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Record Business insider : Business IN BRIEF.

Byline: John Penman

POWERGEN could be fined pounds 700,000 after stopping more than 20,000 customers from switching supplier.

The proposed penalty follows an investigation by regulator Ofgem.

It centred on the way the firm treated customers paying by direct debit, regular cash payments or pre-payment meters between October 2002 and July 2003.

Ofgem said only a small number of those affected were in Scotland.

THE number of cases taken to employment tribunals rose by 17 per cent in the past year, figures show.

There were 115,042 applications in the year to March compared with 98,617 the previous year.

Sex discrimination cases increased by 76 per cent from 8128 to 14,284.

This was mainly due to more than 7000 applications relating to a dispute over the dress code for workers in job centres.

INVESTORS gained an appetite for shares in Premier Foods yesterday as the owner of Branston Pickle advanced on their first day of trading.

Premier listed at 215p a share, the bottom of the revised price range unveiled on Monday, but improved to stand at 219p.

The steady start will boost confidence in another flotation expected to take place today when Virgin Mobile debuts on the stock market.

LEISURE group Whitbread yesterday confirmed they were in advanced talks to buy budget hotel chain Premier Lodge.

They are understood to be willing to paypounds 540million for the132 hotels andup to 12pub restaurants putup for sale by the Spirit group.

Whitbread are thought to have beaten off a bid by private equity group Apax Partners.

Buying Premier Lodge would make them the leading player in the budget hotels sector.

MORTGAGE lender Northern Rock stuck by profits forecasts for 2004 yesterday, despite being braced for a slowdown in the housing market.

The firm said strong demand for remortgaging would offset rising interest rates and enable them to meet growth targets.

The comments came as Northern announced a14 per cent increase in underlying profits to pounds 200.3million - slightly weaker than expectations in the City.

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BRAND: Branston
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 21, 2004
Words:341
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