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Lloyds Abbey opts

for a woman

Lloyds Abbey Life became the first big insurer to appoint a woman finance director. Laurel Powers-Freeling, who is 37, joins from Prudential where she led the financial planning sales force. She was previously with Morgan Stanley and McKinsey, the management consultants. She is an American who has lived in Britain for eight years.

The announcement was one of a number of finance director changes made yesterday. Ladbroke, the hotels and betting group, which has been without a finance director since Jerry O'Mahony died earlier this year, appointed David Wilson, national marketing partner of Ernst & Young, acting finance director. Gibbs Mew, the Salisbury-based brewer, named Andrew Regan as finance director-designate.

Ziff wanted

Ziff Communications, the US computer magazine publisher that put itself up for sale in June, has received dozens of letters of interest from potential buyers, including Reed Elsevier, the Anglo-Dutch media group. The company, estimated to be worth dollars 2bn-dollars 3bn, said it does not expect to arrive at a shortlist of bidders until October. A Ziff spokesman played down reports that Reed Elsevier and K-III, a New York media group controlled by the buyout specialist Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, had emerged as the leading bidders.

German prices

Western German wholesale prices fell 0.4 per cent in July from June but were up 1.6 per cent from July 1993, the Federal Statistics Office said. In June, wholesale prices climbed 0.8 per cent from May and 1.8 per cent year-on-year.

China syndrome

Inflation in China continued to climb in July and investment in fixed assets soared, the State Statistical Bureau said. The China Business Times quoted the bureau as saying that the consumer price index in July was 24 per cent higher than a year earlier, up from 21.3 per cent in May.

Birkby sale

Birkby's chief executive, WM Cran, has raised just over pounds 1m from the sale of 400,000 ordinary shares in the company at 273p. The shares were sold in accordance with the terms of a separation agreement between Mr Cran and his wife.

Britannic up

Britannic Assurance made profits of pounds 930,000 in the first half of this year, compared with a loss of pounds 1.43m last time.

World Markets

New York: Shares eased after a firm start, troubled by tomorrow's 'double witching'. By the close the Dow Jones Average was down 8.09 at 3,776.48.

Tokyo: Profit-taking eroded sharp early gains, leaving the Nikkei 225 just 38.20 ahead at 20,824.56.

Hong Kong: The Hang Seng index rose 171.36 points to 9,537.98 on strong demand for financial issues, although locally-listed China stocks bucked the trend.

Sydney: A 75-point increase in Australian interest rates propelled the All Ordinaries index 19.5 higher at 2,059.5.

Johannesburg: Local buyers, optimistic about a higher gold price, led the overall index 61 higher at 5,823.

Frankfurt: Firmer bond prices lifted the DAX index 19.5 points to 2,162.29 in heavy trading.

Milan: The Mibtel index eased 159 to 10,235.

Zurich: Disappointing results from Swiss Bank cast a damper. The SMI index rose 10.6 to 2,599.3.

Paris: Shares ignored a downturn in bonds. The CAC-40 index gained 22.63 to 2,034.98.

London: Report, page 16.

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