The Business Matrix: Saturday 14 April 2012


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February bounce may not be enough

The construction sector could still drag down the economy in the first quarter of 2012 despite a February bounce, analysts warned yesterday. The ONS said construction output rose by 6.1 per cent in the month. But the recovery only claws back some ground lost to a 12.3 per cent slump in January.

JP Morgan profits down 3 per cent

The US banking giant JP Morgan Chase saw its first-quarter profits drop 3 per cent to $5.4bn (£3.4bn), but the results still beat Wall Street's expectations. The largest US bank by assets said its performance was driven by an increase in mortgage loans and an improvement at its investment banking arm.

Indian contracts boost for Serco

Serco is set to announce two major contracts by its Indian operations worth $1.3bn. The first, from the UK public sector, will be announced next week and the second will be signed with a private company in India. These will be the first big deals since Serco paid £385m for its Indian rival Intelenet last year.

Lochard board members ousted

The fund manager Henderson has ousted the directors of North Sea oil explorer Lochard Energy. Just over 80 per cent of shareholders voted to remove executive chairman Haydn Gardner and director Lincoln McCrabb. That left just one board member, so Lochard shares were suspended at 11.5p.

Digital switch sparks TV spree

Sales of TVs at John Lewis nearly doubled ahead of the digital switchover in London and the South-east of England. The retailer's star-performer last week was its electronics department, where sales rose 59 per cent, helped by an 83 per cent rise in sales of TVs.

Britain keeps its AAA rating

Standard & Poor's reaffirmed its top-notch AAA rating for Britain yesterday, saying it expects the country's debt burden to peak in 2014. While it said belt-tightening efforts would "likely drag on economic growth", it felt the British economy's ability to absorb these shocks has improved.

Bidders close in on Balfour UCH stake

Bidders are eyeing a one-third stake in one of the country's most infamous private finance initiative deals, University College Hospital off Tottenham Court Road. Barclays Private Equity, HICL and the John Laing Infrastructure Fund are believed to be mulling bids for the stake, owned by Balfour Beatty.

Daisy splashes out £28m for WGH

A husband-and-wife team has landed a huge windfall by selling their phone-conferencing business for at least £28m. Paul and Selena Bailey are the majority shareholders in Worldwide Group Holdings, which is being bought by the telecoms firm Daisy Group. Further payments will be based on performance.

Falklands drilling funds in place

Falklands Oil and Gas has said it has more than enough cash to fund its ambitious drilling programme this year. Following a fund raising in January, it now has $184m and expects the two wells it plans to drill to cost $140m. Losses for 2012 rose from $3.74m to $6.64m as it built up a drilling management team.

Premier to plug Indonesian well

Premier Oil is to plug and abandon one of its exploration wells in Indonesia after it did not find oil there. Elsewhere in Indonesia, Premier's 30 per cent-owned Benteng-1 frontier-exploration well on the Buton Block is currently drilling and results are expected in June.