A WEEK IN BUSINESS

Top of the form

Shares in Acorn Computer grew into the proverbial oak, rising 76p to 224p on rumours of a possible link with software publisher Oracle. There were also reports of a new product that would hasten the convergence of telephones, televisions and computers.

Tail-ender

Vymura, the wallpaper manufacturer, fell 40p to 99p and warned that second- half profits would be "substantially below" last year's, due to flat sales, difficulties in recovering raw material price increases from customers, and higher support costs.

Greasy pole (up)

Lord David Wolfson of Sunningdale, the chairman of Next, is to replace his cousin, Lord Wolfson of Marylebone, as head of Great Universal Stores. The appointment has raised speculation the two retail groups might merge.

Greasy pole (down)

Sipko Huismans is reluctantly leaving as chief executive of Courtaulds, the chemicals company, in July following four years in which the share price underperformed. The move surprised observers, who had expected him to succeed the chairman, Sir Christopher Hogg, who also leaves in July.

Nice little earner

Peter Parkin, former chairman of Raine, the building company, got a pounds 472,000 pay-off after leading the group to a pounds 102m pre-tax loss, prompting one institutional investor to call it "one of the most crass examples of payment for failure".

Bum deal

British Gas admitted any exports of natural gas to Europe through the new interconnector pipeline due to go into service in 1998 would be at a loss. The revelation heightened fears that the current gas oversupply bubble is more than a short-term aberration.

Product launch

A new two-tone pounds 2 coin is to be introduced by the Royal Mint by next autumn. With a silvery centre and gold rim, it is expected to be harder to forge than the existing pounds 1 coin. The mint also plans to bring out a smaller 50p coin.

M'learned friends

A pounds 14.7m bank account in the name of Ral Salinas, brother of Mexico's former president, has been frozen by British police in connection with an international drugs and money laundering probe.

Whoops

Barry Dale, sacked chief executive of stores group Littlewoods, went away tail between his legs after family members rallied to reject his pounds 1.1bn bid approach.

In the dock

Jurors in the Maxwell fraud trial told Lord Justice Phillips they would not be able to reach a verdict before Christmas.

Place your bets

Last week's snowfall increased the chance Britain would have a white Christmas, figures Ladbroke. The bookmaker is offering 7/2 odds of snow falling on 25 December.

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