The Business Matrix: Friday 15 June 2012


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The Independent Online

Statue of Liberty restorer struggles

WS Atkins is struggling as the UK's shaky construction market and delayed rail contracts eat into revenues. The design and engineering giant, whose current projects include the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz Prison, saw UK sales slide 7 per cent to £860m and profits down 16 per cent in the year to 31 March.

OFT boss takes huge pay cut

The Office of Fair Trading's new boss will take up the reins of the watchdog on less than half the salary of his predecessor, it emerged yesterday. New chief executive Clive Maxwell will earn £135,300, well below former boss John Fingleton's £275,000 pay. The OFT is being merged with the Competition Commission by April 2014.

Stockbroker slams watchdog

Charles Stanley is helping clients through the financial crisis without help from regulators. In a swipe at watchdogs, Sir David Howard, Charles Stanley's chairman, said: "There is little evidence that the increasingly intrusive micro-management of investment companies has been successful in staving off some egregious examples of fraud."

WH Smith defies high-street woes

WH Smith cheered investors by delivering growth in margins and an improved sales performance despite the dire trading conditions on the high street. The retailer also said it had returned to shareholders £36m of the £50m share buy-back unveiled last August. The figures cement its reliable reputation in the City under Kate Swann.

Nigeria struggles for PZ Cussons

PZ Cussons, maker of Imperial Leather soap, has warned of weak sales in Greece and Nigeria. It said yesterday: "The trading environment in Greece remains difficult." It added that Nigerian demand had been hit by a national strike and potential buyers having less cash. But UK trading was "robust".

Welsh Water in £1bn spend

The not-for-profit company Welsh Water is to spend £1bn on infrastructure and renewable energy over the next three years, creating around 1,500 construction jobs. The company is improving its treatment works, including rebuilding 22 of them, and will spend more cash on maintaining its networks.

Tesco buys free-to-listen net radio

Tesco has bought a digital music firm backed by the singer Peter Gabriel that provides a free-to-listen, personalised radio service on the internet for £10.8m. The supermarket chain has acquired 91 per cent of WE7 but plans to buy the remainder of the start-up's shares.

Price fears as output limits held

Opec has left oil output limits on hold, powerless to do anything other than hope top producer Saudi Arabia scales back supplies unilaterally soon to stem a $30 slide in prices. Several members of the oil cartel want the Saudis to cut back to help put crude back to $100 a barrel.

Icap raises Plus offer to £500k

Icap, the world's largest inter-dealer broker, has raised its offer for Plus Stock Exchange to £500,000 from a nominal £1 in a last-ditch attempt to win over shareholders before they meet to vote on the deal on Monday.

Coryton workers protest at Leveson

Workers at the the bankrupt Coryton refinery marched to the Leveson Inquiry where the Prime Minister was giving evidence, chanting "we got sold out". They claim bidders plan to make the refinery a storage terminal, with the loss of 900 jobs.