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The Business Matrix: Friday 8 April 2011

US court rejects Skilling’s appeal

Jeff Skilling the former boss of the collapsed energy giant Enron, has failed to overturn his criminal conviction after a US court ruled that any errors in his trial were “harmless”. He was sentenced to 24 years in 2006 on 19 counts, including fraud.

Ski resort founder faces bankruptcy

Tim Blixseth who founded an ultra-exclusive US ski resort for millionaires, the Yellowstone Club, could be forced into bankruptcy after three US states claimed he owed $2.3m in tax. The former billionaire said the charges were “politically motivated”.

Houston is named as Bahamas CEO

Cable & Wireless Communications has named Geoff Houston as chief executive of Bahamas Telecommunications after it bought a 51 per cent stake in the firm from the government. Mr Houston previously headed its Jamaican and Seychelles operations.

Transocean bosses donate bonus cash

Directors of the offshore oil drilling giant Transocean, including chief executive Steven Newman are to donate safety bonuses to the Deepwater Horizon memorial fund. News that it had given handouts for its “best year in safety performance” drew sharp criticism last week.

Landlords say the future is bright

Landlords across England have an optimistic view on the rental market, in spite of predicted interest rate rises, insurer Endsleigh said. The company’s survey of more than 500 landlords across the UK found that, while 85 per cent expect to see the base rate go up, only 7 per cent will increase their rents as a result.

Aer Lingus suffers 8% drop in sales

Aer Lingus reported an 8 per cent fall in passenger numbers last month to 716,000. The Dublin-based airline, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, said the year-on-year comparison was hit by the timing of Easter.

US seeks tax data from HSBC India

The US is demanding that HSBC reveal the names of Americans who have opened secret accounts with the bank in India, in a widening investigation into tax evasion. HSBC said it had not seen the summons, but it “fully supports the US efforts to promote appropriate payments by US taxpayers”. US prosecutors employed the same strategy in a case against UBS that saw the Swiss bank reveal details of 4,000 US clients’ accounts.

Cineworld reveals Spanish takeover

The cinema operator Cineworld has unveiled its first overseas expansion after agreeing to buy Spain’s fifth-biggest movie chain. Cineworld, which has 78 sites in the UK, is to buy Cinesur Circuito Sanchez-Ramade for an undisclosed sum. Cineworld believes Cinesur, which has 136 screens in its 11 multiplex sites, has the potential to expand because the Spanish market is largely serviced by smaller cinema operators.

Inflation fears prompt ECB rise

The European Central Bank has raised interest rates for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis and signalled it was ready to tighten policy further if needed to check rising prices. Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB president, said its policy “remained accommodative”, a phrasing traditionally seen as associated with further rises, as the bank increased rates to 1.25 per cent. MORE

Minimum wage to increase to £6.08

The minimum wage for adults will increase by 15p an hour, benefiting almost a million workers, the Government said yesterday. Ministers said they had accepted recommendations from the Low Pay Commission, taking the adult rate to £6.08 an hour in October, while the statutory minimum for 18- to 20-year-olds will increase by 6p to £4.98 an hour. The rate for apprentices will go up by 10p to £2.60 an hour.

70 casino staff lose jobs after closures

Workers at three casinos face losing their jobs after being told that the clubs are to close. Unions said 70 staff at Genting Casino sites in Manchester, Leicester and Great Yarmouth have been told of the closures, though some will have the chance to redeploy. Genting Casinos is a subsidiary of the Malaysian multinational of the same name.

Bwin warns over German tax plan

Bwin.party has warned that restrictions proposed by Germany would destroy competition. The firm’s shares fell 15 per cent on news that German states are mulling a 16.7 per cent sports betting tax. About a quarter of turnover at Bwin.party, formed from the merger of Bwin and PartyPoker, comes from Germany.

Costain buys ClerkMaxwell

The construction group Costain has acquired 75 per cent of oil and gas engineering consultancy ClerkMaxwell. Costain said it has the potential to acquire 100 per cent of the Aberdeen-based company by the end of May for a total £3.2m. ClerkMaxwell’s clients include BG, Chevron, GDF Suez, Talisman and ConocoPhillips.

Balfour Beatty buys Power Efficiency

A subsidiary of Balfour Beatty, the infrastructure group, has bought the energy consultant Power Efficiency for £18m. Balfour Beatty WorkPlace said Power Efficiency, which is an employee-owned firm based in Kent, offers advice to the energy-management market, including how to reduce carbon output.

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