Business Information Service: Last week

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THE RECENT spate of poor results, profit downgrades, low dividend payouts and stocks trading ex-dividend extended the slide in the FT-SE 100 index to an 18-month low, as it dipped briefly below the 2,300 mark on Wednesday. Encouraging news on the British and German economies on Thursday and Friday bolstered the stock market and helped the index to recover some of its losses. UK inflation figures benefited from the biggest monthly fall in retail prices for 25 years to show a year-on- year rise of 3.7 per cent.

Credit demand figures released on Monday by the Central Statistical Office revealed that consumers have paid back more than they have borrowed since last December.

Norton, the motorcycle company, was reported to be closer to a refinancing deal that would allow its shares, which were suspended last year at 18p, to be relisted. The DTI investigation into the company was continuing, with new revelations of complex links with Tony Rudd, the controversial financier at the forefront of its inquiry.

The Milk Marketing Board proposed that Dairy Crest, the milk delivery and cheese-making business, should be bid-proof for at least five years when it is floated in 1994.

It emerged on Tuesday that a buyer had been found for Del Monte, the US fruit business in the failed Polly Peck International empire. A consortium of mainly Mexican investors agreed to pay dollars 499m for Del Monte. The deal is expected to open the way for the repayment of outstanding debts to creditors.

In New York, Paul Reichmann, the director of Olympia & York, the Canadian property developer, was reported to have joined forces with a second American investor to revive the Canary Wharf project in London's Docklands.

Although growth at British Airways was held back by lack of demand for first and business-class seats, profits leapt from pounds 9m to pounds 91m for the first quarter, helped by heavy cost-cutting.

General Accident, the general and life insurer, announced plans to issue up to pounds 300m worth of preference shares to finance a possible expansion after reporting a significant drop in interim pre-tax losses from pounds 105.2m to pounds 21.2m.

The following day, the composite insurer Commercial Union announced an improvement in the first half of this year, with pre-tax losses falling from pounds 26.3m to pounds 18.1m.

Skipton, the 14th largest building society, sparked fears of a general round of mortgage rate increases when it announced it had raised its rates for borrowers by half a percentage point to 11.25 per cent. However, many large societies later made it clear they would not follow suit.

Boots, the retail and health care group, was awarded its first licence to market its cardiovascular drug, Manoplax, in Britain.

On Thursday the Halifax Building Society announced a cut of 0.35 of a percentage point in savings rates to 7.15 per cent.

Precious metal prices fell as a result of producer selling. Gold lost dollars 8.50, silver 7.5 cents and platinum dollars 23.

Following the advice of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, the Government ordered Sara Lee Corporation, the American household products group which owns Kiwi shoe polish, to sell the Cherry Blossom brand of shoe polish, to prevent a merger of the two leading brands.

On Friday Burns-Anderson, the recruitment agency and financial advice group, looked on the brink of collapse after it asked for its shares to be suspended 'pending clarification of its financial position'.

British Steel Pension Fund, the largest shareholder in the paints copmpany Manders, refused to accept a hostile pounds 85m bid from the rival Kalon group as it believed the price was too low.

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