The Business Matrix: Monday 7 February 2011

Smith & Nephew

Full-year profits at the hip and knee-replacement maker Smith & Nephew on Thursday are expected to be 10 per cent higher than 2009 at $943m, and analysts are expecting growth to continue this year. Bid talk has also helped to lift the group’s shares to all time highs in recent weeks, with S&N linked to the US-listed Johnson & Johnson group and the private US firm Biomet.

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is likely to provide more details on the cost of dealing with the aftermath of an engine explosion on a superjumbo owned by Qantas when the aero-engine maker reports full-year results on Thursday. The company is nonetheless expected to report a 3 per cent rise in profits to £945m for the year, thanks to strong performances at its marine and and defence divisions.

Reckitt Benckiser

Strong demand in emerging markets is expected help the household goods giant Reckitt Benckiser post annual results of £2.3bn on Wednesday. Investors will also be looking to see if rising costs of raw materials, such as palm oil used in soaps, have impacted on the Cillit Bang-to-Dettol firm. The group, which recently completed its purchase of SSL, said in November it was targeting growth of 6 per cent.

Diageo

Diageo is expected to post a 5 per cent rise in sales to £5.5bn at its half year results on Thursday, according to RBS. The Guinness and spirits maker has been looking to cash in on the stay-at-home market with cans of its Gordon’s gin and tonic and Smirnoff vodka and cola. Its chief executive has also hinted that he may consider moving the company abroad if it the Government does not lessen the tax burden on Diageo.

Thomas Cook

Investors will be looking at package holiday operator Thomas Cook’s update on Tuesday for guidance on how the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia has affected its business. Holidays to the two countries make up an estimated 8 per cent of the company’s sales, according to Numis, which expects Thomas Cook’s losses in the final quarter of 2010 to be lower than the £41.3m it recorded a year ago.

BG

Fourth-quarter numbers from BG are on Tuesday, and an increase in UK gas prices is expected to have lifted profits at the oil and gas explorer. Analysts at Charles Stanley are predicting earnings over the three months of $950m (£590m). The broker remains a fan of the group, saying that BG is moving into a high-growth phase which should more than justify its current share price.

Fortnum & Mason looks to China

The chief executive of Fortnum & Mason, the luxury London department store, has revealed it is hunting locations in China for its first overseas foray for more than 80 years. Beverley Aspinall said it was “definitely” looking at China, where it would trade at Fortnum & Mason. However, she hinted that the 300-year-plus shop may open in the Middle East first. Fortnum & Mason made a profit of £100,000 for the year to 18 July.

JJB Sports mulls store closures

JJB Sports, the troubled sports equipment chain, plans to close a significant number of stores in a bid to safeguard its future. Bank of Scotland has set JJB’s board a deadline of 24 February to present a restructuring plan to curtail its losses. Last week, JJB unveiled a £31.5m fundraising, as it said it had been approached by rival JD Sports Fashion over a potential takeover bid for the 250-store retailer. JD Sports has performed strongly in recent years.

Salmond lambasts grocery ‘barons’

Alex Salmond has said the big UK grocers are the new “the barons of politics” after the Scottish Parliament last week voted against a punitive special tax for large retailers intended to raise an additional £30m. The First Minister, of the Scottish National Party, said: “The supermarkets have the most enormous lobbying power. I think they are the barons of politics.” Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Tories opposed the tax.

Google eyes deal on EU inquiry

The executive chairman of Google is keen to reach a deal with the European Union to avoid a lengthy inquiry into the search engine’s dominant market position. Eric Schmidt fears the probe could go on for years.

Energees closes in on Regal takeover

Regal Petroleum, the British exploration company, yesterday recommended a takeover by Energees Investment after it raised its offer by 58 per cent. Energees, a bid vehicle controlled by the Ukrainian conglomerate Smart Holding, had initially bid 24p per a share for the UK explorer in December. The firm has now offered 38p a share in cash for 70 per cent of Regal for about £85m.

MP seeks to save 2,400 Pfizer jobs

George Freeman, the Tory MP and biotech expert, has urged the Government to open Pfizer’s site in Sandwich to venture capitalists and biotech angels in a bid to save as many of the 2,400 jobs due to be axed when the plant closes, as it can. Mr Freeman is in contact with top UK entrepreneurs about how to help Pfizer scientists recycle their knowledge and skills into spin-outs or other ventures.

Cable’s plan to help exporters

Vince Cable is to reveal measures to boost exports to drive Britain’s economic recovery. The Business Secretary will unveil details on Wednesday of the Government’s Trade and Investment White Paper which will detail funding to help companies export. Small businesses and their importance will be at the core of the paper.

Complaints about Whitehall increase

Business complaints against the Government’s procurement practices are soaring as suppliers fight harder for public-sector work, the commercial-law firm EMW reveals today. The number of formal complaints lodged with the Office of Government Commerce shot up by 84 per cent in the year to September.