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The Business Matrix: Saturday 11 August 2012

Fears rise for an Ocado debt crisis

The online supermarket Ocado yesterday came under the harshest attack yet from analysts, as one predicted it could breach its banking covenants this year. The company was now close being worthless, Philip Dorgan of Panmure Gordon stockbrokers declared, saying "a pile of debt and falling market share isn't sustainable".

US drops Goldman subprime case

Goldman Sachs was let off the hook yesterday as the US Department of Justice dropped plans to bring criminal charges over claims the bank was betting against the toxic subprime mortgage securities it sold to clients. The DoJ said: "The burden of proof to bring a criminal case could not be met based on the law and facts."

Pru reins back on threat to quit UK

Prudential may not now see out its threat to quit the UK for Hong Kong following moves to water down regulations that it claimed would make European insurers less competitive than rivals. Chief executive Tidjane Thiam applauded the change in stance. Profits powered 13 per cent higher to £1.3bn in the first half of the year for the group.

Export growth rate tumbles

The Chinese trade juggernaut shuddered to a halt in July as exports to its customers in the crisis-stricken European Union dried up. Exports in the month rose by just 1 per cent on a year earlier, according to official statistics, well down on June's 11 per cent growth.

Rare warning on German growth

Germany's economy ministry declared in a rare warning that there were "significant risks" to the country's outlook in the face of figures this week showing declines in manufacturing and industry. Tuesday will see the release of GDP figures that will show modest growth of about 0.2 per cent, according to economists.

GKN pumps £12m into UK factories

GKN is planning to invest more than £12m in its Birmingham and Telford plants which supply the car industry. The chief executive, Nigel Stein, said the decision had been taken because Britain's car industry was faring well in export markets. GKN supplies the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota.

Bank of Ireland takings crash

Underlying profits at Bank of Ireland slumped by two-thirds in the first half of the year as low central bank base rates weakened the margins it could make on its lending. Operating profits fell 65 per cent to €58m (£45.2m). The chief executive, Richie Boucher, described it as a "very difficult environment".

Hibu ad price controls lifted

The Office of Fair Trading has said Yellow Pages-owner Hibu should be freed from long-standing price controls. The move, which needs Competition Commission approval, means the company would no longer be limited over how much it can charge advertisers.

Flybe plummets on eurozone woes

Shares in Flybe yesterday plunged 10.75p to 64.5p after the airline warned revenues would be lower than expected this year because of the eurozone crisis. The chief executive, Jim French, said: "2012/13 is proving to be another very challenging year."

Li & Fung plunges after profits slump

Hong Kong conglomerate Li and Fung, the world's largest supplier of clothes and toys to retailers including Marks & Spencer, saw its shares fall 20 per cent yesterday after it announced a 22 per cent drop in its first-half operating profits.

 

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