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The Business Matrix: Monday 12 March 2012


Game seeks deal as rent day looms

The video games retailer Game Group will confirm to the stock market today that it is seeking a takeover to prevent it collapsing.

The group, which owns 600 stores in the UK, faces a huge rent bill on quarter day in a couple of weeks' time. It is in talks with its lenders, having admitted it could breach its banking covenants. Some producers of new video games, such as Street Fighter X Tekken, left, have refused to supply Game unless they were paid up front.

Lending to small businesses falls

Lending to small firms has slipped to a new low, according to the finance provider Syscap. It says that the value of loans offered under the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme fell 24 per cent to £77.8m in the three months to the end of December last year. In the previous quarter it was £102.8m. The scheme is meant to encourage banks to provide finance to SMEs with a turnover of less than £25m. The Government guarantees 75 per cent of a loan.

Argos owner may axe dividend

The Independent on Sunday reports that Argos owner Home Retail Group could cut or scrap its final dividend after it announces a dire set of fourth-quarter sales figures this week. Analysts forecast that full-year profits for the retailer, which also owns Homebase, could be up to 60 per cent down on last year.

GKN set to buy Swedish firm

GKN is in talks to buy Sweden's largest aerospace company from Volvo in a deal worth £800m, which would be the largest takeover by a UK engineer since the banking crisis. GKN has also put its wheels business, which services heavy plant and construction vehicles, up for sale at £130m.

'Too few women on FTSE boards'

The number of women directors on FTSE 100 boards is still well under the Government's target of 25 per cent, a Cranfield University study will reveal this week, says The Mail on Sunday. In the past year the proportion of women in the big boardrooms has risen from 12.5 per cent to just 15 per cent.

Branson criticises Heathrow block

Sir Richard Branson has said the UK could lose £5bn of extra investment from Virgin Atlantic if ministers continue to block expansion at Heathrow, the Sunday Telegraph reports. He is now focusing expansion on America and Australia. He called the Heathrow decision "purely political and incredibly damaging".

Insurance sector under spotlight

The recent run of results from the insurance sector continues tomorrow, with both Prudential and Standard Life releasing their figures for 2011. JP Morgan's Ashik Musaddi believes the latter will have had a "modest" last three months of the year, both for sales and assets under management growth.

Marston's to toast strong trading

Marston's announces a first-half update on Wednesday, and Douglas Jack of Numis Securities – one of the pubs group's joint brokers – is expecting the market will be able to toast a positive trading performance from its tenanted, leased and managed sites. Mr Jack is predicting a 1.5 per cent like for like sales rise.

Home Retail reveals year so far

Home Retail will update the market on Thursday but as Panmure Gordon's Philip Dorgan notes, the retailer is only revealing figures for the first eight weeks of 2012 ahead of its full-year results in May. This means the numbers will be "both more difficult to predict and less meaningful".

L&G to beat sector with big dividend

Also on Thursday Legal & General is expected to reveal by far the highest dividend raised among its peers, with Nomura predicting the insurer will increase it by 26 per cent. The broker's analysts believe the main focus will be the group's cash generation, predicting a 8 per cent rise in its net cash.

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