The Business Matrix: Friday 18 March 2011

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Murdoch sued for ‘nepotism’

Two investors in the media giant News Corp are suing Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the media giant’s board over its deal to buy Elisabeth Murdoch’s TV business, Shine. The lawsuit alleges the deal is “unfairly” priced and reliant on “nepotism”. MORE

Chairman steps down at Macquarie

David Clarke, the chairman of Macquarie, is stepping down because of ill health. Mr Clarke joined the bank in the early 1970s when itwas founded as an Australian subsidiary of London’s Hill Samuel, before becoming Macquaire in 1985.

Belsham signs up to boost Ocado

Ocado, the online grocer which supplies Waitrose and its own-brand groceries, has hired Simon Belsham, an internet director at Tesco, as its head of non-food. Mr Belsham will aim to grow Ocado’s existing non-food ranges, which are currently modest, with products such as tableware, magazines, small toys, gifts and fresh flowers.

Ambani joins board of Bank of America

Bank of America has named Mukesk Ambani, the head of Reliance Industries, as its first non-American board member. Mr Ambani has headed Reliance Industries, a petrochemical company that is India's largest private business with $44.6bn in annual revenues, since 2002.

Greece jobless rate hits record high

Greece’s unemployment rate rose to 14.2 per cent in the last quarter of 2010 – the highest level since the introduction of the euro, up from 12.4 per cent in the previous three-month period as economic activity slumped. Almost half of the country’s jobless have been out of work for more than a year.

Spain gets debt auction away

Spain sold €4.1bn (£3.6bn) of long-term debt yesterday, buoyed by a surprise agreement by European leaders on a regional rescue plan last weekend, though borrowing costs remained high. It has also been less affected by a flight to safety since Japan’s earthquake than Portugal, where politicans are arguing over austerity plans.

L&G reports strong year

Legal & General proclaimed its results for 2010 “excellent” and said it stood to benefit from the Government’s austerity measures as more people look to save. Profits from savings products rose 130 per cent to £115m on increased demand for private pensions. However, L&G’s UK general insurance business made a loss of £8m after December’s snow caused a spike in claims. Group profits for 2010 were up 2 per cent at £1.1bn.

Savills resilient to housing downturn

The upmarket estate agent Savills has reported a near doubling in profits to £47m as prime properties in central London proved resilient to the housing downturn. Savills said the residential market in London and the Home Counties slowed in the second half of the year as the best properties reached their pre-recession peaks. The market is likely to remain slow in the first half of 2011 although it should pick up in the second half.

New £51m fund to boost research

The Government has unveiled a £51m investment package to boost manufacturing research. The Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said the aim was to stimulate growth through research in areas such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and the automotive industry. About £45m will fund nine centres for innovative manufacturing at universities including Cranfield and Nottingham.

Lloyds to cut another 570 jobs

Lloyds is to axe another 570 jobs and outsource more than 560 posts. The jobs will be lost from the group's wholesale, retail, insurance and human resources divisions, affecting areas such as Chester (140 jobs), Scotland (90), Halifax (85), London (50) and Manchester (50). The cuts take the total number of jobs lost since Lloyds merged with TSB two years ago to more than 26,700.

‘New York Times’, they are a-charging

The New York Times has started to charge readers for access to its website. The paper, one of the most influential in the US, said it would limit readers to 20 articles a month, after which they would have to pay a subscription fee of at least $15 (£9). It estimates 85 per cent of visitors to the site will not be asked to pay.

‘Telegraph’ profits rise by 11 per cent

Telegraph Media Group (TMG), the company that publishes The Telegraph newspaper, scored a profits rise of 11 per cent last year. The group filed its accounts with Companies House yesterday, showing a rise in pre-tax profits from £53m in 2009 to £58.9m a year later. Turnover was up 2.1 per cent to £323.8m.

Heritage shares up after bid rejection

Heritage Oil jumped 8 per cent yesterday after the exploration company reportedly rejected a £1.2bn bid from an Abu Dhabi-based suitor. The company’s shares have fallen by about one third since it revealed in January that it had found gas rather than oil at its Miran West field in Kurdistan.

Wood Group signs Australian deal

The oil, gas and mining specialist Wood Group, based in Aberdeen, has signed a five-year agreement with Australia’s largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining, to provide services for its power stations – a 138MW gas/diesel plant and a 13MW diesel plant – at Newcrest’s Telfer Gold Mine, in Pilbara, Western Australia.