Business and City Summary

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National Savings swells coffers

National Savings made a net contribution of pounds 379m to government funding in November. First Option bonds contributed pounds 199m and index-linked certificates pounds 129m of gross sales of pounds 774m.

Premium Bonds raised pounds 41m, the highest sale since they were launched 36 years ago. Fixed-interest products were withdrawn from sale on 12 November.

Society re-rated

Standard & Poor's ratings agency said it cut the commercial paper and certificates of deposit ratings on Nationwide Building Society to A-2 from A-1, reflecting the impact of the continued weakness of the UK housing market on Nationwide's asset quality.

Money, page 22

GEC shuts plant Electronics giant GEC-Marconi will close its sonar manufacturing site in Newport, South Wales, with the loss of 400 jobs.

Christmas cheer John Lewis, the retailing partnership, said total sales in the week to 5 December were down 1 per cent on the same week last year. But it added that Christmas demand was starting to pick up.

Adviser banned

Neil Bevis and his firm, Western Investments, of Hayle in Cornwall, were banned from carrying on investment business after Fimbra, the financial advisers' regulator, found them to be not fit and proper.

Ikea cleared The purchase by Ikea of Habitat from Storehouse will not be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, the Department of Trade and Industry said.

Unilever buys Unilever is buying 70 per cent of SZPT Olmex, the Polish state-owned edible oils and fats business, for dollars 25m. It has agreed to invest a further dollars 14m over the next three years. It is also buying a 49.9 per cent stake in Bake Off, a frozen dough products business in Sweden, with an option for the remaining shares.

UBS building UBS (UK), a subsidiary of Union Bank of Switzerland, has bought the 390,000 sq ft phase- three building at 100 Liverpool Street, London - part of the Broadgate development - from Rosehaugh Stanhope Developments.

Flooded Apple Torrential rains in New York yesterday failed to shut down the financial markets, but they did offer the public the prospect of dozens of investment bankers wading out of low-lying offices with their trouser legs rolled up to their knees.

World Markets

New York: Investors ignored good news on jobs and inflation to take profits. By the close the Dow Jones Average was down 8.11 at 3,312.19.

Tokyo: Profit-taking set the Nikkei Average back 60.28 to 17,441.02.

Hong Kong: Late bargain- hunting curtailed losses. The Hang Seng index ended down 20.61 at 5,253.18.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index closed barely changed at 1,500.7.

Johannesburg: The overall index shed 39 at 3,239 in dull trading.

Frankfurt: Continuing disappointment over the Bundesbank's decision not to cut rates knocked the DAX index 18.47 lower at 1,476.01.

Milan: Anxiety over the government's privatisation programme nudged the MIB index 5 lower at 834.

Paris: The CAC-40 index clawed back hefty early losses to end end down 0.61 per cent at 1,758.70.

London: Report, page 21.

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