Business Information Service: Last week

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The Independent Online
STERLING continued its fall against the mark early in the week, and uncertainty in the currency markets affected stocks, sending European share prices plunging. The FT-SE 100 lost 103.4 points on the day on Monday.

Hanson showed it was back on the acquisition trail when it announced a pounds 781m cash offer for Ranks Hovis McDougall, the grocery and bakery products group. RHM, however, quickly put down the offer saying the 220p per share offer price seriously undervalued the company, but it accepted an invitation to meet Hanson the following day.

Sir Alastair Morton, Eurotunnel's chief executive, warned that unless the cost dispute with Transmanche Link was resolved this month it was likely to drag on for years. He said that if it continued, it would also delay the opening of the Channel tunnel beyond the new December 1993 deadline.

Hopes of a consumer-led recovery faded again, after official figures revealed consumers had repaid pounds 30m debt in August, after borrowing pounds 78m in July.

It emerged on Tuesday from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders that the number of new cars sold in September was down 4 per cent on last year at 121,823.

Robin Leigh-Pemberton, Governor of the Bank of England, disclosed a plan drawn up by Britain's clearing banks to change radically the money- clearing system to avoid the domino effect of the failure of one bank's obligation to meet a payment on another. The Bank offered to take on a central role in the new system, which would settle payments quickly.

The pounds 285m offer from Gillette, the US consumer products group, for Parker Pen was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission because it is believed the acquisition would give Gillette too dominant a position in the writing instruments market.

It was announced on Wednesday that General Accident is to buy Prudential's general insurance operation in Canada for about pounds 77m. The move, in line with the Prudential's policy to withdraw from general insurance, is expected to make GA the Canadian market leader.

JD Wetherspoon, the public houses operator known for its cheap beer, was reported to be making the final preparations for a full market listing on the Stock Exchange before Christmas. It is expected to make a formal announcement later this week on the placing of shares.

Hopes of a reduction in UK interest rates to stimulate the economy fell on Thursday after Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, made it clear the Government had every intention of returning Britain into the ERM.

Shares in Lonrho, the international trading group, were reported to have fallen to their lowest level in eight years during trading. The price fell in response to cuts in profit forecasts from Barclays de Zoete Wedd, prompted by lower metal prices and problems at the group's hotels business.

On Friday, the official inflation figures showed prices in the year to September had risen by 3.6 per cent, but had remained unchanged from August. The emphasis, however, was placed on the underlying rate which the Chancellor had pledged to bring down to between 1 and 4 per cent. It fell to 4 per cent.

It emerged that Euro RSCG, a French media group, was seeking an injunction to stop Sir Terence Conran's involvement in the pounds 2.5m rescue of Fitch, the troubled design group. Euro RSCG claimed Sir Terence had signed a contract two years ago that prevents him from becoming involved in another company in direct competition with Euro RSCG until July next year. The rescue deal is unlikely to be affected.