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McDDonald's franchisees in the US voted "almost unanimously" in favour of a proposal to offer some of its larger sandwiches at steep discounts, the company said. Two of its most profitable items, the Big Mac and the Quarter Pounder with cheese will cost 55 cents when purchased with a soft drink and fries. The discounting is designed to bring the company back from a year and a half of declining sales in the face of strong competition from the UK's Burger King and Wendy's International. Industry analysts said the move could spark a price war.

Director quits

TATE & LYLE said Paul Mirsky, the director of its North American sugar business, resigned "to pursue other interests". Mr Mirsky will not be replaced, chief executive Larry Pillard said. The divisions which Mr Mirsky oversaw will now report directly to Mr Pillard.

Hilton go-ahead

HILTON HOTELS, the hotel and casino company which has launched a hostile $10bn (pounds 6.2bn) takeover of ITT Corp said federal antitrust regulators have allowed the bid to proceed. It is now extending its cash offer for 50.1 per cent of ITT for $55 a share to 28 March. It is likely to keep extending the offer until ITT holds its annual meeting at which shareholders can vote on a slate of Hilton-sponsored directors who, if elected, would approve the acquistion. This meeting usually takes place in May but could be delayed to November to frustrate the bid.

ITT owns the Sheraton hotel chain, the Caesars World casinos and half of Madison Square Garden in New York.

Invesco purchase

INVESCO, the investment management company, completed its purchase of the US mutual fund manager Aim Management for $2.2bn. The final price was about $600m higher than originally reported because of the rise in Invesco's share price in recent months. Invesco's shares have jumped 59 per cent since the end of October.

Aim and Invesco will continue to work as separate companies under the holding company Amvesco and will manage more than $160bn.

The merger will rank among the biggest in the asset management industry, along with Franklin Resources purchase of Templeton, Galbraith & Hansberger and Barclays acquisition of Wells Fargo.

Holocaust gesture

THE vice-president of the Swiss National Bank, Bruno Gehrig, said it was willing to contribute to the Holocaust fund set up by the Swiss government, though the final decision lies with parliament.

An independent commission of historians is expected to deliver the first results of its investigation into the role of Switzerland and its banks as a financial centre for Nazi gold during the Second World War and their retention of money belonging to Jewish victims by the end of April.

"If the investigation finds new indications or even new results, the government, in my opinion, won't be able to act passively towards the fund," Mr Gehrig said.

The government has said it will decide on its contribution to the fund after the historians have reported.

Microsoft delay

THE rollout date for Microsoft's Windows NT 5.0, its updated version of the operating system used by businesses and considered more stable than Windows 95, is not likely to be released until early 1998, according to Computer Reseller News, a trade publication. Microsoft said the date for shipping will depend on customer reaction to a test version, which will not be available until late summer. Windows Nt 5.0 had been expected to ship in the second half of this year.

CBS expansion

CBS, the US television network broadcaster announced it will develop news and entertainment programmes in Brazil and Spain to help build the network's brand name outside the US. The company announced the move as it prepares to spin itself off from its parent company Westinghouse. The company said it will concentrate on providing local programmes, including a Portuguese language news service in Brazil.

Intelsat launch

ARIANESPACE, the European space consortium said it successfully launched satellite No 801 for Intelsat early yesterday. Intelsat, the international telecommunications organisation, owns and operates the largest commercial telecommunications satellite network.