Business & City in Brief

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Fewer complaints against banks

The number of complaints against banks handled by the Banking Ombudsman has fallen in the past six months, despite a 350 per cent annual increase in mortgage-related cases being investigated.

Out of 1,111 cases accepted for investigation last year, 123 are linked to grievances over mortgages, the ombudsman's annual report disclosed. There were 36 similar complaints in the previous 12 months, out of 956.

Complaints related to 'phantom' withdrawals from cash machines fell from 36 per cent in 1992 to 20 per cent.

Virgin may be split

Richard Branson may split his Virgin Atlantic airline into three 'mini-Virgins' each with its own aircraft, headquarters, directors and staff. Mr Branson said in Hong Kong that he was worried about Virgin getting too big.

Uneven recovery

Recovery in the UK housing market remains uneven, with a significant upward trend unlikely to emerge before next year, according to Abbey National's autumn business report. Mortgage accounts more than six months in arrears fell to 21,100 from 22,800 between June and September and were 18 per cent lower than at the start of the year.

Elf warning

Elf Aquitaine warned that net profits this year were likely to slump, and said that financial assets worth Fr15bn (pounds 1.72bn) would be sold to reduce debt before the company is privatised. The Elf oil group is the biggest French company quoted on the stock market. Analysts said that the warning that profits would 'scarcely exceed Fr1bn' was likely to depress the share price and increase interest in the launch issue. Last year Elf made a net profit of Fr6.2bn.

Nelson to float

Nelson Hurst, the London insurance broker, is raising pounds 31m in a stock market float. It forecasts pounds 7.2m operating profit in the year to 31 December against pounds 3.8m in 1992.

Insolvencies jump

Western German insolvencies jumped 25.3 per cent to 1,453 in August compared with August last year, the Federal Statistics Office said.

RBS pounds 100m fund

Royal Bank of Scotland has launched a pounds 100m development capital fund to invest in growing Scottish businesses.

Offer job

The Government has appointed Graeme Sims as the new deputy director-general of the Office of Electricity Regulation (Offer) in Scotland. He replaces Peter Carter, who has become deputy director-general at Offer's headquarters in Birmingham.

World Markets

New York: Stocks took heart from a rebound in bond prices and recovered some of the ground lost on Monday. The Dow Jones Average closed 3.92 points higher at 3,674.17.

Brussels: On the first day of a new account, the BEL 20 index was up 10.50 points to 1,387.26.

Frankfurt: Shares eased in moderate but volatile trade on the UK rate, with sentiment depressed by the weakness of the bond market. The DAX index fell 2.59 points to 2,027.41.

Madrid: The general index declined 2.44 points to 297.36.

Milan: The Mibtel index ended 33 points lower at 9,044, off a low of 8,829.

Paris: On the last day of the November account, the CAC-40 index fell 11.14 points to 2,071.47.

Zurich: The UK rate cut and the dollar's firmer undertone helped the Swiss Market Index rise 5.6 points to 2,702.1.

Hong Kong: Prices were sharply lower in line with other world markets. The Hang Seng index fell 134.62 points to 9,036.02.

Tokyo: Local holiday.

Sydney: The All Ordinaries index fell 39.7 points to 2,009.6.

London: Report, page 32.