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The Independent Online
UK LABOUR COSTS NEARLY LOWEST

Britain ranks with Spain, Portugal and Greece at the bottom of a league table of employment costs in Western Europe published today - well behind Sweden and Switzerland.

Labour costs in Britain are only just above those in Spain, where lower pay is offset by higher social benefits, according to the survey by Noble Lowndes. The cost of creating a job is 50 per cent higher in middle-ranking countries such as Belgium, France and Germany, the survey found.

LAMONT WARNS US

Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, said the Government would have to retaliate against US-based companies if there was not a satisfactory resolution of the US unitary tax problem by the end of the year. The unitary method taxes multinationals based in the US on a proportion of their worldwide profits.

CORRUPTION CHARGE

A wealthy Japanese businessman was part of a web of corruption to win lucrative North Sea contracts from British Petroleum, Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday. Shigiki Furutate bribed middlemen to give him confidential information about multi-million orders, it is alleged. Mr Furutate, of Bromley in Kent, denies three charges of conspiracy to defraud.

SEA CONTAINERS UP

Sea Containers, the marine container lessor and ferries and ports operator, announced net income of dollars 7.5m for the 1993 first quarter. This compared with a net loss of dollars 3.7m in the same period last year.

FAMILY TIME

Time Warner is to start marketing its theme parks, television cartoons and retail shops as well as some of its films and video productions under a new 'Family Entertainment' logo. It hopes to segregate Warner Brothers characters like Bugs Bunny so that they can compete more directly with Disney.

BAT ACCEPTANCES

BAT Industries, the tobacco and financial services group, said it had received acceptances for its enhanced share alternative of 1.37 billion ordinary shares, representing 92 per cent of its issued ordinary share capital.

SA ECONOMY GROWS

South African first-quarter gross domestic product rose a seasonally adjusted and annualised 0.8 per cent, the Central Statistical Service said. The CSS said fourth-quarter GDP declined 4.3 per cent on the same basis, which was revised from a 5.1 per cent decline.

RTZ SHARE ISSUE

RTZ said it woul issue a total 29.5 million new shares under its enhanced scrip dividend alternative plan. The reference price is 612.83p. The company said it had received elections in respect of 895 million ordinary shares for the script alternative.

MARGINS SQUEEZED

The quarterly survey of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors has found that there are still worrying indications of pressure on contractors' margins. However, the results were described by John Hackett, director-general, as the best for three years.

WORLD MARKETS

NEW YORK: Worries about the economic recovery pulled the Dow Jones average down 34.32 points to 3,447.99 by the close. Gold and energy stocks were in demand.

TOKYO: Shares closed slightly lower ahead of today's expiry of stock price index options. The Nikkei average gave up 82.42 to 20,532.78.

HONG KONG: Turnover hit a record high as the rally continued on optimism over Sino-British relations. The Hang Seng index advanced 106.16 points to 7,108.76.

SYDNEY: A decline in futures led the All Ordinaries index downwards, easing 1.3 points to 1,694.4.

BOMBAY: The index recovered from an early 50-point fall to end just 2.62 points lower at 2,284.3.

FRANKFURT: Expectations of an imminent cut in interest rates lifted the DAX 10.33 points to 1,639.79.

PARIS: Prices ended slightly firmer on follow-through buying, but there was little reaction to a further fall in interest rates. The CAC-40 index, at 1,879.93, was 7.26 better.

MILAN: With telecommunications shares still the market leaders, the MIB added 1.19 per cent to 1,193.

LONDON: Report, page 24.

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