Business and City in Brief

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Gas consortium looks to homes

A gas supply consortium believes it can undercut British Gas by 10 per cent if given the chance to compete for business among Britain's 18 million domestic users. Alliance Gas, in which British Petroleum has a 50 per cent stake, said an average domestic user could save pounds 50 a year.

The group has asked the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to recommend the end of the British Gas monopoly when it reports on the UK gas sector in April.

Predators curbed

The Takeover Panel has changed its rules on 'creeping control' and reduced the amount that holders of between 30 and 50 per cent of a target company can buy each year without launching a full bid from 2 per cent to 1 per cent.

Society profits

Yorkshire Building Society announced pre-tax profits of pounds 55.6m for 1992, an increase of 6 per cent. Mortgage loss provisions were pounds 22.8m, up nearly 50 per cent. Portman Building Society saw its pre-tax profits grow by 21.5 per cent to pounds 13.4m, with mortgage loss provisions increased by 61 per cent to pounds 28.2m.

Amstrad director

Amstrad, the home computers company, has appointed Jeoff Samson as its first non-executive director. Mr Samson, the chairman of Hunterprint and a non-executive director of Moss Bros, was group managing director of Yale & Valor before it was taken over by Williams in 1991. Earlier he served spells at Plessey, STC and GEC, where he ran Hotpoint.

Oil corruption

The Serious Fraud Office said its inquiries into corruption over North Sea oil contracts had widened to include Royal Dutch/Shell and Rolls-Royce as well as firms in other industries.

Nestle wraps up

Nestle, the Swiss food giant, wrapped up its Fr15.46bn takeover of the Perrier bottled water group yesterday when its offer to sell other big mineral water brands in the name of fair play won European Commission approval. Nestle will sell brands including Vichy to the French group Castel.

SNCF loss

SNCF, the French state railway, expects to lose over Fr3bn this year after a 1992 loss of Fr2.96bn, its chairman, Jacques Fournier, said yesterday.

Julien post

Michael Julien, the former Storehouse chief executive who was forced to bow out last year because of ill health, has picked up his third non-executive directorship - with the pharmaceuticals group Medeva.

CBI warning

Foreign investment in Britain would be seriously affected if it became a 'semi-detached' member of the European Community, the CBI aid. The warning followed a survey of US and Japanese investors showing that 40 per cent felt UK withdrawal from the EC would have a major effect on investment plans.

Toyota squeeze

Toyota said it would not be hiring new full-time factory employees during its April hiring season. Last year, the company hired 700 full-time employees but suspended taking on temporary workers in November.

World Markets

New York: Blue chips ended with a slight gain, failing to repeat the previous session's sharp advance. The Dow added 3.51 points to close at 3,404.04.

Tokyo: Shares closed lower as the yen's rise against the dollar saw the market give up early, moderate gains. The Nikkei Average lost 10.33 points to 16,853.92.

Hong Kong: Strong US buying and encouraging political signals sent the Hang Seng index up 92.41 points to 6,436.64.

Sydney: Election anxiety undermined sentiment, and the All Ordinaries index lost 18.9 points to 1,626.1.

Frankfurt: With hopes fading for a Bundesbank interest rates cut, the DAX index closed 3.01 points lower at 1,693.73, well off its day's high of 1,709.86.

Milan: The MIB index fell 0.76 per cent to 1,177, recovering from early lows in a bout of profit-taking.

Paris: The CAC-40 index closed 6.26 points lower at 1,995.24

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