Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
Littlewoods rises despite uncertainty

The privately owned Littlewoods Organisation made pre- tax profits before exceptionals of pounds 120.6m last year, an increase of pounds 24.3 per cent. Home shopping achieved a turnover of more than pounds 1bn for the first time. Trading at the stores was modest. Profits from football pools rose by pounds 2m to pounds 23.6m.

Current trading performance is patchy as competitive pressures mount, the company says.

Dow Jones plunges

Share prices tumbled again yesterday in New York, driven down by heavy selling in the bond market. Exporters' figures were among the heaviest losers, the result of continuing trade frictions between the US and Japan. Washington said new market-liberalising moves by the Japanese government were inadequate.

Efficiency costs

The electricity regulator Offer announced energy efficiency measures that will cost consumers pounds 100m over the next four years. Regional electricity companies will implement energy- saving schemes and, under new price controls, can charge domestic customers up to pounds 1 each a year to help cover the cost.

US confidence up

Consumer confidence in the US leapt in March to 86.7 from 79.9 per cent in the previous month and pointed to sustained high spending by consumers. Bad weather dampened sales of new single-family homes, which rose by 1.9 per cent in February.

Klesch call

Gary Klesch has called on the Law Debenture Trust Corporation to establish class meetings for Heron bondholders, which are also lenders to Heron Corporation, and another for remaining bondholders. He claims there is an economic conflict of interest between the two groups.

Hamble to float

Aerostructures Hamble Holdings, which makes parts for civil and military aircraft, is to seek a listing on the Stock Exchange. Many of the managers are Rover Group employees.

Chinese movies

Rupert Murdoch's Star TV unit has agreed to invest in more than 50 Chinese language movies in the next three years for its new Chinese pay television channel. Star last week axed the BBC from the northern beam of its satellite so that it could launch a Chinese movie pay television channel.

EU Jaguar aid

The European Commission approved a grant of pounds 9.4m and pounds 1.8m in training assistance under a regional aid scheme to Jaguar Cars, the Ford subsidiary, as part of a plan to launch a range of luxury sports cars.

World Markets

New York: Blue chip stocks collapsed late in the day's trading and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 63.33 points at 3,699.02.

Tokyo: A see-saw session of futures-linked dealing ended with the Nikkei average 232.05 points lighter at 19,709.74.

Hong Kong: The Hang Seng index gained 3 per cent in a rebound from Monday's losses, finishing 283.11 ahead at 9,480.14.

Sydney: Wall Street's losses and a softer gold price undermined sentiment. The All Ordinaries index lost 8.1 points to 2,100.78.

Bombay: With institutions stepping up buying in the hope of reviving the market, the index gained 67.02 points to 3,780.2.

Johannesburg: Industrials firmed but gold shares slumped in line with the bullion price. The index lost 58 points to 4,967.

Frankfurt: Volume was extremely thin as the DAX index moved up 6.93 points to 2,168.35.

Paris: Resuming its slide, the CAC-40 index surrendered 21.05 points to close at 2,123.44.

Milan: Shares closed lower on post-election fears that no united government could be formed.

London: Report, page 32.