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The Business Matrix: Friday 11 April 2014

Buggy wars affect Mothercare profit

Buggy price wars and tumbling foreign currencies have not helped Mothercare since its January profit warning, but it has seen signs of improvement in trading in its final quarter. UK shops, which make up 70 per cent of the group’s sales, saw revenues decline by only 0.3 per cent in the 12 weeks to the end of March.

Nasdaq’s fall is worst since 2011

The hi-tech dominated US Nasdaq stock market suffered its worse day since 2011 yesterday, falling more than 3 per cent as investors sold off biotech stocks. Analysts said that, after a strong run in riskier technology stocks,  investors were looking to move into safe havens as the US results season gets under way.

WHS puts faith in economy drive

WH Smith boss Stephen Clarke today defended his strategy of cutting costs to drive profit while suffering yet another fall in sales. The bookseller and stationer posted a 3 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £69m for the six months to the end  of February, despite total sales at the retailer falling 4 per cent to £613m.

Mortgage lending up for first timers

First-time buyers gained another leg-up onto the property ladder in February as banks and building societies offered them 22,200 loans – a 41 per cent rise on February 2013, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Its figures showed first-time buyers received £3.1bn in mortgages, up 55 per cent on a year earlier.

Ashmore suffers more withdrawals

Investors pulled $5.2bn (£3.1bn) out of emerging markets fund manager Ashmore in the first three months of the year, in a second successive quarter of withdrawals. Chief executive Mark Coombs said uncertainty over emerging markets had “stimulated nervousness and weaker sentiment”.

Condoleezza Rice joins DropBox

Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, has joined the board of cloud file-storage business DropBox. The firm’s investors include rock band Pearl Jam, whose hatred of George Bush and his administration led singer Eddie Vedder to impale a mask of Bush on a microphone stand at a concert.

Saga gets in shape for spring float

Saga, the over-50s consumer and financial services business, is undertaking a £1.4bn refinancing to get its debt in better shape and pave the way for a possible stock market flotation, banking sources told Reuters. The private equity-owned business could list as soon as May.

Fastjet taps investors for £15m 

The start-up African budget airline Fastjet is looking raise £15m by selling new shares worth more than its existing share capital. Investors, including Sir Stelios Haji-Iannou, have already agreed to buy £11m in the airline, which said losses would widen to £28m.

AO World to sell TVs to hit targets

Shares in the online appliances seller AO World dropped 2.5p  to 280p yesterday, still below the 285p offer price it floated at in February, even though the company said it was on track to hit profit targets this year and plans to sell goods such as TVs.

Court stops direct flights to New York

An Italian court has ruled that Emirates EMIRA.UL cannot operate flights directly between Milan Malpensa airport and New York, upholding a legal challenge brought against the Gulf airline by the Italian carrier association Assaereo.

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