Business & City Summary

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Bank mortgage lending drops

Gross mortgage lending by large British banks fell 11 per cent last month to pounds 1.4bn, according to the British Bankers' Association. But the BBA said it was impossible to tell whether this was a seasonal effect.

'These reductions were similar to those experienced by the building societies. It is too soon, however, to attribute this to April's changes to MIRAS and tax increases,' Lord Inchyra, the BBA's director general, said. He said the downturn may might have reflected a rush in March to pick up cheap fixed- rate mortgages.

Balfour barrage

A joint venture between Balfour Beatty, the construction arm of BICC, and Costain has won a pounds 93m, four-year contract to build a 1,100-metre barrage across Cardiff Bay as part of a redevelopment of the area.

Tapie writ

Credit Lyonnais said it received a writ from the businessman Bernard Tapie, who is contesting demands that he pay off Fr450m ( pounds 55m) of debt to the bank by Thursday.

French jobless

France's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 12.3 per cent in April from 12.2 per cent in March.

Russia loosens

Restrictions imposed on the activities of foreign banks operating in Russia should be lifted by next week, the central bank governor Viktor Guerachtchenko said.

Siemens in Vilnius

Siemens AG said it won a contract from the state-owned Lithuanian telephone company, Lietuvos Telekomas, to install a digital telephone network in the country's capital, Vilnius.

King of the road

BMW's 3-series car is outselling the new C-Class from its rival Mercedes-Benz in Germany, the Federal Motor Office said.

German incentive

Germany's Economics Minister, Guenter Rexrodt, said he was considering tax measures designed to make private investment in east Germany more attractive.

Bond IQ

Australia's best-known entrepreneur of the 1980s, Alan Bond, now has an IQ of 108, far below the level to be expected of someone who headed one of the nation's biggest business empires, a court in Perth heard yesterday. The evidence came on the fourth day of a hearing in which Mr Bond's lawyers are seeking to delay fraud proceedings against him.

World Markets

New York: Early falls were wiped out and by mid-afternoon the Dow Jones Average was up 1.23 points at 3,758.37.

Tokyo: Hopes that the Japanese economy will pick up soon lifted the Nikkei 134.62 points to 20,973.59.

Hong Kong: A lack of fresh influences let the Hang Seng index drift up 29.93 points to 9,553.56.

Sydney: Overseas holidays left a shortage of inspiration, allowing the All Ordinaries index to close 10 points lower at 2,081.8.

Bombay: Profit-taking ended an early rise driven by strong fundamentals, leaving the BSE 30- share index 0.66 points higher at 3,829.36.

Milan: Investors shrugged off gloom over the Mediobanca inquiry, pushing the Mibtel index 0.91 per cent higher to 11,802.

Frankfurt: Late short-covering left the DAX index up 9.55 points at 2,127.70.

Paris: The expiry of the May futures contract sent the CAC-40 index down 22.61 points to 2,029.90.

London: Report, page 28.