The Business Matrix: Saturday 21 January 2012


Price-slashing saves December

Desperate price-slashing helped retail sales rise 0.6 per cent in December, as an extra weekend shopping day on Christmas Eve and milder weather helped the high street. Official figures showed prices rose by just 2.4 per cent year on year in December, the slowest annual rate in 18 months.

Ikea puts together 10% profits surge

Ikea, the flat-pack furniture giant, has posted a 10 per cent leap in global profits, driven by market share gains in most of the countries in which it operates. But the retailer's sales fell 3 per cent in the UK in its last financial year, as it was hit by the downturn in consumer spending and the moribund housing market.

STV gears up for new licence bids

The Scottish broadcaster STV has renewed its £70m banking facility for two more years at a cost of an extra £1m a year in interest charges. The broadcaster said that the extension meant it now had the certainty to concentrate on negotiating the renewal of its two ITV licences in Scotland.

Tesco director builds up shares

Another director of Tesco has picked up shares just days after a profits warning knocked their price down by nearly 20 per cent. Non-executive director Ken Hydon, the former finance director of Vodafone, spent £96,000 buying 30,000 shares at 320p. That lifts his total stake to 182,000 shares.

Google still finding success in the UK

Google's relentless growth in the UK is continuing as its revenues surged by an estimated 20 per cent to pass £2.5bn last year. The internet search giant, the biggest advertising business in the UK, according to analysts, posted a 21 per cent rise in UK sales to $1bn in the fourth quarter.

German firm near to Bmibaby deal

Bmibaby is set to be sold to new German owners rather than to British Airways as part of the sale of its parent, bmi. Lufthansa is expected to sell the budget arm of bmi to the German turnaround business Intro Aviation, the latter's chief executive told Bloomberg. BA's owner IAG has already agreed to buy bmi.

Close Brothers has patchy period

The financial services group Close Brothers said its securities division had been hit by "very difficult market conditions" in the five months to 31 December as investors made smaller trades on the stock market. However, its banking and asset management divisions performed well.

A festive fillip for Poundland

The budget retailer Poundland said it enjoyed a strong festive period, selling 24.5 million Christmas cards, one million advent calendars and 10,000 miles of wrapping paper. It said sales increased by nearly a quarter in the five weeks to 1 January, helped by ambitious expansion plans.

Barbican makes bid for Omega

Barbican Insurance has made a fresh takeover approach for its rival Omega Insurance, reigniting bid interest in Omega after potential deals to buy the company collapsed last year. The privately held Barbican said it had sent a letter which outlined an indicative merger proposal for Omega this week.

Unite now the only player in its village

The student accommodation developer Unite Group has taken full control of its Unite Student Village (USV) joint-venture with Parkmetro for £6.2m. USV owns the Forge, a 1,381-bed development in Sheffield city centre, near the Sheffield Hallam campus.