Business and City in Brief

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Homes Assured men on trial

The trial began yesterday of Anthony Dobson, Michael Robinson and Keith Woodward, former directors of Homes Assured, the company that collapsed with millions of pounds of debts in 1989 after a short life helping council tenants buy their homes.

The three men, whose co-directors at Homes Assured included Sir Edward du Cann, the former Conservative minister, deny a charge of fraudulent trading.

AMR rallies

Shares of AMR, parent of American Airlines, rallied after the company reported first-quarter results that exceeded Wall Street expectations. AMR rose 53 8 to 705 8 after it reported a first-quarter net loss of dollars 22m. This compared with an dollars 8m profit a year ago.

Barclays lowers floor

Barclays yesterday lowered its floor interest rate for small base rate- linked loans from 6 per cent to 5 per cent. This means customers will receive the full benefit if the Government reduces base rate to 5 per cent but any further cut would not be passed on.

Labour opposes Rich

The Labour Party has called for a review of the decision to award an electricity supply licence to Marc Rich & Co, whose chairman, Marc Rich, is wanted in the US in connection with fraud charges and tax evasion. It has asked Tim Eggar, the energy minister, to examine the licence award, which was made by Offer, the electricity watchdog.

VAT warning

Businesses will be blocked from appealing to an independent VAT tribunal in disputes over reclaiming the tax on business expenses if a clause in the Finance Bill becomes law, Coopers & Lybrand has warned.

SIB action

The Securities and Investments Board has obtained injunctions against LW Investment Corporation and its main director, Ian Francis Lloyd-Wright. SIB believes that up to pounds 750,000 may have been solicited from UK clients, mainly expatriates, into two unauthorised bonds. Investors should contact SIB on 071 638 1240.

Acquisitions cleared

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has cleared the proposed acquisition by General Electric of the US of Tip Europe and the proposed acquisition by Merck of the laboratory chemicals business of Rhone Poulenc.

Sony audio boost

Sony is to start producing entire sets of mini audio equipment in Europe to cope with an expected rise in demand. It will convert some production lines at its video recorder plant in France.

Air fare cuts

British Midland has cut business class fares from Heathrow to Paris by 11 per cent and from Heathrow to Amsterdam by 12 per cent.

World Markets

New York: Prices remained under pressure, particularly financials, as profit-taking continued. The Dow Jones average closed 4.05 points down at 3,439.44.

Tokyo: Prices closed lower in volatile trade on growing concern over the yen's sharp rise against the dollar. The Nikkei average eased 55.42 points to 19,773.01.

Hong Kong: A more optimistic view of the coming Sino-British talks was reflected in a 129.85-point gain - nearly 2 per cent - to 6,768.39 by the Hang Seng index.

Sydney: Light profit-taking in moderate trade lowered the All Ordinaries 9.7 points to 1,693.3.

Frankfurt: Fading hopes of a cut in interest rates at today's Bundesbank meeting sent the DAX index down 20.24 points to 1,666.87.

Paris: Continuing its decline for the sixth day running, the CAC-40 index fell 17.44 points to 1,931.89.

Zurich: The drug sector led the market higher, with the SPI adding 2.27 points to 1,346.67.

Milan: Shares pulled back from early lows as interest emerged in Fiat and Credito Italiano. The MIB lost 10 points to 1,145.

Madrid: Thin trade left the index 1.17 points off at 242.45.

London: Report, page 32.