City&FinanceBriefing Inbrief Healthgianthas rival in its sights l General Healthcare, Britains biggest private hospitals owner, is in talks to buy its struggling rival, plastic surgery specialist Covenant Healthcare. Covenant owns cosmetic surgery business Transform, which makes 40 million a year from thousands of patients undertaking breast surgery, liposuction and Botox, as well as from five private hospitals. TomTom loses its way on sales l SaTnav maker TomTom today said it can give no indication on profits for the year due to poor market visibility. Sales in the second quarter fell 24% to 368 million (319.7 million). analysts say TomTom is likely to come under increasing pressure as navigational aids become more readily available on mobile phones. iPhone rings up Apples profits l apple today rang up booming profits thanks to strong sales of the iphone. profits in the third- quarter rose 15% to $1.23 billion (751 million) on a 12% increase in revenues to $8.34 billion. apple sold more than 5.2 million iphones in the three-month period to 27 June, which was seven times greater than in the same quarter of 2008. Capitals empty High Streets l londonS High Streets will see 15% of their shops lying vacant by the end of the year, the British retail Consortium warned today. The BrC said town centres need nurturing and should be actively managed by local authorities in partnership with local retailers, businesses and residents if they are to avoid decline. Australia Dollars 1.9245 Canada Dollars 1.7409 Denmark Kroner 8.2252 Eurozone Euro 1.1082 Hong Kong Dollars 12.1100 Japan Yen 147.3400 New Zealand Dollars 2.3504 South Africa Rand 12.1400 Sweden Kronor 12.1700 Switzerland Francs 1.6812 UAE Dirham 5.6763 United States Dollars 1.5727 TouriST rATeS DOWN 14.40 at 4466.77 fTSe 100 dow joneS nikkei -$ UP 67.79 at 8915.94 UP 71.14 at 9723.16 DOWN 1.27c at $1.6332 >>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 wallpaper firm takes a pasting PROFITS are expected to slump by a third at expensive wallpaper and cushions group Walker Greenbank. But the company is not doing as badly as its rival Colefax & Fowler. Walker chairman Terry Stannard today told the annual meeting that sales are down 12.5% in the six months to end-July, and full-year profits are set to be 2.1 million, against 3.2 million last year. However, profits at Colefax have more than halved to 2.6 million. Think-tank forecasts bleak years for Britain The UK economy faces years of misery, a leading think-tank warned today. The National Institute of economic and Social Research said the housing slump will last until 2012, and that recent rises were driven by lack of supply rather than strong demand. Institute economist Simon Kirby said: There has been talk of stabilisation but we dont think this is the case. We only see growth in the housing market returning in 2012. The institute also said unemployment will rise for another two years, peaking at three million, or nearly 10% of the workforce, in mid-2011. The jobless total is currently 2.38 million, or 7.6%. The grim forecasts came in the institutes latest quarterly report. Sterling fell 1.27 cents against the dollar to $1.6332 and 0.55 cent against the euro to 1.1512 as traders digested the bleak outlook and concerns over rising government debts. It forecasts shrinkage of 4.3% in the economy this year before it grows by a modest 1% next year and 1.8% in 2011 -- far weaker than the Governments optimistic outlook. Kirby said: It is necessary [bank lending] strengthens if the economy is to return to sustained growth. Figures on Friday are likely to show gross domestic product fell again in the second quarter of this year having slumped 2.4% in the first quarter -- the worst performance since the General Strike of 1926. Embarrassed: Warren Buffett aboard one of his NetJet planes Buffetts wings clipped as jets firm feels pinchWARREN Buffetts private-jet timeshare business is laying off the equivalent of 300 full-time pilots, or almost a third of its flight crew. The news shows the extent of the collapse in the private-jet market and will be an embarrassment for Buffett -- reckoned to be the smartest investor on the planet. NetJets Europe allows the rich and famous to buy flying time on its 168-strong fleet of Dassault Falcons and Hawkers -- celebrity clients include tennis champion Roger Federer. The swiftness of the global economic slump, however, appears to have caught NetJets by surprise. Only last year it hired 341 new pilots, taking its flight crew total to 1046. Last year the business also took delivery of 30 new aircraft. Sources reckon that 18 months ago NetJets pilots were working at full throttle in charge of as many as six or seven flights a day. The average number of flights now is reckoned to be around one-and-a-half per day. The companys pilots have been told by NetJets management that it is looking to reduce the payroll through a combination of redundancies and cutting working hours. BY RoBeRt lea Issue 456 | 17-8-08 Available in all good newsagents near you! 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