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The Business Matrix: Monday 31 January 2011

BP

BP will take another step in its rehabilitation on Tuesday if it reinstates dividend payments as expected alongside its full-year results. The payout, suspended after the Deepwater Horizon Gulf disaster this summer, used to account for an estimated one in every six pension pounds invested. Analysts are expecting underlying full-year profits of $21bn.

Ocado

Tuesday will see Ocado post its maiden full-year results since it listed in July. The upmarket online retailer, launched 10 years ago, has yet to report a profit, and analysts are expecting another loss – of about £9.7m – this time. But the day also marks an important milestone for the shares, since John Lewis can reduce its 11 per cent stake in Ocado after the results.

Shell

Royal Dutch Shell has had a more sedate year than its FTSE 100 rival BP, and analysts are forecasting annual profits of $30bn (£19bn) when it posts results on Thursday. The Anglo-Dutch oil major has also benefited from the ever-increasing oil price over the past year and a hike in production levels, as well as a $3.5bn cost-saving plan, which saw 7,000 jobs go.

Unilever

Rising commodity costs are expected to hit Unilever, whose products range from Dove soap to Ben&Jerry’s ice cream, over the coming year. But the 2010 figures from the world’s second largest consumer goods group, due on Thursday, are seen as being largely unaffected so far by soaring costs. Analysts are expecting profits of £5.2bn on sales up 3.9 per cent.

GlaxoSmithKline

Full-year results on Thursday from pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline are expected to be hit hard by multibillion-pound legal charges relating to its controversial diabetes drug Avandia. Most analysts now expect profits to have almost halved to £4.6bn in 2010, from £8.7bn in 2009, owing to the legal costs. Sales are forecast to have held at £28.4bn.

Ryanair

Analysts have been changing their forecasts for Ryanair, the low-cost airline that reports third-quarter figures on Monday, ever since Easyjet warned last month’s snow and strikes would cost it £30m. Ryanair is, however, believed to be better hedged against rising oil prices than its rival. The impact is still expected to see third-quarter losses widen to €25m (£22m).

Jones Bootmaker sold to Macintosh

One of the high street’s oldest shoe-shop chains has been snapped up by a Dutch retail giant after a five-month sale process, landing its owners an estimated £40m payday. Jones Bootmaker, which can trace its roots back more than 150 years, yesterday confirmed that it had agreed to a takeover approach tabled by Macintosh Retail Group. The Dutch company also owns the Brantano chain in the UK.

HgCapital mulls sale of Americana

The private equity group HgCapital is believed to be considering a sale of Americana International, which owns popular fashion labels including Bench. The group has called in the investment banking adviser Rothschild to find a buyer, according to reports over the weekend. The Manchester-based Americana,which also owns the Hooch brand, was set up in 1998, and developed a cult following in the UK.

Wigley named as Skrill chairman

Bob Wigley, the former chairman of Merrill Lynch in Europe, has been named chairman of online payments group Skrill Holdings, it emerged over the weekend. The move comes as the company lines up for a possible flotation this year. Sources close to the company said that should the group choose to float, it would be valued in a range of between €400m and €500m.

Origo looks to raise $80mto expand

Origo Partners, an Aim-listed private-equity group, hopes to raise up to $80m (£50m) to expand in Mongolia. It is to raise the capital through convertible preference shares. Origo’s head, Chris Rynning, said it “will strengthen our balance sheet, broaden our shareholder base and enable us to accelerate our strategy of investing in new and existing opportunities in China and Mongolia”.

Earlier date for Spanish funding

The Spanish government will offer state funding to struggling savings banks that are unable to raise financing from the private sector from March. The state was to step in from September, but following fears that some of the smaller lenders would not make it that far, decided to bring the deadline closer.

RBS launches ‘low risk’ retail funds

Royal Bank of Scotland will today launch a significant push into retail-fund management, as it looks to become one of the biggest players in a £40bn market. The bank is to target the popular “cautious managed” and “balanced managed” funds following criticism that the existing vehicles are too volatile and potentially risky.

Private sector jobs rise, but wages fall

One of the UK’s leading recruitment agencies has reported stronger-than-expected growth in private sector jobs – but many of those jobs are poorly paid and insecure, according to the Reed Job Index. The index rose by nine points in January as employer demand rebounded from the trough following the poor weather.

‘Recession hits the poor the hardest’

The Work Foundation, a leading think tank in the world of employment, warns that the “bottom 10 million” are still suffering from the weak economy. The Foundation says in a new report entitled Welfare to What? that the Government must “expand opportunities” for those already struggling on less than £15,000 a year.

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