A WEEK IN PERSONAL FINANCE

PRIVATISATION punters will get their next chance in May, when Railtrack, the company that owns Britain's railway stations and tracks, is sold off for perhaps pounds 2bn. Private investors will be offered discounts on shares, and 11,500 Railtrack employees will get special incentives, including free shares worth pounds 160.

LIFE insurer Friends Provident announced reduced maturity values for many endowment policies despite last year's strong stock market returns. The announcement, the first this year from a large insurer, is expected to set the tone for others, including Norwich Union in the coming week. However, Friends increased maturity values on 25-year endowments.

BRADFORD & Bingley, Bristol & West and Chelsea building societies, along with Midland Bank were among the big insititutions to cut savings rates last week, after cuts by other societies and banks between Christmas and the New Year, according to rate monitor Moneyfacts.

THE LABOUR party leadership is reported to be studying compulsory welfare insurance schemes, under which employees might be forced to put a proportion of their income into a pension plan.

THE STROUD & Swindon building society announced a proposed takeover with the smaller Kent-based society City & Metropolitan. But only City & Met's 13,000 members are being offered a bonus for agreeing to the merger of pounds 50 plus 5 per cent of account balances.

BARCLAYS Bank unveiled a Star Trek-style, two-way live video share-dealing and information service. Called BarclayZone, the system will be available from tomorrow in three Barclays' branches - Fenchurch Street in London, Crawley in Sussex, and Maidstone in Kent.

INCREASING numbers of first- year students are taking term-time jobs and arranging overdrafts, according to a survey by Barclays Bank. It said 14 per cent of first-year students already had term-time jobs, working an average 11 hours a week.

THE TUC has published a free guide to claiming compensation for people who were mis-sold personal pensions. Personal Pensions: how to claim compensation includes advice on rejoining occupational schemes.Write to Joanne Segars, TUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

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