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The Business Matrix: Monday 4 April 2011

More protests on North Sea tax likely

EnQuest, due to report its full-year results on Tuesday, doesn’t often make the headlines, though its numbers for last year will have been buoyed by rising oil prices. But this time around, look out for its views on the increase in the taxes paid by North Sea oil producers announced in the Budget last month. More brickbats for the Chancellor?

M&S set to confirm retail slowdown

Marks & Spencer is likely to add its name to the growing list of retailers warning that consumer spending has slowed markedly since the beginning of the year. Though M&S did better than many of its rivals over Christmas, analysts expect it to reveal on Wednesday a 2.5 per cent fall in like-for-like sales during the 13 weeks to 2 April.

Recruiters look overseas for growth

Robert Walters should be able to say it has not been adversely affected by the slow jobs market in the UK when it gives an update on performance in the first quarter on Wednesday. The recruitment consultancy has been growing strongly in recent times, despite the economic headwinds, thanks to its large operation in the Asia Pacific region.

Halfords forced to pedal uphill

There is little reason to hope that Halfords’ fourth-quarter update, scheduled for Thursday, will be any more upbeat than its post-Christmas report to the market, when it warned of slowing sales. The bike market is showing signs of consumer fatigue – and tighter rules on the cycle-to-work tax-break scheme are not likely to help.

MPC poised to keep the base rate at 0.5%

Will April be the month in which base rates finally rise from the record low of 0.5 per cent? We will find out on Thursday, but don’t bet on it: with poor economic news over the past few weeks, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee’s three interest-rate hawks will find it difficult to win over the two more members they need.

Vedanta waits for Cairn clearance

Vedanta Resources will unveil its full-year results on Friday, but what investors really want to know is when regulators might rule on its deal with Cairn. Vedanta wants to buy up to 51 per cent of Cairn India for a price that could go as high as $8.5bn, but the deal is on hold pending clearance from the Indian government, which has been delayed.

Fabergé plans to open London shop

Fabergé, the luxury jewelled-egg maker associated with Tsarist Russia, is set to return to London for the first time since 1917. Pallinghurst Resources bought Fabergé in 2007 and its favoured location is Bond Street, where its original shop was to be found.

Private-equity firms delay exits

The recession has forced half of private-equity firms to delay their exits from businesses they own by an average of three years. The survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers also found more than a third of them had to pump more capital into investments in the downturn.

HSBC agrees to join apprentice scheme

HSBC will join the Government’s financial apprenticeship scheme, which is aimed at non-graduate employees. The qualification will take about 18 months to complete and a quarter of the HSBC apprentices will be new recruits.

Job opportunities ‘shrank in March’

Job opportunities in the UK shrank last month, according to a report from the country’s largest recruitment website. Growth in the private sector is responsible for this increase, with the number of new public sector jobs down.

UK exporters must capitalise on China

Accountancy firm Ernst & Young says that with a disappointing pace of recovery in prospect for the eurozone area, UK exporters will need to look further afield and capitalise on fast-expanding Brazil, India and China.

Kelly appointed to Big Society post

The Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, will unveil a new incubator fund to help public-sector workers to take over government services via John Lewis-style mutuals. The entrepreneur Stephen Kelly will guide the work.

Paternity rules bad for business

New employment laws including paternity leave will be damaging to British businesses, a new report warns. A survey of 1,300 firms by the British Chambers of Commerce showed over half believed giving extra paternity would be detrimental. One in five said abolishing the default retirement age would also harm them.

Each way betting for the Tote

Andy Stewart, one of the City’s best-known horseracing enthusiasts, is backing British Airways’ chairman Sir Martin Broughton’s bid for the Tote. Mr Stewart’s own bid was rejected in January. Other bids are from: Betfred, the UK’s fourth-biggest bookie; property tycoon Reuben brothers; and a management buyout team.

Warning on stock market takeover

The London Stock Exchange is facing renewed opposition to its proposed merger with Canada’s biggest bourse; Ed Clark, the chief executive of Toronto-Dominion Bank, said the Toronto stock exchange should not “give up” its independence to London. The London exchange has been at the centre of speculation for years.

BP restarts drilling in Gulf of Mexico

BP has been given the go-ahead to restart deep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, one year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in history. The group plans to drill 10 existing wells, and will start operations this summer. It has had to agree to a number of safety rules.

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