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The Business Matrix: Monday 28 October 2013

Wizard windfall for Merlin bosses

Senior staff at Merlin Entertainments will share a £200m windfall when the owner of Madame Tussauds floats next month, according to reports. Some 300 managers, including Merlin’s chief executive, Nick Varney, and chief financial officer, Andrew Carr, hold shares in the group, which also owns Alton Towers, and is likely to be valued at £3bn.

London leads the house price climb

House prices climbed 0.5 per cent in October but there remains a marked north-south divide as the 0.8 per cent price increase in London was the highest in the country, followed by a 0.7 per cent hike in the South East. In the North East, prices remained static while the North West recorded just a 0.1 per cent rise,  according to Hometrack.

What the Sunday papers said

Serco hit by new leadership blow

The head of the Serco division that is responsible for UK Government contracts is absent from work, adding to the group’s leadership crisis. Group chief executive Chris Hyman announced his resignation on Friday. UK and Europe chief Jeremy Stafford has also not been working since the start of the month.

Independent on Sunday

Revenue head to face avoidance ire

Britain’s top tax inspector will come under fire this week for allowing Google and other multinationals to use “immoral” tax-avoidance ploys. Jim Harra, director-general of business tax at HM Revenue and Customs, is one of three officials who are set to be accused by the Commons Public Accounts Committee of letting the firms breach tax rules.

Sunday Times

Billionaire has Bhs in his sights

The Bhs department store chain has been sized up as a takeover target by South African billionaire Christo Wiese. The chain is one of several on a list of British acquisitions being considered by Mr Wiese, who has a personal fortune of £2.2bn. He has formed an alliance with former Asda chief Andy Bond to look for opportunities.

Mail on Sunday

RBS set to move £400m into black

Royal Bank of Scotland is set to report third-quarter profits of more than £400m on Friday, reversing a loss last year of £1.2bn. The taxpayer-backed lender’s return to profit will be the first set of results overseen by new chief executive, Ross McEwan, although the figures are likely to be overshadowed by continued speculation about a break-up.

Sunday Telegraph

Fears of slowdown in Aggreko orders

Aggreko, the temporary power provider, will update the market on its third-quarter results today, and analysts expect some problems in the short term. RBC Capital’s Andrew Brooke warns that it is experiencing a “slow order intake in power projects”, and thinks earnings per share could fall to below 70p.

BP tipped to post earnings of £2.1bn

Barclays analysts admit that BP’s doubling of exploration spend in the past three years has helped it reverse its underperformance, but they still rate it underperform ahead of an update tomorrow. JP Morgan Cazenove expects third-quarter earnings of £2.1bn, with earnings per share up 23 per cent.

Standard Life ‘going for treble’

JP Morgan Cazenove thinks the “new-style” UK business at Standard Life, which updates on Wednesday, will treble earnings to £262m by 2015, and reckons it has growth to come. Investors will also be awaiting future cash dividends. JP thinks there is £1.1bn of excess capital.

New Premier chief wins a welcome

Premier Foods, owner of Mr Kipling and Hovis, updates on Thursday. It has a new finance chief who joined from Dairy Crest. Analysts at Shore Capital said the key to a turnaround is its balance-sheet re-engineering but they welcomed the appointment of Alastair Murray.

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