The Business Matrix: Monday 14 March 2011

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Debenhams

The department store chain Debenhams will reveal if it recovered from a dismal Christmas season at its half-year trading update on Tuesday. The chain, which has 167 stores across the UK, Ireland and Denmark, has stripped back concession space to focus on brands including designer collections from Henry Holland and Ben de Lisi in a bid to improve margins.

Greggs

Greggs reports full-year figures on Wednesday after a record number of shop openings boosted its assault on the high street. But the bakery chain is likely to face questions over the impact of commodity cost pressures in the year ahead. Ingredients make up about a quarter of the group’s cost base, but Greggs has responded by keeping a tight rein on waste and staff costs.

Legal & General

Legal & General is expected to have benefited from a recovery in demand for savings products when it unveils full-year results on Thursday. But the insurer’s figures are still expected to struggle to make headway against the strong performance seen in 2009. The City is expecting underlying profits to remain flat at £1.07bn, while they expect operating profits to fall 5 per cent to £1.05bn.

G4S

With the UK Government accounting for 9 per cent of the security group’s sales, full-year results from G4S will be scanned on Tuesday to see the impact of austerity cuts. JP Morgan Cazenove believes the cuts, on balance, will be positive for outsourcing. Any hit in the UK will also be limited by the firm’s emerging markets business. Analysts expect profits to rise 13 per cent to £411m.

Bovis Homes

Bovis Homes’ preliminary results today are not expected by Numis Securities’ Chris Millington to surprise after the builder released a detailed update in January. There will be interest, believes the analyst, in how Bovis sees trading in the current environment as well as “its progress on its strategy to increase asset turn through increased outlets and potential land swaps from large sites.”

French Connection

Results from French Connection on Friday are expected to show it emerged relatively unscathed from the weather-beaten December. The fashion retailer last month said full year profits would be at least £6.8m, higher than expectations. But the surge in profits is largely due to its strong performance in its wholesale outlets and licensing, and its stores are expected to show softer sales.

Kraft set to face select committee

Senior executives from Kraft will tomorrow face a grilling from MPs as they update the business select committee on commitments Kraft made after controversially buying Cadbury. Kraft will appear in front of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee to talk about integration of the two firms, including an update on jobs. Chief executive Irene Rosenfeld will not be present at the event.

Tensions between BP and TNK-BP rise

The battle between TNK-BP and one of its venture partners in BP escalated yesterday as recriminations flew following a board meeting in Paris on Saturday. The meeting ended in deadlock over the terms of how TNK-BP would be involved in a partnership signed between BP and Rosneft, which involved exploring the Arctic. Following the stalemate, BP released a statement, countered yesterday by TNK-BP.

Media challenge BSkyB takeover

Newspaper owners and BT have teamed up to lobby Liberal Democrat MPs in a bid to block News Corporation’s takeover of BSkyB. The group sent a letter to politicians questioning the rationale behind culture secretary’s approval of the deal saying the undertakings offered were “fraught with uncertainty”. The group has not ruled out a legal challenge over the decision.

EasyJet joins Nectar programme

Budget airline easyJet has teamed up withNectar, the UK’s largest loyalty programme, with the initiative backed by Nectar’s founding partner Sainsbury’s. The tieup means those with enough Nectar points can exchange them for flights. Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King said flights were among the most popular requests when customers asked for new ways to spend their points.

Retail banks face major challenges

The recent round of UK banking results shows that despite a rebound in 2010, retail banking faces “significant challenges” in the next three years, according to a new report. KPMG said “future growth in profitability is a key concern for the sector” with little new mortgage lending and increased competition.

Loans still too costly, says EEF

The availability of finance for small companies is improving, but at an increasingly prohibitive cost, according to a survey published today by the EEF manufacturers’ organisation. The findings question the effectiveness of the Government’s “Project Merlin” agreement with the banks designed to unlock lending.

City jobs rise 30% in February

Nearly 6,000 jobs were created in the City last month, 30 per cent more than last year and 6 per cent more than in January, according to recruitment firm Astbury Marsden. Meanwhile, dissatisfied bankers unhappy with meagre bonuses pushed job application numbers up by a whopping 47 per cent.

UK firms at risk over insurance

British businesses are exposing themselves to “significant and unnecessary” losses because of flaws in their corporate insurance companies, according to a new report by Mactavish and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mactavish chief executive Bruce Hepburn said the deficiencies revealed by the report were “disturbing”.

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