The Week Unzipped: Branson snaps up Church House Trust

VIRGIN Money has announced plans to buy Church House Trust, a regional private bank, in a major step towards becoming a high street bank.

It paves the way to acquiring parts of Northern Rock or other brands disposed of by the nationalised institutions.

The FSA has approved Virgin Money's application to be the controlling shareholder of the bank.

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Sir Richard Branson said: "The Church House Trust business offers us a strong platform for growth. Virgin Money aims to bring simplicity to the UK banking market, which has traditionally been a complex sector."

Leave will alone

LAWYERS have issued an urgent warning about a scam designed to fool people into paying for their wills to be rewritten unnecessarily by claiming their will is no longer valid owing to a rule change. The crooks state that all wills must be page numbered and signed by the testor and witness on each page.

HOUSE prices rose for the sixth month in a row in December, according to the latest Halifax House Price Index. Prices were up 1 per cent from November, slightly below the average increase over the previous five months.

In the final three months of 2009, values were 3.5 per cent higher than the previous quarter. This is the biggest rise for three years.

The month also saw an annual rise of 1.1 per cent, the first since March 2008.

Halifax expects house prices to remain flat during 2010.

Isa launch

YORKSHIRE Building Society has launched a new fixed-rate cash Isa paying 3.25 per cent. The account, available in branch, by post and through agencies, requires a minimum opening deposit of 100 and accepts transfers in.

Mortgage cut

NATIONWIDE has cut its mortgage rates on selected fixed and tracker products for house purchase by up to 0.6 percentage points. The new range includes two and three-year fixed rates starting at 3.69 per cent and 4.39 per cent respectively and two and three-year trackers from 2.64 per cent and 2.99 per cent.

Postal delivery

COVENTRY Building Society has launched the third issue of its First Class Postal account paying 3.3 per cent. Savers can make four penalty-free withdrawals each year.