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World Business Quick Take



UK Visa spending rises

Britons increased spending on Visa payment cards by 10 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, Visa Europe said yesterday. That was higher than the 8.4 percent annual increase in the previous three months, the company said, citing data compiled by Markit Economics Ltd in London. Shoppers spent about £82 billion (US$124 billion) on Visa cards in the period. Visa Europe’s UK Expenditure Index is based on payments with the 91 million Visa debit, credit and prepaid cards, which account for £1 in every £4 spent in Britain


Total to buy UTS stake

French energy giant Total SA said on Wednesday it would acquire a 20 percent share of a massive oil sands project in Alberta under a proposed takeover of UTS Energy Corp. The UTS board has agreed to sell the Canadian-based independent firm to a subsidiary of Total for C$1.5 billion (US$1.4 billion) in cash and shares in a new corporation. Total’s main purchase will be the portion of Fort Hills that’s owned by UTS. Suncor Energy owns 60 percent of Fort Hills but has indicated another project will be developed first. Total took a hostile run at UTS about a year and a half ago, ultimately walking away after its target repeatedly rejected its offer as too low. The cash portion of the deal is worth C$3.08 a share, which is 46 percent above the closing stock price on Tuesday.


Wal-Mart fights death fine

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is fighting a US$7,000 fine resulting from the stampede death of a temporary employee during a post-Thanksgiving sales blitz at a store on New York’s Long Island. Company spokesman Greg Rossiter said the retailer was being asked to take the blame for not obeying crowd control standards that weren’t on the books in 2008. That’s when a temporary worker at a Valley Stream, New York, store was crushed to death by a swarm of 2,000 bargain hunters who jammed into a vestibule. Wal-Mart did pay nearly US$2 million to avoid possible criminal prosecution over the worker’s death, but said it didn’t want the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to gain possible control over future sales promotions.


Carrefour not selling stores

French supermarket giant Carrefour has denied that its stores in Malaysia and Singapore would close following reports that it would shut down its Southeast Asian outlets. On Tuesday, produce industry Web site Fruit Net said the retailer planned to sell its interests in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in a deal worth up to US$1 billion. “Carrefour Malaysia and Singapore denies any store closure in Malaysia and in Singapore, reminding that it is business as usual for every store,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.


UK keeps rate unchanged

The Bank of England yesterday kept its bond-stimulus plan in place and left its benchmark interest rate at a record low to help prevent the economic recovery from stalling. The Monetary Policy Committee held the target for its asset-buying plan unchanged at £200 billion and its key interest rate at 0.5 percent. Officials are weighing the risk of inflation against the danger that government spending cuts to tackle the record budget gap will push the economy back into a recession. A split has emerged within the central bank, with Andrew Sentance voting for a rate hike last month, the first push for policy tightening in almost two years.

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