Business news in brief

The Japanese government has announced a 380bn (pounds 1.9bn) rescue package designed to kick-start the country's moribund property market, though analysts said the package did not represent a complete solution to the property bad debts on Japanese banks books, which are estimated to be worth up to 30,000bn. The key part of the reforms is the easing of rules that will allow property held as collateral to be turned into securities to be sold to investors.

Hammerson is thought to have rejected the idea of a hostile bid for property industry rival MEPC after the two companies abandoned merger talks. Both companies suffered heavily from the effects of the recession on the commercial property industry and MEPC has struggled to recover as quickly as Hammerson has under new chief executive Ron Spinney. The impetus for the talks is thought to have come from MEPC's leading shareholders, including PDFM.

Estate agents are at their most optimistic for three years, according to a survey by Birmingham Midshires building society. Four out of five believe the market is gathering pace. Though house prices have steadied in the last six months, they are 10 per cent higher than this time last year. Agents predict a further 6 per cent rise over the next year. Three- and four-bedroom homes are the most popular. One-bedroom properties are hardest to sell.

The chief executive of Tesco Personal Finance, the financial services joint venture between Tesco and the Royal Bank of Scotland, is to be Derek Sach, former managing director of 3i Group. Rowley Ager, a director of Tesco, is to be chairman.

The first quarter of 1997 was the quietest for stock market flotations for several years, according to a survey by KPMG Corporate Finance. Flotations were up from 16 to 20 but generated only pounds 246m, compared with over pounds 2bn in the the same period last year. KPMG said uncertainty over the election was partly to blame.

British Airways has clinched a five-year deal with Ryder to outsource its Ground Fleet Services vehicle management and maintenance work at Heathrow and Gatwick. Most of GFS's staff will move to Ryder and the remainder will take early retirement, voluntary redundancy or other BA jobs.

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