The Business Matrix: Friday 26 August 2011

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Haynes sales dip despite hit book

A top-selling guide to the inventions of Wallace and Gromit failed to stop motor manual maker Haynes Publishing from posting a fall in annual sales. Profits at Haynes were flat at £7.2m, with its boss, Eric Oakley, noting that soaring petrol prices had meant “the money that used to be in people’s pockets is now in their gas tanks”.

Spirits increase cheers Diageo

Diageo hailed its performance in emerging markets yesterday after group profits rose by 5 per cent to £2.4bn despite sales of Guinness falling again in Europe. A 5 per cent fall in sales of the stout across the continent was offset by a strong showing by spirits brands such as Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker. Total sales rose 2 per cent to £9.94bn.

Hikma readies to return to Libya

Hikma Pharmaceuticals is eyeing a return to normal business in Libya by the end of this year or early next year, as the country stabilises. The Jordanian drugs group, which booked a 10.4 per cent rise in sales to $394.8m for the six months to the end of June, said it has already been in contact with the Transitional National Council.

Gold loses some of its shine

Gold prices tumbled yesterday as investors rushed to secure gains from the recent rally that took the metal to a high of $1,911.45 per ounce in early August. The slump was triggered by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s decision to demand higher “margin” downpayings on gold trade, in effect raising the cost of holding the metal.

Luminar blames struggles on riots

Luminar, the struggling owner of the nightclub chains Liquid and Oceana, has warned the summer riots had hit on trading. The club operator said trading had shown a gradual improvement in the period before the civil unrest. It also revealed its banks had delayed tests on its loans for another two months.

UK slump takes shine off Signet

The UK arm of Signet suffered a slump in profits in its second quarter, as dire consumer spending took the shine off the jeweller’s US results. Its H Samuel, Ernest Jones and Leslie Davis chains in the UK saw profits fall 40 per cent, but the group still posted a 69 per cent rise in profits to $102m.

Agricole calms fears over Greece

Credit Agricole was hit by a €202m (£178m) write-down on Greek debt but the French bank’s quarterly profits came in ahead of expectations. Investors were cheered by the limited impact of the Greek crisis on the bank – despite a Greek subsidiary – and management’s dismissal of concerns over its ability to raise funds.

Barclays under fire over job cuts

The union Unite has accused Barclays of “drip-feeding” news of cuts after the bank axed 140 jobs in its corporate division shortly after unveiling 500 job losses there. The bank said the cuts were a result of its announced “One Barclays” strategy to increase efficiency by combining some back-office functions.

IMI’s half-year profits rise by 8%

IMI says it has not yet seen any material change in order trends despite the market and economic uncertainty, though there has been some softening in the UK and southern Europe. Half-year profits at the engineer, which makes everything from power generators to drink dispenser valves, rose 8 per cent to £144m.

Amec suffers fall in profits to £101m

Amec’s half-year profits fell by 11 per cent to £101m, though the underlying picture improved thanks to good performances in mining and in North Sea oilfields. Orders picked up to £3.4bn from £3.1bn in December. More acquisitions are likely, the engineer and consultant added.