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The Business Matrix: Friday 29 June 2012

House-price rises at three-year low

House prices have recorded their weakest annual growth in nearly three years thanks to the "challenging" economy, according to Nationwide. Prices slipped 1.5 per cent year on year in June to £165,738 on average, the biggest fall since August 2009, according to the building society's latest house price index.

Veolia sell firms in £1.2bn deal

Three water businesses owned by France's Veolia and serving more than 3.5 million people were sold yesterday in a £1.2bn deal. Veolia Water's Central, Southeast and East businesses, which cover towns such as St Albans, Dover, Woking and Harwich, are to be sold to a fund managed by Prudential-owned M&G and Morgan Stanley.

Herbert Smith in mega-merger deal

Partners at Herbert Smith, the 130-year-old City law firm, have voted in favour of merging with Australia's Freehills in a deal that will create the world's eighth-biggest group by number of lawyers. Herbert Smith is one of the "silver circle" of firms that sit below the five-strong "magic circle" of most prestigious practices.

Ladbrokes online gamble in trouble

Shares in Ladbrokes fell 12 per cent after the bookie admitted its digital profits will be worse than expected in the first half of this year. It had already said its advertising, including a big TV campaign, and international licensing costs would hit the digital division. But it still expects half-year profits overall will hit City forecasts.

Vivendi boss quits in board dispute

The reign of Vivendi's chief executive, Jean-Bernard Levy, ended yesterday in a strategy dispute with the French telecoms and media conglomerate's supervisory board, paving the way for possible disposals. Shares in the Universal Music to Canal + group are at nine-year lows.

Healthy options boost Greene King

The addition of lower-calorie dishes and takeaway options helped drive Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne Restaurants chain Greene King to record profits. The firm, which also runs Old English Inns and employs 22,000 people, reported an 8.6 per cent rise in underlying profits to £152m.

G4S to gain more police work

G4S is in line to win more police work this year after an alliance between the Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire forces commissioned a report about which services they could outsource. The firm is already working with Lincolnshire Police.

Vodafone splits Europe operations

The mobile phone group Vodafone has restructured its European operations into two operating regions of southern Europe and northern and central Europe, a division which will be led from October by the T-Mobile USA boss, Philipp Humm.

GM to revive Opel brand in Germany

Opel, GM's German-based car unit, has taken a key step towards reviving the brand, after its board voted in favour of a five-year business plan that included "massive" investments in its model range in an attempt to return to the black.

Lower earnings on the cards

American Greetings reported sharply lower first-quarter earnings, hurt by costs related to the bankruptcy of its UK distributor, Clinton Cards. The US firm bought 397 stores off Clinton Cards, helping the retailer to pay off creditors.

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