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STENA MAKES PLAIN SAILING OF POUNDS 26m

A strong performance by the cross-Channel ferry operator Stena Sealink helped to increase pre-tax profits at its Swedish parent company, Stena, by nearly a third to pounds 26m last year. Passenger volumes on Sealink's cross- Channel and Irish Sea routes rose 14 per cent while freight volumes increased by 11 per cent. On the Dover-Calais route, where Sealink will compete head on with Eurotunnel's Le Shuttle service, passenger levels were up by 11 per cent to 6 million.

Shares in Eurotunnel, which yesterday announced fares for its car passenger service starting in May, closed 17p down at 608p. The tariffs are higher than the City had been expecting.

QMH HEARING

The Companies Court yesterday ordered that a petition by a Queens Moat Houses shareholder, Denis Woodhams, alleging that the hotels group's management acted in a manner prejudicial to shareholders' interests should be set down for a full hearing before a High Court judge without delay.

PRICES PREDICTION

Small and medium-sized businesses are twice as confident that they will be able to raise their prices this year than they were last year, according to a survey by Grant Thronton. This finding is in line with Monday's Dun & Bradstreet survey showing an expected revival of inflation. Small businesses are also more confident about turnover, profits and employment.

FORD IN MAZDA TALKS

Ford Motor said it expected to begin discussions with Mazda of Japan that could lead to joint European production of a Mazda- brand car in a Ford of Europe plant.

WEALTH STUDY

The Liberal Democrats have launched a commission on wealth creation and social cohesion, chaired by Lord Dahrendorf, warden of St Antony's College, Oxford. Other members include Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, and Andrew Sentance, until recently one of the Chancellor's 'seven wise men'.

BAQI JURY SWORN IN

A jury was sworn in yesterday for the trial of Mohammed Baqi, former managing director of Attock Oil, a client of BCCI. Mr Baqi is accused of signing false audit confirmations to non-existent loan accounts and to bogus charges levied on those accounts in the books of BCCI.

BOWTHORPE TAKE-UP

Bowthorpe said it had received valid acceptances in respect of 18,058,218 new ordinary shares, representing 87.5 per cent of the new ordinary shares, offered in the rights issue on 16 December.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: Profit-taking after recent record performances left the Dow Jones Industrial Average nursing a 15.20-point decline at 3,850.31 by the close.

TOKYO: Foreign investors remained active buyers as the Nikkei average moved up 41.81 points to exactly 18,485.

HONG KONG: Profit-taking on reduced volume left the Hang Seng 211.13 weaker at 11,155.81.

SYDNEY: Quiet, technical trade took the All Ordinaries index up 8.1 points to 2,206.7.

BOMBAY: Prices fell on worries over the ban on forward deals. The index lost 41.46 to 3,780.1.

JOHANNESBURG: Escalating nervousness about the gold price sent shares tumbling across the board. The overall index dipped 83 points to 4,961.

FRANKFURT: Chemical stocks supported a nervous market and restricted the loss by the DAX index to 5.04, closing at 2,228.75.

PARIS: Continuing its advance, the CAC-40 index finished at 2,331.11, a gain of 14.08 points.

ZURICH: Volatile trade produced another record close, with the Swiss Performance Index 5.7 points to the good at 1,919.57.

LONDON: Report, page 28.

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