The Business Matrix: Monday 23 January 2012



African Land has begun negotiations with potential advisers over an Alternative Investment Market flotation it expects to launch within the next couple of months. The company has around 33,000 acres of farm land in Sierra Leone and leases an additional 30,000 acres of neighbouring Liberia. Robert McKendrick, African Land's chairman, says Western farming technology has already enabled the company to make substantial improvements to production.

Peacocks attracts private equity

A string of private equity groups are circling Peacocks after the budget fashion chain collapsed into administration last week. KKR, Permira, Sun European Partners and Cinven are all picking over the company, which faces becoming the biggest high street casualty since Woolworths went under in 2008. Peacocks' administrator, KPMG, will this week open a data room for prospective buyers of the business, with bids invited by next Monday.

99p Stores mulls £60m sale

Independent on Sunday: The family behind budget retail chain 99p Stores is considering a sale that would value it at up to £60m. Electra Partners is thought to be the front-runner to acquire the chain, which has almost 150 shops and sells every item at 99p. Owners the Lalani family founded the business in 2001.

BAE may close Portsmouth yard

The Sunday Times: BAE Systems is considering closing its Portsmouth dockyard in a move that would threaten up to 3,000 jobs and end more than 500 years of naval shipbuilding in the city. The Independent on Sunday reported last week that BAE has appointed LEK Consulting to examine the operations.

Recruiter Reed loses tax battle

Mail on Sunday: The recruitment giant Reed has lost a £158m battle with HM Revenue & Customs over paying for its temps' lunches and daily commute. Staff could receive up to £17.45 a day for food and travel. A tax tribunal dismissed Reed's claim that the payments were part of a salary sacrifice scheme.

Founder will vote against easyJet

Sunday Telegraph: Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder and largest shareholder of easyJet, is to vote against the airline's remuneration report, putting him on a collision course with the board. Sir Stelios, who controls 37 per cent of the low-cost carrier, is concerned at executive pay levels at the company.

Nigeria strike hits PZ Cussons

Healthcare company PZ Cussons issues its interim results tomorrow and investors are already braced for bad news. Since the profits warning in December, there has been further bad news thanks to a national strike in Nigeria, which makes up a third of the group's earnings.

IT sector woes will not dent Sage

Analysts are optimistic about IT firm Sage's defensive qualities and they will be hoping its first-quarter statement tomorrow proves this. The company has said it expects to see its revenues grow organically by 5 per cent over the full year. Bank of America Merrill Lynch believes this target is achievable.

Christmas sales drop at WH Smith

The last of the major retailers to update the market post-Christmas, WH Smith does not traditionally get as much of a festive boost as many of its peers. UBS is expecting it to announce a drop in like-for-like sales at its high-street stores of 7 per cent, thanks partly to fewer people shopping in town centres.

Misys likely to meet forecasts

Misys issues its first-half figures on Thursday, though the City will be aware that the final six months of the year are normally stronger for the banking software firm. Its focus on the financial sector – which isn't booming at the moment – has created some concern, but analysts think it will still meet forecasts.