Business and City in Brief

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Merrill Lynch chief gets dollars 10m

Merrill Lynch, the Wall Street securities house, increased senior executive bonuses by an average 25 per cent, with chief executive Daniel Tully awarded pay, bonuses and share options worth just under dollars 10m for 1993, the firm reported. His three executive vice-presidents all received just over dollars 6m.

Huge increases are expected at other securities firms following a record year on Wall Street, where overall earnings were up 45 per cent last year.

US prices jump

US wholesale prices registered their steepest monthly jump in almost a year while the country is running a current account deficit ominously close to the record levels of the late 1980s. Producer prices rose 0.5 per cent in February and 0.2 per cent on the year. Last year's current account deficit soared to dollars 109.2bn in 1993, compared with dollars 66bn the year before.

Japan surplus up

Japan's trade surplus in February rose to dollars 10.9bn from dollars 10.6bn a year previously, the Ministry of Finance said. Exports rose to dollars 29.53bn from dollars 27.97bn with imports rising to dollars 18.62bn from dollars 17.40bn.

Biscuit deal

United Biscuits is expanding its operations in eastern Europe with the purchase of one of the leading biscuit makers in Poland for pounds 19m. ZPC Sanhad had sales of about pounds 15m in 1993. United Biscuits also owns a biscuit manufacturer in Hungary.

Kemper says no

Kemper reiterated its rejection yesterday of a dollars 2.2bn takeover offer by General Electric Capital. But Kemper's weak financial performance makes it unlikely its management will be able to resist overtures from the finance arm of America's largest industrial conglomerate.

Malaysian ban

UK companies facing a boycott by the Malaysian government have been disqualified from bidding for projects worth 3 billion Malaysian dollars ( pounds 740m) in the power, telecoms and postal sectors, the Malaysian government said.

Car stalemate

The Government has failed to reach agreement with car suppliers on implementing Monopolies and Mergers Commission recommendations on the supply of new cars. In 1992 the MMC found that a monopoly existed in favour of 24 suppliers because of the selective distribution system.

Dowty chosen

Dowty Aerospace Landing Gear has been selected by Canada's Bombardier group to design, build and test a landing gear system for the new Global Express business jet aircraft. The deal is believed to be worth dollars 60m over 10 years

World Markets

New York: Sell programmes were said to be responsible for a modest retreat, with the Dow Jones average down 13.39 points at 3,849.59 at the close.

Tokyo: With profit-taking offsetting foreign buying, the Nikkei average ended just 17.3 points easier at 20,508.85.

Hong Kong: In slow trade the Hang Seng index slid 116.51 points to close at 9,863.56.

Sydney: Easier bond prices hit shares, with the All Ordinaries index 6.7 points off at 2,172.5.

Bombay: With activity almost at a standstill due to the ban on forward trading, the index added 17.01 points to 3,764.23.

Johannesburg: Industrials posted good gains and, with gold steady, the overall index climbed 98 points to 5,254, the day's high.

Paris: Hopes of lower interest rates gave the market a powerful boost. The CAC-40 index advanced 43.5 points to 2,258.52.

Frankfurt: Position-squaring ahead of Friday's triple witching hour left the DAX index 20.42 points better at 2,165.59.

Zurich: Prices firmed in light trading, with the Swiss Performance Index up 16.51 at 1,861.13.

London: Report, page 32.