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Pace profits halve in 2011

British set-top box developer suffers from disrupted supply chain following Thai floods.

Pace plc has posted a slump in profits for 2011. The West Yorkshire-based IT company saw its pre-tax profits for the year more than halve to $54.7 million (£34.7m).

The TV set-top box maker had suffered from disrupted supply chains over much of 2011 due to natural disasters in the Pacific. The floods in Thailand -- triggered by heavy monsoon rain that began in July -- severely hit the operations of hard-disk suppliers Western Digital and Seagate, whose components are used in Pace's satellite, Freeview and cable products.

Pace's operations for the year also suffered from the the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, which caused over 15,000 deaths and multiple nuclear meltdowns in Japan; most notably at the Fukushima power plant.

Mike Pulli, the CEO of Pace since December, said the results were in line with November predictions and that a strategic review showed the company's markets were "large, growing and profitable". The supply chain disruption is expected to continue being felt during the first half of 2012.

Pace's customers include the US's largest cable and internet operator, Comcast, and Latin America's largest cable TV service, Net Servicos, based in Brazil.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.