Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
NatWest expands in New Jersey

NatWest is buying Central Jersey Bancorp, a New Jersey bank, for dollars 300m, bringing its takeover spending in the state to dollars 800m this year. Central Jersey has 38 branches, mainly in prosperous Monmouth County, and this brings the number of NatWest US branches to 348, of which 221 are in New Jersey. Total assets of NatWest Bancorp, the US arm, are dollars 30bn.

The move comes after a turnaround in the US operations from heavy losses to a dollars 298m profit last year.

Parking bid

Speculation was mounting last night that the insurance company Prudential is behind the bid for National Parking, which owns NCP car parks and National Breakdown. The company could be worth up to pounds 1bn.

Standard withdraws

Standard Chartered Securities has dropped out of the underwriting group helping the Shanghai-listed Dazhong Taxi to convert its legal person shares into 'B' shares for foreigners. The broker was disciplined this week by Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission for irregularities in the initial public offerings of six Hong Kong firms between July 1991 and March 1993.

Society fined

Lautro, the insurance industry regulator, fined the International Order of Foresters pounds 200,000 for serious disciplinary breaches. It was Lautro's 10th fine this year and one of its biggest. Arno Kitts, the fraternal benefit society's new chief executive, said it had taken extensive steps to remedy the shortcomings.

Payout in doubt

The 10p-a-share special dividend offered to shareholders in Associated British Foods as part of an ownership restructuring scheme could be in jeopardy because of questions raised by the Charity Commission. The questions have prompted trustees of the Garfield Weston Foundation, the charity set up by ABF's founder, which owns more than a third of the shares, to ask the court to sanction the arrangement.

Joining PIA

The Personal Investment Authority has appointed Helena Wiesner, formerly head of the Consumers' Association economic and social group, as deputy chairman and a public interest director. David Lipsey, political editor of the Economist, has also been appointed as a public interest director.

Last orders

Greenalls, the brewing group, is closing Cambrian Soft Drinks in Bolton with the loss of 94 jobs.

World Markets

New York: Revived inflation fears and the dollar's tribulations drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 42.09 points to close at 3,624.96.

Tokyo: Bargain-hunting after the yen's retreat against the dollar took the Nikkei average 162.93 points higher to 20,643.93.

Hong Kong: Most sectors improved as the Hang Seng index added 118.1 points to 8,758.41.

Sydney: Light trade on the fiscal year's last day lifted the All Ordinaries 14 points to 1,989.1.

Bombay: Selling across a broad front in subdued trade sent the index down 60.07 to 4,080.18.

Johannesburg: Bullion's gains gave shares a late boost, but the index eased 17 points to 5,404.

Frankfurt: Renewed weakness in bonds helped to knock 20.96 off the DAX index to 2,025.34.

Paris: With sentiment depressed by bond market weakness and a sell-off of index futures, the CAC-40 fell 44.33 points to 1,892.

Zurich: In a thin session the Swiss Performance Index lost 7.99 points to 1,729.02.

London: Report, page 32.

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