Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
Construction orders down

Poor weather helped to push orders for construction work down by 13 per cent in the three months to May. Infrastructure orders fell sharply, private housing was slightly lower but public housing orders surged.

In May alone, however, orders recovered by 16 per cent over the previous month.

Healthcall probe

The Office of Fair Trading is making preliminary inquiries into claims of anti-competitive practices by Healthcall, the provider of out-of-hours doctors that gained a listing in May.

Spectacular buyout

Dolland & Aitchison, the UK's largest optician with 470 branches and a 13 per cent market share, is being bought out by senior management from parent Gallaher, owned by American Brands, in a pounds 94m deal financed by CVC Capital Partners. The company, with branches in Italy and Spain and a turnover of pounds 240m in 1993, is likely to seek a stock market listing in the next five years.

Atomic energy cuts

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority plans to cut up to 500 jobs this year in preparation for the privatisation of its commercial arm. Over the last six years the organisation has almost halved its workforce to about 7,400. UKAEA announced a net loss for last year of pounds 10.7m after restructuring charges, compared with a loss of pounds 46.9m the previous year.

More acquisitions

Spending on acquisitions rose from pounds 6.8bn to pounds 9.1bn in the first half of 1994 with the number of deals rising from 549 to 697, according to Acquisitions Monthly. The period included Granada's pounds 766m bid for LWT and MAI's pounds 283m purchase of Anglia TV, as well as GKN's pounds 577m takeover of Westland.

Indian whisky

Macdonald Martin Distilleries, producer of Glenmorangie whisky, has joined Mohan Meakin, one of India's biggest consumer products producers, to market whisky for the Indian market, where sales topped 1.8 million cases last year.

Kidder fires trader

Kidder Peabody, the US broker owned by General Electric, confirmed it had dismissed Peter Bryant, an options trader in its London subsidiary, after losses on options trading of dollars 6m.

World Markets

New York: Early falls, taking the Dow Jones Average down nearly 26 points, were recouped and by the close the index was off 0.33 points at 3,702.66.

Tokyo: Futures-led selling in nervous trade lowered the Nikkei average 72.61 to 20,400.48.

Hong Kong: A rally among property issues after recent falls lifted the Hang Seng index 196.51 points (2.4 per cent) to 8,591.45.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index followed the futures market higher, adding 11.7 to 1,972.9.

Bombay: Selective buying by Unit Trust of India drove the index up 54.62 points to 4,134.79.

Johannesburg: A firmer bullion price took gold shares ahead, with industrials mixed. The index rose 33 points to 5,453.

Frankfurt: The weaker dollar weighed on sentiment. The DAX index slipped 17.61 to 2,048.05.

Paris: Profit-taking after Monday's gains took 7.66 points off the CAC-40 index to 1,942.08.

Zurich: Heavy selling of Roche on its poor sales figures helped the SPI to fall 32.32 to 1,668.68.

Milan: With investors awaiting the budget, shares closed a lacklustre session in retreat.

London: Report, page 26.