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The Business Matrix: Friday 17 January 2014

Thorntons sells to supermarkets

Sales of Thorntons chocolates to supermarkets outstripped sales from its own shops for the first time as the confectionery chain enjoyed a strong Christmas. Wholesale revenues grew by 17.1 per cent to £47.1m in the 14 weeks to 11 January, compared with retail sales, which fell by 2.9 per cent., the company reported yesterday.

Marketing budgets rise

Britain's leading companies have increased their marketing budgets for the fifth consecutive quarter according to the influential Bellwether Report of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. The ad industry trade body said conditions were the best since 2008 and forecast "substantial" revenue growth until 2018.

China hinders Richemont

Richemont, the Cartier-to-Montblanc luxury goods group, renewed fears that China is still an issue for the sector after third-quarter sales missed expectations. Sales were up 3 per cent to €2.94bn but demand for its expensive watches in China waned. However, Burberry yesterday reported a rise in China sales.

Games Workshop profit slumps

Games Workshop's shares crashed by a quarter after a profit slump. The high-street retailer and manufacturer of toy game characters for brands such as Warhammer saw half-year profits drop 30 per cent to £7.7m, with sales down a tenth at £60.5m. The chairman, Tom Kirby, insisted the company would return to growth.

N Brown enjoys strong Christmas

The plus-size fashion retailer N Brown said yesterday it would spend more on international expansion after a strong Christmas saw sales jump. High-street brands Simply Be and Jacamo, endorsed by former England cricketer Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff, performed particularly well.

Co-op inquiry will last a year

Lord Myners' report into how the Co-operative Group should be run in the wake of the near-collapse of its bank could take almost a year to complete. The first phase, focusing on the board, will be published in April but the broader report on strengthening links with members will not appear until late this year.

Spanish lenders offload assets

Spanish banks Bankia and Caixabank have announced stake sales in other companies as lenders bulk up capital ahead of Europe-wide health checks of their balance sheets this year. Bankia said it had put all of it stake in hotel group NH Hoteles up for sale.

Bovis sales up 77 per cent

Bovis Homes has begun 2014 in the strongest position for nearly 20 years, according to chief executive David Ritchie. The housebuilder has sold 1,377 homes for delivery this year, 77 per cent ahead of 12 months ago. The firm is also investing in land, adding 3,737 plots.

Halfords boosted by bicycle sales

Halfords has recorded one of its best Christmas trading performances for several years thanks to extremely strong bicycle sales. The company saw sales jump 5.9 per cent in its stores on a like-for-like basis in the 15 weeks to 10 January.

Slim streamlines stake in Austria

Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim will consolidate his company and family stakes in Telekom Austria, clarifying his position in the eyes of regulators that monitor when stakeholdings become large enough to trigger takeover bids.

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