Business and City In Brief

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EC investigates Aerospatiale

The European Commission is to investigate the French government's Fr2bn (pounds 234m) capital injection into Aerospatiale to see whether it constitutes state aid.

The injection was announced by the French defence and finance ministries yesterday and is the latest move to prepare French state companies for privatisation. Aerospatiale has said it made a loss in 1993, although it gave no figures. It made a loss of Fr2.38bn in 1992.

US orders rise

US factory orders rose by 1.2 per cent in December, bringing the rise over the year to 5.9 per cent, the strongest annual expansion for five years.

Elan liquidation

Seven hundred and sixty jobs were at risk last night after Elan International, a freight and parcels company, went into liquidation with debts estimated at pounds 5.9m. The company, based in Birmingham, has 18 depots across the country and turnover of about pounds 30m.

No steel deal

The German Economics Minister, Gunter Rexrodt, said he had failed to reach agreement with the country's private steel makers on production cuts. Ruprecht Vondran, president of the German Steel Association, said the European Commission's restructuring plan for the industry was in danger.

GM loses health case

A US federal judge has ruled that General Motors cannot force 50,000 retired workers to pay for their healthcare benefits. US District Court Judge John Feikens said GM promised the workers free health care when it offered them early retirement packages between 1974 and 1988.

Sanctions lifted

The US has lifted sanctions against the Bahrain-based Arab Financial Services, imposed after the Lockerbie bombing affair. The move follows intense lobbying in Washington by Bahraini officials, including the finance minister.

Elf estimate up

Institutional investors will have to pay Fr400-Fr410 a share in the privatisation of Elf Aquitaine, analysts estimate. They revised upwards their earlier prediction that the institutional tranche would be priced at Fr395-Fr400 after the government set the public offer price Fr5 higher than expected at Fr385.

Goldman settles

Goldman Sachs, the US securities house, said it had settled charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that it bought and sold US Treasury securities in prearranged deals designed to save tax. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Goldman agreed to establish written procedures for such transactions, and to pay a dollars 250,000 fine.

Czech sale

General Motors' Packard Electric division has sold Ceska Republika's metal-stamping operation in the Czech Republic. The operation was sold to Blaimer, a Czech company that specialises in metal stampings for European car companies. Packard Electric acquired the business when it purchased AZ Bela last year to support customers in the Czech Republic.

World Markets

New York: Blue chips fell sharply on disappointing employment news but fought back to recoup most of their losses. The Dow Jones Average lost 7.88 points to close at 3,967.66.

Tokyo: Renewed threats to political stability took their toll. The Nikkei eased 75.21 to 20,174.82.

Hong Kong: A surge by HSBC Holdings led shares higher. The Hang Seng rose 65.3 to 11,851.13.

Sydney: The record bull run continued unabated, with the All Ordinaries index 28.5 points better at an all-time peak of 2,340.6.

Bombay: Profit-taking on the last day of the account lowered the index 44.44 points to 3,992.2.

Johannesburg: Stronger industrials compensated for falling gold shares. The overall index rose 34 points to 4,933.

Frankfurt: With interest rates unchanged, the DAX index fell 32.29 points to 2,151.72.

Paris: Disappointment over German interest rates left the CAC- 40 index 33.94 adrift at 2,321.99.

Zurich: The SPI turned down 10.32 points to 1,994.48.

London: Report, page 30.