Business and City in Brief

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North West's two-year deal

North West Water has fixed a two-year pricing agreement with Ofwat, the industry regulator, and agreed to spend an extra pounds 273m to meet new environmental standards.

The deal means that charges will rise by inflation plus 4.7 per cent next year and inflation plus 4 per cent in 1994.

German inflation

Western German inflation remained strong in December, hitting its highest level in six months and foiling hopes the Bundesbank will soon lower its interest rates. The federal statistics office said consumer prices in western Germany climbed 0.2 per cent in December from November and rose 3.8 per cent from a year earlier.

Smaller subsidies

The European Commission said subsidies to the German coal industry should be cut to 15 per cent by the year 2000. However, it approved aid totalling DM8.4bn (pounds 3.46bn) to ease problems caused by the German coal industry restructuring. The Commission approved subsidies to the Spanish and Portuguese coal industries.

Credit buys BfG

Credit Lyonnais, the French state-owned bank, signed an agreement to pay DM1.2bn for a majority stake in BfG, the German bank.

Wates sale

Wates City of London Properties sold its freehold and long leasehold interests in 1/6 Milk Street, London EC2, to Prudential Nominees for pounds 9.35m.

French surplus

France's seasonally adjusted trade surplus in November was Fr389m ( pounds 47m) compared with a revised October surplus of Fr789m, according to provisional customs office data.

Company news

Fairbriar, the house builder, proposed reconstruction and voluntary arrangements with creditors involving new directors, shares and loan notes and the sale of premises at Thames Ditton for pounds 8.5m. It cut pre-tax losses to pounds 4m (pounds 7.4m) in 26 weeks to 30 September.

Graig Shipping eased to pounds 995,000 (pounds 1.7m) pre-tax profit in the 26 weeks to 30 September. Dividend 1p (2p).

Kembrey incurred a pounds 114,000 pre-tax loss (profit pounds 170,000) in 26 weeks to 30 September.

Caspen Oil incurred a pounds 166,000 pre-tax loss (profit pounds 60,000) for the year to 31 July.

World Markets

New York: Position-squaring had pushed the Dow Jones Average down 7.56 points to 3,313.54 by the close.

Brussels: The BEL 20 index closed down 5.91 points at 1,135.65.

Frankfurt: In lacklustre trading, the DAX index closed 3.38 points higher at 1,526.95.

Madrid: In dull trading, the general index ended down 1.68 points at 218.14.

Milan: The MIB index closed 18 points higher at 868.

Paris: End-account profit-taking eroded recent gains. The CAC-40 index finished 3.26 points lower at 1,821.11.

Zurich: The Swiss Market Index rose 4.9 points to 2,061.4.

Hong Kong: Prices closed slightly higher on selective buying. The Hang Seng index gained 20.25 points to close at 5,317.99.

Tokyo: National holiday.

Sydney: Prices closed lower on continued profit-taking. The All Ordinaries index was down 5.3 points at 1,524.8.