The Business Matrix: Saturday 17 January 2015


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Drivers steer EU car sales forward

Car sales in the European Union rose in 2014 for the first time in six years, said the ACEA trade association. Sales were up 5.7 per cent to 12,550,771, fuelled by government scrappage schemes and wholesale orders from companies. There was a shift to cheaper brands, with Dacia and Skoda reporting big sales increases.

Character Group toasts festive sales

Character Group, the maker of Peppa Pig, Minecraft and Doctor Who toys, said it enjoyed a happy Christmas with sales surging by almost a third. Its shares jumped by nearly 8 per cent in response as the firm said it was “very encouraged” by trading in the run-up to Christmas, with sales higher than they had expected.

Super savers help comprison site

The decision of Britain’s “big six” energy providers to peg prices last autumn hit business at the comparison site MoneySuperMarket, although more Britons looking for credit card and travel deals mean its revenues will rise by 10 per cent this year. The low oil price meant gas and electricity firms stuck to their tariffs.

Sainsbury’s drops PwC for rival

Sainsbury’s has replaced its auditor of nearly 20 years, PricewaterhouseCoopers, with Ernst & Young. Losing the account is a blow to PwC while it is being investigated by regulators into its role in the accounting scandal that rocked Tesco. Sainsbury’s says its decision was made last year before the revelations.

Footballers score for Goals Soccer

Britons lacing up their football boots saw five-a-side pitch hire firm Goals Soccer Centres score a 3 per cent rise in revenues last year, to £34.5m. But the company admitted it had seen higher sales growth in ancillary revenues from its bars and corporate events than on football bookings.

Caudrilla granted permit to frack

The Environment Agency has granted energy firm Cuadrilla a permit to frack at one of its sites in Lancashire. The environmental permit is required by the firm before it can extract shale gas at Little Plumpton. The county council will make a final decision later this month.

Darktrace makes early US move

The cyber-security specialist Darktrace has pushed forward plans to open its US headquarters after a surge in demand since the Sony cyber-attack. The firm will open a Washington office next month, headed by the National Security Agency veteran Jim Penrose.

Renting costs increase by 3%

The cost of renting a home in England and Wales rose by 3 per cent over the course of 2014. The average residential rent cost £767 a month by the end of the year, compared with £745 at the end of 2013, Your Move said. Rents fell by 0.1 per cent from November to December.

Lenders apply for emergency funds

Two Greek lenders – Eurobank and Alpha – have applied to tap the national central bank’s emergency funding a year  after ending their reliance on  it. Greeks are withdrawing  cash before a snap election on 25 January.

Hewitt takes a seat at top table

The Restaurant Group, which owns the Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Coast to Coast chains, has appointed Debbie Hewitt as a non-executive director. She is chairman of Moss Bros and sits on the boards of Redrow and NCC.