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The Business Matrix: Monday 2 April 2012

Forever 21 to sub-let part of first UK shop

The US fashion giant, Forever 21, is already seeking to downsize its debut UK store, less than a year-and-a-half since it launched. The group's plan to sub-let to other retailers part of its store in Birmingham's Bullring centre came as it emerged it lost nearly £2 for every £3 of sales in the four months after opening in November 2010. Forever 21, which has three UK shops, said: "We are currently evaluating options with the landlord to improve the productivity of the space in our Birmingham store."

'Old boys' network' alive on UK boards

Almost half of those who set the pay of top executives are current or former bosses, laying bare the existence of an "old boys' network" at the UK's biggest companies. The High Pay Centre found that of 366 directors who sit on FTSE 100 remuneration committees, just 10 per cent were not from business and only 16 per cent were women. Deborah Hargreaves, a spokeswoman for the think tank, said: "In the UK we have a system designed and run by people with an apparent vested interest."

Vodafone acts on Indian tax demand

The Independent on Sunday reports that Vodafone is ready to take the Indian government to the UN over its attempts to force the telecoms giant to pay more than $2bn in tax. The country has failed twice over its demand for capital gains tax in relation to Vodafone's $10.7bn takeover of Hutchison Whampoa's Indian unit in 2007.

Cookson plots £2bn break-up of firm

The industrial company Cookson is working on a secret plan to break itself into two by spinning off its electronics business, The Sunday Times says. Cookson has appointed Rothschild to work on the proposal, which would see the division floated as a standalone company on the London Stock Exchange market.

UK banks face trade war with Argentina

A group of British and American banks have been threatened with legal action by the Argentinian government for advising and writing research reports about firms involved in the Falkland Islands' £1.6bn oil industry. The banks, such as RBS, have been warned they face criminal and civil action in the courts, The Sunday Telegraph says.

UK draws up plans over Spanish crisis

British financial authorities are drawing up emergency plans to cope with the fallout from the Spanish financial crisis, reports The Mail on Sunday. The Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England have been discussing the risks to public confidence in the UK posed by the strong financial links between Spain and Britain.

Pollster prays for City approval

Pollster YouGov will hope it gets a vote of approval from the City following the release of its interim results today. Last February, the AIM-listed group announced its trading was on course to meet forecasts, saying it was seeing double-digit organic revenue growth. Also today digital camera group Andor Technology will update the market.

Syrian worries for Gulfsands

AIM-listed driller Gulfsands Petroleum releases its preliminary results on Tuesday amid continuing uncertainty over its Syrian operations. Back in February the London-based oil firm said it was stopping its exploration in the country amid the unrest, having already halted its involvement in production there last December.

Halfords still has a hill to climb

Halfords announces its pre-close update on Thursday, and Oriel Securities warns it does not expect the bike retailer's insight into recent trading "to look pretty". Over the third quarter, the group saw like-for-like sales drop 4.8 per cent, but brokers' scribes believe there has been a slight improvement during the final three months.

Booker books in trading update

Also updating the market on Thursday is Booker, with the cash and carry wholesaler releasing its trading statement for the fourth quarter. The previous three months saw its like-for-like sales – minus tobacco – jump 5.8 per cent, and UBS's Mike Tattersall is expecting "another solid underlying trading performance".

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