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The Business Matrix: Friday 09 December 2011



Firms fined for fixing prices

France's competition authority has fined Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel and Procter & Gamble a total of £309m for fixing prices of washing powder in France from 1997 to 2004. Unilever escaped a fine because it reported the wrongdoing, the regulator said. Secret talks on pricing took place in hotels and restaurants, the regulator added.

HSBC to take on all burdens of NHFA

HSBC has agreed to take responsibility for all customers of the disgraced care fees adviser NHFA – even those from before the bank bought the company in 2005. It is writing to NHFA customers from April 2004 but people who dealt with the firm earlier should email NHFA@hsbc.com or write to NHFA, HSBC Bank, PO Box 1888, Coventry, CV3 9WN.

Ford brings back dividend payouts

Ford Motor Company has reinstated a dividend for the first time in five years, with a 5 cents per share payout that the US car giant said it could sustain during a future downturn. The payout will also benefit the group's executives and the founding Ford family, who between them hold 40 per cent of the voting stock.

China deal gives Astra a boost

AstraZeneca is buying Guangdong Beikang Pharmaceutical, a Chinese generic drugs manufacturer, as it seeks to increase its clout in the country's growing pharamaceuticals market. The terms of the deal were not revealed, but it will strengthen Astra's position as the second biggest foreign drugs firm (behind Pfizer) in the country.

US jobless claims at nine-month low

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a nine-month low last week, stoking hopes of a labour market recovery in the world's largest economy. Initial claims for benefits fell by 23,000 to 381,000, the US Labour Department said yesterday.

Chinese buy uranium miner

Kalahari Minerals, the AIM-listed, Namibia-focused uranium, gold and copper producer has agreed to be taken over by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp (CGNPC) for £632m. In a purchase that will boost China's efforts to meet its growing energy needs, CGNPC will pay 243.55p a share for Kalahari.

Schroders cancels Walbrook move

Schroders has made an 11th-hour decision to shelve a move into one of London's largest empty developments as a result of the global financial crisis. The wealth manager had planned to occupy up to 250,000 sq ft in the Walbrook building in the City of London but has decided to stay at nearby Gresham Street for now.

Arnault to buy up Bond St shops

France's richest man and LVMH's chief executive, Bernard Arnault, is in talks to buy three stores on London's most expensive shopping street for £300m. The shops include LVMH's Louis Vuitton flagship store at 17-20 New Bond Street, plus stores let to the bag retailer Coach and stationer Smythson.

Letter bomb sent to Ackermann

An envelope sent to one of the world's most prominent bankers contained a live letter bomb, German authorities said yesterday. The package, addressed to the Deutsche Bank chief executive, Josef Ackermann, was sent to the lender's headquarters in Frankfurt. No one has claimed responsibility for the device.

Fidelity calls in Jeremy Podger

Fidelity is to replace Jorma Korhonen, who took over the global part of Anthony Bolton's £6bn Special Situations fund five years ago, with Jeremy Podger, the head of global equities at Threadneedle. Mr Podger ran the £737m Global Select fund and the £8m Global Extended Alpha fund at Threadneedle.