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Britain's Co-operative Group rues worst year in mutual society's 150-year history

LONDON - The Co-operative Group, Britain's largest mutual society, on Thursday posted a 2.5 billion-pound ($3.04 billion) loss for 2013, a year its chief executive called "disastrous." The Co-op is owned by its 7 million members and is active in everything from food to funerals to financial services. But it ran into financial trouble after its banking unit developed a 1.5 billion-pound black hole following its 2009 acquisition of the Britannia Building Society.

UK tabloid ex-editor says only vaguely knew of phone-hacking

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson told Britain's phone-hacking trial on Tuesday he was only vaguely aware of the practice during his time at the Murdoch tabloid. The defendant said he was never party to voicemail interception or in agreement with it. Coulson also said that as deputy editor in 2002, he did not know the voicemail of missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler -- later found murdered -- had been accessed.

Whisky makers fear loss of global network under Scottish independence

By Belinda Goldsmith EDINBURGH, Scotland (Reuters) - Scotland's lucrative whisky industry flagged its concerns over Scottish independence for the first time on Friday, saying its access to a global network for promotion and sales was vital after reporting flat exports last year. Figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) showed that exports in 2013 were steady at 4.3 billion pounds ($7.21 billion), representing around 85 percent of Scottish food and drink exports and nearly a quarter of the British total.

Leon's Furniture ordered to pay former employee $8,000 for racial discrimination

HALIFAX - A woman who was subjected to several instances of racial harassment at a Leon's Furniture store in Halifax said Thursday she felt justice has been served after her former employer was ordered to pay her $8,000 by a human rights board. Garnetta Cromwell, 46, said in a telephone interview that she was pleased by the findings of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Board of Inquiry, which concluded she had been discriminated against by her supervisor at Leon's Furniture Ltd. (TSX:LNF) in Dartmouth.

Top executive exit throws Co-op's future into fresh doubt

By Kate Holton and Matt Scuffham LONDON (Reuters) - A former government minister appointed only four months ago to revive Britain's Co-operative Group <42TE.L> quit on Thursday, becoming the second experienced executive to walk away and throwing into fresh doubt the future of the 170-year-old mutual.

Royal Bank of Scotland says will pay government £1.5bn

Britain's state-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland will pay the government £1.5 billion in a complex deal paving the way for the return of shareholder dividends. The bank has agreed to pay the Treasury the equivalent of $2.5 billion or 1.8 billion euros in a move also aimed at aiding its eventual return to the private sector, it said in a statement late on Wednesday. RBS, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, remains 81-percent state-owned after it was rescued with £45.5 billion of taxpayers' cash during the global financial crisis.

RBS ends dividend agreement with British government, clearing way for privatization

The Royal Bank of Scotland said Wednesday that it will pay 1.5 billion pounds ($2.52 billion) to end an agreement with the British government, in a move that will help clear the way for the bank to be privatized. The British government rescued the bank during the financial crisis, leaving it 81 per cent owned by taxpayers. RBS has been working toward becoming privatized by the middle of 2014.

RBS to pay $2.5 billion to end UK government's dividend priority

By Matt Scuffham LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> has agreed to pay 1.5 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) to cancel an arrangement that gives the government priority over dividends, clearing an obstacle to the lender's eventual privatization.

UK warns it may not buy electricity from an independent Scotland

By Karolin Schaps LONDON (Reuters) - Britain may not buy electricity from an independent Scottish state if imports from alternative markets are cheaper, the UK government has warned, putting further pressure on Scotland five months before its independence vote. A Scotland split from Britain would have to rely on electricity exports to the United Kingdom to sell excess renewable energy generation because its grid is connected only with England and, to a lesser extent, Northern Ireland.

UK services firms hit new export high in first quarter: BCC survey

By William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) - British services firms reported the fastest growth in exports on record in the first quarter of 2014 and manufacturers also got off to a strong start to the year, a survey showed on Tuesday. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its quarterly economic survey suggested the pace of economic recovery would continue in the short term. But more needed to be done to make sure companies had access to finance in the future, the BCC said in a statement.
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