The Business Matrix: Friday 18 May 2012


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The Independent Online

The name of the game's bonds...

Sir Sean Connery kicked off trading on the New York Stock Exchange by ringing the market's opening bell yesterday, alongside the University of St Andrews' principal and vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson. The move formed part of the 600th anniversary of the university, of which Sir Sean is an honorary graduate.

Poster firms act after OFT inquiry

The outdoor advertising firms Clear Channel and JCDecaux have made voluntary assurances that will place potential competitors in a stronger position to compete for local authority contracts. The moves follow an investigation into advertising contracts on street furniture such as bus shelters by the Office of Fair Trading.

Icap eyes stake in Plus Markets

Icap, the world's largest interdealer broker, is in talks to buy the stock exchange unit of struggling Plus Markets Group in preparation for new rules that will push more of the broker's business on to exchanges. Analysts said a deal could let Icap get Plus's exchange licence at a cut price.

Power boost for National Grid

National Grid, which has recently submitted a new eight-year plan for £31bn of capital investment in the UK, said profits rose 5 per cent to £2.5bn in the year to March. As well as outperformance in its regulated UK business, it reported improved returns in the US.

Marston's family plan boosts profits

Marston's reported a rise in profits it attributed to its strategy of increasing food sales and targeting family consumers searching for value in a struggling economy. The pub and brewery group saw half-yearly profits rise 15 per cent to£33.5m.

3i names new chief executive

Investors in the strugglingprivate equity firm 3i had some rare cheer as the company stepped up payments to shareholders and chose the chief investment officer Simon Borrows as its new chief executive to replace Michael Queen, who left yesterday. 3i more than doubled the total dividend to 8.1p.

Asda sees its sales grow by 2.2%

Asda, the British arm of the US giant Wal-Mart, said sales growth accelerated in its first quarter and it won market share as a focus on low prices and a revamped own-brands appealed to cash-strapped shoppers. Britain's second-biggest supermarket chain, behind Tesco, said underlying sales rose 2.2 per cent in the first three months of 2012.

TalkTalk shares make a big noise

TalkTalk's shares surged 20 per cent yesterday to 159p, their highest level in a year, after the broadband and telecoms group raised its dividend by almost two thirds. Pre-tax profits more than doubled to £127m in the year to March as it sold more products to customers and reduced the numbers quitting.

Shanks cleans up as profits rise

The waste-management business Shanks said annual profits rose 10 per cent to £39m despite softer volumes and price pressure in some of its markets. Revenues grew by 3 per cent while the company benefited from strategic investments and cost reductions.

Eurozone crisis hurts Kesa sales

Kesa, Europe's No. 3 electricals retailer, said sales declines worsened in its fourth quarter as consumers fretted about fallout from the eurozone debt crisis and its core French business came up against tough digital switchover comparisons.