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Life offices given

'vulnerable' rating Standard & Poor's, the rating agency, has assigned two British life offices a 'vulnerable' rating in its latest assessments. This means they may be highly exposed to adverse economic or underwriting conditions.

Life Association of Scotland, the agency said, would 'benefit from taking immediate action to improve solvency and control new business mix until capital had recovered significantly'. General Portfolio Life Insurance is said to have 'weak capitalisation'. Of the 13 offices rated only three - Commercial Union, General Accident and Prudential - receive a 'good' rating.

HDTV agreement

American Telephone and Telegraph and six other companies have agreed to a single standard for digital high-definition television signals, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology department working on the project.

Vauxhall chief

General Motors has appointed Charles Golden to succeed Bill Ebbert as chairman and managing director of Vauxhall, its British subsidiary, from 1 June. Mr Golden, 46, has been GM's treasurer since 1989 and a vice-president since last November.

Space contract

Graseby, the electronics company, has won a pounds 3.8m contract from McDonnell Douglas Aerospace to develop an instrument that will monitor air quality aboard a Nasa space station.

Units in demand

Sales of unit trusts were buoyant again last month with net purchases reaching pounds 955m, the highest level since the 1987 equities crash. Gross sales of units were pounds 1.6bn, slightly down on the previous month. But repurchases in April, at pounds 637.8m, were well down on the March figure of just over pounds 1bn.

Keeping posted

Business Post, the parcels and mail firm, is to be floated on the stock market in July. The placing, sponsored by Barings, the merchant bank, and UBS, the broker, is expected to value the business at pounds 50m.

McKechnie clear

McKechnie's planned acquisition of the Savage Group has been cleared by the Department of Trade and Industry. McKechnie's board announced that its offer for Savage was now unconditional following acceptances speaking for 72 per cent of Savage shares.

Sinking zinc

Zinc prices crashed to the lowest levels for six years on the London Metal Exchange, dropping to dollars 957 at one stage compared with dollars 971 on Friday.

Lloyd's demand

A group of Lloyd's names will call this week for an extraordinary general meeting. They are seeking greater accountability by Lloyd's staff and the market's ruling council, while welcoming the introduction of corporate capital.

World Markets

New York: Stock prices were boosted by a rise in long-term bond prices and program trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 14.95 points at 3,507.78.

Tokyo: Prices closed lower on index-linked selling, with the Nikkei average off 81.31 points at 20,476.16.

Hong Kong: Still advancing into uncharted territory on current political optimism, the Hang Seng index climbed 106.43 to 7,276.39.

Sydney: Gold issues continued their advance but other shares closed broadly lower on arbitrage-linked selling. The All Ordinaries index eased 10.1 points to 1,685.5.

Bombay: Early gains were wiped out by profit-taking and the index finished 18 points lower at 2,339.

Paris: Shares closed the first session of the new account sharply higher. The CAC-40 index, at 1,861.37, was 24.59 points better.

Frankfurt: Losses on the bond market were mirrored in a 7.55-point fall by the DAX to 1,603.04.

Zurich: Consolidating last week's gains, stocks firmed slightly with Swissair the most active share.

Milan: With most foreign investors sidelined, prices showed little change and the MIB ended just 0.24 per cent lower at 1,230.

London: Report, page 22.

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