Business news in brief

Hammerson said commercial property market conditions continued to improve last year despite a disappointing rise in the company's net asset value during 1996 from 376p to 388p, right at the bottom of analysts' expectations. Full-year figures were accompanied by details of an pounds 845m development programme including refurbishments of London's Brent Cross shopping centre and Birmingham's Bull Ring. A final dividend of 7.5p made a full year total of 11.2p, up 5 per cent.

Investment column, page 22

In a fresh hint that the US Federal Reserve might raise interest rates after its Open Market Committee meets next week, Robert Parry, president of the San Francisco Fed, said it must be ready to head off future inflation. Speaking in Germany, he said: "We must be ready to act to head off an increase in inflation before they show up in the inflation data."

Sir Richard Sykes, chief executive of Glaxo Wellcome, has netted a paper profit of nearly pounds 1.8m after exercising options over shares worth pounds 4.4m at the current price. Sir Richard sold enough of the resulting 394,000 shares to meet the pounds 2.6m cost of exercising the options and an associated capital gains tax bill of around pounds 500,000. The deal increased his stake in the company by a net 108,476 shares to 331,551.

Scottish Amicable Finance has received final bid offers from Abbey National, AMP Society and Prudential Corporation and will make a recommended proposal by the end of March.

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