Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
DOUBTS MOUNT OVER RENAULT-VOLVO DEAL

The Renault-Volvo merger was plunged further into doubt yesterday after it emerged that the Swedish car maker was sounding out investors about an emergency 5bn kronor ( pounds 450m) rights issue should the deal collapse.

Soren Gyll, Volvo's chief executive, said a majority of shareholders opposed the merger, and discussions were taking place with the French government.

NEW BACKER FOR QVC

QVC Network, one of the two US cable companies fighting for control of Paramount Communications, found a new backer for its bid when BellSouth promised it would invest dollars 1.5bn in QVC if it won. BellSouth would become QVC's largest shareholder, and the two would form a joint venture in interactive television services. The pledge will allow QVC to increase its dollars 10bn bid in response to last week's dollars 10.4bn tender offer by its rival, Viacom.

MIXED NEWS AT DISNEY

Walt Disney announced that its new theme park, 'Disney's America', would be in Manssas, Virginia, and would create about 3,000 jobs. However, Moody's, the US credit rating agency, is reviewing Disney's credit for a possible downgrading after Wednesday's pounds 610m loss at Euro Disney, whose shares fell a further 68p to 368p yesterday.

JOB PAIN IN SPAIN

Almost 96,000 workers in Spain lost their jobs last month, the highest monthly rise in 10 years. The figure was much higher than expected and brought the total officially unemployed to more than 2.6 million, or 17.2 per cent.

IN THE DRIVING SEAT

Ernie Thompson, Ford of Britain's sales director, has been appointed chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Mr Thompson, 57, replaces the former Tory MP Sir Hal Miller.

JOHN BROWN CONTRACTS

John Brown, the engineering division of Trafalgar House, has won power station orders worth pounds 150m from the Sultanate of Oman, and PowerGen.

PIZZA OFFER OVERDONE

The public offer for Canadian Pizza has been oversubscribed 1.8 times. Robert Fleming said 7,479 valid applications in respect of a total of 6,293,220 ordinary shares were received.

ASHMAN CLEARED

Roy Ashman, the former chairman of Harland Simon, the listed control systems company that called in the receivers last year, was cleared yesterday of misleading two John Govett fund managers about the company's profits. After a meeting with Mr Ashman, John Govett bought nearly pounds 1m of shares only hours before a profit warning halved the share price. Mr Ashman told Aylesbury Crown Court he had not known of the lower forecast at the time of his meeting.

FETA UNFETTERED

(First Edition)

The European Union has decided that feta cheese does not have to be whiter than white, except possibly when it is exported. The meeting of market ministers also decided that shoes sold in the EU should bear labels telling consumers if they are made from leather, and agreed on safety standards for equipment used in 'explosive' environments.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: Trading was quiet with banks and bond markets closed for Veterans Day. The Dow Jones Average closed 1.12 points down at 3,662.43.

TOKYO: Prices closed slightly higher, with the Nikkei average 36.81 points ahead at 18,158.52.

HONG KONG: Fully recovered from recent losses, the Hang Seng index swept to a record high of 9,674.83 with a 349.39- point gain on confidence over the political outlook.

SYDNEY: Bargain-hunting after recent declines took the All Ordinaries up 9.5 points to 2,052.4.

JOHANNESBURG: With gold stocks gaining more than 4 per cent and industrials also strong, the overall index rose 59 points to 4,081.

FRANKFURT: Quiet, narrow-range trading ended with the DAX index just 0.51 easier at 2,023.33.

PARIS: Closed (Armistice Day).

ZURICH: With profits being taken in selected blue chips, the SPI lost 10.63 points to 1,715.6.

MILAN: Short-covering ahead of next week's end of the trading cycle carried shares sharply higher.

LONDON: Report, page 34.

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