City&FinanceBriefing Inbrief Struggling BA is battered by sky-high lossesBY ROBERT LEA Cheques to be stubbed out as firms snub them The death of the cheque is imminent. A third of UK businesses will stop using them to pay bills in the next 12 months, and 11% will refuse cheques as payment, according to research published today. The shift towards payment via debit and credit cards and online BACs transfers could help small and medium businesses recoup 65 million in savings each month, according to credit information provider Creditsafe, which carried out the research. But the cheques demise has not always been welcomed by customers. Marks & Spencer last year sparked an outcry when it stopped accepting cheques, claiming they slow customers down at the checkout and are easy targets for fraud. Lobby groups for the elderly condemned the move, but other high Street retailers have followed suit. Asda, Boots, Sainsburys, Wh Smith, Next and Shell are among those who have already banned cheques from their stores. Most shops now say that cheques typically account for less than 1% of transactions. Londons smallfirms areupbeat The overwhelming majority of small businesses in London expect to grow over the coming year despite the tough economic conditions. A survey by the Business Link in London organisation of 3000 small companies found 84% were planning on expanding, despite nearly two thirds admitting that the recession was affecting their businesses. Businesses most affected by the slump were retail, warehousing and construction firms. Australia Dollars 1.9462 Canada Dollars 1.7454 Denmark Kroner 8.2452 Eurozone Euro 1.1109 Hong Kong Dollars 12.0300 Japan Yen 146.4000 New Zealand Dollars 2.3825 South Africa Rand 12.4500 Sweden Kronor 12.2500 Switzerland Francs 1.6817 UAE Dirham 5.6380 United States Dollars 1.5622 TouriST rATeS UP 21.76 at 4383.60 fTSe 100 dow joneS nikkei -$ UP 95.61 at 8711.82 UP 51.16 at 9395.32 DOWN 1.43c at $1.6296 >>for all the latest City share prices, call 0905 817 1694* or visit thisismoney.co.uk * Calls cost 75p/min from a BT landline & last approx 1 min per quote. not all stocks are available Tough time for Poundstretcher l Discount retailer instore said today that trading remains tough due to both the underlying economic climate and an evermore competitive sector. the firm, which trades as instore and Poundstretcher, issued a profit warning in January. there has been speculation it will be sold or closed down. Losses for the last year more than doubled to 5.8 million. Hot seat: the pressure is on airline boss Willie Walsh ...but Luminar looking good l nightcLubs operator Luminar, which owns the oceana, Liquid and Jam house brands, today said trading is on the up, suggesting consumers are getting more confident about prospects for themselves and the economy. in the 18 weeks since the end of February, revenue is up 0.7%, and drink prices -- that had been slipping -- are now rising. Tycoons grape expectations l A ProPerty tycoon has raised more than 1 million from city investors to expand his english wine business. nigel Wrays english Wines group makes wine at its chapel Down vineyards in tenterden, Kent. Although it made 105,000 profits last year on sales of 2.3 million, demand is so high it needs to buy extra grapes to add to those from its own vineyard. oil price to dive to $20 a barrel l A DeVAstAting glut of crude this autumn will send the oil price plunging to $20 a barrel, a veteran adviser to the us government has warned. Academic Philip Verleger, who predicted last years $147-a- barrel superspike, says the recession will force down oil to prices last seen in 2002. brent crude slipped 38 cents to $63.37. 34 Friday, 17 July 2009 London Lite BRITISh AIRwAyS has slumped to its worst first-quarter loss, as it announced plans to raise more than 600 million to keep the carrier afloat. The beleaguered airline, which many expect to nosedive to its biggest-ever losses this year, has been forced to disclose the extent of its decline ahead of the launch of a convertible bond in the City today. BA admitted it racked up operating losses in April, May and June -- the first quarter of its financial year -- of about 100 million on a crash in rev- enues of 12% to 1.98 billion. News of the depth of the losses came as the airline announced the issue of a five- year, 300 million convertible bond, which will pay interest of about 6% and can be exchanged for BA shares at a later date. The carrier said it has also done a deal with the trustees of its pension fund to free up a further 330 million in the event BA goes bust and is unable to fulfil funding commitments. Though still heavily in debt, BA said the fundraisings will take its cash position to around 2 billion on top of the 1.25 billion that has come in cash flow from sales and an available bank overdraft of 130 million. were taking action to improve our liquidity and strengthen our position within the industry, said under-pres- sure chief executive willie walsh. Meanwhile, walsh is set to be forced into an embarrassing U-turn as he has reportedly put BAs lossmaking OpenSkies subsidiary up for sale. The OpenSkies airline, which flies to New york from Paris and Amsterdam, was only launched a year ago.