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RECORD BUSINESS INSIDER: Business IN BRIEF.

Byline: JOHN PENMAN

BRANCH closures have cost Alliance and Leicester pounds 10million and shaved five points off share earnings growth.

However, half-year profits have increased two per cent to pounds 268million, helped by a 74 per cent rise in mortgage lending.

The company aim to increase share earnings by a double digit percentage this year and, without the 46 branch closures, would now have hit 12 per cent.

Chief executive Richard Pym said: 'We are focused on our core strengths and are building a new model for the future of retail banking.'

INSURANCE giant Prudential have reported better than expected half-year figures.

The Pru are recovering from the tough economic and regulatory conditions of the past two years, with a 55 per cent rise in operating profits to pounds 563million and 13 per cent growth in sales to pounds 853million.

Profits at the group fell from pounds 1.13billion to pounds 794million last year as investors reacted to regulatory uncertainty.

But chief executive Jonathan Bloomer said the future was now looking promising.

SECURITY fears are putting holidaymakers off booking online, a survey has found.

One in seven of the 1700 polled by IT firm LogicaCMG prefer to put their trust in high street travel agents.

Although half would book on the net if there was a bigger discount, almost a fifth said the reason they do not is fear over the safety of their financial details.

Research consultant Dave Martin said: 'This is having a major impact on travel industry profits.

'Every phone booking can cost a company pounds 30, whereas online it can cost less than 75p. This is why many travel firms impose surcharges for non-internet bookings.'

AILING retailer WH Smith yesterday mapped out their strategy for improving the business after seeing a potential bidder walk away from a takeover.

The group, who last week discovered private equity firm Permira were no longer interested in mounting a bid, pledged to overhaul their stores to boost core ranges of stationery, cards, books and magazines.

Chief executive Kate Swann said the firm were becoming 'substantially simplified and refocused'.

She added: 'We aim to return the UK high street retail business to its role as Britain's most popular stationer, bookseller and newsagent.'

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NET GAIN: Hols costs
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 28, 2004
Words:377
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