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Bid activity sustained the London stock market last week. South Western Electricity rejected a pounds 1bn offer by the US power utility group Southern Electric, sparking the first contested bid for one of the 12 UK regional electricity companies by an overseas predator. Stockbroker Smith New Court confirmed it was in takeover talks - Merrill Lynch of the US and Germany's Commerzbank are seen as the leading contenders prepared to pay at least pounds 500m. Japanese office equipment maker Ricoh is lining up a pounds 165m bid for UK distributor Gestetner.

Directors at National & Provin- cial recommended acceptance of Abbey National's pounds 1.35bn cash and shares offer. Trinity International paid pounds 328m for Thomson's regional newspaper interests outside Scotland. But merger talks between Medeva and rival drugs group Fison collapsed.

Yeovil-based Westland and McDonnell Douglas of the US won the pounds 2.5bn order to supply the British Army with tank-busting Apache helicopters. Rolls-Royce will supply the engines. Ford unveiled a pounds 500m investment plan to build a new Jaguar car to compete with the BMW 5-series and the Mercedes S-Class.

Ahead of the Greenbury report on executive pay tomorrow, the Labour Party attacked the "pay and share option bonanza" enjoyed by privatised water company chiefs. The Chancellor con- firmed that investments of less than pounds 200,000 in UK gilts would be exempt from capital gains tax.

Monday FINALS: Brasway, Farepak, Sterling Publishing, Unipalm.

Tuesday STATISTICS: PSBR for June. FINALS: AIM Group, Matthew Clark, VHE, St James Beach Hotels, and Coal Investments. INTERIMS: WMI.

Wednesday STATISTICS: Retail sales for June, unemployment (June), average earnings (May). FINALS: Barbour Index, Bucknall, Dale- pak, Eve, First Technology, Medeva, Nobo, Saville Gordon, David S Smith, Vibroplant.

Thursday STATISTICS: M4 money supply for June, building societies' figures (June). FINALS: Southend Property, Stewart & Wright, Tomorrow's Leisure. INTERIMS: Greenwich Resources, Hill & Smith, Holders Technology.

Friday STATISTICS: 2Q GDP (preliminary), non-EC trade (June). FINALS: Wholesale Fittings, AH Ball, Copyright Promotions. INTERIMS: Prospect Industries, Sparco Consulting.