Business and City in Brief

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OFWAT ATTACKS PERFORMANCE

Ofwat, the industry watchdog, has attacked five water companies for 'very poor' performance in responding to billing queries and complaints.

Severn Trent, South West Water, South East Water, Bournemouth and West Hampshire, and Bristol are among those being warned by Ian Byatt, director-general of Ofwat, that quality of service will be taken into account when he sets their new price controls in 1994.

EC MARKET DEAL

European Community farm ministers agreed a complex package of measures covering everything from bananas to beef, to prepare EC agriculture for next year's single market.

US LOOKING UP

The US trade deficit fell 18 per cent to dollars 7.03bn in October as exports leapt to a record dollars 39.19bn.

MEGA-SAVINGS

Proshare, the pressure group that supports share ownership, has called on the Government to consider introducing substantial tax incentives for share buying, including a 'Mega PEP' allowing up to pounds 80,000 to be invested free of tax.

GATT PESSIMISM

Top negotiators for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade meet today amid pessimism over the prospects of finalising an end-of-year deadline for an international trade accord.

BULLISH ON UK

Standard Life, one of Britain's biggest institutional investors, expects UK company profits to jump about 20 per cent next year, helped by cost-cutting in the past two years and the devaluation of the pound.

Bank seeks pounds 14m Lloyds Bank has begun legal proceedings against Torras Papel SA in Spain for the recovery of pounds 14m in loans, the bank confirmed last night.

SETTLING FOR LESS

Wages settlements have resumed their downward trend, according to the Hay Compensation report for the year to October 1992. The survey shows pay rises averaging 6.2 per cent over the past 12 months, down from 9-10 per cent a year ago.

FRANCE IN RED

France registered a balance of payments deficit of Fr48.80bn in September, sharply wider than the Fr11.82bn in August.

O&Y DEBT PLAN

Olympia and York has agreed in principle to allow Prudential Insurance to take possession of the prestigious Aetna Centre in Toronto, on which Prudential holds a dollars 144m bond.

BLEAK PROSPECTS

(First Edition)

Three-quarters of small business counsellors surveyed by Barclays Bank said more than half the firms they advised were insufficiently trained to run their businesses.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: Caution ahead of today's triple witching left the Dow Jones Average little changed, closing up 2.17 points at 3,257.35.

HONG KONG: Futures selling and profit-taking set the Hang Seng index back 86.5 at 5,329.46.

TOKYO: Demand for blue chips boosted the Nikkei Average 169.20 to 17,437.91.

SYDNEY: The All Ordinaries index inched ahead 2.4 points to 1,499.4 in quiet pre-holiday trading.

FRANKFURT: The DAX index managed a gain of 4.10 to 1,476.17 in mainly professional trading.

MILAN: Shares slated for privatisation led the MIB index 27 points higher at 831, a gain of 3.36 per cent.

PARIS: A recovery on Wall Street trimmed early losses. The CAC-40 index closed 1.46 lower at 1,735.23.

ZURICH: A stronger dollar lifted the SMI index 2.4 to 2,026.3 in quiet trading.

LONDON: Report, page 23.

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