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Record Business Insider: Business IN BRIEF.

Byline: John Penman

SHELL chairman Sir Philip Watts sounded a defiant note yesterday, pledging to ride out the storm over the group's downgrade of reserves.

The Anglo-Dutch oil giant shocked investors last month by announcing a 20 per cent cut around 3.9 billion barrels in their level of proven reserves.

But Sir Philip insisted he will sort out the problems that led to the overstatement.

At the same time, he unveiled some of the company's best-ever annual figures, with a 27 per cent rise in adjusted profits to pounds 6.38 billion for 2003.

The improvement came despite a weaker fourth quarter, with profits hit by one-off accounting charges caused by restructuring.

Higher oil prices partly helped offset the charges.

Sir Philip said: ''We continue to operate in a volatile industry, where short-term performance is impacted significantly by supply and demand imbalances and commodity price movements.''

Last month's announcement caused shares to fall by as much as seven per cent and raised doubts in the City about Sir Philip's position.

Hilary Cook, of Barclays Stockbrokers, said: ''Shell are still a very strong company but the share price may need time to recover.''

SCOTS spent more than pounds 150 million on new cars last month as sales surged to a record high.

A total of 15,292 new cars were driven off forecourts, up 13.7 per cent on the same month last year.

Across the rest of the UK, sales grew by just 5.2 per cent.

The Scottish Motor Trade Association said buyers had been encouraged by cut-price deals and cheap finance offers.

DIAMOND jewellery sales sparkled as the economy recovered from war in Iraq and the SARS outbreak, diamond miner De Beers said today.

The South Africa-based group recorded strong growth in the second half of 2003, seeing diamond jewellery sales from the company's marketing arm lift seven per cent higher than the previous year.

INSURANCE broker Hill House Hammond are to close with the loss of up to 1600 jobs.

Owner Norwich Union said yesterday that there would be 1200 compulsory redundancies at the 230 branches in England, Scotland and Wales.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 6, 2004
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