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The Independent Online
Elf Aquitaine profits plunge

Elf Aquitaine, the French state oil company, said net profit fell to Fr1.1bn ( pounds 129.4m) in 1993 from Fr6.2bn a year earlier. The company, scheduled to be sold to the public early this year, said it was planning to pay an unchanged net dividend of Fr13 per share. Sales rose to Fr210bn from Fr200.6bn.

The group said one-off charges, including a Fr2.3bn writedown of oil and gas assets, had nearly halved operating income to Fr6.5bn from Fr12bn the previous year.

Maxwell sale

Price Waterhouse, administrators of Maxwell Communication Corporation, the mainly American part of the late Robert Maxwell's business empire, have agreed to sell Standard Rate & Data Service, an advertising information business that made revenues of dollars 34m in 1992, to Continental Illinois Venture Corporation. This brings the total recovered by PW to dollars 1.5bn, and the administrators will tell MCC's creditors at the end of this month what dividend they may expect.

VW still leads

Volkswagen was again Europe's leading car maker in 1993 despite a plunge of more than 20 per cent in new car registrations. VW's 1.9 million registrations, down 20.1 per cent, were ahead of General Motors Europe on 1.5 million, down 11.8 per cent, and France's PSA Peugot-Citroen, 1.4 million, down 14.4 per cent, said the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers.

Cleared for landing

The European Commission has cleared the proposed pounds 250m joint undercarriage venture between Dowty and Messier, subsidiaries respectively of TI Group and the French Snecma. Further taxation and regulatory decisions are expected in the next few weeks to allow the deal to be put to shareholders.

ACT soft sell

ACT, the software group, is selling its Cablestream network business for pounds 5m to Siemens of Germany, which last year increased its UK turnover by 40 per cent to pounds 1.2bn.

Pounds 25m ICI India sale

ICI has sold its India fertiliser operation to the G P Goenka Group of companies for pounds 25m in cash. ICI India will receive pounds 20m in outstanding subsidy payments from the government of India over the next nine to twelve months.

Chairman named

Antoine Jeancourt-Galignani, chairman of Banque Indosuez, has been appointed chairman of the state-controlled insurance company, Assurances Generales de France. The appointment required cabinet approval.

World Markets

New York: Blue chips marked time, consolidating their recent record run. By the close the Dow Jones Industrial Average was unchanged at 3,870.29 in subdued trading.

Tokyo: A sharp fall in bond prices clipped 210.82 from the Nikkei 225 to 18,514.55.

Hong Kong: The signing of a new US/China textile agreement lifted the Hang Seng index 224.77 to 11,017.69.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index eased 6.1 at 2,232.1 after a decline in futures.

Johannesburg: Shares marked time as the market awaited direction from foreign investors. The gold index gave up four to 2,090.

Zurich: Demand for bank and pharmaceutical shares led the SPI index 16.57 higher at 1,928.5.

Milan: Profit-taking after recent strong gains lowered the Mibtel index 80 to 9,827.

Frankfurt: Uncertainty about interest rates and economic prospects left the DAX index down 23.54 at 2,113.84.

Paris: Renewed hopes of a cut in German interest rates tomorrow boosted the CAC-40 12.57 to 2,247.35.

London: Report, page 28.