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Updated: Feb 15 2013, 08:00am hrs
Monte Paschi former finance chief held in Italy

The Italian police on Thursday arrested the former head of Monte dei Paschi's finance department, who is at the centre of a fraud and bribery probe at Italys third largest bank, two investigative sources told Reuters. The sources said the man arrested was Gianluca Baldassarri, who left Monte dei Paschi shortly after the arrival of new chief executive Fabrizio Viola in January 2012. One of the sources said he was detained because prosecutors feared he may leave the country. The sources said searches were under way in Milan. Italian prosecutors seized some 40 million euros last week as part of their investigation. The prosecution seizure order, seen by Reuters, said the funds belonged to Baldassarri and four other people. The five are suspected of criminal conspiracy to commit fraud, according to the prosecution document. The finance department headed by Baldassarri is at the heart of a derivatives scandal that has rocked Monte dei Paschi, which last week put losses stemming from three derivatives trades at 730 million euros.

ING to sell KB Financial stake for $675 m: IFR

Dutch financial services group ING plans to sell its remaining stake of around 5% in South Koreas KB Financial Group Inc, a deal valued at up to $675 million, IFR reported on Thursday. ING is looking to divest several businesses in Asia, including its South Korean insurance unit, to help repay a 10 billion euro state bailout received during the global financial crisis. The Dutch company is the second-biggest shareholder in KB Financial, the parent of South Koreas top lender Kookmin Bank. South Koreas National Pension Service is the top shareholder with 8.2%. ING is offering 19.4 million shares between 37,480-37,750 won each, said IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication. That represents a discount of up to 1.4% to Thursdays close of 38,000 won.

Britains Labour party proposes mansion tax

The leader of Britains opposition Labour Party called on Thursday for a tax on expensive homes to fund a new lower-income tax band to help the countrys lowest earners. Setting out some of the first concrete ideas of what his party would offer voters at the next election, which is expected in 2015, Ed Miliband said a Labour government would introduce a tax on houses worth over 2 million. We will use the money raised by a mansion tax to reintroduce a lower 10 pence starting rate of tax, with the size of the band depending on the amount raised, he said. He conceded that the former Labour government had been wrong to abolish the 10 pence starting rate of income tax. We would put right a mistake made by Gordon Brown, he said.

Nestle makes profit of $11.55 bn in 2012

Nestle SA predicted another challenging year ahead but overcame tough global economic conditions to post a full-year net profit on Thursday of 10.6 billion Swiss francs ($11.55 billion) for 2012. Nestle is a major buyer of food commodities such as wheat, sugar, milk and coffee and its results are a good indicator of consumer demand in various regions of the world and the health of the global economy as a whole. Nestle reported broad-based growth across all product ranges and regions with sales reaching 92.2 billion francs ($100.5 billion), up from 83.6 billion francs ($91.11 billion) in 2011. The results compare with a full-year 2011 profit of 9.5 billion Swiss francs ($10.35 billion). Product-wise, the best sellers were powdered and liquid beverages. Nestle said its sales growth rebounded during the last three months of 2012.

Rolls-Royce says net profit surged in 2012

Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce said on Thursday that net profits surged last year, boosted by strong revenues and the sale of its stake in US-based International Aero Engines, and appointed its new chairman. Earnings after taxation soared to 2.281 billion in 2012, compared with 850 million in 2011, the firm announced in a results statement. Rolls-Royce, which also makes power systems, added that underlying revenues advanced 8% to 12.2 billion and its order book swelled 4% to 60.146 billion. In the second half of the year, revenue growth increased as we delivered 23% more engines than in the first half. Margins improved, said chief executive John Rishton. Looking ahead, Rolls-Royce forecast modest growth in underlying revenue and good growth in underlying profit for 2013.