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The Business Matrix: Friday 1 July 2011

In & Out club site sold to Reubens

Piccadilly Estate, the former home of the services’ In & Out club, has been bought by the billionaire Reuben brothers, owners of Northern Racing racecourses. The site, formerly owned by family trusts advised by the property tycoon Simon Halabi, was taken over by receivers last year. It was once home to Lord Palmerston.

Green light for BSkyB takeover

Rupert Murdoch took a step closer to taking full control of BSkyB after the Government said it is prepared to accept the satellite broadcaster’s undertakings to hive off Sky News. The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will give his final ruling on the deal next week after extending the consultation for seven days to next Friday. MORE

Ash and snow push Flybe to loss

Flybe has slumped to a loss in maiden annual results but said bookings had improved in recent weeks. The regional airline said passenger numbers were flat at 7.2 million after the year to 31 March was disrupted by Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud and Arctic weather. It made a loss of £4.3m in the year, compared with a £25m profit a year ago.

Mortage drought ‘maybe easing’

Taylor Wimpey has reported a fall in house sales but said there were signs that the mortgage drought may be easing. The housebuilder said the number of homes sold in the first half of 2011 fell 5 per cent to 4,550 as it focused on maximising the value of each sale. This helped the company’s average selling price increase by £2,000 to £170,000.

Novae walks away from Omega

The Lloyd’s of London insurer Novae has ended merger talks with rival Omega, a month after announcing it was eyeing a possible deal. The privately owned insurer Canopius and rival Lloyd’s business Barbican have both also declared an interest in striking a deal with the Bermuda-domiciled Omega.

Costain to deal with waste

The engineering outsourcing firm Costain has won a contract to dispose of nuclear waste at several power plants across the UK. The contract was awarded by Magnox, which is in charge of decommissioning the sites, and has been won through a joint venture with Amec and Jacobs Engineering Group.

Greene King posts tasty figures

Greene King hailed the success of its push into pub dining after its annual revenues soared past £1bn for the first time. The brewer said food sales, which accounted for 60 per cent of total revenues, were driven by its Hungry Horse chain. Revenues rose 6 per cent to £1.04bn while profits hit £117m.

Wetherspoon to open 14 new pubs

JD Wetherspoon, the pubs chain founded in north London in 1979, by Tim Martin, is creating 650 jobs in a £20m expansion involving 14 new pubs, including one in Weston-super-Mare and one in Wellington. The additional outlets, which are due to open in the next month, will take the chain’s estate to 822 pubs.

Debenhams delight

Debenhams managed to sidestep the carnage on the high street this year, with results backed as “outstanding”. The retailer shrugged off fears of a 1 per cent decline in like-for-like sales and lifted them 1.5 per cent. The chief executive Rob Templeman said the group had benefited from strong sales of cosmetics.

Dixons in deal with Carrefour

Dixons’ Pixmania European e-commerce business has signed a deal with the French supermarket giant Carrefour to develop the non-food range it offers over the internet. The Carrefour website will sell an extended product range through Pixmania as well as its existing range.