Report of spinoff boosts SignetShares of Signet Banking...

BUSINESS DIGEST

January 06, 1994

Report of spinoff boosts Signet

Shares of Signet Banking Corp. were up nearly 5 percent yesterday amid speculation that the Richmond, Va., bank holding company may soon announce the sale of a partial interest in its growing credit-card business to the public. Signet shares closed up $1.75, to $37, in active trading.

Thomas Brown, banking analyst at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp., sparked the rise in Signet shares by issuing a report yesterday saying a partial spinoff was near. Mr. Brown said he thinks Signet will soon announce plans to sell as much as a 19 percent stake in the credit-card operation. A spokeswoman for Signet declined to comment.

Blockbuster, Viacom near deal

Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. is "getting close" to clinching an agreement to raise its investment in Viacom Inc. -- a move that could allow Viacom to sweeten its offer for Paramount Communications Inc., an executive close to Blockbuster said.

Viacom could announce as soon as today that it has raised its offer for Paramount, the executive said. More likely, though, Viacom will announce an increased investment from Blockbuster tomorrow and wait until next week to announce its sweetened offer for Paramount, the executive said yesterday.

D.C. bonds underwriting halted

Merrill, Lynch & Co. has temporarily stopped underwriting District of Columbia bonds, pending a District Council review of interest-rate swaps involving Merrill and the city's financial adviser, the company said.

Councilman John Ray has charged that Merrill and Lazard, Freres & Co., the city's financial adviser, profited from the swaps at the District's expense. Merrill Lynch and Lazard had arranged to split swap fees.

Martin gets $163.7 million pact

Martin Marietta Corp. has received a $163.7 million order for three Aegis weapon systems and combat-system support equipment.

The Navy contract also contains options for fiscal 1995 Aegis work ranging from three to five systems. Those options carry a maximum value of $266.5 million. Work is to be done in Moorestown, N.J., by June 1999.

Environmental Elements contracts

Baltimore-based Environmental Elements Corp. said yesterday that it received four air pollution-control system contracts worth about $10 million.

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