The Business Matrix: Friday 17 June 2011

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Cuts hit profits at WS Atkins

The firm that helped design the Olympic Park has posted a 21 per cent fall in UK profits after government spending cuts hit domestic demand. But WS Atkins, which was also behind the M25 widening, posted a 7.5 per cent increase in annual profits to £119m as the UK was offset by strong showings in the Middle East and US.

Laird leaps after snubbing US bid

Laird has rebuffed a £493m cash offer from the US group Cooper Industries as too low and “opportunistic”. Shares in Laird, which makes electromagnetic shields for laptops, jumped 37 per cent to 188.9p as investors predicted a bid battle could break out that could see offers pass Cooper’s 185p a share approach.

Samsonite falls on Hong Kong debut

Samsonite International, the world’s biggest luggage maker, fell 8 per cent in its debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, underscoring investors’ tepid appetite for initial public offerings as global markets struggle. Samsonite’s slump is the latest in a string of weak Hong Kong IPO performances as China’s growth shows signs of cooling.

IEA warns of need for more oil

The International Energy Agency has warned of the “damaging implications” for the global economy if the Opec oil cartel does not increase production. The IEA, which expects global oil demand to hit 89.3 billion barrels per day this year, also suggested that it could use its own 1.5 billion barrel stockpile to help ease any supply constraints.

US banks battle to avoid new rules

America’s biggest banks took their fight to prevent tougher capital rules to the US Congress yesterday. As bankers warned “excessive capital charges make it more expensive for banks to lend money” and could hobble economic growth, regulators argued for stronger capital rules to protect the financial system.

Apple sued over iBooks brand

Apple is being sued over its iBooks brand of electronic books, by a little New York publisher that has been producing a series called ibooks for more than a decade. The 1,000-title series has been overshadowed and its ibooks brand has been “rendered virtually worthless”, the publisher JT Colby & Co claims.

Call for inquiry into BoI pib swap

Holders of Bristol & West bonds known as “pibs” have called on the Financial Services Authority to investigate what they say are attempts to plunder their savings. Bank of Ireland bought Bristol & West in 2007 and wants the pibs holders – many of them pensioners – to swap their bonds for a fifth of their face value.

HSBC gets leeway over PPI claims

The City watchdog has granted HSBC more time to settle customers’ compensation claims connected to mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) products. These kinds of insurance policies, taken out alongside loans and mortgages, were often sold to consumers who could not have made a claim.

Ad revenues on mobiles to soar

The revenues from advertising on mobile phones are set to more than double this year to $3.3bn (£2bn). Global ad revenues hit $1.6bn in 2010, and the research group Gartner predicts that will rise to $20.6bn – more than 4 per cent of firms’ advertising budgets – in four years, driven by smartphones and tablets.

Vodafone sells share in SFR

The mobile phone giant Vodafone has completed the disposal of its 44 per cent shareholding in the French telecoms company SFR to the entertainment and telecoms firm Vivendi for £6.8bn. The company will retain its commercial co-operation agreement with Vivendi.