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The latest news from the world of business, including HSBC opening a Dumfries branch and Balfour Beatty linking up with Sigma Seven to provide its computer software.

Fingleton to step down at watchdog

THE head of Britain’s main consumer watchdog is to step down later this year, it was announced yesterday.

John Fingleton, chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), will leave after seven years in the role where he led actions against the banks, accountancy firms and airport operator BAA. He said he has “not yet decided” on his next career move.

Philip Collins, the chairman of the OFT, said: “Under John’s vigorous leadership the OFT has taken on issues that really matter to consumers and the economy.”

RSA goes ‘prudent’ as it holds div at 4%

BRITAIN’S biggest commercial insurer, RSA, yesterday said it would raise its 2011 dividend by a “prudent” 4 per cent.

Analysts had forecast a rise of 5.2 per cent, but low interest rates have cut the firm’s investment income.

Investors fear natural disasters and the eurozone crisis will limit the insurer’s ability to pay out while keeping its capital reserves high enough.

Germany-based rival Allianz kept its full-year dividend unchanged despite negative circumstances slicing its net profit in half.

HSBC targets new Dumfries market

HSBC has confirmed that it will open a branch in Dumfries this summer as part of the bank’s £9 million Scottish expansion plans.

The £1.2m branch, on the town’s High Street, will mark the first time HSBC has had a presence in Dumfries. As part of the move, 14 jobs have been created.

John Rendall, head of HSBC in Scotland, said: “Our expansion strategy has been focused on areas where we know opportunity exists.”

CSC denies talk of conflict of interest

BRITAIN’S largest shopping centre owner yesterday said it was not planning to buy more land from its largest shareholder after accusations of a conflict of interest.

Capital Shopping Centres’ (CSC) shareholders last week approved the purchase of a site in Malaga, southern Spain, from the firm’s biggest investor, Peel Group. John Whittaker, Peel Group’s founder, was set to receive an initial €10 million (£8.5m) from the transaction, having spent 20 years assembling the Spanish site.

CSC owns ten of Britain’s 25 biggest shopping centres including Braehead near Glasgow.

Balfour Beatty in Sigma Seven move

CONSTRUCTION firm Balfour Beatty has chosen Edinburgh-based Sigma Seven to supply it with software for its engineers’ hand-held computers.

The GeoField program will be used by the firm’s staff during the construction of the £290 million Beauly-Denny overhead power line, which was commissioned by SSE, formerly Scottish & Southern Energy. Sigma Seven managing director Paul Reid said it was one of his “most important contracts”.