The Business Matrix: Friday 8 July 2011

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The Independent Online

Punch splits its pubs business

The debt-laden pubs operator Punch Taverns has confirmed plans to shunt its Chef & Brewer and Fayre & Square pubs into a new managed pub business. Spirit will consist of 1,372 pubs and will focus on the fast-growing, eating-out sector of the market. The split, on 1 August, roughly divides the group into its managed and tenanted parts.

Stockpiling hits Premier Farnell

A fifth of Premier Farnell’s stock market value was wiped off yesterday after the electronics components supplier said its sales grew at 1.4 per cent in May – way below its 6-8 per cent target. The firm said it now realised strong first-quarter growth was down to customers stockpiling amid supply worries after Japan’s tsunami, and sales had since fallen off.

Strike threat lifts at Virgin Atlantic

The threat of a damaging pilots’ strike at Virgin Atlantic Airways was lifted last night. The pilots union Balpa said it had “secured an offer” which would be put to members. The general secretary, Jim McAuslan, said: “Pilots have never wished to inconvenience the travelling public, especially those looking forward to summer holidays.” MORE

UK jobs slump hits Hays’ fees

A slump in public sector recruitment knocked Hays UK net fees by 6 per cent in the quarter to June, though this was more than offset by growth overseas with total fees rising by 11 per cent. Hays added that private sector momentum has also slowed in the UK recently. International activities accounted for nearly 70 per cent of net fee income.

NCC profits from ‘hacktivism’

The rise of “hacktivism” has helped the IT group NCC report a 21 per cent rise in annual profits to £17m. Rob Cotton, the chief executive, said the rise of hacking and state-sponsored cyber attacks “are providing considerable opportunities for us to develop” a unit that protection against online breaches.

Commodity prices up McBride’s costs

McBride, the maker of own-label laundry liquids, mouthwash and toothpaste for supermarkets, has warned that higher commodity prices will push up its costs in coming months. The company added if it is unable to clawback increasing costs it will stop making products which is considers unprofitable.

Secondrate rise from the ECB

The European Central Bank raised interest rates for the second time in three months and signalled a further rise is likely this year to tackle inflation. The ECB also offered help to Portugal, pledging to keep providing it with liquidity. On Greece, it stuck to the line that any rescue should not trigger a default.

Dunelm ducks high street gloom

Dunelm bucked the trend of gloom engulfing the retail sector to report an 11 per cent surge in sales in its latest quarter. The fast-growing group, which runs more than 100 stores selling items such as kitchenware, bedding and rugs, has plans for 13 new superstores. It has opened 10 stores in the past year.

US jobs data fuels recovery hopes

US companies hired four times more workers in June than in May, strengthening views that the economy was starting to escape the doldrums of the first half of the year. A drop in the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits last week also offered hope for the labour market.

Alexon sales struggling

The high-street ladieswear chain Alexon said trading remained challenging with its underlying sales up less than 1 per cent in the first half. A strong performance from its Kaliko, Alexon and Eastex fashion brands, however, helped to offset poor sales of its Dash and Minuet labels.