Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online

Switzerland is the world's richest country in terms of per capita income (dollars 36,230 in 1992) and the US has moved up a notch to eighth (dollars 23,120), the World Bank said.

The 10 wealthiest countries were Switzerland, Luxembourg, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, the US, Germany and Finland. The UK was 18th with dollars 17,760, while Mozambique remained poorest (dollars 60). Eight of the 10 poorest countries were in Africa, two in Asia.


Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian Montedison have confirmed plans to merge most of their polypropylene and plyethylene businesses. Montedison will contribute assets worth almost dollars 2bn and Shell companies more than dollars 1bn.


Fees earned by City advisers from UK mergers and acquisitions fell to pounds 100m from pounds 110m in 1992, compared with pounds 800m at the height of the merger boom in 1989, according to Acquisitions Monthly. The value of public bids fell to pounds 3bn against pounds 7.5bn in 1992 and a record pounds 55bn in 1989. Kleinwort Benson came top of the takeover league table with eight deals in 1993 worth pounds 1.33bn.

ITALY'S dollars 6bn LIFELINE

Italy threw a dollars 5.88bn lifeline to the state conglomerate IRI, the country's single biggest debtor, as part of a plan to rescue the debt-ridden state sector. The government hand-out will ease interest payments on IRI's dollars 44bn debt mountain.


Federal Bureau of Investigation officials refused to comment on a report in the Washington Post that they may be investigating alleged fraud in IBM's surplus goods sales and disposal programme.


The US Labor Department announced a sharp decline in weekly jobless claims to the lowest figure since September 1989. Initial claims for the week ended 25 December were 291,000, against forecasts of 323,000.


The commercial property company Ossory Estates said it had been saved from almost certain liquidation after shareholders approved restructuring proposals in the wake of further heavy losses. The group made pounds 39.9m losses in the year to last June ( pounds 48.4m). It will retain net assets of pounds 11m after the refinancing.


The London Enterprise Agency, a consortium of 21 blue chip companies and organisations including Marks and Spencer, IBM, Shell and BT, pledged to create at least 1,600 jobs in London next year, including 300 for the long- term unemployed, by helping to launch new businesses in rundown areas.


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The US Labour Department announced a sharp decline in weekly jobless claims to the lowest figure since September 1989. Initial claims for the week ended 25 December were 291,000, against forecasts of 323,000.


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French unemployment in November rose by a seasonally adjusted 3,200, or 0.1 per cent, from October to a record high of 3,285,700, the labour ministry said. The jobless rate was unchanged at 12 per cent.


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The Institute of Chartered Accountants issued guidance on the auditing of building societies, which is more complex than for companies. The body said the document designed to promote consistency in building societies' audit reports aimed to fill a gap while the Auditing Practices Board considered the subject.


NEW YORK: A bond market sell- off ended a three-session record run, with the Dow Jones average down 18.45 at 3,775.88.

TOKYO: Dealer-led buying and foreign investor interest took the Nikkei average 145.21 higher to 17,417.24.

HONG KONG: Gains in the property sector sent the Hang Seng surging 427.7 to 11,877.47.

SYDNEY: Active trade lifted the All Ordinaries index 27.6 points to 2,154.5.

JOHANNESBURG: Shares hit new highs on renewed buying of gold stocks and continued strength in industrials. The overall index climbed 88 points to 4,889.

MADRID: Bank shares led the general index 4.63 higher at 319.19 in thin volume.

FRANKFURT: A late rally left the DAX 51.98 ahead at 2,266.68, the session high.

PARIS: The CAC-40 closed just 0.67 lower at 2,281.22.

ISTANBUL: Bouncing back after three days of falls, the index closed at a record peak of 20,175.4, up 723.3 points.

LONDON: Report, page 27.