Business Information Service: Last week

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The Independent Online
On Monday administrators were called in to Burns-Anderson, the recruitment and financial services group at one time chaired by Sir John Harvey Jones. The decision was taken following the suspension of its shares at 2p on the previous Friday.

Argos, the catalogue retailer, produced pre-tax profits better than forecast with an 11 per cent fall to pounds 9.5m in the half-year to June. It lifted the dividend payout to 4.8 per cent to 2.2p and its shares gained 15p to 219p. David Donne, the chairman, said sales had turned mildly positive since mid-June, and suggested the low point in consumer spending may have been reached.

The bankruptcy order against Kevin Maxwell was delayed until 1 September. He has been asked to pay pounds 407m of the pounds 450m of funds missing from the Maxwell pension schemes.

Meanwhile, Conrad Black, the Canadian publisher of the Telegraph, agreed in principle to buy the New York Daily News from the estate of the late Robert Maxwell for dollars 22m.

The Bank of England's quarterly bulletin published on Tuesday said there was no clear sign that demand is moving above last year's level. It predicted a 1.75 per cent increase in output for 1992 over 1991 for the Group of Seven industrialised countries.

Micro Focus, the software products company, bucked the gloomy trading climate to report a 5 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 9.4m.

Across the Atlantic, Wang Laboratories, one of the early stars of the American computer revolution, filed for bankruptcy protection after attempts to sell the company failed.

It emerged on Wednesday that unsecured creditors of Mountleigh Group, the property and retail concern currently in receivership, were unlikely to receive anything back from the company which has debts of pounds 590m.

Marley was forced to cut its dividend forecast for the full year as prospects of a rise in demand from the property sector remained distant. Nevertheless, the brick and tile manufacturer achieved a small increase in pre- tax profits from pounds 9.3m to pounds 9.7m for the half-year to June. It maintained its dividend at 2p.

On Thursday, BT confirmed that it would reduce its workforce by a further 30,000 over the next two years after making 29,300 redundant in this summer's redundancy scheme. The company said the pace of changing technology, stiffer competition and the recession would dictate the precise number who leave.

Results from Willis Corroon, the Anglo-American insurance broker, were worse than expected, further highlighting the problems in the sector. It revealed a 22 per cent decline in pre-tax profits to pounds 54.1m for the first half, blaming the result on a poor US market, reduced demand and adverse currency rates.

In New York, Olympia & York's hopes of keeping control of its property holdings hinged on a reorganisation that would give its creditors a 49 stake in the Canadian property developer. The plan received a negative response from the main creditors.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei index reversed the steady declines that recently took it to six-year lows, with a jump above the 15,000 level. The following day it registered another surge of nearly 950 points to take it over the 16,000 barrier. The boost came in response to an announcement from the Japanese Ministry of Finance that it was planning a fund to help to bail out troubled banks in the country.

Ratners Group, the high street jewellery chain, disclosed it would have to close 330 shops. It recorded pre-tax losses of pounds 122.3m for the year to April.

Kalon lost its battle for control of Manders after receiving acceptances in respect of only 21.2 per cent of shares in Manders.