IN BRIEF

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The Independent Online
Maxwell pensioners get payout plan Trustees representing 20,000 Maxwell pensioners heard last night how much City institutions are prepared to pay in compensation for their lost funds. The trustees will consider today whether to accept the proposed "global settlement" brokered by Sir John Cuckney and aimed at plugging a £300m hole in the pension money. An announcement may not emerge until the weekend. The institutions, which include Goldman Sachs and Coopers & Lybrand, are thought to have increased their offer in the last few days. If the deal falls through pensioners face years of expensive litigation.

The Economist expands US presence The Economist, the weekly bible of the business classes, took a further step into the American publishing market yesterday, when it offered to pay Knight Ridder $115m for Journal of Commerce, a specialist in transport and trade publishing. The Journal's publications range from the 168-year-old Journal of Commerce to the more prosaically titled Florida Shipper and Traffic World. The deal is expected to be completed in April. Economist chief executive Marjorie Scardino said: "The Journal will give us an additional platform [in the US] while providing some strategic international growth possibilities."

Bass blames duties for sales fall Bass's beer sales in the first 16 weeks of its current financial year were down 1.3 per cent in volume on the same period of the previous year. Chairman Sir Ian Prosser blamed the increase in excise duty. In the five-week Christmas period cut-throat competition led to a 3.6 per cent drop in Bass beer sales to the off-licence trade. Beer volumes in Bass Taverns were in line with last year and revenue from food sales was up 10 per cent. Holiday Inn profits are still growing in dollar terms, offset by a 6 per cent drop in the dollar against sterling.

Forte plumps for Meridien brand Forte plans to integrate the management of its Meridien and Forte Grand hotels and re-brand the 20 company-owned Forte Grand hotels under the Meridien name over the next three to four years, chairman Sir Rocco Forte announced. The future of the hotels managed by Forte Grand is being discussed with the owners. Forte plans to double the size of its international hotel portfolio to 50,000 rooms over the next few years.

BA launches fares war in America British Airways is starting a fares war in the US, cutting fares of flights from 18 American "gateway" cities to 52 destinations around the world. The cuts, subject to US government approval, range up to 42.5 per cent on the Seattle to Tel Aviv route. The Los Angeles to London round-trip fare is reduced to $498, 13.8 per cent below the current mid-week, low-season fare.

Archer loosens Lloyd's connection Archer Group Holdings has agreed to sell 81 per cent of Turret Run-Off Services, which looks after the business of winding-up 27 Lloyd's syndicates, to Randall Holdings for the value of its net assets at completion, expected to be around £300,000.

Metal prices regain lost ground Metal prices yesterday recovered some of the ground lost on Wednesday, with nickel rebounding £385 to £8,255-60 a tonne after dropping £700 on Wednesday. Cash aluminium rose £87 to £1,918.75, tin was up £165 to £5,450 a tonne and copper £52.25 higher at £2,863.25 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange.

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