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Elf may take stake in Renault

Elf Aquitaine may take stakes in Renault and Union des Assurances de Paris when they are privatised, according to Philippe Jaffre, chairman. UAP and Renault are to follow Elf in the French privatisation programme. The Elf sale was launched on Thursday with the start of the pre-marketing phase.

Renault and UAP are expected to form part of the core shareholder group that will hold 10 per cent of Elf after privatisation.

EU inflation 3.3%

EU annual inflation, measured by the consumer price index, was 3.3 per cent last month, up from 3.2 per cent in November. It was the lowest rate for a calendar year since 1987.

Tender for tea

Granada is negotiating to buy Forward, the civil service catering unit, from the Government. Sutcliffe Catering, a Granada subsidiary, was chosen from several offers after a review by the Treasury's privatisation advisers, KPMG Corporate Finance.

Pearl backs PIA

Pearl Assurance has written to Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, backing the Personal Investment Authority, the proposed regulator for the private savings market. But the National Association of Independent Financial Advisers has condemned the PIA as a 'con'.

Bell up 8%

Bell Atlantic, the US telephone company that has announced the dollars 33bn takeover of the cable giant Tele-Communications Inc, reported 1993 operating earnings up 8 per cent at dollars 1.4bn.

Caribbean deal

Cable & Wireless (West Indies) has signed a deal with France Telecom and AT&T to plan a submarine cable system joining 14 islands in the Caribbean. The cost is expected to be dollars 60m.

HK airport approval

Hong Kong legislators have approved HKdollars 1.67bn for the colony's new HKdollars 20.3bn airport to finance continuing work. China has warned against Hong Kong pressing ahead with the airport without an agreement with the UK on financing arrangements, as called for under a 1991 pact.

Caterpillar leaps

Shares in Caterpillar, the heavy- equipment manufacturer, jumped yesterday after it reported fourth- quarter earnings 50 per cent higher than Wall Street had expected. Sales of construction equipment rose 16 per cent in the final months of 1993, bringing a profit of dollars 148m, compared with a dollars 2m loss the year before.

Taller tiger

(First Edition)

Edinburgh Fund Managers has increased the size of its planned New Tiger investment trust after it was able to pre-place pounds 105m of shares, more than twice its original target. Edinburgh is now seeking up to pounds 140m for New Tiger, which will invest in smaller companies in the Far East.

Compaq expands

(First Edition)

Compaq, the US computer group, is expanding its manufacturing capacity in Erskine, Scotland, creating 250 jobs.

World Markets

New York: Strength in economically sensitive stocks combined with late buying tied to options expirations propelled the market past 3,900. The Dow Jones rose 22.24 to 3,914.20.

Tokyo: Ahead of the vote on political reforms, the Nikkei 225 index gained 123.51 to 19,307.

Hong Kong: Bargain-hunting lifted the Hang Seng index 194.54 to 11,459.37.

Sydney: Profit-taking depressed the All Ordinaries index 15.9 to 2,250.3.

Johannesburg: Gold shares fell sharply on the lower bullion price, leaving the index down 120 at 1,943.

Frankfurt: The DAX index dived 40.59 to 2,075.61 on continuing fears of a sell-off by foreign investors disillusioned with economic prospects.

Zurich: A flat dollar and a cool statement by Swiss Volksbank on short-term trading lowered the SMI index 6.6 to 1,935.65.

Paris: The CAC-40 index weakened 13.84 to 2,243.9 on concern about interest rates.

London: Report, page 20.