Company news in brief

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The Independent Online
Rupert Murdoch is planning to spin off a subsidiary of News Corporation, News Digital Systems, and sell 20 per cent of it publicly. The chairman and chief executive of News Corp told the company's annual meeting yesterday that it also expects to launch its American Sky Broadcasting satellite service by this time next year. News Digital Systems, which News Corp bought six months ago, is based in the UK and comprises News Datacom and Digi-Media Vision. "We will be floating that company in the next two or three weeks as a separate company and selling about 20 per cent of it in order to make it more independent and to reassure our competitors and third parties with whom we do business,'' said Mr Murdoch. It will be called Digital Media Services and News Corp said it will probably be listed on the London Stock Exchange. News Digital Systems designs and develops end-to-end video and data broadcasting systems, including compression, encryption and conditional access technologies.

Murdoch's sporting strategy, page 28

CSX Corporation, a transport group, has agreed to buy Conrail, the US rail operator, for $8.4bn (pounds 5.3bn), which will make CSX the world's largest freight, transportation and logistics provider. Under the merger, set to be completed in late 1997, CSX said it will pay $92.50 in a combination of cash and stock for each share of Conrail's common stock. After the deal, CSX will have projected annual revenues of more than $14bn and offer domestic and international rail, container-shipping, barge, and contract logistics services. The purchase of Conrail will expand CSX's rail service in the US east of the Mississippi River, including a 29,645-mile system covering a territory from Chicago, Boston and New York to Miami and New Orleans.

Autolink Concessionaires A19, a company formed by Amey, Taylor Woodrow Construction and Sir Robert McAlpine, has been awarded a design, build, finance and operate contract for the A19/A168 Dishforth to Tyne Tunnel. The company said the operation, maintenance and capital expenditure on the network was expected to be in the order of pounds 330m cash over the period of the concession. Autolink said the 30-year contract was for the operation and maintenance of some 120 kilometres of the A168, A19 and the A174 covering the major trunk routes from the A1 at Dishforth to the Tyne Tunnel. The company said the initial construction of capital works included the building of the Norton to Parkway improvement scheme, which is valued at some pounds 50m.

Boots plans to open up to five Boots The Chemists stores in the Irish Republic at a cost of pounds 7.6m. The first store will open early November 1996 in the new Jervis Shopping Centre, Dublin. This store will cost pounds 3.6m and will create 150 jobs. In spring 1997, Boots will open stores in Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire costing pounds 0.75m and creating over 60 jobs. Boots said it was currently in negotiations for properties in Blanchardstown and the Quarryvale development. If these negotiations prove successful, a further 190 jobs could be created with an investment of pounds 3.25m, it said. Boots The Chemists has 25 stores in Northern Ireland, where there are also seven Boots Opticians practices.

Adair Turner, the director-general of the CBI, said yesterday that the UK must keep its options open on European monetary union, regardless of whether the government decided to join. Speaking at the Lombard Association Dinner in the City of London Mr Turner warned that whatever Britain decided, other European nations looked like they were going to go ahead with EMU in 1999. The UK should plan accordingly, he said. Mr Turner called for a detailed debate of the economic issues. He said membership could reduce economic volatility and business uncertainty but could also make labour markets less flexible.

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