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Mercury signs up six cable giants

Six leading cable television operators have signed replacement inter-connection deals between their telephone networks and that of Mercury Communications, improving the margins of the cable firms.

The deal also allows for co-operation on sales, marketing and product development. It will enable cable firms to use telephone operators and emergency services provided by Mercury.

Nestle's sweet tooth

Nestle, the Swiss food giant, confirmed its interest in buying a holding of about 80 per cent in Goplana, the Polish chocolate and sweet company, for dollars 40m. French prices rise

Consumer prices in France rose a final 0.1 per cent in July compared with a 0.1 to 0.2 per cent provisional rise and a fall of 0.1 per cent in June. Year-on-year, the CPI was up 2.1 per cent.

Ladbroke loses to EC

Ladbroke Group may turn to the European Court in an attempt to break the state-backed monopoly on horse-race betting shops in France after the EC rejected complaints under competition rules against Pari Mutuel Urbain.

Pounds 12m oil contract

NFC, the logistics group, won a renewal for a pounds 12m-a-year oil products distribution contract by Gulf Oil. BRS, a division of NFC, will distribute petroleum spirit and middle distillates in the UK.

Looking eastwards

The Corporation of London and the London Docklands Development Corporation have joined forces for the first time in an overseas promotion and will participate in the First World Property Market in Hong Kong from 26-30 September. The aim is to increase interest in development and property opportunities in London.

MAN profits dive

MAN, the German engineering and truck group, cut its dividend after net profits for the year to 30 June fell to DM230m (pounds 92m) from DM418m. Group sales declined 1 per cent to DM18.9bn.

Corporation fined

United Technologies Corporation will pay dollars 5.3m for environmental law violations, including improper handling of hazardous waste, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Pounds 1bn water clean-up

Welsh Water's Dwr Cymru Cyfyngedig subsidiary will spend pounds 1bn on improving water supply and sewage treatment in the five years to 2000.

Debit card 'first'

National Westminster Bank will issue debit cards from 1 October that can be used around the world. The bank claims to be the first in the UK to issue cards linked to the internationally-recognised Maestro and Cirrus networks.

China trust go-ahead

Flemings confirmed plans to launch a Chinese investment trust that will be advised by Jardine Fleming.

World Markets

New York: Shares drifted in subdued and featureless trading and the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dipped 9.50 points to 3,605.98 by the close.

Tokyo: Prices weakened in very thin trade on worries over the economy and the strengthening yen. The Nikkei average dropped 193.12 points to 20,414.14.

Hong Kong: Heavy profit-taking triggered by fears for the health of China's leader Deng Xiaoping drove the Hang Seng index down 156.94 points to 7,388.42.

Sydney: A turnround in the gold price helped the market higher, with the All Ordinaries index 5.7 points better at 1,932.8.

Johannesburg: With gold and industrials posting slight gains, the index added five points to 4,049.

Frankfurt: Recent advances were almost wiped out by losses in the last hour of trade. The DAX index ended 34.41 lower at 1,888.27.

Paris: Profit-taking ahead of today's account end lowered the CAC-40 index 16.83 to 2,111.37.

Milan: Failing to hold early gains, shares closed slightly lower.

London: Report, page 24.