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Failures down by more than 26%

Company failures in England and Wales fell by more than 26 per cent in the year to April and are expected to decline further in the months ahead, according to a monthly report by Austintel Information Group. Business collapses are seen as a lagging indicator of the economic cycle but are tied closely to the provisions against bad debts made by the high street banks.

National Westminster Bank said at its recent annual meeting that bad debt provisions were falling faster than was anticipated at the beginning of the year. Last month there were 1,415 business failures compared with 1,916 in April 1993. Receiverships were at their lowest levels for four years, falling by 29 per cent year-on-year from 210 to 149.

Turner loss

Turner Broadcasting, the Atlanta-based corporate parent of Cable News Network, posted an unexpected loss for the first quarter of 1994 yesterday, apparently because of poor audiences for the Winter Olympic Games. Turner, which has also acquired a number of small movie studios during the past year, reported a loss of dollars 13m on sales of dollars 567m, compared with a profit of dollars 20m on a turnover of dollars 398m in the first quarter of 1993.

NatWest venture

National Westminster Bank and Wheelock and Company, a Hong Kong trading business, are establishing an equally owned joint venture for equity stockbroking, corporate finance and investment management in Asia. The new venture, Wheelock NatWest, will be independently capitalised at pounds 134m and separately managed.

Irish rate cut

The Irish central bank yesterday lowered its base lending rate by 0.25 per cent to 6.25 per cent with effect from Monday. The reduction follows the Bundesbank's 0.5 per cent cut in its base rate last Wednesday. The Irish move is unlikely to affect Dublin money market rates, where short-term funds had already dipped to 5.5 per cent.

Rights demand

The pounds 48m Pentos rights issue has been 83 per cent taken up by shareholders and the pounds 52.7m Albert Fisher issue 90 per cent taken up.

Advertising up

Pearson, the media group that owns the Financial Times, reported a significant recovery in advertising revenue in the first four months of the financial year. Lord Blakenham, chairman, said he expected a satisfactory year.

Nursing buys

Westminster Health Care, the nursing homes group, has bought five nursing homes from Medilife Group for pounds 9.5m cash.

World Markets

New York: A recovery in bond prices reversed early share losses and by the close the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead by 7.14 points at 3,659.98.

Tokyo: Stocks ended little changed in quiet trade. The Nikkei average finished 46.51 points better at 20,270.75.

Hong Kong: Overseas buying outstripped profit-taking to leave the Hang Seng 255.86 points (2.88 per cent) ahead at 9,134.72.

Sydney: Bullish futures trade and renewed confidence in bonds helped the All Ordinaries to gain 28.6 points to 2,070.

Bombay: Speculative buying in the hope of concessions for brokers to be announced today carried the index up 27.4 to 3,808.5.

Johannesburg: Steady interest in second-tier industrials pushed the index up 77 points to 5,533.

Frankfurt: A surge by shares of Metallgesellschaft on its restructure plan led the DAX index 15.12 points higher to 2,258.75.

Paris: The CAC-40 index closed 10.26 points firmer at 2,187 in expectation of lower interest rates.

Zurich: Rallying after a sluggish start, the Swiss Performance Index moved up 24.09 to 1,754.82.

London: Report, page 20.

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