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The Business Matrix: Monday 14 February 2011

Barclays

When Barclays kicks off the banks’ reporting season on Tuesday, Bob Diamond’s bonus – expected to top £9m – will attract as much attention as the annual profits. The investment banking business, which accounts for about 60 per cent of profits, is believed to have had a tough time at the end of last year, and the City expects group profits of about £5bn.

Premier Foods

The Hovis-to-Mr Kipling firm Premier Foods is expected to reveal a 2 per cent fall in full-year profits to £202m on Tuesday as the food manufacturer battles intense competition and rising costs in the grocery market. The company recently sold some of its best-known brands in an attempt to drive down its debt mountain, which had ballooned to £1.4bn.

Thorntons

The chocolatier Thorntons is likely to reveal how much December’s snow wiped off its profits at its half-year results on Wednesday. The retailer has also been battling rising commodity costs, with cocoa, butter and sugar prices soaring in the past year. It put up some prices in November but has generally looked to take costs out of the business by changing pack sizes and products to allow it to hold price tags.

Rentokil Initial

Rentokil Initial, the pest-control-toparcels firm, is expected to reveal December’s weather hit its City Link delivery business when it posts annual results on Friday. Analysts at Deutsche expect revenues at the royal ratcatcher to slip to about £2.5bn last year. Rising prices are also expected to limit the firm’s scope for improving profits with more cost cuts.

Ladbrokes

Ladbroke’s chief executive Richard Glynn is expected to spell out his long-term strategy when the bookmaker posts full-year results on Thursday. The City will also be looking for an update on its plans to buy the online gambling firm 888 Holdings. Both companies have confirmed talks are taking place, with Ladbrokes believed to have offered £240m for 888.

Fidessa

Fidessa, whose software supports trading systems at clients such as Bank of America, is expected to post profits at the top end of City expectations on Monday, despite warnings about economic conditions. Panmure Gordon’s George O’Connor is estimating its revenues for 2010 will total £266.9m, compared with £238.5m the year before, with profits at £42m.

Solar sector mulls legal challenge

Solar power companies are considering a legal challenge against government plans to review the “feed-in tariff” scheme set up last year to boost investment in green energy schemes. After months of uncertainty, last week’s announcement of a fast-track review by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has created “pandemonium”, critics claim, leaving all but the smallest domestic project “impossible to finance” and costing Britain’s stuttering economy anything up to 18,000 new jobs.

Farmgen deal for anaerobic power

Farmgen has signed a £30m deal with Kirk Environmental to build the anaerobic digestion (AD) plants the green power group is planning. Farmgen was set by Spice founder Simon Rigby with his £22m private equity windfall from the sale of the FTSE 250-listed group. The AD specialist’s first facility is nearing completion, and the group has a five-year deal with Marks and Spencer to buy the energy produced.

Regional boost follows cold snap

Business activity in England recovered strongly in January after the December snowfall, says Lloyds Banking Group’s regional purchasing managers’ index. Output and work levels picked up in all nine areas of England last month, with the South West topping the regional growth table published this morning, followed by Yorkshire & Humber. Employment levels were also up, though the bank added that rising raw material inflation was causing some businesses problems.

Business outlook is getting gloomier

Business confidence in the services sector, which makes up 55 per cent of the economy, slipped further in January, says an index from BDO. Sentiment took a hit from high inflation, weak earnings growth and erosion of real disposable incomes, pushing the measure of growth expectations two quarters ahead down to 92, from 94.8 in December. It’s the second month below the crucial 95 mark that signifies growth.

easyJet trials nanotech skin

easyJet is trialling US military nanotechnology aimed at improving fuel efficiency. Eight of the budget airline’s jets will have an ultra-thin polymer coating, cutting drag by stopping dirt and debris sticking to the paint. The skin adds only four ounces in weight but could cut fuel consumption by up to 2 per cent.

Britain must stop wasting its rubbish

The CBI is launching a campaign for Government action on waste policy today, as part of an initiative aimed at helping the country meet its climate change targets and improve energy security. With 300 UK landfill sites set to close in the next 10 years, the UK needs 2,000 new waste management facilities, at a cost of £10bn.

Transparency could cut deficits

Businesses could cut millions off pension requirements by giving trustees a clear view of their financial strength, says a PWC survey. More transparency could even see some trustees “conclude there’s no longer a deficit”.

China to scrutinise foreign takeovers

The Chinese government is setting up a panel to review foreign acquisitions. The body will scrutinise takeovers in defence, agricultural, energy and natural resources, as well key infrastructure and transport networks.

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