City&FinanceBriefing London Lite Wednesday, 8 July 2009 33 Inbrief 3i cuts down on investments l NEW investments have been slashed by venture-capital house 3i, which also admitted its ability to profitably exit from previous investments is sharply down. Chief executive Michael Queen said private-equity firms are operating in a fragile environment. For the quarter to the end of June, new investments fell more than 80% to 76 million from 328 million. Bookers sales in bounceback l SIGNS of life in the beleaguered retail sector emerged today when wholesaler Booker unveiled a jump in sales. The cash-and-carry retailer, which supplies thousands of UK convenience stores, grocers and pubs with stock, today said that sales in the first quarter of the year increased by 7.8%, much better than it expected two months ago. Ashley stirs up JJB loan row l MIKE AShlEy looks set to crank up the row over his controversial 1.5 million loan to JJBs executive chairman Sir David Jones. Ashley runs Sports Direct, JJBs arch-rival. JJB has said there is no conflict of interest because the loan was taken out before Jones joined JJB. But Ashley claims Jones asked for the loan on or around 3 October, 2007, two days after he joined. Meriwether set to close fund l WAll STREET legend John Meriwether, who has twice been involved in trading scandals -- at Salomon Brothers and later at long Term Capital Management (lTCM) -- is shutting his hedge fund. he set up JWM Partners following the collapse of lTCM in the 1990s. his Relative Value Opportunity fund is down 44% in the last two years. Australia Dollars 1.9285 Canada Dollars 1.7926 Denmark Kroner 8.2318 Eurozone Euro 1.1089 Hong Kong Dollars 11.9100 Japan Yen 146.5900 New Zealand Dollars 2.3792 South Africa Rand 12.0600 Sweden Kronor 12.1700 Switzerland Francs 1.6797 UAE Dirham 5.5783 United States Dollars 1.5457 TourisT rATes DOWN 12.59 at 4174.41 fTse 100 dow Jones nikkei -$ DOWN 161.27 at 8163.60 DOWN 227.04 at 9420.75 DOWN 0.46c at $1.6093 >>for all the latest City share prices, call 0905 817 1694* or visit * Calls cost 75p/min from a BT landline & last approx 1 min per quote. not all stocks are available Britain, france in oil plea Prime minister Gordon Brown and French president Nicolas Sarkozy today demanded a new investigation into how much speculators have been responsible for wild gyrations in world oil prices over the past two years. Governments can no longer stand by, they argued. They said oil prices, which have surged between $35 and $147 a barrel in the past 24 months, defied the accepted rules of economics and could undermine confidence. New dip in house prices HOUSE prices slipped last month as signs of a recovery in the market faded. Figures from the Halifax show house prices fell 0.5% in June after a 2.6% rise in May. That takes the year-on-year house price fall to 15%. Analysts it is wrong to draw too many conclusions from one months figures. Howard Archer of Global Insight said of todays numbers: We certainly do not think that we are now at the start of a renewed sharp upward trend. While buyer interest has clearly picked up in recent months, this is only slowly translating into increased house sales. Economists warn many still find it hard to get mortgages as banks remain reluctant to lend. First time buyers in particular are struggling to arrange finance. Halifax chief economist Martin Ellis claims the market is getting better. He said: There are further indications of a modest improvement in activity, albeit at a very low level. sobering blow for french wine as its shunned by Brits For centuries if Britons drank wine, the chances were it was French, excepting the occasional bottle of Liebfraumilch or Chi- anti. But having been overtaken by Australia in 2004 and the US last year, France has suffered the humiliation of sinking to fifth place in British wine drinkers affections. Latest market figures from analysts Nielsen show drinkers prefer reds, whites and ross from italy and South Africa, which has only exported to Britain since the end of apart- heid in the mid-Nineties, to those from the traditional home of wine. With demand for Chilean wine rising fast, France could even slump into sixth. Wine experts said France had been hit by high costs in its small vineyards, the strength of the euro, damaging disputes between its 21 wine regions and changing tastes in the recession. The country has seen the mass vin de table market virtually wiped out by the influx of cheap wines from the New World. British retailers and importers, including Tesco and morrisons, have even clubbed together to advise the French government on how to improve the image of its wine. BY JONATHAN PRYNN Off-trade wine sales by volume in the UK (cases sold in three months to 13 June) 1. Australia 4.7 m 2. USA 3.4m 3. Italy 3.2m 4. South Africa 2.9m 5. France 2.8m Source: Nielsen Top selling brands in the UK 1. Hardys Australia 2. Gallo USA 3. Blossom Hill USA 4. Jacobs Creek Australia 5. Stowells Various 6. Wolf Blass Australia 7. Lindemans Australia 8. Kumala S Africa 9. Banrock Station Australia 10. Echo Falls USA Source: Off Licence News THe nATions fAVouriTe TiPPLes Pricey: French wine is seen as too expensive index.html2.html3.html4.html5.html6.html7.html8.html9.html10.html11.html12.html13.html14.html15.html16.html17.html18.html19.html20.html21.html22.html23.html24.html25.html26.html27.html28.html29.html30.html31.html32.html33.html34.html35.html36.html37.html38.html39.html