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The Business Matrix: Friday 22 April 2011

McGeorge takes on New Look

The fashion chain New Look has named the former boss of Matalan, Alistair McGeorge as its executive chairman. His hiring from 3 May follows the departure of New Look’s chairman, John Gildersleeve, and its chief executive, Carl McPhail.

John Lewis boss earns £950,000

The chief executive of John Lewis Partnership, Charlie Mayfield pocketed £950,000 last year after the owner of Waitrose and the John Lewis department stores recorded record profits. His pay packet, including a £142,000 bonus,was up 9.4 per cent.

US lawyer heads oil market probe

The US Attorney-General Eric Holder is picking a team to root out fraud and manipulation in oil markets that might contribute to higher US petrol prices. A gallon of petrol is $3.84 (£2.37) in the US, up nearly a dollar on a year ago (a US gallon is 0.83 of a UK gallon).

Buffett covers AIG’s insurance

Warren Buffett, the veteran US investor is taking on AIG’s asbestos risks after the insurer was hit by spiralling asbestos-related claims last quarter. AIG will pay Mr Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway $1.65bn (£1bn) to cover it for claims totalling up to $3.5bn.

Mattel surrenders Bratz dolls claim

Mattel, the US toy giant behind Barbie, after waging a seven-year legalwar against a tiny California company, swallowed a surprise defeat last night after a US jury decided MGA is the rightful owner of the once-billion dollar line of pouty-lipped Bratz dolls. Mattel had argued MGA stole its designs by poaching a key employee.

New venue adds to Park Plaza sales

Hotel chain Park Plaza reported a 132 per cent rise in underlying earnings to €37.6m (£33m) in the year to 31 December, beating management expectations. Sales were boosted by the opening of its new flagship London hotel.

Cost conscious boost McDonald’s

McDonald’s said it saw its busiest weekend on record in the UK last month as cost-conscious families searched for cheap deals. The fast-food giant notched up its 20th consecutive quarter of growth in the UK over the three months up to March as it served 25 million more customers than the same period last year. McDonald’s said the last weekend of March was its best yet in the UK, with 12 million customers.

Dutch phone giant cuts profit forecast

The Dutch telecoms firm KPN has cut its 2011 profit forecast, citing weak domestic revenues in the face of intense competition, and said it would slash its Dutch workforce by up to a quarter. The phone giant cited pressure on its Dutch business from other mobile and cable operators, and as consumers increasingly turn to Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging to bypass traditional mobile phone services.

China ready to help eurozone

China has signalled it is ready to buy more debt from the eurozone’s weaker states, in a move to help to stabilise the bloc’s fragile finances and protect its business interests. After investing billions of euros in Portuguese and Greek bonds to diversify its “huge” foreign-exchange reserves away from the dollar, China was now considering buying more and investing in Spain’s troubled savings banks.

Dollar falls while gold prices rise

The dollar tumbled to a three-year low against major currencies and gold prices surged to a new high yesterday as investors flocked to investments that are less reliant on the US economy. The erosion of the dollar accelerated this week on signs of a slowing US economy and Standard & Poor’s warning it might take away the United States’ coveted AAA credit rating within two years.

Anglo boss pledges to resist offers

Anglo American’s chairman, John Parker, has promised to protect the miner from opportunistic suitors amid fears the group, the subject of a bid from Xstrata in 2009, may be a target for Glencore. “I did everything to drive their tanks off our lawn and if someone else comes and parks their tank, they will get the same treatment,” he told the AGM.

Ferrexpo shares rise amid bid talk

Shares in Ferrexpo continued to rise yesterday in the wake of the emergence of bid speculation on Wednesday, adding 17p to 481p. The iron ore producer has now seen its share price rise nearly 10 per cent since market gossips linked it to a potential approach from a number of companies including Rio Tinto and Vale.

Flying Brands in Debenhams deal

The mail order gardening and flower business Flying Brands is starting a special wedding blooms service at Debenhams department stores this summer. The contract boosted sentiment around the Jersey-based company, which recently issued a profits warning, and its shares rose by 2.25p to 28.75p.

Jack Wolfskin sale fails to find buyer

Barclays Capital and Quadriga Capital, the private-equity owners of German outdoor apparel and equipment maker Jack Wolfskin, have shelved attempts to sell the brand after failing to attract a high enough offer. The sale of the group – which had 2010 sales of €304m (£268m) – was initially slated for the end this month.

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