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The Business Matrix: Friday 22 July 2011

Weather dampens Britvic sales

Britvic, the maker of Robinsons and Tango soft drinks, reported weaker sales yesterday after the washout start to the summer. The group said June’s poor weather hit its promotions around Wimbledon, and underlying sales between April and July were up just 0.7 per cent in the UK, after a 13.3 per cent slide in volumes for its still drinks.

US go-ahead for Astra’s Brilinta

US regulators have given approval to Brilinta, the blood-thinning drug seen as Astra-Zeneca’s biggest new hope, with sales expected to top $1bn (£613m) over the next five years. Analysts said the Food and Drug Administration’s clearance to use Brilinta in the world’s biggest pharmaceutical drugs market was key for the company.

Willis fined £7m over lax controls

Willis, the insurance broking giant, has been ordered to pay a £6.9m fine for failing to ensure its safeguards against corruption and bribery were sufficiently robust. The City watchdog said Willis had “failed to take the appropriate steps to ensure that payments it was making to overseas third parties were not being used for corrupt purposes”.

Meggitt hopes for more US orders

Meggitt has supplied blast-resistant fuel bladders worth $12m (£7.4m) for BAE Bradley Fighting Vehicle armoured personnel carriers used by the US army. Meggitt said the deal covered only a fraction of the 4,600 Bradley armoured vehicles in operation and it hoped to win more contracts as the fleet was upgraded.

Howden builds on DIY reluctance

The kitchen supplier Howden Joinery credited a growing trend for consumers to shy away from DIY projects as it reported a rise in first-half revenues and profits. The company, which supplies kitchen units and joinery to more than 200,000 small builders, posted a 9 per cent rise in first-half profits to £23m.

Green light for travel agent deal

Plans by Thomas Cook and the Co-op to merge their high street travel businesses have been backed by the competition watchdog. The tie-up creates the UK’s largest travel agent, with more than 1,200 shops. But it is also expected to lead to job losses and store closures as Thomas Cook promised savings of £35m.

Halfords records fall in sales

Halfords suffered a fall in underlying sales in its last quarter, as a dire performance from its motor business failed to offset storming bike revenues. The group said it was continuing to trade “effectively in a difficult environment for UK consumers”, but warned its profit margins for the full year would be hit.

Focus sales hit Kingfisher’s B&Q

Kingfisher, the world’s third-largest DIY retail group, blamed a “challenging market” and the closing-down sale of its rival Focus for a slump in sales at its UK chain B&Q in the second quarter. But a strong performance in France, Spain, Poland and Russia helped it to grow revenues by 1 per cent over the period.

Goldstar for Petropavlovsk

The Russian gold miner Petropavlovsk reported a 32 per cent jump in output in the first half and ended concerns about its financing by unveiling $340m of new banking facilities. “The gold price will continue to rise and I see no reason why $2,000 an ounce should be beyond our reach,” its chairman, Peter Hambro, said.

Strike sends up Lonmin costs

Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, has warned of higher costs after a strike in May hit output at one of its main projects. Lonmin said that despite the strike, quarterly platinum sales were up 75 per cent against last year – when it had trouble with its furnaces – but down 36 per cent on the previous quarter.

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