Business & City Summary

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Mercury breaks record again

Mercury Asset Management has for the second time in three months broken the record for the largest investment trust launch by raising pounds 575m for its Mercury European Privatisation Trust.

Mercury has beaten the pounds 500m raised last month by Kleinwort European Privatisation Trust. Both funds will invest in the shares of companies privatised by European governments. In December, Mercury World Mining Trust pulled in pounds 426m.

Directors banned

A total of 17 company directors were disqualified for up to 12 years during the final quarter of 1993, according the Department of Trade and Industry. Eight disqualifications arose from civil proceedings following confidential company investigations, and nine stemmed from criminal cases following reports from official receivers.

Portman life

Portman Building Society is to sell life insurance and pensions for Commercial Union from July. Scottish Life, the insurer to which Portman is tied, plans to concentrate on the independent financial advice market.

German slip

Western German industrial output in December was revised to show a 1.4 per cent rise from November and a 0.4 per cent fall year-on-year. December industrial output was originally reported as up 0.7 per cent month- on-month and down 0.9 per cent year-on-year.

Cable link

Cable and Wireless confirmed that it has been discussing a strategic alliance with Telecom Eireann and has now submitted a proposal to develop telecommunications services to business and residential customers in the Irish Republic.

Dixons shifts

Dixons Stores Group is moving its head office from Ealing, west London to Hemel Hempstead. It has signed a lease on a 143,000 sq ft office building in Hemel Hempstead and has sold the Ealing freehold for pounds 5m.

Airport talks resume

Talks between Chinese and UK authorities on financing Hong Kong's new airport resumed after seven months. The chief British negotiator, Alan Paul, emerged from the 2 1/2 -hour meeting saying there was considerable common ground on how to finance the dollars 20.3bn project.

Spring Ram home

Spring Ram, the kitchens and bathrooms maker, said the take- up of its pounds 42.2m rights issue announced in January at 53p per share was 97.4 per cent.

Mersey dispute

Mersey Docks and Harbour Company said that a dockers' dispute at its Medway Ports division had been resolved.

World Markets

New York: In sluggish, uneventful trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average drifted lower and by the close was showing a 7.32-point fall at 3,824.99.

Tokyo: Prices fell in slack trading, with the Nikkei average 138.91 points weaker at 19,605.86.

Hong Kong: Extending its losing run to three days, the Hang Seng index gave up 75.4 points to 9,802.03 in a thin market.

Sydney: With a firm resources sector not matched by other issues, the All Ordinaries index ended 2.7 points easier at 2,151.4.

Johannesburg: A late burst of buying took industrials ahead while gold stocks were marginally lower. The overall index gained 50 points to 4,931.

Paris: Technical trade reversed some of Wednesday's sharp losses. The CAC-40 index firmed 9.75 points to 2,154.41.

Frankfurt: New York's overnight performance helped the DAX to 2,037.9, a gain of 17.57.

Zurich: Calmer trade took the Swiss Performance Index up 18.56 points to 1,802.82.

London: Report, page 32.