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The Business Matrix: Monday 11 April 2011

Icelanders say ‘no’ to repayment plan

Icelanders have voted a second resounding “no” to proposals to repay €4bn (£3.5bn) to Britain and the Netherlands for the collapse of the country’s banking system. Icelanders have already voted against repaying the cost of bailing out 400,000 “Icesave” account holders once. And after 60 per cent of Iceland’s voters at the weekend rejected a second repayment plan, the issue will now be decided by a European court.

Gigi Levy quits as 888 chief executive

Gigi Levy, the chief executive of online gaming company 888, is stepping down “to pursue other interests” after six years in the top job. Mr Levy will remain on the board and help to find his replacement. In the meantime, Brian Mattingley, the deputy chairman and non-executive director, will “work closely with management on all aspects of the business”, 888 said yesterday.

Whitehall puts solar plan on ice

Plans for a Government-wide solar-power scheme have been put on ice following last month’s controversial cuts to the solar-subsidy scheme. The Government procurement office, Buying Solutions, says it was clear all discussions had been exploratory. But industry sources say there were several megawatts of potential schemes.

Mobile switching cut to single day

From today, UK consumers will be able to switch their mobile number to a new provider in a single day, says Ofcom. In the past, the codes needed to switch could be sent by post, now they must be provided within two hours.

FSA triples fines to £100m in final year

Britain’s chief City regulator fined financial services groups almost £100m in its last year before being broken up, three times as much as in the previous 12 months. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) doled out fines of £96.7m during the 2010-11 financial year, compared with £33.6m in 2009-10. The penalties included 15 fines of £1m or more, twice as many as in the previous year.

China sees first trade gap in seven years

China recorded its first quarterly trade deficit since 2004 in the first quarter as domestic growth and rising global commodity prices pushed import costs higher than export values. Between January and March, China imported $1bn (£611m) more than it exported.

JD Sports

JD Sports Fashion is expected to post a 17 per cent rise in profits to about £79m as it shrugs off the gloom surrounding the high street on Wednesday. However, analysts will be on the lookout for any hint of the slowdown in consumer confidence other retailers have warned of.

Debenhams

The department store chain Debenhams is set to report a 4 per cent rise in profits when it unveils its first-half results on Thursday, as its policy of selling more own label ranges pays off. The group is expected to meet the City’s profit forecasts for of £128m, despite a £30m hit from December’s snow.

Punch Taverns

Punch Taverns will be pumped for details on its plans to call time on 2,500 pubs at its half-year results on Tuesday. Panmure expects the pubs group, which is planning a demerger and radical restructuring to clear its debt, will see interim profits fall 6 per cent to £63m.

Michael Page

With sector peers Hays and Robert Walters having updated the market last week, today is Michael Page’s turn and the recruiter’s first quarter update is expected by analysts at Peel Hunt to be positive, with recent news suggesting robust trading in key regions such as Australia, Asia and Brazil.

WH Smith

WH Smith is set to reveal another rise in its interim profits on Thursday despite declining sales. Profits are likely to have grown after a plan to sell more high-margin goods. The company has moved away from lower-margin items such as CDs to focus on its core range of confectionery and stationery.

Dunelm

City analysts expect Dunelm’s third-quarter trading update on Thursday to reveal conditions have been “challenging” over the period after the homeswares retailer suffered a disappointing three months previously. Nomura predicts its sales will be down by 3.5 per cent and has cut its profit forecast to £81.4m.

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