Business and City Summary

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The Independent Online

A Kuwaiti parliamentary commission has called for legal action against employees of the Kuwait Investment Office in Britain, over alleged irregularities in its Spanish investments, which are controlled from London.

Ismail al-Chatti, chairman of the commission, said it had 'decided to ask British justice to begin legal proceedings against all the employees of the Kuwait Investment Office in London'. The commission's decision is subject to approval by a full session of the Kuwaiti parliament.


The US jeweller and speciality retailer Tiffany & Co recorded a 15 per cent surge in US retail sales in the eight-week period to Christmas. The strong US figures were offset by a decline in international sales, largely due to lower shipments to Japan. The Christmas season was busier than expected for many US retailers, and analysts are forecasting that Christmas sales figures for the sector will be the best for four years.


Municipal Mutual Insurance, the troubled insurance group, announced it had reached agreement in principle on the transfer of its local authority business to Zurich Insurance.


Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch ice- cream to detergent group, is expanding its Brazilian operations with the USdollars 284m ( pounds 186m) acquisition of the food manufacturer Cica.


Commerzbank, Germany's third-largest bank, confirmed reports that it plans to start its delayed capital-raising programme in January with a DM125m ( pounds 51m) rights issue.


Blue Circle has sold Atco Qualcast, the lawnmower maker, to management for pounds 17m.


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British Gas may take over Pakistan's Sui Southern Gas. Company officials are in Pakistan, which is privatising SSGC as part of its economic deregulation programme.


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Toyota Motor Corporation is rumoured to be planning to become the first big Japanese car maker to produce commercial vehicles in China, by buying a stake in a Chinese car company.


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BAA, the airport management company, has established a sponsored American depositary receipt (ADR) facility. The Bank of New York will act as depositary bank.


Economic data: US figures on consumer confidence for December are due today. UK figures on energy trends, and engineering sales and orders at current and constant prices for October are due on Thursday.

Company results: Whinney Mackay-Lewis will announce interims today, while Estates & Agency Holdings will report final results tomorrow.


NEW YORK: After languishing most of the day in the minus column, blue chips ended modestly higher in one of the slowest trading days of the year on a last-minute burst of buying. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 3,333.26, up 7.02 points.

JOHANNESBURG: Industrials nudged higher in quiet trade. The overall index gained 10 points to 3,256 and the industrial index rose 18 to 4,356.

HONG KONG: Light year-end buying helped the Hang Seng index rise by 89.75 to 5,531.76.

TAIWAN: Shares dropped to a 23-month low on fears of political instability. The weighted index lost 128.33 to 3,327.67.

TOKYO: Stocks closed just off the day's lows, with prices squeezed by selling. The 225- share Nikkei average fell 368.42 to 17,188.62.

BRUSSELS: In thin trading, the BEL 20 index was down 4.60 points at 1,132.99.

FRANKFURT: The 30-share DAX index rose 17.66 to 1,544.61, on a slightly firmer dollar and demand for financial stocks.

MADRID: The general index was down 3.07 points at 215.07.

MILAN: The MIB index was unchanged at 868 points.

PARIS: Prices gave up morning gains, and the CAC-40 index ended 2.94 higher at 1,857.53.

ZURICH: Shares hit an all-time high, with dealers concentrating on banks and industrials. The SPI index rose 14.6 to 1,235, the highest since 1,232.3 on 17 July 1990.

LONDON: Report, this page.