The Business Matrix: Friday 23 September 2011

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The Independent Online

Manufacturing in China falls again

China’s manufacturing sector contracted for a third consecutive month in September while a measure of inflation picked up, suggesting the world’s No 2 economy may not be able to provide much of a counterweight to flagging US and European growth. The news fuelled a sell-off in commodities on a day when global stock markets were diving.

Whitman takes over at Hewlett

Hewlett-Packard last night named Meg Whitman, the former head of eBay, as its new chief executive, replacing Léo Apotheker at the helm of the largest US technology company. The board said it would stick to its current strategy, despite speculation it could backtrack on recent decisions such as the spinning-off of its PC unit.

House of Fraser banks on Portas

The department store chain House of Fraser is rolling out a clothing collection from Mary Portas, it said, as it posted a dip in first-half profits. Following its launch in August, HoF will feature the designs of Ms Portas, who is leading a Government review of the high street, to six stores before Christmas and look to roll it out next year.

Revenue rise at United Utilities

Water supplier United Utilities saw revenues rise in its latest half-year as price increases linked to inflation came through. It warned, though, that costs are also up as a result of higher infrastructure expenditure, depreciation and other costs and will rise again in the second half. Overall it is trading in line with expectations, United added.

Anheuser loses case of Budweiser

Anheuser-Busch has lost a long-running battle to prevent a small Czech brewery from using the trademark Budweiser in the UK. The European Court of Justice yesterday ruled in favour of Budejovicky Budvar, saying UK consumers were aware of the difference between Budvar’s and Anheuser-Busch’s beers.

Bid battle for Omega heats up

The bid battle for the Lloyd’s of London insurer Omega Insurance heated up yesterday after Barbican Insurance increased its takeover offer. Barbican’s offer is worth 84p-per-share, outflanking the 83p-per-share offers tabled by Canopius Group and Haverford Bermuda.

Sage sells off healthcare arm

Accountancy software specialist Sage is to sell US healthcare business Sage Software Healthcare to Vista Equity Partners for £205m. The business sells practice management and health record systems to US medical practices. Sage will return the proceeds to shareholders through a buyback.

Micro Focus looks to return capital

Micro Focus International told shareholders at its annual general meeting that it is mulling another share buy-back programme and is considering other ways of returning money to investors. Revenues and underlying profits are ahead of its previous expectations, the software company added.

E.ON to cut 500 jobs in the UK

The UK arm of German utility E.ON Ruhrgas will cut up to 500 support staff in its Coventry and Nottingham offices following the sale of its distribution arm, Central Networks, in March. “We had to undertake a deep and rigorous review... to ensure we keep costs as low as possible for our customers,” it said.

SSE reviews nuclear plans

Scottish and Southern Energy is reviewing its involvement in the nuclear new build programme, dealing a major blow to Britain’s ambitious plans to build new nuclear stations by 2025. SSE is part of the NuGen consortium, with Iberdrola and GDF Suez, which plans to build 3.6GW of new UK nuclear power capacity.