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Business: News In Brief

Monday, June 21, 1999 Published at 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK

NatWest bids for Bradford & Bingley

National Westminster Bank reportedly plans to buy Bradford & Bingley Building Society, after the society's members recently voted to cash in and convert to a company.

According to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, NatWest is said to have offered more than 2.5bn. The preliminary approach was described as "casting a fly" by a close observer.

When B&B's members decided to turn their society into a bank, analysts had expected that bigger financial institutions would soon line up with their takeover bids.

Seagrams sells champagne

The drinks giant Seagrams has sold its champagne brands.

Dallas-based investment house Hicks Muse Furst & Tate has bought the rights to Mumm and Perrier-Jouet, the world's third most popular brand of champagne, for $310m.

It now says it is looking for further champagne acquisitions in Europe.

The company also owns global brands like Ghirardelli chocolates and Dr Pepper.

First Leisure in sell-off talks

First Leisure is in talks with a number of firms keen on its 10-pin bowling, nightclubs and bars divisions.

The group wants to focus on its core health and fitness clubs.

First Leisure could not confirm which companies had made offers, but Allied Leisure and Bass have both been tipped to bid.

The division, which includes 26 bowling alleys, Trecco Bay caravan park in Wales and Snowdome indoor ski-slope in Tamworth Low had been hit by low consumer demand and sales had dipped 6% to 26.3 million for the half year.

First Leisure's core health and fitness division was in good shape and maintaining its expansion, it said.

The healthy demand helped push pre-tax profits for the six months to April 30 to 16.1m, up from 14.8m.

First Leisure had been in talks earlier in the year to merge its health and fitness operations with rival Cannons Group.

Brown says euro tests not met

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has told the House of Commons that the government's economic tests for joining the euro, the single currency for 11 EU countries, have not yet been met.

But he said that the government's policy of joining if it was in Britain's economic interest to do so was unchanged.

"It is clear that at this stage convergence and the euro tests are not being met," he said.

But the government would not be "taking irrevocable decisions before all the facts are with us."

He insisted that the UK was leading the way in the EU, pushing for reform of labour, capital and product markets to make Europe more competitive.

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