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Crown Life fined pounds 130,000

Crown Financial Management has become the latest life insurer to be fined by financial regulators for failing to organise its affairs in a responsible manner, allowing representatives to sell inappropriate personal pensions to members of occupational pension schemes.

Crown has had to pay Lautro, the regulator, pounds 130,000 in fines and pounds 20,000 in costs. Between April 1990 and December 1992, an understaffed compliance department and inadequate checks on new salesmen exposed investors to the risk of mis-selling.

Wood gets his man

Ian Chippendale has resigned as a director of Provident Financial, the consumer credit company, to become chief executive of the new telephone-based insurer being formed by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Peter Wood, head of Direct Line. Royal Bank shareholders also unanimously approved a change to Mr Wood's contract under which he will receive pounds 17m and a pounds 7m pension contribution. Mr Wood will own 40 per cent of the new insurer, which will cater for customers who find it hard to get insurance. Royal Bank is investing pounds 22.5m.

Dying flame

The last matchmaking factory in Britain is to close by the end of the year with the loss of 96 jobs, said the owner, Bryant and May, part of the Swedish Volvo car group. There had been a 'significant' fall in sales since excise duty was removed from disposable lighters. Match girls employed by the company staged one of the first successful strikes in Britain.

Lloyd's offer rejected

More than 100 Lloyd's of London investors in two syndicates voted to reject the pounds 900m settlement offer by the insurance market. Simon Blunt, action group chairman, said the terms of the offer were too one-sided, with no cap on future liabilities, for a derisory amount. The group now intends to press claims through the courts.

Chazot confirmed

Georges-Christian Chazot president of the French employment agency Adia, will take over from Sir Alastair Morton as chief executive of Eurotunnel on Monday, the Channel tunnel operator has confirmed. He will be based at Eurotunnel's London headquarters. Sir Alastair will revert to the full-time role of co-chairman alongside Andre Benard, overseeing the opening of the tunnel in May and the raising of another pounds 1bn in finance for the project.

GTE to axe 14,000

GTE, America's largest independent telephone company, will shed 17,000 more jobs and take a dollars 1.3bn charge against fourth- quarter earnings to pay for the 'process re-engineering initiative' it began in 1992. The restructuring is expected to save dollars 1bn in annual expenses.

Gold market 'normal'

(First Edition)

The gold market is returning to normal after the overheating last year, with the reappearance of a substantial level of broadly based investment demand and price volatility, according to Gold Fields Mineral Services' latest report.

German prices flat

(First Edition)

Western German wholesale prices were unchanged in December from November and were up 0.1 per cent from December 1992. In November wholesale prices climbed 0.3 per cent from October but were down 0.3 per cent year-on-year. The Statistics Office said that wholesale prices in 1993 were, on average, 1.1 per cent lower than a year earlier.

Russian gas shares

(First Edition)

Russia plans to start privatising its gas industry this month by offering shares in the far north Norilskgazprom company.

Hornby acquisition

Hornby Group acquired 10 per cent of The Original San Francisco Toymakers. Hornby said the amount was not material in relation to its net assets.

World Markets

New York: Profit-takers again got the upper hand, and by the close the Dow Jones Industrial Average had given up 6.20 points to 3,842.43.

Tokyo: Selling by domestic institutions offset continued foreign buying. The Nikkei average lost 216.62 points to 18,577.26.

Hong Kong: Property shares led a steep decline. The Hang Seng index plunged 536.22 points, or 5 per cent, to 10,176.51.

Sydney: Gold sector weakness depressed the market. The All Ordinaries dipped 18.1 to 2,177.5.

Bombay: After hitting a 21- month peak the index fell back to close 29.01 points up at 3,932.8.

Johannesburg: In a major correction after recent gains the index tumbled 125 points to 4,833.

Frankfurt: Shares ended sharply lower with the DAX index 44.52 off at 2,164.66, and the decline continued in after-hours trade.

Paris: The CAC-40 lost another 29.71 points to close at 2,252.19.

Zurich: Consolidating recent gains amid light profit-taking, the SPI fell 25.61 to 1,878.53.

London: Report, page 28.

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