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Business and City in Brief

Northern Irish electric failure The Government failed to maximise proceeds for the taxpayer from the pounds 774m sale of Northern Ireland Electricity, according to the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

A report by the Audit Office says that the worth of the four power stations, sold in 1992 to private companies for pounds 356m, may have been underestimated. It also says that shares in the rest of NIE, which was floated in 1993, could have been floated at a lower yield and generated higher proceeds.

Bills fall Average UK electricity bills have fallen by 2 per cent in real terms since privatisation of the industry, according to the Centre for the Study of Regulated Industries. The CRI, which expects prices to continue to fall next year, said the main reason for the drop was the reduced generating costs, which make up about half a typical family's bill.

China trust A fourth China investment trust is coming to the London market, with the listing of the dollars 90m HSBC China Fund, which specialises in unlisted companies in China.

Seita sale France took the first step towards privatising Seita, the state-owned company that makes Gauloise and Gitane cigarettes. The Economy Minister, Edmond Alphandery, said he had opened a competition for banks to advise on a value and price. Analysts put a value of up to Fr8bn ( pounds 990m) on the company.

BMW-Rolls loss BMW-Rolls-Royce, the Anglo-German joint venture making a new series of jet engines, made operating losses of DM291.8m ( pounds 120m) in 1993, against DM229.9m the year before. A spokesman put the loss down to heavy start-up costs.

BAe in Spain talks The Spanish aerospace firm Construcciones Aeronauticas is talking to British Aerospace and the French- Italian consortium ATR about forming a partnership to build regional planes, a spokesman said. The Spanish company has put its 70- seater plane project on the shelf for the moment but is looking for partners.

Orly appeal fails The European Court of Justice turned down a French government appeal for an interim ruling in which it sought to quash a European Commission decision to open up Orly airport to British Airways' TAT, allowing it to fly the Orly-Marseille and Orly-Toulouse routes. The case will be decided later this year.

World Markets New York: The rise in long- term bond yields drained more money out of the market. The Dow Jones Average closed 2.36 points lower at 3,848.23.

Tokyo: Stocks ended a day of directionless trade little changed. The Nikkei average edged up 14.2 to 19,746.35.

Hong Kong: The slowest trading session in more than three months left the Hang Seng index 5.94 firmer at 9,252.44.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index dropped 4.2 points to close at 2,017.6 in light volume.

Bombay: Speculative selling cancelled out most early gains, leaving the index just 1.86 points to the good at 4,357.44.

Johannesburg: An afternoon recovery by industrials enabled the index to add six points to 5,707 despite weak gold stocks.

Frankfurt: A technical recovery after Tuesday's heavy losses raised the DAX index 45.87 points to 2,020.5.

Paris: After eight days of decline the CAC-40 managed a 7.12-point gain to 1,831.54.

Zurich: Failing to find support from the dollar's steadier tone, the SPI fell 10.98 to 1,643.16.

London: Report, page 42.