Business and City in brief

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IBM to sell Havant plant IBM, the world's largest computer manufacturer, confirmed last night that it is talking to interested parties about the sale of its manufacturing plant at Havant in the South of England, writes Mary Fagan.

A decision is expected to be announced soon, affecting up to 2,000 employees. It is likely that one of the options being considered is a buyout by the site's management, which has been running the operation as an 'independent business unit' entitled to accept manufacturing contracts from outside customers.

IBM has been closing or disposing of manufacturing sites and cutting back on staff worldwide in the face of the challenge to its traditional mainframe computer business from the spread of lower-margin personal computers.

Jury still out The jury in the trial of George Walker and Wilfred Aquilina spent another night in a hotel after failing to agree a verdict yesterday.

Bank petition Alistair Darling, Labour's City spokesman, has written to Eddie George, the Governor of the Bank of England, asking him what the Bank is doing about a complaint against Fennoscandia Bank.

Robert Clarke, a British investor, has been pressing claims for up to dollars 150m against the Finnish bank's London branch over business dealings that went wrong. Last week, City police responded to the complaints by seeking court permission to gain access to Fennoscandia documents.

Channel price cut RMT-Oostende Lines, the Belgian ferry and jetfoil operator, said it was cutting prices to compete with Eurostar trains using the Channel Tunnel.

Coal closure Two mothballed coal mines, Goldthorpe, near Doncaster, and Kiveton, near Sheffield, are to be closed in the next six months after an unsuccessful attempt to find buyers.

Atomic invitation The UK Atomic Energy Authority is inviting bids for its engineering and security operation.

ECC purchase English China Clays yesterday announced the dollars 45.4m purchase of EZE, a privately owned American group supplying specialty chemicals.

French deal CMN, the French shipbuilder, has signed a marketing agreement with British Aerospace's weapons system division.

World Markets New York: Buying, encouraged by strong corporate results, stemmed a slide in share prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 6.39 points down at 3,917.54.

Tokyo: Uncertain, low-volume trade left the Nikkei average 34.11 points ahead at 19,992.4.

Hong Kong: A sluggish session carried the Hang Seng index 37.37 points lower to 9,418.57.

Sydney: Shares drifted lower. The All Ordinaries index dipped 10.7 to 2,003.4.

Bombay: A technical failure prevented display of live quotations, but brokers estimated the index was 25-30 points down.

Johannesburg: Improved prospects for company earnings buoyed the market. The overall index added 27 points to 5,682.

Frankfurt: Depressed by the weaker dollar, the DAX index eased 6.12 points to 2,084.76.

Paris: The CAC-40 index fell 7.82 to 1,898.6 in thin trade.

Zurich: Roche led the market lower, with the SPI shedding 20.8 points to 1,684.4.

London: Report, page 30.