Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
Lamont to raise EBRD concerns

Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, who represents Britain on the board of governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said in Tokyo yesterday that he would raise concerns about the bank's profligate spending at next week's annual meeting of governors.

This follows widespread criticism of the amount that the bank has spent on lavish offices in London, high salaries and other overheads, compared with the funds lent to former eastern bloc countries. Mr Lamont claimed that Britain had already called for greater efficiency at the bank.

German sales slack

Retail sales in the former West Germany remained depressed in February, declining 8 per cent in real terms compared with the same month a year earlier, the Federal Statistics Office said. January retail sales fell a real 10 per cent.

TV gamesmanship

Sega, the Japanese video games giant, plans to team up with two US cable television networks to send its video games into millions of American households. TeleCommunications Inc and Time Warner are expected to announce that they will make Sega games available over their networks from next year.

Out of business

David Coakley Ltd, a UK futures and options trader sanctioned by the Securities and Futures Authority in December for undertaking inappropriate investments for clients, has ceased trading. The SFA has installed accountants with a view to liquidation.

Double-booked

Thomas Cook's tender offer for 33.3 million shares, or 12.5 per cent, of Owners Abroad, the holiday company that recently defeated a takeover bid by Airtours, was 2.5 times oversubscribed. The tender, pitched at 150p a share, takes Cook's holding to 21.4 per cent. Owners shares fell 4p to 110p.

Record brokerage

PaineWebber Group, the US brokerage concern, said pre-tax income rose slightly to dollars 116.2m ( pounds 77m) in the first quarter from dollars 115.2m. Net revenues rose 5.7 per cent to a record dollars 696.8m.

Higher inventories

February business inventories in the US rose 0.4 per cent after a revised 0.3 per cent gain in January, according to the Commerce Department. February business sales rose 0.6 per cent after being revised to unchanged in January.

Fiat plans lay-offs

Fiat said it would temporarily lay off 73,000 workers in May, reducing output for the month by 35,000 cars. The company said 33,000 workers would be laid off between 10 and 16 May, 7,000 between 17 and 23 May, and 33,000 in the week starting on 24 May.

Jaguar in demand

Ford said that worldwide sales of its luxury Jaguar cars totalled 6,374 in the first three months of 1993, an increase of 16 per cent on the 5,497 sold in the same period last year.

Healthcare sell-off

(First Edition)

Smith & Nephew, the healthcare products group, has sold an Australian plastic business for Adollars 37.5m (pounds 18m) in cash. The disposal is part of its strategy to divest from non-core activities.

Plastics purchase

(First Edition)

British Vita, the Manchester plastics company, has bought the French Gallion business for approximately pounds 6m.

World markets

New York: Blue chips ended higher, encouraged by some positive first-quarter results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 11.61 points up at 3,455.64.

Tokyo: Light profit-taking after Tuesday's sharp rise lowered the Nikkei average 206.91 to 20,533.38.

Hong Kong: Optimism over the resumption of Sino-British talks sent the Hang Seng index soaring 371.53 to a record close of 6,789.74.

Sydney: Still tracking firmer foreign markets, the All Ordinaries added another 15.6 points to 1,704.4

Johannesburg: Nervous investors marked gold shares down regardless of the strong gold price and sharply weaker financial rand.

Frankfurt: Prices closed mixed in dull trading after drifting in a narrow range for most of the day. The DAX index finished 1.39 points firmer at 1,672.44.

Paris: Shares weakened slightly as the market consolidated the previous day's gains. The CAC-40 eased 2.65 points to close at 2,015.43.

Zurich: Selling pressure in Nestle and the drug sector drove the SPI down 4.91 points to 1,337.21.

Milan: Thin trade ahead of tomorrow's close of the account took the MIB down one point to 1,132.

London: Report, page 28.

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