The Business Matrix: Friday 31 August 2012


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The Independent Online

HR Owen sales accelerate 10%

Strong sales of Ferraris and Lamborghinis helped drive a 23.5 per cent rise in pre-tax profits at motor retailer HR Owen to £2.1m in the six months to 30 June. Like-for-like new car sales increased 10 per cent, as the group hailed an "excellent" start to its year.

WPP moving tax base back to UK

Advertising giant WPP confirmed it is moving its tax base from Ireland back to the UK in a long-awaited decision that will give the Chancellor George Osborne a boost. Chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell first said WPP would return last year, but the board has only just given its approval.

Admiral rewards staff with £1,500

Admiral, the motor insurer behind, is to pay 6,500 staff a £1,500 bonus in shares after a strong start to the year. In the six months to June profits rose 7 per cent to £172m as the company bounced back from a tricky 2011. Turnover rose 6 per cent to £1.17bn, the dividend by 15 per cent to 45.1p.

Shoppers rush to pay off credit cards

Nervous shoppers are paying off their credit cards at the fastest rate for nearly six years, the Bank of England said yesterday. Its latest figures showed shoppers paying back £147m in July, the highest since August 2006. The caution comes against a backdrop of worsening prospects for the UK economy.

Qatar to block Xstrata takeover

One of the biggest shareholders in miner Xstrata has confirmed it would refuse to back commodities giant Glencore International's all-share takeover offer on current terms, in a move that's expected to kill the deal for now. Qatar Holding, part of the Qatar sovereign wealth fund, will vote against the bid at a meeting on 7 September.

Ricard strengthens control of Pernod

The founding family of French drinks group Pernod Ricard named Alexandre Ricard as its deputy chief executive and chief operating officer, strengthening its grip on the world's second-largest spirits maker and setting the stage for Mr Ricard, a third-generation member, to become chief executive and chairman.

Business leaders cut GDP forecasts

The British Chambers of Commerce has called for tax breaks for companies as it cut its forecasts for UK output, predicting it will shrink by 0.4 per cent this year before a rise of 1.2 per cent next. The CBI painted a similarly depressing picture after it said GDP will fall 0.3 per cent in 2012, below its May forecast of a 0.6 per cent rise.

JAL gets ready for £5.3bn flotation

Japan Airlines is set to raise as much as Y663bn (£5.3bn) as it said it would float its shares at between Y3,500 and Y3,790 apiece. This would make it the world's second-biggest IPO this year, after Facebook. The narrow pricing range suggests that underwriters are confident of persuading investors to back the long-antipated share offering.

No end in sight to Lonmin dispute

The platinum miner Lonmin said disruption at its Marikana mine in South Africa continued yesterday after less than 7 per cent of its 28,000 staff turned up for duty. It has been holding peace talks with feuding unions after 34 of its staff were gunned down by police.

Employing bankers proving tricky

A City jobs cull has left recruiter Hays struggling badly as its UK arm crashed into the red last year. With investment banks laying off thousands, Hays has cited "particularly difficult" conditions for recruiting in banking and the City in a tough second half of the financial year.