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The Business Matrix: Monday 5 September 2011

JD Wetherspoon

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon will disclose on Friday whether its recent slowdown in sales growth has worsened amid the economic gloom. Annual profits are expected to have fallen 6 per cent to £66.5m as it struggles to pass rising prices on to cash-strapped consumers. But at its last update, in July, it reported an “encouraging” performance by the latest pubs it had opened.

Thorntons report

The chocolatier Thorntons will reveal on Wednesday whether there has been any let-up in the poor trading that has forced it to hatch a turnaround plan. The retailer, which is expected to reveal a £3.2m annual loss, said it will close up to 180 stores following a strategy review led by its new chief executive Jonathan Hart. The planned closures could put up to 1,125 jobs at risk.

Redrow

Redrow is expected to reveal on Thursday that its recovery since founder Steve Morgan returned to the housebuilder’s helm has continued. Mr Morgan, owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers, has focused on building more family homes to reduce its exposure to first-time buyers struggling to get mortgages. Annual sales are expected to be up 11 per cent at £442m, with profits of £18m.

Morrisons

Morrisons will shed light on how consumers are reacting to higher grocery prices when it posts half-yearly profits on Thursday. The Bradford-based chain is the only one of the big four supermarkets to have continued to grow market share in recent weeks, helped by new stores down south and promotions. Analysts expects profits to rise 7 per cent to £440m.

HMRC targets bankrupt firms

Small businesses which are tempted by bankruptcy as the solution to their difficulties are being targeted by HM Revenue & Customs officials in a clampdown on unpaid taxes. The law firm Wedlake Bell warned that HMRC was now taking a much tougher line with bankrupts who have failed to pay their taxes by invoking rarely used powers.

Battle over public sector contracts

Complaints made by those firms which challenge decisions on public sector procurement have risen to the highest since before the recession as contractors battle for business, according to the UK law firm McGrigors. Disputed public sector contracts jumped to 73 in the last year, up sharply from 47 disputes in the previous year, the law firm said.

Cantor Fitzgerald plans flotation

Cantor Fitzgerald, the US investment bank that lost two-thirds of its workforce in the September 11 attacks, is planning a flotation that would end its 66-year-old partnership status. The public offering will raise funds for acquisitions and to reward staff, who have supported dead colleagues’ families with $180m of partnership profits.

Flowers sweetens Rock deal terms

JC Flowers, one of the bidders for Northern Rock, is reported to be working on a complex deal structure that would allow the Government to keep a stake in the nationalised bank after it is sold. The deal could let the Government recoup its expected £400m loss on the sale. JC Flowers tried to buy Northern Rock before it was nationalised.

Ritblat homes in on Plantation deal

Jamie Ritblat is set to secure the control of Plantation Place – the City office building that his father, Sir John, built – in a deal valuing the property at £500m. Mr Ritblat is reported to be in exclusive talks with Plantation Place’s owners after sweetening his recent takeover approach for the 550,000 sq ft building, which Sir John built at British Land.

Vivendi lines up for See Tickets

Vivendi, the French media giant, is buying Britain’s second-biggest ticket agency for almost £80m. See Tickets is being sold by Parcom Capital, a Dutch buyout firm. The agency, once part of Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Group, has 20 per cent of the UK market and covers events such as the Reading music festival.

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