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The Business Matrix: Friday 1 March 2013

BAT delivers smoking profits

Booming sales of Lucky Strike in western Europe and Latin America were behind an 8 per cent rise in operating profits at cigarette giant British American Tobacco. Sales of its top four brands – Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall – rose by 3 per cent last year, but Lucky Strike posted growth of 11 per cent.

Tough conditions hit Hays hard

A slump in Asia's job market and lower recruitment in Australia as mining projects were put on hold sent Hays' pre-tax profit down 6 per cent to £56.7m in the last six months of 2012. In the UK, the recruiter shut five offices between June and December, reducing the total number to 105. It described domestic trading conditions as "challenging".

Severfield-Rowen issues cash call

Steelwork company Severfield-Rowen, which has worked on projects such as the Olympic velodrome, pictured, has unveiled a rights issue to raise nearly £50m following a "very difficult" 2012. The group, which parted company with its chief executive Tom Haughey in January, last month posted a pre-tax loss of £23m last year.

02 dials up rival-beating growth

Britain's second-biggest mobile network, O2, claimed to have regained the initiative in the battle of the phone giants yesterday as it won more customers than rivals EE and Vodafone in the last three months of 2012.

O2 picked up 381,000 customers, adding an extra 282,000 on contract and 99,000 on pre-pay to take the total to 22.9m.

Government spend lifts Capita

A series of public-service contract wins helped the outsourcing giant Capita increase its profits last year. Pre-tax profits rose 10 per cent to £425.6m as it extended a £30m-a-year tie-up with the Government to help train civil servants. Capita sees opportunities in defence, health, justice and emergency services.

Storms ahead forecasts Jupiter

Edward Bonham Carter, the chief executive of the retail-fund manager Jupiter, sees another bumpy year ahead for investors. "The central case is that there is still weak economic growth in the West but more sinuous growth in the East as we go through the Year of the Snake," said Mr Bonham Carter.

Japan's PM eyes economy stimulus

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paved the way for more aggressive action to spur the nation's struggling economy yesterday as he chose dovish Haruhiko Kuroda as the Bank of Japan's new governor. Mr Kuroda has been a a critic of the central bank.

Reed delivers leap in full-year profits

Academic and business information giant Reed Elsevier saw annual, pre-tax profit leap by a quarter to £1.18bn on sales of £6.11bn. The Anglo-Dutch group generates 80 per cent of turnover from digital and events after cutting print. Reed is performing ahead of rival Pearson.

Marsh & Parsons set for growth

The owner of London estate agent Marsh & Parsons said it planned to expand the chain yesterday as it unveiled an 11 per cent rise in profits to £32.5m for 2012. LSL Property Services said Marsh & Parsons is a "major platform for growth".

London gorges on sky-high rents

Rents are surging in London's Covent Garden amid an influx of fashionable new eateries and huge demand from retailers, landlord Capital & Counties said yesterday. Upmarket restaurant Balthazar is fully booked until the end of March.

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