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The Business Matrix: Monday 4 July 2011

Opposition mounts tokey train deal

Opposition is building to the decision to award a £3bn contract to build Thameslink trains to Siemens of Germany. Labour frontbenchers John Denham and Maria Eagle have urged David Cameron to review the Department for Transport’s decision, which dealt “a body blow to the UKrail manufacturing sector”.

Npower lined up for sale by RWE

One of the nation’s big energy suppliers, Npower, may be sold by the German giant RWE, reports over the weekend suggest, in a £5bn deal. RWE needs to relieve itself of debts and pay for a strategic commitment for it to invest in a new generation of “green” power stations. Spanish power group Iberdrola is a possible buyer.

WH Smith

WH Smith is expected to reveal on Thursday that it has weathered tough conditions on the high street in its third quarter – driven by a strong performance at its travel sites. The retail sector has suffered a dire run so far this year but WHS has benefited from its move in recent years to rebalance its mix away from DVD and CDs towards higher-margin categories such as stationery and books.

Persimmon

Persimmon will give an idea of how the housing market is faring in its latest update on Tuesday. Analysts at Numis expect the group to report that it has traded well against a difficult backdrop in the first half of its financial year. In April, Persimmon said its order book was little changed from a year earlier at £1.1bn, and the market will be focused on whether this improved in May and June.

N Brown

N Brown delivered record results for the seventh year in May and is expected to have maintained its momentum in a trading update on Tuesday. Despite warnings about a squeeze in consumer spending, the catalogue and online shopping group is pushing ahead with plans to extend its Simply Be womenswear brand to Germany and the US and to turn around its High & Mighty and Figleaves chains.

SIG

The roofing and insulation materials supplier’s last update in May indicated that trading had recovered strongly after a weather-affected period in the previous year. Continental Europe accounts for more than half of SIG’s sales and brokers expect it to reveal on Friday that it saw double-digit growth between January and April, with Britain and Ireland more sluggish.

Anti-bribery law comes into force

The Bribery Act, which covers overseas operations of companies that do business in the UK, has come into force. The law, bitterly opposed by many exporting businesses, means that any company that carries on a business in the UK can incur liability for the corrupt actions of rogue employees or associated third parties.

Firms urged to reveal pay gaps

British business should reveal the disparities between their highest and lowest-paid staff, a leading economic think-tank says today. The New Economics Foundation says gross inequalities in income lead to economic inefficiency, add to financial instability and threaten future crises, quite apart from pure issues of “fairness”.

The Pope’s finances are backinto black

The Vatican has announced that its finances have only recently returned to profit after three consecutive years in the red. The Holy See has reported revenues of €245.2m (£221m) in 2010 against expenditure of €235.3m. But annual donations from churches worldwide fell by nearly $15m (£9.3m) to $67.7m.

Waitrose goes little to grow big

Waitrose has announced plans to open a record number of shops within the M25 next year, which is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs. It aims to open 20 new “Little Waitrose” convenience shops by the end of 2012. It follows a successful trial of the sub-brand at a store in Kensington, west London, opened in January.

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