GORDON BROWN WILL use the Budget to unveil a major push on British investment in India, amid growing fears in the City Britain is failing to capitalise on opportunities in Asia, reports The Daily Telegraph .
According to the paper, the push comes as the City of London opens its first office in India, and the London Stock Exchange is understood to be examining a link with the Indian stock market in Mumbai.
The chancellor will set out plans to promote London as the world's leading financial centre and improve its links with India and China. The plans will form a significant part of the Budget on March 22, which is expected to be one of the least economic and most political in recent years.
It includes the "beefing up" of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the government organisation whose job it is to promote British businesses abroad.
As part of the emerging interest in India, the City of London is to open a two-man office in Mumbai to increase links between London and fast-growing Indian companies. Michael Snyder, chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, said the Treasury was "very supportive" of the plans.
GLOBAL BANKING GIANT HSBC issued a stark warning on the prospects of a worldwide pensions crisis as it posted soaring pre-tax profits up by 11% to just under $21bn for last year, reports The Times.
HSBC's departing chairman, Sir John Bond, is well-known for his concerns about the risks to the world's financial markets of an ageing population and changes to the world's demographics.
But today, Sir John struck his bleakest tone to date on the pensions problem, as he suggested the question of how to fund pensions provisions worldwide "may well become one of the most pressing of the next decade".
Sir John sounded the worldwide pensions alarm as HSBC said there had been a "significant" rise in the level of personal bankruptcies in the UK and it had increased its provision for bad and doubtful debts by more than $1.6bn to a total of $7.8bn. However, he said the near term economic outlook was nevertheless "encouraging".
His comments also came as HSBC reported profits had increase by more than $2bn last year - to the highest ever reported by a bank based in Britain.
HSBC now makes nearly a third of its profits in Europe and a third in the US, with the remaining third coming from Hong Kong and the rest of Asia-Pacific.
But the bank made no further comment on reports it had lost between $400m and $600m in an interest rate derivatives trade which went wrong at the end of last year.
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND has been accused by the US government of misleading City regulators in the case of the "NatWest Three", reports The Scotsman.
The allegations against the Edinburgh bank - which took over NatWest in March 2000 - are included in a formal letter from the prosecuting US department of justice to the High Court in London.
The NatWest Three are former investment bankers who face extradition to the US over fraud charges related to the collapse of energy giant Enron. They are alleged to have sold a NatWest interest in a Cayman Islands business known as SwapSub for less than it was actually worth, before splitting profits of $20m with Enron directors.
The trio include Gary Mulgrew - the son of Trish Godman MSP, the deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament - and former colleagues Giles Darby and David Bermingham.
The group lost an appeal to remain and be tried in the UK two weeks ago. At the hearing in November, lawyers acting for the three presented evidence suggesting the Financial Services Authority asked RBS in 2002 to revalue the business in question, and the Edinburgh bank had come up with a figure "very much in line with the original".
In the US letter obtained by The Scotsman, Molly Warlow writes: "If [the Federal Prosecutor] had seen the revaluation, he would not have considered it damaging to the case. Further, [he] proposes that it is not surprising that those who were unaware of the true value of SwapSub, and thus sold it for far less than its actual value, might be motivated to justify the sale figure by later providing a low revaluation."
Despite the allegation RBS provided a false valuation to the FSA, presiding judge Lord Justice Laws said the fresh evidence did not prevent the three from being deported, as the Extradition Act of 2003 - under which the trio are charged - does not require the prosecution to provide any evidence to support its case.
The NatWest Three are taking their case to the House of Lords. RBS said it did not comment on specific documents, but added it "reserves the right to take legal action at any time".
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