The Business Matrix: Friday 22 June 2012


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Factory sector at seven-month low

China's factory sector shrank for an eighth month in June, suggesting an economic slowdown may extend into the third quarter. The HSBC flash pmi, a monthly indicator of China's industrial activity, fell to a seven-month low of 48.1 in June from 48.4 in May. Property controls have hit domestic demand and the eurozone crisis hits exports.

Helical Bar chair steps down

Helical Bar's chairman Giles Weaver is stepping down after 19 years on the board of the London property company. He will be replaced by finance director Nigel McNair Scott, who has been a director for 27 years. The firm acknowledged this breaks governance codes requiring an independent chairman, but said it expected investor backing.

Shines comes off H&T gold unit

H&T said competition had squeezed its gold purchasing arm but this had been offset by demand for higher loans in its core business. The UK's biggest pawnbroker , which has 174 stores and 55 "GoldBar" units, said its pawnbroking operations were expected to report double-digit year-on-year growth in the six months to 30 June.

'Sterling may need to weaken'

The pound may have to weaken further in order to close the country's trade gap, according to the Bank of England policymaker Martin Weale. Mr Weale also voiced doubt that the central bank's quantitative easing asset purchases have had as much of an impact on the economy as the Bank of England has estimated so far.

Rolls builds plant in Rotherham

Rolls-Royce has started construction of a new facility in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, which will manufacture turbine blades for large civil aircraft engines. The Advanced Blade Casting Facility will create 150 jobs. Business Secretary Vince Cable welcomed the plant as good news for the sector.

Interserve to sell UCLH stake

Support services and construction group Interserve is to sell its main stake in the University College London Hospital private finance initiative for £35m. The firm, which provides construction and facilities management services, said it will sell an investment vehicle it owns in the project to CFIG Unicorn.

Ashtead delivers record results

The industrial equipment hire firm Ashtead upped its profit expectations for the year ahead after delivering record results. The group reported underlying profits of £131m for the year to 30 April in a vast improvement on the £31m seen the previous year.

British Airways sees more savings

International Airlines Group – formed from the merger of the two flag carriers British Airways and Spain's Iberia in 2010 – has upped its cost saving targets from the tie-up. It increased annual revenue and cost synergies by €100m (£81m) to €500m from 2015.

Wood wins Shell contract

Wood Group has won an engineering contract with the US arm of Shell. The Aberdeen-based group will work on Shell Oil's pipelines and terminals along the US Gulf coast and work has already started at sites in Texas and Louisiana.

Tough times down the track

Go-Ahead has warned economic conditions are likely to hit profits at its train arm next year. The group, which is the operator for nearly a third of UK rail journeys, is also facing £6m bid costs during a busy period for the re-letting of franchises.