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The Business Matrix: Friday 03 February 2012


Basketball strike costs Compass

The 149-day strike by US basketball stars last autumn disrupted more than just the NBA season – Compass, the caterer, yesterday admitted the lockdown would cost it £30m this year. The firm, which is cooking at the O2 Arena, Wembley Arena, Wimbledon, ExCeL and Earls Court for this year's Olympics, had contracts at 21 of the 30 NBA stadiums.

Unilever looks to emerging markets

Unilever is pinning its hopes on the growing middle classes in Asia, Africa and Latin America as the maker of Dove soap and Magnum ice cream warned that this year would be tough. "Consumer demand remains sluggish, and even in emerging markets there are signs of softening," said Paul Polman, the firm's chief executive.

Hip, hip hooray for Smith & Nephew

The global economy must be on the up: people are buying more artificial knees and hips. Smith & Nephew, Europe's biggest supplier of replacement joints, which suffered in the recession as patients feared taking time off for operations, saw revenues rise by 4 per cent in 2011 to £2.7bn. But pre-tax profit fell 4 per cent to £607m.

Ackermann bows out on a downer

Deutsche Bank, Germany's largest bank, saw its profits fall 70 per cent in the final quarter of 2011, meaning its retiring chief executive Josef Ackermann bowed out on a distinctly downbeat note. He chose to highlight the 86 per cent rise in full-year profits to €4.3bn (£3.6bn).

GPE rallies amid economic gloom

Property developer Great Portland Estates is bucking a gloomy economic backdrop as the worst shortage of space in 20 years buoys rents in London. GPE is charging rents more than 3 per cent above March valuations. Its portfolio value is up to £1.18bn.

Lloyds pledge on branch closures

Lloyds Banking Group has vowed to maintain the number of branches it runs in the UK for at least the next three years.

It also promised not to close any branch if it is the last bank left in a community. Lloyds – 42 per cent owned by the taxpayer – has 2,902 branches in Britain, but is in talks to sell 632 of them to the Co-operative Bank.

Irish enjoy big cut to budget deficit

Ireland's budget deficit shrank 18 per cent in January compared with a year earlier after delayed corporation tax receipts came in. But it warned the slowdown in the global economy could jeopardise its hopes of shrinking the deficit from 10.1 per cent to the EU/IMF bailout demand of 8.6 per cent of GDP. The January deficit was €394m (£328m).

Quintain lettings making progress

Wembley developer Quintain has made further progress with lettings at its London Designer Outlet, which mixes high street names and designers with independents. Quintain, which has signed up Gap, Nike and Marks & Spencer, has attracted tenants accounting for 45 per cent of rent, up from 39 per cent in November.

January boost for Lansdowne

Hedge fund Lansdowne Partners, famed for making huge profits shorting banking stocksduring the financial crisis, before making huge losses when some bets went sour, said its flagship UK fund returned 5.7 per cent in January. That compared with 1.7 per cent average of its peers.

Italians push for Profumo tax trial

Italian prosecutors want to bring to trial the former boss of Unicredit over an alleged tax fraud using financial instruments provided by Barclays. Alessandro Profumo, who denies wrongdoing, and 19 others, including three from Barclays, are under investigation.