The Business Matrix: Friday 29 April 2011

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The Independent Online

Banks not lending to small firms

Britain’s banks lent less money in the first few months of the year to small businesses than in the same period of 2010, data published by the British Bankers’ Association revealed. The figures appear to run contrary to the promises made by the banks under the Project Merlin agreement to increase lending to the small- and medium-enterprise sector, but the industry claimed demand for credit was low. MORE

Croda rises above higher costs

Croda International, the company that makes chemicals for the cosmetics, healthcare and home care industries, saw its profits rise by 40 per cent in the first quarter of the year, it said yesterday, despite struggling with the higher cost of raw materials. The strong performance came courtesy of robust demand for consumer care and industrial products across all its major geographies, Croda said.

US economic recovery slips

Economic growth in the United States slipped back to 1.8 per cent, on an annualised basis, fuelling fears that the world’s largest economy may not be recovering as quickly as the US government and the Federal Reserve had been expecting – and raising concerns about the knock-on effects on the rest of the world. The US also revealed that falls in unemployment appear to have come to a stop. MORE

Cuts likely at News International

News International, the publisher of The Sun, News of the World, The Times and Sunday Times, is poised to make cuts to reduce its losses according to an internal email sent to staff by its chief executive Rebekah Brooks. “We have an unacceptably low profit margin,” Ms Brooks told staff, with News International having reported a £73.3m loss in 2010, in contrast to a £31.7m profit the year before.

Schofield to quit at Premier Foods

Shares in Premier Foods jumped by more than 4 per cent yesterday after it said Robert Schofield, its chief executive, would step down within the next year. Mr Schofield plans to retire on the appointment of his successor no later than 28 April 2012.

YouTube founders buy Delicious

YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley, left, and Steve Chen are to reinvest some of the $1.6bn they made when they sold their creation to Google, buying the bookmarking service Delicious from Yahoo, which put the business up for sale last year.

Burnett poised for CNN move

Erin Burnett, the highly-rated presenter on the CNBC business news channel, is poised to jump ship to CNN, reports in the US media suggest. Ms Burnett is in line to host a show that would put her up against high-profile CNBC colleague Maria Bartiromo.

Niederauer fights back on NYSE deal

Duncan Niederauer, the chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, has insisted he was right to agree a tie-up with Deutsche Börse despite rival bidders potentially offering more. Mr Niederauer was defending himself in a stormy shareholder meeting.

Japan slips back into recession

The devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan earlier this year has hit economic growth so hard that the country has now slipped back into recession, according to the central bank. The Bank of Japan said official data for the first quarter of the year would show a second three-month period of contraction.

Stagecoach still on track to hit targets

Bus and rail group Stagecoach said profits remained on track after sales motored ahead in all its divisions. Like-for-like sales in its UK rail arm, which runs South West Trains and East Midlands Trains, were up 6 per cent.

Standard Life sales up by a quarter

Insurer Standard Life said it was confident that costly investments in new life and pension products would drive future profits growth as it reported forecast-beating sales, thanks to a strong performance in corporate pensions. The company revealed first-quarter sales rose 25 per cent on the year to £5.8bn.

Quinn deal set for completion

The Quinn Insurance takeover will be completed by August after it revealed losses of €706m in 2009. The aggressive Irish insurer, founded by tycoon Sean Quinn, is being sold to US insurance giant Liberty Mutual and nationalised Anglo-Irish Bank in a deal that could see Irish consumers cover 85 per cent of losses.

Exxon profit soars on oil price rise

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest company by market value, posted its largest profit in almost three years as soaring gasoline prices fuelled discontent among consumers and policymakers. With US motorists paying more for gas than since the summer of 2008, Exxon’s first-quarter profit jumped 69 per cent to $10.7bn (£6.4bn).

AA wants EC probe into fuel prices

The AA is to ask the European Commission’ competition commissioner to investigate fuel prices, following a string of reports from oil companies of large profits. The motoring organisation said that while it realised oil prices were rising, it was also concerned that the petrol market might have been manipulated.