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The Business Matrix: Friday 1 April 2011

Edward Stobart, haulage king, dies

Edward Stobart, who built up and ran the haulage empire founded by his father Eddie, has died, aged 56. Mr Stobart, who sold the business to his brother William in 2004, suffered “heart problems” on Wednesday and died yesterday morning in hospital. MORE

Nadir trial put off until January 2012

The trial of Asil Nadir, who returned to the UK last year to face charges related to the collapse of his Polly Peck business empire in 1990, has been put off to next year. Mr Nadir, 69, was due to be tried in October, A new trial date of 10 January 2012 has been set.

Sechin told to resign as Rosneft chairman

Igor Sechin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, must resign as chairman of the oil giant Rosneft, the Kremlin said, after Russia’s president ordered ministers off the boards of state firms. The finance minister will also have to quit VTB bank, while the transport minister will have to leave Aeroflot’s board.

Acer chief executive quits abruptly

Acer, the world’s second largest PC seller, has unexpectedly replaced its chief executive Gianfranco Lanci. Mr Lanci will leave the Taiwanese company immediately, due to differences over the strategy needed to counter the tablet market. Acer’s chairman will take over in an acting capacity.

Oddbins faces administration

Oddbins, the wine retailer, is expected to collapse into administration on Monday after HM Revenue & Customs decided not to support an insolvency procedure to close 39 of its stores yesterday. The chain owes HMRC £8.6m, but suitors may try to buy part, or all, of the business after Monday.

Booker expects refreshing profits

The food and drink wholesaler Booker said it expects full-year profits to be in line with its expectations after a 4.4 per cent increase in like-for-like sales in its final quarter. Its “fresh” department did particularly well, with sales of fruit and vegetables up 52 per cent in the 12 weeks to 25 March, Booker said.

Ofcom looks to cut broadband prices

The communications watchdog Ofcom has called on BT to cut wholesale broadband and landline prices, but insiders at the telecoms giant said it was too early to tell whether the difference will be passed on to customers. The regulator yesterday opened its consultation for new prices on BT’s Openreach and Wholesale line rental arms. It sets the prices because BT Openreach is seen to have “significant market power”.

German jobless level at 20-year low

German unemployment fell sharply for a second month in March, pushing the jobless rate down to 7.1 per cent, its lowest level since figures for a unified Germany were first published two decades ago. The German government used a number of job boosting schemes to cushion the blow from a record economic contraction in 2009. The measures helped Germany outperform its peers at the height of the financial crisis.

Compass serves up some tasty profits

Compass, the world’s biggest caterer, expects to report higher full-year profits as new business and price rises help offset food price inflation and help complement growth from acquisitions. The company, which feeds office workers and members of the armed forces, and cooks school lunches, said it expected to post a 9.5 per cent rise in revenues for the first six months of its year.

Hint of North Sea tax compromise

The Government has given the first signs of rowing back on plans to raise taxes on North Sea oil and gas, causing a furore in the industry. In the first meeting with ministers since the last week’s Budget, oil and gas companies listed a string of objections. Sources at the meeting said Government representatives, including Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, hinted at room to manoeuvre.

Dunkin’ Brands eyes $500m IPO

Dunkin’ Brands, the private equity backed parent of Dunkin’ Donuts and the ice-cream seller Baskin’ Robbins, is believed to be considering an initial public offering of about $500m in the second half of 2011. The US group was taken private in 2005 for $2.4bn by Bain Capital, Carlyle and Thomas H Lee Partners.

Topaz Energy shelves listing

Oman-listed Renaissance Services has pulled the $500m initial public offering in London of its oil field services unit Topaz, amid valuation concerns and growing regional unrest. Topaz – one of the biggest oil services companies in the Middle East – launched its IPO last month with a price range valuing the firm at up to $1.9bn.

Dairy Crest looks to save £20m

Cathedral City and Utterly Butterly firm Dairy Crest said it was taking action to save £20m to offset soaring input costs and was also increasing prices. The Surrey-based group added that a strong performance from its cheese business would compensate for more challenging trading in the spreads and dairies units.

Wiseman increases milk prices

Robert Wiseman said it will be putting up milk prices from today. The Glasgow-headquartered dairy group said it would increase the cost of milk by 2p to 26.72p a litre, its second price increase in two months. The company added it expects turnover and underlying profit to be in line with previous expectations.

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