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The Business Matrix: Monday 19 March 2012

Focus on margins at Debenhams

Department store group Debenhams reveals its first-half figures tomorrow, and Panmure Gordon believes this will have stayed the same as forecast but it warned the biggest risk is that Debenhams' previous guidance of gross margins staying steady over the year could actually prove too optimistic.

Next to reveal solid 2011 profit

Confidence has been rising ahead of Next's full-year results on Thursday and Panmure Gordon's Jean Roche thinks it will manage a pre-tax profit for the year of £572.6m, which would be towards the top end of the predicted range. But the real focus will be on its outlook for the current financial year.

Housebuilding sector still strong

After a run of updates over the past few weeks from the housebuilding sector, it is Berkeley's turn today as it releases its trading statement. With the numbers covering the period from last November, Deutsche Bank's Glynis Johnson said the company will reveal forward sales remaining strong.

Phoenix to beat cash flow target

Phoenix Group – which last month pulled out of bid talks with private equity firm CVC Capital – finishes the week with its full-year results. The life insurer is expected by JP Morgan to have generated £824m, which would beat its cash flow target of £800m, although its operating profit could dip.

Regional divide in jobless figures

The number of dole claimants per job vacancy is more than twice as high in parts of the North than in the South, illustrating a "stark" regional divide, according to a new analysis of unemployment figures. A study by the TUC found more than nine claimants for every vacancy in the North-east, compared with around four in the South-east and South-west. The report also showed the labour market in London was far weaker than surrounding regions.

IMF: signs of global stability

The global economy has stepped back from the brink of danger and signs of stabilisation are emerging from the eurozone and the United States, but high debt levels in developed markets and rising oil prices are key risks ahead, the IMF said yesterday. "The global economy may be on a path to recovery, but there is not a great deal of room for manoeuvre and no room for policy mistakes," the fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, said in a speech in Beijing.

The Independent on Sunday

The jobs of up to 75,000 civil servants are set to be affected by a Whitehall shake-up as the Coalition looks at spinning out more government operations into the private sector. A report by Stephen Kelly due next month will recommend central government operations that can be commercialised.

The Mail on Sunday

More than £80bn has been lost by blue chip firms as a result of takeovers in the past decade by the firms writing down the value of the acquisitions. Research by Pirc found ITV the worst offenders in terms of destroying value, writing off £2.6bn – 120 per cent of its market value – in goodwill since 2004.

The Sunday Times

The Chancellor is set to pump £40bn of cheap loans into the small businesses in an attempt to boost the economy. George Osborne is also expected to unveil a cut in the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p in the Budget later this week after criticism from entrepreneurs.

The Sunday Telegraph

Barclays has had to apologise to the Financial Services Authority after the bank told a client to keep details of interest-rate swaps sales confidential, even from the City regulator. Separately, the regulator is looking at whether any banks mis-sold any complicated interest-rate swaps to small businesses.

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