Business and City in Brief

MMC report on gas industry due soon

The Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the gas industry will be published by the Government on 17 August, but without a ministerial response.

Separate but closely linked reports by the MMC are due to be delivered to the Department of Trade and Industry and to Ofgas, the watchdog, by the end of this week.

Unit trusts draw pounds 611m

Unit trusts attracted a net inflow of pounds 611.3m in June, down from pounds 914.2m in May. Sales for the second quarter were pounds 2.5bn net. Investment in unit trust PEPs leapt 120 per cent to pounds 741.5m.

Brent Walker pledge

Sir Keith Bright, chairman of Brent Walker, told the annual meeting that refinancing proposals for the indebted leisure group would be handed to banks 'within two weeks'. He promised there would be no forced sale of William Hill, the bookmaker.

German surplus down

The German trade surplus declined to DM1.2bn (pounds 466m) in April from DM4.9bn in March.

Directors earn less

Executive earnings continue to be hit by the recession, with 40 per cent of directors of companies with turnover of more than pounds 1bn receiving no bonus last year, according to a survey by Monks Partnership.

US durable orders up

Orders for durable goods in the US rose 3.8 per cent in June after falling 2.4 per cent in May.

Christies sales rise

Christies International's worldwide auction sales for the season ending in July totalled pounds 683m, an increase of 16 per cent in sterling terms on the previous period.

Retirement fears

Company pension schemes could face accumulating bills of up to pounds 21bn as well as an additional yearly cost of up to pounds 2bn if occupational schemes offering pensions at 65 reduced the qualifying age to 60, the CBI said.

Derivatives buy

St James's Place Capital, headed by Lord Rothschild and Sir Mark Weinberg, will pay dollars 9m-dollars 12m for International Financial Markets Trading, a specialist investment manager in London that uses derivatives and hedging techniques to manage more than dollars 400m.

Alexon survivor quits

David Cohen, finance director of Alexon Group and the only executive director to survive the recent boardroom purge, will join Perot Systems Europe, part of the empire of the US presidential candidate Ross Perot, in September, after the completion of Alexon's pounds 16.4m rights issue.

Tying the knot

Courtaulds and Allied Colloids Group, the chemicals groups, will establish a joint venture company to manufacture and market Oasis, a new super-absorbent fibre.

World Markets

New York: Investors took profits for the second straight day after Monday's record high. The Dow lost 12.01 points to close at 3,553.45.

Tokyo: In minimal trade the Nikkei average fell 61.81 to 19,829.58.

Hong Kong: Bargain-hunting helped the Hang Seng index to move up 37.24 points to 6,903.21.

Sydney: Better-than-expected inflation data brought a late rebound, with the All Ordinaries index adding 3.5 points to 1,818.4.

Johannesburg: Increased optimism about the gold price boosted shares and left the overall index 27 points to the good at 4,050.

Paris: A growing belief in lower German interest rates depressed hopes of a franc devaluation. The CAC-40 index lost 8.58 to 1,989.53.

Frankfurt: Profit-taking in thin trading clipped 11.32 points off the DAX index, closing at 1,833.91.

Zurich: Expectations of lower interest rates pushed the Swiss Performance Index up 7.33 to 1,520.66.

Milan: Shares held up despite the bombings in Milan and Rome. The MIB rose three points to 1,230.

Istanbul: The index surged more than 7 per cent as heavy buying emerged after recent sharp falls. It ended 643.48 better at 9,714.9.

London: Report, page 32.

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