Business news in brief: Diageo| Tobacco| Old Mutual

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AMOR Group, the fast-growing Inchinnan-based IT firm, yesterday hailed its “largest consultancy contract to date” after being hired by Middlesbrough Council to help cut £75 million from its technology budget.

The firm refused to reveal the value of the contract, but said it would run through to March.

Steve Fletcher, corporate programme manager at Middlesbrough Council, said that the local authority was facing “unprecedented funding cuts” from central government and that the support from Amor Group will “go a long way” to help it cut its spending.

Walsh sells £2m of shares in Diageo

Former Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh has sold £2 million worth of shares in the drinks giant, less than a week after offloading almost £4m worth.

The group said Walsh, who handed over the reins to Ivan Menezes at the start of last month, sold 95,000 shares for 2,140p each yesterday, after exercising options under a reward scheme from 2009.

He opted to keep a further 5,000 shares, taking his total holding, excluding options and awards under the company’s long-term incentive plans, to 784,600 – worth more than £16.5m at current prices.

Scots shops hit by tobacco smuggling

ONE in ten Scottish corner shops is under threat due to “lost sales from tobacco smuggling and cross-border shopping”, according to the Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance.

Geoff Barrett, a shopkeeper in Glasgow and the TRA’s Scotland spokesman, said: “These results show tobacco smuggling is not only a threat to the livelihoods of independent retailers, but one that continues to worsen. The high levels of tax on tobacco mean a smuggler selling at half the price I charge will make more money selling his tobacco here than almost anywhere else in the European Union.”

Old Mutual hikes divi as profits jump

Insurer Old Mutual has posted a 14 per cent rise in first-half operating profits to £801 million, lifted by a 9 per cent increase in funds under management to £289.3 billion.

Chief executive Julian Roberts said it had been “another good six months” for the group, which began life as the Mutual Life Assurance Company in Cape Town, founded by Scots-born John Fairbairn in 1845.

Roberts said that the firm’s emerging markets business and US asset management arm had performed strongly, and the interim dividend was hiked 20 per cent to 2.1p a share.