Business and City in Brief

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STORM LEAVES US PRODUCTION FLAT

Industrial production in the US last month was unchanged from February, ending five consecutive advances. The Federal Reserve blamed the slowdown on the winter storm that swept the East Coast. In a separate report, the Commerce Department said the US merchandise trade deficit edged up 0.5 per cent to dollars 7.2bn in February, the highest level in three months.

MONDEO LIFTS FORD

Ford said the launch of the Mondeo helped it to a 12.5 per cent share of the European market in March, its best since 1984 and a 0.5 per cent increase on the March 1992 figure. Ford's share of the European car market for the first three months of the year was 12.1 per cent, up 0.3 per cent on the corresponding period last year, despite a 16 per cent fall in the total industry figure.

MORTGAGE UNIT CLOSED

Barclays Bank is closing its centralised mortgage lending operation based in Leeds. Most of the 34 employees will be transferred to other departments. The existing 40,000 customers of Barclays Direct will remain on the books. The loans were sold through a panel of insurers - Commercial Union, Equity and Law, Legal and General, Marine and General Mutual, Norwich Union, Prudential, Scottish Life and Scottish Provident.

Money, page 23

PLANS FOR EQUATORIAL

Meghraj Bank, a private UK bank serving the Asian community, is investigating the acquisition of Equatorial Bank, a similar UK specialist bank put into administration last month. Meghraj Bank's announcement came after discussions with the Bank of England. Four Asian community banks have closed recently in the UK.

CONTINENTAL COMEBACK

A US bankruptcy court approved the reorganisation plan of Continental Airlines Holdings, paving the way for the carrier to emerge from bankruptcy as early as this month. Continental entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 1990.

dollars 27m THEFT HITS PROFITS

The Bank of France said a dollars 27m 'inside job' at its branch in Toulon in December helped reduce 1992 profits by 24 per cent. The bank's exceptional charges jumped fivefold to dollars 32m while overall profits fell to dollars 853m from dollars 1.12bn in 1991.

8.2m POUNDS ORDER FOR DAF

BT Group Motor Transport has ordered 206 trucks worth pounds 8.2m from Leyland DAF, which is in administrative receivership. The order is split between the group's plants in Lancashire and Eindhoven.

STAGECOACH IN DEMAND

Stagecoach Holdings' public share offer at 112p per share was over-subscribed. It will announce on Tuesday how shares are to be allocated. Dealing will start on 27 April.

APPLE TO CUT HOURS

Apple Computer confirmed plans to cut the working week in its Cork plant, which employs 1,000. The proposal calls for a move to a three- day, 36-hour week from a five-day, 39-hour week, providing 'significant savings'.

PENDRAGON RIGHTS

(First Edition)

Pendragon, the motor dealership group, said a rights issue set up last month to raise 16.6m pounds at 225p per share was 94.2 per cent taken up. New shares not taken up have been placed in the market at a net premium of about 27.5p per share over the subscription price.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: Program trading, spurred by lower interest rates, lifted the Dow Jones Industrial Average 22.69 to 3,478.61, a whisker above its previous record high.

TOKYO: Profit-taking chopped 377.98 points off the Nikkei average, which closed at 20,297.86.

HONG KONG: With most investors sidelined ahead of the resumption of Sino-British talks scheduled for next week, the Hang Seng index lost 34.89 points to 6,697.15.

SYDNEY: Consolidating its recent advance, the All Ordinaries index eased 0.9 of a point to 1,703.2.

JOHANNESBURG: Shares ended mixed in slow trade, with the overall index up 18 points at 3,563.

FRANKFURT: Hopes of lower interest rates next week helped the DAX index to 1,678.85, a 3.64-point gain.

PARIS: In a quiet session the CAC- 40 index traded in a 20-point range before settling at 1,986.69, just 1.94 points lower on the day.

MILAN: The MIB ended the account by rising 0.8 per cent to 1,133.

Budapest: On above-average volume the index continued to slide, losing 3.26 points to 693.69.

LONDON: Report, page 17.

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