The Business Matrix: Friday 11 March 2011

US searches Google for top job

The US government is considering Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the internet search engine Google, to fill the post of Commerce Secretary when Gary Locke takes up his new role as US ambassador to China. MORE

Santander chief given jail sentence

Banco Santander’s chief executive, Alfredo Saenz, 68, has been handed a jail term and barred for working as a banker for three months after being found guilty of making false charges against debtors in 1994. His appeal is expected to take up to four years.

Kazuo Hirai to lead new Sony division

Sony has named Kazuo Hirai as head of a new consumer products division, in a shake-up of its electronics business that anoints Mr Hirai as a successor to its chief executive, Sir Howard Stringer. Mr Hirai has overseen the recovery in Sony’s games business.

Goodwin ‘injunction’ revealed by MP

Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, has obtained a “super-injunction” preventing him being identified as a banker, according to an MP who used parliamentary privelege to name Sir Fred, thus allowing the existence of the injunction to be reported.

Rovio raises $42m in expansion bid

Rovio, the app developer behind Angry Birds, has raised $42m (£26m) as it seeks to expand. The Finnish group yesterday revealed that venture capital firms Accel Partners and Atomico Ventures led the funding round. Niklas Zennstrom, of Atomico, who cofounded Skype, is to join the board.

Kinect is fastest selling gadget ever

Microsoft has sold more than 10 million Kinect motion-sensing game system units worldwide in just over four months, making it the fastest-selling consumer device on record. The infrared camera add-on for the Xbox games console, costing about £100, helped to boost Microsoft’s revenue in the last quarter. MORE

Groupola censured for iPhone offer

The Office of Fair Trading has censured an online discount company after thousands signed up for a “misleading” iPhone promotion when it had just eight handsets to offer. Markco Media promoted a sale of the iPhone 4 for just £99, a fifth of the normal retail price, to entice consumers to sign up to the Groupola site shortly after the smartphones went on sale. The OFT said the “bait-pricing” offer was “misleading”.

AOL axes 20 per cent of workforce

AOL is cutting more than 900 jobs, or 20 per cent of its global workforce, as it struggles to catch up with Google and Facebook. The company, which employs 5,000 staff, will cut about 400 jobs in India, outsource another 300 there, and eliminate 200 jobs in the US. The cuts come two days after AOL completed its acquisition of The Huffington Post news and commentary website for $315m (£195m).

Profits boost for Standard Life

Better appetite for long-term saving in the UK has helped Standard Life post a hike in annual profits. The insurer said positive trends, as well as upcoming regulatory changes, were boosting its UK business as investor demand continues to recover following the financial crisis. UK operating profits rose 5 per cent to £234m in 2010. Its results also reflected efforts to cut costs, including 600 UKjob losses last autumn.

US trade gap soars as imports surge

The US trade deficit widened much more than expected in January as surging imports of oil, capital goods and cars overpowered record exports in a sign of strengthening domestic demand. The trade gap grew by 15.1 per cent to $46.3bn, as the shortfall in trade with China, a sore point in the US, rose 12.5 per cent to $23.3bn. The data prompted some economists to shave about half a point off first-quarter growth predictions.

OFT guidelines on debt collection

The Office of Fair Trading is drawing up new debt collection guidelines that aim to stamp out unfair practices. The OFT also stressed the responsibility creditors had to ensure that the information they passed on to debt collection agencies and firms that buy debt was accurate.

Pawnbroker’s profits surge

H&T Group, which runs Gold Bar jewellery outlets, has reported a 38 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £25.5m and said it was the UK’s first pawnbroker to secure a pledge book of more than £40m. Growth has been supported by the higher gold price and new stores, with another 14 sites due to open this year.

AstraZeneca in $68.5m settlement

The drugs giant AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $68.5m (£42.7m) to settle allegations of unfair and misleading marketing practices related to its antipsychotic drug Seroquel in the US. The agreement is the biggest multi-state consumer protection-related pharmaceutical settlement.

GlaxoSmithKline gets boost from US

Shares in GlaxoSmithKline rose after the US approved Benlysta, the first new treatment for lupus in a half-century. Health officials cleared Benlysta, discovered by Human Genome Sciences and codeveloped by the UK drugs giant GSK, to combat the disease that causes the immune system to attack joints and organs.