Business and City in Brief

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Soffia lifeline for dying Swan

Soffia-CMN, the French group hoping to buy Swan Hunter out of receivership, is prepared to share more of the cost of keeping the yard open while new orders are sought. It is understood that Soffia would help to maintain Swan from November while it tenders for the refit of HMS Cornwall and a batch of Type-23 frigates.

Smurfit acquisition

Saint-Gobain, the French group, has agreed to sell its paper business to Jefferson Smurfit, an Irish packaging company, for Fr5.63bn ( pounds 680m), including net debt payments of a maximum Fr2.9bn for the debt of the companies involved.

The French group said it would make a net attributable capital gain of about Fr900m.

Bankruptcy order

The former head of BCCI's biggest customer, Gulf Group, is the subject of a bankruptcy order filed in London by Alef Bankthe French bank. Abbas Kassimali Gokal, one of the founders of the Gulf shipping group, was arrested by German police on 18 July and is awaiting extradition to Britain by the Serious Fraud Office on conspiracy charges linked to BCCI.

Failures hiccup

The number of companies going into receivership and administration in July increased slightly from 163 to 167, denting a two-year trend downwards. In the past four months, company collapses have stabilised at about 165 a month and the accountants Touche Ross expect the downward trend to reassert itself over the coming months.

Yorkshire agrees

Yorkshire Water has accepted as 'challenging, but fair' the new price controls announced last week by Ofwat, the industry regulator. South West Water is the only one of the 10 water and sewage companies in England and Wales to have said it will reject the controls, which come into effect in April 1995. Ian Byatt, director-general of Ofwat, will refer South West Water's case to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Liffe's busy month

Liffe traded more than 10 million futures and options contracts last month, an increase of 21 per cent on July last year. Average daily trade was 506,641 equalling a turnover of pounds 115bn. In the year so far, volume is 80 per cent up on the same period last year.

Change of name

Marc Rich, the international trading house, is to change its name to Glencore International from 1 September.

New York: The firm dollar lifted sentiment but highs were not sustained. The Dow Jones average was down 1.95 at 3,796.22 by the close of trading.

Tokyo: Short-covering and some institutional buying carried the Nikkei average 388.78 points higher to close at 20,660.13.

Hong Kong: Some blue chips lost ground on profit-taking. The Hang Seng rose 11.35 to 9,695.03.

Sydney: Failing to maintain a strong opening rally, the All Ordinaries index ended only 4.8 points firmer at 2,086.9.

Bombay: Speculative buying gave the index its third gain in a row, 33.45 points to 4,309.93.

Johannesburg: Gold shares lost their gains as the bullion price dived near the close. The overall index gained 32 points to 5,684.

Paris: Inspired by Wall Street's overnight gains, the CAC-40 index climbed 47.65 points to a two-month high of 2,117.23.

Frankfurt: Good industrial production data helped to send the DAX 32.6 higher to 2,186.39.

Zurich: Support from the firmer bond market helped the Swiss Performance Index to 1,734.36, an improvement of 24.53 points.

London: Report, page 27.

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