The Business Matrix: Monday 27 February 2012



Starbucks to add European outlets

Starbucks is gearing up to announce a multimillion-pound investment in its European business, which will see the coffee chain open hundreds more outlets across the UK and Europe. The US business is preparing to boost its portfolio of 700 branches in Britain up to 1,000 in as little as three years. They will include outlets in airports, hotels and stations as well as drive-through Starbucks and branches in service stations.

Insolvencies drop to 12-month low

Credit ratings company Experian will today issue a rare piece of upbeat news, as UK businesses show a fall in insolvencies.

The rate of collapse eased to 0.07 per cent in January, down from 0.11 per cent in December. Insolvencies were running at a similar rate this time last year. The improvement was most marked among the smaller firms the Government hopes will be the engine of recovery. Businesses with 101 to 500 employees saw a failure rate of 0.1 per cent.

Whitbread books pre-close update

Tomorrow the Costa Coffee-owner announces its pre-close update. Panmure Gordon notes that data from the restaurant and hotel sectors has been mixed, and believes that any risks to forecasts for the following financial year are on the downside. It predicts pre-tax profits for the next 12 months of £346m.

Bank boosted by China and Far East

The last of the UK-listed banks to report their final results, Standard Chartered announced a detail update in December – when it predicted it would manage a record profit – so there are unlikely to be any major shocks on Wednesday. Analysts believe profits from India will be weak, but will be offset by the Far East.

Spirent dials up strong quarter

With Spirent's preliminary results out on Thursday, Deutsche Bank believes that – following encouraging results from its peers – the telecoms testing group could end up beating forecasts. Analysts predict fourth-quarter revenues will have risen by 5 per cent from the previous three months to $136m.

Rentokil courier unit still a pest

Rentokil Initial's troubled courier unit City Link will once again be in focus on Friday when the rat-catcher posts its preliminary results. Numis Securities' Mike Murphy is expecting the business to post a loss of £24m, and says that, although early in the year, investors will be "looking for guidance".

The Independent on Sunday

The European Central Bank is to flood banking markets with €500bn (£424m) of cheap loans this week, taking its supportof the European Union to €1 trillion. The ECB will set out the three-year loans to private banks and other firms, known as the longer-term refinancing operations, on Wednesday.

The Mail on Sunday

United Utilities has drawn up plans to lay a £2.6bn water pipe alongside the proposed high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham and beyond to bring water from north to south. The utility giant said it will present its plans to the Government imminently. It expects the pipe to cost £7m a mile.

The Sunday Telegraph

BP's chief executive, Bob Dudley, signalled that he is prepared for the multibillion-dollar legal case into the fatal Macondo well disaster to last until 2014. The trial, starting today in New Orleans, will see BP stand accused of being responsible for the April 2010 blow-out that killed 11 oil workers in the Gulf.

The Sunday Times

Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, plans to build a new North Sea empire. The European division of the US investment fund Riverstone, which he runs, is in advanced talks with the North Sea producer Fairfield Energy to buy up to half of the company and use it as a vehicle to buy new fields.