Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
METALL CONCESSION ON HOURS

Germany's powerful engineering union, IG Metall, said it would offer to shorten the working week to 30 hours with wage cuts.

Klaus Zwickel, the union's leader, said that to give employers more flexibility, the union was willing to accept shorter working hours accompanied by wage cuts for two years.

BRITANNIA OFFICES GO

Britannia Building Society is to close 24 of its 225 branch offices over the next six weeks. The society said it expected no more than 104 job losses overall.

PALMERSTON MOVE

Palmerston Holdings, the troubled property company, is proposing to enter into a company voluntary arrangement that will block its creditors from exercising any of their rights for six months. The company said that there was now an estimated deficiency in shareholders' funds of about pounds 39.2m.

PARKSIDE FOR SE

Parkside International, a packaging and plastic labels company, is seeking a Stock Exchange listing. A placing will raise pounds 12m by the sale of 11 million ordinary shares at a price of 110p each, and will capitalise Parkside at pounds 32.8m.

SEARS WINDFALL

The US retail group Sears, Roebuck said about 126,000 employees participating in the company's profit-sharing fund in 1993 would receive a total of dollars 128m in Sears' shares as a result of the group's record 1993 profit. Sears reported year-end results of dollars 2.37bn or dollars 6.13 a share.

FERRANTI BUYOUT

Managers of Ferranti's component factory at Oldham, Lancashire, are to launch a buyout of the business, which employs 450 people and has a turnover of pounds 30m.

STORES DOWNGRADED

IBCA, the credit-rating agency, has downgraded J Sainsbury and Tesco because of increased competition in food retailing. Sainsbury's long-term debt rating has been cut from AA+ to AA while Tesco's has dropped from AA to AA-.

UAP TURNOVER UP

UAP, the French insurance giant that owns half of Britain's Sun Life, reported an 11.6 per cent rise in turnover to Fr140.5bn ( pounds 16bn).

EUROPE CAPITAL

The investment capital group 3i has launched an Ecu300m ( pounds 225m) fund, 3i Europe Investment Partners, for equity investment in private companies in Continental Europe. The fund has already raised Ecu238m with five investors from Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and expects to complete the funding soon with US institutions.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: In sedate, featureless trading shares moved narrowly, ahead of the bond auction. By the close the Dow Jones Average had shaded 0.57 points at 3,905.75.

TOKYO: A shortage of stock left the Nikkei 225 236.83 points higher at 20,351.23.

HONG KONG: The Hang Seng index recouped earlier losses to end 24 better at 11,436.

SYDNEY: Blue chips, among the biggest losers in Monday's sell- off, moved up smartly to leave the All Ordinaries index 24.3 ahead at 2,305.4.

JOHANNESBURG: Political uncertainties kept a lid on share prices, depressing the overall index 42 points to 4,891.

MILAN: The cut in UK interest rates boosted sentiment, lifting the Mitbel index 294 to 10,930 in heavy trading.

ZURICH: The SMI index gained 7.4 to 3,097.2.

FRANKFURT: Renewed hopes of a cut in interest rates lifted the DAX index 27.81 to 2,107.21.

PARIS: Share prices recovered modestly on hopes of an easing in interest rates. The CAC-40 index gained 12.79 at 2,299.85.

LONDON: Report, page 28.

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