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The Business Matrix: Saturday 20 October 2012

McDonald's feels the pressure

McDonald's has posted its worst quarterly restaurant sales growth performance in nine years, signalling broad pressure on an industry where chains are fighting aggressively for diners who are spending less to eat out. Profits at the world's biggest fast-food chain fell 3.5 per cent to $1.5bn (£937,000) as revenues slipped 0.2 per cent to $7.2bn.

William Hill seeks to buy out partner

The bookmaker William Hill wants to buy out its partner Playtech from William Hill Online in a deal that could cost it upwards of £350m. The decision comes after the online business grew operating profits by a phenomenal 42 per cent in the last three months, driving an overall rise of 26 per cent for the group.

Italy raises $18bn on bond markets

Italian and Spanish bond yields – the cost of government borrowing – fell to multi-month lows yesterday after a record-breaking retail bond sale in Rome added to the improved mood in Madrid. Italy sold €18bn (£15bn) of bonds, which mature in four years time, the most ever raised at a single auction.

Johnson buys into Brainspark

Luke Johnson, the entrepreneur who was previously behind Pizza Express has, it has emerged, pumped £1m into the Aim-listed investment company Brainspark, and he has also become chairman. Mr Johnson spent £1m to buy 25 million shares at 4p as part of a share placing which raised £2.8m.

FastJet signs leasing deal

FastJet, the new budget African airline, has signed leasing agreements for two aircraft, and poached easyJet and Ryanair directors. The carrier, backed by Easyjet's founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, plans to launch next month at its first base in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Shares in Aggreko fall after warning

Shares in the generators giant Aggreko fell 7 per cent yesterday after it warned profits will be hit by unfavourable exchange rates and higher bad debts. The company, paid nearly £60m to provide temporary power at the London Olympic Games, said profits will be about 2.5 per cent less than expected.

North-South divide for firms

Sharp increases in financial distress at smaller firms and businesses based in the North, contrasting with marked improvements at southern-based companies, have left a "starkly divided nation", according to accountants Begbies Traynor's latest corporate health check.

Bad debt grows at Clydesdale owner

National Australia Bank, the owner of Clydesdale Bank, lifted its bad debt write-offs after it said the economy in the UK and its home market had worsened. The bank increased its provisions for bad loans by £160m without specifying how much was UK and how much domestic.

Credit card boost for Provident

Sub-prime lender Provident Financial said its credit card division has attracted 27 per cent more customers year on year to 834,000. But its doorstep lending division saw customers take out fewer loans as they continue to be squeezed by rising bills.

DFS sitting pretty after sales bounce

Annual profits at the sofa chain DFS rose 2.5 per cent to £82m after a second-half turnaround. Sales recovered from a 10.3 per cent plunge in the first six months to rise by 6.6 per cent in the second half, leaving them down 2.1 per cent over the year.

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