Business in brief: SMEs | Oil policy | WS Atkins

SMALL and medium-sized manufacturers reported another strong quarter of orders and output growth in the three months to July, according to the CBI’s latest SME Trends Survey.

Domestic orders and output both jumped for the fourth successive quarter, and are expected to grow robustly again in the next three months as firms take on staff at their fastest rate since 1988.

But export orders lagged behind, probably because the strong pound is making British products seem expensive abroad.

Oil policy ‘must be made in Aberdeen’

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GOVERNMENT policy and decision makers responsible for oil and gas taxation and regulation should be moved from London to Aberdeen, according to an economics pressure group.

N-56, a think tank of economists brought together by the Scottish businessman Dan Macdonald, recommends that this is done whatever the result of the Scottish independence referendum next month.

It wants to replicate the arrangement in Norway, where policy makers are based in the Norwegian oil capital, Stavanger.

Atkins leaps into Balfour labyrinth

British engineering firm WS Atkins is reportedly in a race to buy the US consultancy business of Balfour Beatty, which threw a spanner in the works of its merger talks with Carillion last week.

Atkins is one of four buyers in the running to snap up Parsons Brinkerhoff for around £600 million, but it will have to be quick: Carillion, which wanted Parsons to be part of the expanded construction group it was trying to create with an all-share merger, is now said to be mulling a cash bid for Balfour.

NAB’s strong hint at Clydesdale disposal

Clydesdale Bank’s Australian owner has given one of the strongest hints yet that it is planning to sell its Scottish arm.

National Australia Bank’s (NAB) new chief executive, Andrew Thorburn, was reported in the Sydney press as saying the UK businesses are “a non-core asset”.

The group, which also owns Yorkshire Bank, sold off a parcel of “distressed” property loans last week and Thorburn said there was “more to come” as NAB focuses on Australia, New Zealand and trade with Asia.

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