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The Business Matrix: Saturday 10 December 2011



'Big six' firms' complaints go up

Complaints about the "big six" energy firms soared by 26 per cent over the summer as hostility against the sector mounted. Just one firm – ScottishPower – saw complaints fall on the previous quarter, while the London supplier EDF Energy was at the bottom of Consumer Focus's league table after a near-75 per cent leap in customer grievances.

Morgan Sindall to work on Stockport

Regeneration specialist Morgan Sindall said it had been selected as a preferred development partner for a £145m regeneration of Stockport centre. It also announced that its affordable housing division, Lovell, based in Tamworth, has been awarded a £103m contract to refurbish 15,000 Barnet council homes over the next 10 years.

Air Partner still flying high

Air Partner, the Queen's official chartered-aircraft supplier, said it continues to trade profitably despite the difficult conditions in the travel sector. Revenues from its commercial jet broking are lower than last year's but in line with expectations, the firm added. Earlier this year, it evacuated 12,000 people during the Arab Spring uprisings.

Bowers deal music to Caledonia's ears

Caledonia Investments has taken a 20 per cent stake in Bowers & Wilkins, whose high-end audio equipment includes the Zeppelin docking station and premium 800 Diamond speakers used at Abbey Road Studios. Worthing-based B&W said the £24m acquisition by Caledonia would support the next phase of its growth.

Dutch get tough on fat cat bonuses

Dutch banks which pay their executives excessive bonuses face a more punitive tax rate as part of a new levy being introduced next year. The bank tax, which is expected to raise about €300m a year, will be 5 per cent higher if a bank pays directors bonuses exceeding 100 per cent of their annual salary.

Centrica in £37m Canadian gas deal

British Gas owner Centrica has bought 80 Canadian gas producing wells from US giant Encana Corporation for £37m. The assets, located 160km west of Edmonton, give Centrica's North American arm, Direct Energy, a 4 per cent increase in its reserves. The assets also include a gas processing plant.

Greek decline is slower than feared

Greece's economy contracted5 per cent year on year in the third quarter, shrinking less than in previous quarters. Previous flash estimates for the third quarter released in November had projected the decline at 5.2 per cent. The debt-choked country is in its fourth straight year of recession.

...but Portugal shrinks faster

Portugal's economy shrank more than the initially reported 0.6 per cent in the third quarter, slipping deeper into recession as austerity and financing problems weighed amid the debt crisis while export growth slowed. The government projects the economy will contract 1.6 per cent this year and 3 per cent in 2012.

Construction falls in October

The construction sector remained stuck in the doldrums in October, though an upward revision in data for previous months gave comfort to economists. The Office for National Statistics said construction output was down 2.5 per cent on September, and down 2.7 per cent on a year ago.

Factory gate prices ease

The prices of goods leaving factories were unchanged in November on a "core" basis, stripping out items such as food and petrol, taking the year-on-year increase to 3.2 per cent in November. That is down from a peak of 3.7 per cent in September, boosting expectations inflation will fall in coming months.