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Bank of England hikes outlook for British economy

The Bank of England ramped up its economic growth forecasts on Wednesday as Britain's recovery picks up speed, but vowed to keep interest rates low after tweaking its guidance. Gross domestic product (GDP) was set to grow by 3.4 percent this year, the central bank said in its latest quarterly report. That was up sharply from an earlier estimate of 2.8 percent. The BOE predicted the economy would grow by 2.7 percent in 2015 and 2.8 percent in 2016. That also marked upgrades from the prior forecasts of 2.3 percent and 2.5 percent respectively

Britain hints at possible break-up of British Gas

Britain urged regulators Monday to launch a full-scale probe into profit margins in the domestic gas market, and hinted that Centrica unit British Gas could be broken up. Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat member of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government, made the appeal in a letter to energy watchdog Ofgem's head Andrew Wright. The letter marks the latest twist in a political row over Britain's high cost of living, ahead of a general election due in May 2015.

British Gas may be split up as government chides sector on prices

By Karolin Schaps LONDON (Reuters) - Former gas monopoly British Gas might be broken up to put a stop to excessive profit margins charged by Britain's biggest gas supplier, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said on Monday, responding to an industry review by regulators. Soaring energy costs have become a big political issue in Britain since opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband said in September he would freeze consumers' bills for 20 months if he wins the next national election in 2015.

Topshop plans Fifth Avenue New York store

British fashion brand Topshop said Wednesday it would open a flagship New York store on Fifth Avenue, its second largest branch worldwide. The brand also announced plans to open four more stores in the United States: in San Diego, Washington DC, Houston and Atlanta. The new Manhattan store will be located on Fifth Avenue, on the corner of 49th Street, adjacent to the Rockefeller Center. Second only in size to Topshop's branch on London's Oxford Street, it will open this autumn.

Topshop plans Fifth Avenue New York store

British fashion brand Topshop said Wednesday it would open a flagship New York store on Fifth Avenue, its second largest branch worldwide. The brand also announced plans to open four more stores in the United States: in San Diego, Washington DC, Houston and Atlanta. The new Manhattan store will be located on Fifth Avenue, on the corner of 49th Street, adjacent to the Rockefeller Center. Second only in size to Topshop's branch on London's Oxford Street, it will open this autumn.

RBS former boss to head troubled insurer

Stephen Hester, the former head of state-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland, has become chief executive of RSA Insurance Group with immediate effect, his new employer announced on Tuesday. "I am delighted to be asked to lead RSA, an organisation with a 300-year heritage," Hester said in a statement issued by the British company. "However, the challenges of recent months have demonstrated that we have not lived up to our stakeholders' expectations and performed to our true potential."

Lloyds bank takes extra £2.0bn hit over mis-selling

Britain's state-rescued bank Lloyds said on Monday it will take an extra hit of almost £2.0 billion ($3.3 billion, 2.4 billion euros) to cover mis-selling claims, but forecast a "small" annual profit. Lloyds, which is 33-percent owned by the taxpayer, added it would seek to resume shareholder dividend payments in the second half of this year, and said it was preparing for the government to sell more of its stake.

Lloyds bank takes extra £2.0bn hit over mis-selling

Britain's state-rescued bank Lloyds said on Monday it will take an extra hit of almost £2.0 billion ($3.3 billion, 2.4 billion euros) to cover mis-selling claims, but forecast a "small" annual profit. Lloyds, which is 33-percent owned by the taxpayer, added it would seek to resume shareholder dividend payments in the second half of this year, and said it was preparing for the government to sell more of its stake.

Lloyds takes $3.1 billion charge for miss-selling insurance, prepares to pay dividends

LONDON - Lloyds bank, the part-nationalized British lender, said Monday it will pay a dividend again for the first time since the financial crisis as it prepares to shed state ownership. The announcement, however, was marred by news it had to set aside another 1.9 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) to cover the excesses of the past. Lloyds Banking Group PLC said in a preliminary earnings statement that it made an underlying profit of 6.2 billion pounds for 2013, better than analysts had expected despite the new charges. The final earnings figures will be released next week.

Lloyds Bank disappoints on dividend after mis-selling charge

By Matt Scuffham and Chris Vellacott LONDON (Reuters) - Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L> dashed investors' hopes of receiving a dividend for 2013 after it took a further 1.8 billion pound ($3 billion) mis-selling charge that will blunt its ability to make shareholder payouts until next year. The British bank, which last paid a dividend in 2008 before it was rescued by taxpayers during the financial crisis, said on Monday it expected to apply to the regulator in the second half of the year to restart dividend payments.
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