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A great deal and you can't really lose; Questions of Cash.

Byline: with Tony Hetherington

What is your opinion of the guaranteed property bond offered by the Newcastle Building Society?

G.G., Helsby I like this bond, though that doesn't mean it is suitable for everyone of course.

The minimum investment is pounds 5,000, and your cash is tied up for at least three years. Everything is aimed at growth, and you get no dividends or interest.

That's the downside, now for the upside. Your money is linked to the Halifax House Price Index.

After three years, you can withdraw your cash, plus profits equal to any rise in the index. Leave your money a further two years, and the Newcastle (0191 244 2442) will pay you 120 per cent of any rise.

Best of all, you can't lose. If house prices fall, the worst that can happen is that you get your own money back, with no profit.

One point to bear in mind is that profits are taxable, so invest the maximum permitted pounds 3,000 per person via a tax-free Isa. And if you are married, invest any surplus in the name of the partner with the lower tax rate.

I have unwittingly come into a few shares in Syngenta, through my shareholding in ICI. However, tax seems to be withheld by the Swiss authorities and reclaiming it does not seem simple.

Should I dispose of them?

R.K.D.M., Mold When big companies hive off bits of their corporate empire, it can spell trouble for the small investor.

ICI spun off its Zeneca pharmaceuticals business, which then merged with the Swedish company Astra to form Astra Zeneca. This in turn has formed a new company - Swiss-based Syngenta - by merging its agrochemical activities with those of yet another company, Novartis, which itself resulted from the merger of Ciba and Sandoz!

On practical grounds, rather than taking an investment view, I would ditch your Syngenta shares. Tiny holdings of foreign shares are frequently more trouble than they are worth.

I have a Tessa with the Norwich & Peterborough Building Society. After hearing on a TV programme that savers were being compensated if their building society paid less on Tessa savings than on its Isas, I asked whether this applied to me but the society said no.

Mrs S.B., Wavertree Last year the Building Societies Ombudsman ruled that the society did at one time pay less interest on Tessas than on its new Isas, and that this was unfair.

However, the society has hit back, saying that the two accounts had different terms which meant they were not comparable.

The bottom line is that a court will decide who isright. No date has yet been set for the hearing, but Norwich & Peterborough boss Matthew Bullock has pledged that if the court says so, he will compensate all the 53,000 investors affected, and not just the one who originally complained! The average payout would be pounds 55.

Last December you wrote about a stakeholder pension scheme run by advisers Wentworth Rose. Are there any similar schemes from major firms?

J.S., Caernarfon It is worth repeating the details because this really is a neat scheme! It works for anyone over 50, and offers a low-risk, high yield investment for life.

You pay the maximum pounds 2,808 into a stakeholder pension plan. Tax reliefs from the government top this up to pounds 3,600. You then say you want your pension at once, with the maximum pounds 900 as tax-free cash.

The remaining pounds 2,800 goes into an immediate annuity which lasts for the rest of your life. The yield depends on your age - the older the better.

Youngsters of 50 should be able to get 6 per cent or so. At 65, you get comfortably more than 8 per cent. And so on.

And yes, after I wrote about Wentworth Rose, a local independent financial adviser helpfully tipped me off that Norwich Union and Legal & General offer the same package.

Any financial adviser can set up the paperwork for you.

My husband and I have just returned from holiday to find a letter waiting for us about the takeover of Innogy. As shareholders, we are offered pounds 2.75 per share. What do you think of this?

Mrs P.W., Holyhead Innogy is better known to the public as NPower, Britain's biggest electricity supplier and sponsors of the TV show The Bill.

The bid from German company RWE has already won the backing of Innogy bosses and most investors. Accept it. It gives a decent profit over the 160p at which the shares were launched, and any takeover victor is legally entitled to mop up small dissenting shareholdings. Holding out would just delay your payment.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 6, 2002
Previous Article:Take a stake in your future; Stakeholder pensions have failed to catch on. Jane Hall reports.
Next Article:Rugby Union: CHESHIRE STORM HOME.

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