Business and City in Brief

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The Independent Online
National Savings contributes pounds 4bn

The estimated contribution by National Savings to government funding in 1993/4 was pounds 4.14bn, in line with expectations.

The largest contribution was made by Income Bonds, with a net addition of pounds 949m. Pensioners Guaranteed Income Bonds, which went on sale in January, made the next-largest contribution with a net addition of pounds 906m.

Gas price cut

British Gas is to cut prices for business customers by up to 9 per cent. The reductions are in response to increasing competition in the industrial and commercial gas market from rivals including North Sea producers and electricity firms. The cuts are 9 per cent for existing contract customers and up to 7 per cent for large tariff customers who agree to move to one-year contracts.

GPA picks Lehman

GPA, the aircraft leasing group, has appointed Lehman Brothers to back a securitised sale of up to 27 aircraft worth more than dollars 750m. GPA pulled off one of the world's biggest corporate financial restructurings last year after GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric of the US, bought 44 of its aircraft for dollars 1.35bn. Under the rescue plan GE also gained options to take a majority stake in GPA, but is free of liability for GPA's debts. GPA now operates under the wing of GE Capital but with reported debts of nearly dollars 5.5bn. Irish rate cut

Ireland's central bank has reduced its base rate by 0.25 percentage points to 6.5 per cent.

Celltech advance

Celltech, the biotechnology company, has reported encouraging results from a small study of the antibody that it plans to use to deliver its ovarian cancer drug. The study of eight patients showed the CDP 671 antibody bonded itself to tumour tissue. With the cancer drug calicheamicin attached to the antibody, Celltech will begin a second- phase study late this year or early next.

Bed sackings

Silentnight Beds is to make 90 staff redundant and concentrate its manufacturing at its main site in Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Redundancy and reorganisation costs amounting to approximately dollars 750,000 are likely.

Miami vice

Florida's image took another blow when a regulator acknowledged that one of the reasons the Securities and Exchanges Commission moved its regional headquarters there was its reputation for investment fraud. The SEC's regional headquarters was moved from Atlanta to Miami last month.

World Markets

New York: Blue chips closed slightly lower in choppy trading linked to the expiration of April stock options. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.78 points at 3,661.47.

Tokyo: The yen's fall against the dollar boosted sentiment and took the Nikkei average up 177.43 points to 20,164.63.

Hong Kong: Continued dull trading left the Hang Seng index 64.57 points lower at 9,536.06.

Sydney: Renewed concern about US interest rates sent the All Ordinaries index down to 2,080.6, a loss of 14.4 points.

Bombay: Mild profit-taking after the one-day holiday lowered the index 42.95 to 3,901.58.

Johannesburg: Late gains in non-gold shares gave the overall index a 14-point gain to 4,969.

Paris: A late rally underpinned by hopes of lower interest rates took the CAC-40 index up 20.54 to 2,159.59.

Frankfurt: In active trade helped by options expiry the DAX index edged up 1.71 points to 2,200.42.

Zurich: A technical recovery after Thursday's losses saw the Swiss Performance Index record a 15.1-point advance to 1,843.56.

London: Report, page 18.

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