Stock Exchange has published a fabulous trading update, showing it is on course for a record 2005 for volumes. With Macquarie running its numbers, the timing could not be better.

Balfour Beatty confirms it is considering bidding for Mowlem, which has already agreed to a £290m takeover from rival builder Carillion.

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