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In the papers today - 4th July 2008

Air France is holding talks about a joint venture that could see some of its short-haul routes operated by trains and considerably increase competition for continental Europe's mainly state-owned high-speed train operators...

The French flag-carrier, part of Air France-KLM, is speaking to Paris-based Veolia Transport, part of the Veolia Environnement group, about the venture - Financial Times

The head of Spain's biggest energy company has lambasted European politicians' inability to formulate a unified energy policy. Antonio Brufau, executive chairman of Repsol, said yesterday Europe needed to consider energy as an integral part of its foreign policy - Financial Times

The US lost jobs in June for the sixth month in a row and jobless numbers remained elevated, signalling a continuing deterioration in the labour market and helping to push back thoughts of an increase in interest rates - Financial Times

Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, is ready to risk snap elections to finalise a nuclear energy pact with the US that is at the heart of a domestic political crisis threatening to break apart his delicate coalition government - Financial Times

The foundations are being laid and the building of four highly ambitious new cities in Saudi Arabia is under way, with the first, the King Abdullah Economic City, hoping to welcome residents at the end of this year. But as the multibillion -dollar mega-projects inch forward, questions are increasingly being raised about the viability of their concept, amid rising costs and queries about whether the cities will attract the required private sector investment - foreign and domestic - and the human resources needed to meet their heady goals - Financial Times

Amec, the engineering consultancy, shrugged off stock market gloom on Thursday and led FTSE 100 gainers after edging up its earning forecasts for the year. The shares rose 24½p to 874p as the group increased its margin expectation for the year from 6 to 6.5% and pointed to strong trading across its businesses - Financial Times

Galliford Try on Thursday warned that it was "unlikely to recommend" an increase in its annual dividend when it reports full year results in September, which it still expects to show a pre-tax profit of at least £60M. The construction and housebuilding group increased its interim dividend in February by 12.5% from 0.8p to 0.9p, so it is likely to reduce the final payment. The group normally aims to have a progressive dividend policy - Financial Times

British Airways added to the turmoil in the airline industry yesterday by confirming that a deterioration in traffic had accelerated in June. It said a 0.7% dip in traffic in May had become a fall of 3.7% in June, with the highly profitable business-class segment falling by 3.1% - a marked deterioration on May's figures, which showed a fall of less than 1% in premium traffic - The Guardian

Barratt Developments closed six offices and culled 1,000 jobs yesterday after the collapse in demand for new homes. Staff were told the housebuilder needed to shed 15% of its 6,500 workforce - The Guardian

The National Trust launched a £13.2 million appeal yesterday to save Seaton Delaval Hall, one of England's finest stately homes. The trust has been given six months to find the money to buy the hall in Northumberland, which is being sold by Lord Hastings - The Daily Telegraph

Commercial property values are set to fall more than 25% in the next two years, according to a leading property agent. In one of the gloomiest outlooks since the market turned in August last year, Atisreal is predicting capital values will fall 17.9% this year and a further 8.6% in 2009 - The Daily Telegraph

A French judge ordered Continental Airlines and five people to stand trial for manslaughter over the 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people. Investigators blamed the crash on a titanium strip left on the runway of Charles de Gaulle airport by a Continental Airlines DC10 - The Times

The Royal Navy was promoted into the maritime superlegue yesterday when ministers signed the long-awaited contract for two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers. They will be the second biggest of their kind in the world, each the size of the QE2. Only the American Nimitz Class aircraft carriers, at 90,000 tonnes, have amore impressive tonnage - The Times

Parliament's reputation took another battering yesterday when MP's threw out plans to overhaul their expenses, insisting on their right to buy kitchens, televisions and sofas on the taxpayer. Plans for rigorous external audits, a reduction of the threshold of receipts from £25 to zero and a ban on furniture or home improvements were all thrown out by MPs who voted against the plan by a majority of 28 - The Times

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