Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
NATWEST CONFIRMS CROSS-BORDER TALKS

National Westminster Bank confirmed it is holding talks with Societe Generale of France and Commerzbank of Germany to improve cross-border services for small and medium-sized businesses.

'As the single market develops, our business customers need smoother and more certain transfer of funds,' a spokesman said. An announcement on improved procedures is expected within the next two months. If successful, the tie- up will be the first of its kind that NatWest has negotiated in Europe.

COCA-COLA PROFITS SOAR

Coca-Cola's profits rose 20 per cent in the first quarter to dollars 454m, thanks to stronger-than-expected sales overseas. The Atlanta-based company said increased international demand in March resulted in 5 per cent more cases being shipped than the year before. Robert Goizueta, chief executive, said he expected the strong performance to continue.

GM BOSS PAID dollars 5.5m

General Motors, which lost a record dollars 23.5bn in 1992, said compensation to John Smith, its chief executive officer, totalled about dollars 5.5m last year, mostly through stock options. Mr Smith, who took over from Robert Stempel in November, earned dollars 759,219 in salary and other compensation in 1992 and received 80,000 shares of GM stock worth up to dollars 4.76m.

80 TO BE SENT PACKING

Low & Bonar, the packaging and industrial materials group, is likely to lay off about 80 workers from its UK cartons manufacturing business following a pounds 33.5m acquisition last month. The company said it was closing the Manchester plant of its subsidiary, Bonar Cooke Cartons, which would result in 'a number of redundancies'.

CHINA LIFTS PRODUCTION

Industrial production in China soared 22.4 per cent to dollars 131bn in the first quarter of 1993 compared with the same period last year, the Xinhua News Agency said. Non- state enterprises were primarily responsible for the huge jump, with output for rural industries up 76.9 per cent, and for foreign- funded enterprises 63.6 per cent.

BCCI CHARGES DROPPED

A US court dismissed all criminal charges against the Democratic power broker Clark Clifford and Robert Altman, his law partner, over the Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal. They had been accused of fraud and of lying to banking regulators about BCCI's illegal ownership of First American Bankshares. The Justice Department said the government reserved the right to bring new and broader charges later.

DEATH OF ROY ROBERTS

Roy Roberts, chairman of Simon Engineering, has died aged 64. Following an engineering apprenticeship at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Mr Roberts spent most of his working career at GKN, where he became group managing director in 1980 and deputy chairman in 1987.

ICI SALE RAISES 37m POUNDS

Imperial Chemical Industries has sold its nitrogen products business based in Canada to Terra Industries of Iowa for Cdollars 68m ( pounds 37m) cash.

ACCOUNTING CRACKDOWN

(First Edition)

Accountancy firms will be required to provide minimum information about clients to successors even where fees are outstanding, while those invited to take on other work will have to take extra steps to inform the existing advisers under draft guidance procedures issued by the Chartered Accountants' Joint Ethics Committee.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: Higher bond prices and strong overseas markets propelled the Dow Jones Industrial Average 15.94 points ahead to 3,444.03 by the close.

TOKYO: The government's 'economic stimulus' package sent the Nikkei average soaring 858.15 points (4.3 per cent) to 20,740.29, its highest for more than a year.

HONG KONG: Bargain-hunters powered the Hang Seng index to 6,418.2, a 132.54-point gain.

SYDNEY: Stocks closed at a 17- month high, bolstered by strength in other markets. The All Ordinaries climbed 23 points to 1,688.7.

JOHANNESBURG: The new outbreak of township violence in South Africa was reflected in a 60-point fall by the overall index to 3,529.

PARIS: A cut in the Bank of France ceiling rate helped the CAC-40 index back above 2,000 with a 31.22- point advance to 2,018.08.

FRANKFURT: In dull trade dominated by technical considerations the DAX gained 15.32 to 1,671.05.

MILAN: Strong early gains were not maintained, and the MIB finished just 0.9 per cent firmer at 1,133.

LONDON: Report, page 24.

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