Business Information Service: Last Week

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The Independent Online
FEARS of further new issue problems this summer, after Conrad Black's Telegraph group failed to attract widespread investor support and less than half of the public offering of the furniture group MFI was taken up, despite a reduction in the planned share price.

Combined with the gloomy economic prospects, this led to a volatile stock market, where the FT-SE 100 see- sawed for most of the week. On the foreign exchange markets the dollar closed below DM1.50 for the first time in almost 17 months.

It emerged on Monday that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International fraud could have been prevented earlier had a new set of banking supervision standards been in place.

Lloyd's of London, in its attempts to relieve underwriting members of large parts of their pounds 2bn losses, was reported to be looking towards continental Europe's large insurance companies for help.

Exceptional costs amounting to pounds 451.6m forced Asda, the supermarkets group, to announce a pounds 365m pre- tax loss for the year to 2 May and sparked fears of further job losses on top of the 1,000 it has axed over the past three months as part of its restructuring plan.

Scottish and Newcastle showed itself to be the most resilient of the brewing companies when it announced a 2 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 221m for the year to May.

Anglian Group, the double glazing company, added to the string of new issue failures on Tuesday as underwriters were left holding nearly 90 per cent of the public offer for shares in the group.

Pentland, the leisure investment group, revealed it had reached an agreement to buy an 80 per cent stake in the world's second largest sportswear company, Adidas, for pounds 215m in cash. The deal, when completed, will give Pentland total ownership of the onetime leading sporting goods company following the acquisition last August of 20 per cent.

The venture capital group 3i wrote off its 9.9 per cent stake, worth pounds 45m, in Isoceles, the Gateway supermarkets group which is in talks to restructure its debts, in the belief that the stake was worthless.

The price of silver was driven down to its lowest level of the year from dollars 4.06 to dollars 3.82 an ounce after the National Commercial Bank of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's only private bank, was reported to have dumped at least 622 tonnes of the metal on to the market.

On Wednesday, the Group of Seven industrial nations summit failed to come up with any new initiatives or assurances on stimulants for sustaining world economic growth.

Meanwhile, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that schemes that had been set up to stem the rise in home repossessions had done little to help cash-strapped house owners.

On Thursday, the Chancellor, Norman Lamont, criticised the performance of the Investment Management Regulatory Organisation and the Securities and Investments Board, the City's financial services watchdogs, for their 'serious shortcomings' in the regulation of two fund management groups controlled by the late Robert Maxwell.

Harland Simon Group, the troubled control systems group, reported pre- tax losses of pounds 6.3m for the year to 31 March.

Albert Fisher, the fruits distributor, issued a profits warning as the group, which grew rapidly by acquisition in the Eighties, said that exceptional abundant crops of a range of fruit and vegetables had caused an oversupply.

Friday brought inflation figures for June showing a drop in the retail price index from 4.3 per cent to 3.9 per cent, its lowest level for eight months.