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The Business Matrix: Saturday 5 January 2013

Stone to help get Hornby rolling

Hornby has named Nick Stone, from the software and consultancy group KBC Advanced Technologies, as its new finance director. The model maker disappointed investors at the end of last year when it scrapped its dividend following weak sales of its licensed London 2012 Olympics merchandise saw it post a first-half loss.

Loan approvals show recovery

Mortgage approvals hit a 10-month high in November in another sign the Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme is breathing life into the market. Approvals rose to 54,036, from 53,071 in October and a 3.2 per cent rise from November 2011. But they are still down on the levels seen before the housing market peaked in 2007.

No takers yet for naturist group

Travelzest, which owns sites including holiday.co.uk and flight.co.uk, has admitted it can't find a buyer for Peng Travel, the UK's biggest naturist holiday group, which it put up for sale a year ago. The travel group also reported that its underlying annual profits rose to £4.6m from £3.2m a year earlier after action to slash operating costs.

Johnson gets a clean start to 2013

Johnson Service has toasted the first sales growth at its dry-cleaning business for years, following a restructuring that saw it exit 100 unprofitable stores in the past 12 months. This helped the group, which generates the majority of its revenues from renting out workplace clothing, reaffirm that profits would be line with City expectations.

Jobs creation still lacklustre

US employers kept their pace of hiring steady in December, falling short of the levels needed to bring down a still lofty unemployment rate and pointing to lacklustre economic growth in 2013. Payrolls, excluding farm jobs, grew by 155,000 last month, while the jobless rate was steady at 7.8 per cent.

Costain's order book slimmer

The engineering and construction group Costain said it ended 2012 with a £2.4bn order book, down slightly on £2.5bn the previous year. More than £700m of work has been secured for 2013, with the Berkshire-based group chosen as a preferred bidder for further projects worth more than £400m.

Rolls-Royce gets US engine contract

Rolls-Royce has won a £33m contract from the US Marine Corps and Air Force to provide repair and support services for aircraft engines. Work will be carried out at Rolls-Royce facilities in Indiana and California, in addition to fleet support at military sites.

US contract for surveillance firm

Digital Barriers, a surveillance technology specialist, has secured a development contract from a major US government agency worth about £400,000. The work will see the group develop a new range of security products related to the law enforcement sector.

Cerberus snaps up Admiral Taverns

Admiral Taverns has been sold to the US private-equity firm Cerberus in a deal worth £200m, including debt. The move brings to an end a troubled period for the pubs group that saw it fall into the hands of its bank, Lloyds.

DIY dampener for Marshalls

Marshalls, which provided paving for the London Olympics, saw revenues fall 7 per cent in 2012 as bad weather put paid to people's plans to build patios or drives. But the group said it would hit City forecasts for annual profits of about £10.5m.

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