The Business Matrix: Saturday 7 May 2011

Sony boss says sorry to customers

Sir Howard Stringer, the British boss of Japanese electronics giant Sony, yesterday issued a public apology to 100 million customers whose personal details may have been stolen in one of the biggest corporate hacking scandals of all time. Sir Howard offered many customers a one-year identity theft insurance policy.

Goldman sees off pay protests

Goldman Sachs has faced down critics of its pay scheme, with shareholders re-electing its directors and approving compensation for top executives at the investment bank’s annual general meeting. But, the bank is continuing to face anger from some investors, including several groups of nuns.

Factory gate prices continue to climb

A sustained fall in commodity costs cannot come quickly enough for British manufacturers – and the UK’s inflation data – with new figures yesterday revealing that prices at the factory gate are continuing to surge. The cost of goods produced by manufacturers rose at an annual rate of 5.3 per cent in April, official data showed.

More companies are going bust

The slow pace of economic recovery led to a rise in the number of businesses falling victim to insolvency during the first three months of the year, official figures show. The number of companies liquidated during the first quarter of 2011 rose by 3.7 per cent to 4,121, the Insolvency Service said.

Commodity prices bounce back

Fears of a sudden and sustained sell-off on the commodities markets receded yesterday as traders welcomed signs of economic recovery in the US, although analysts warned that prices of some raw materials may have been “run up too far” in recent months. The prices of oil, precious metals and soft commodities all rose yesterday following sharp declines in many cases on Thursday.

Lookers bidders given deadline

The consortium which is considering make a takeover offer for the Lookers car dealership chain has been told by The Takeover Panel it has until 8 June to make a bid or walk away for at least six months. Lookers was first approached on 3 May by a consortium made up of Trefick, a private investment vehicle for veteran investor Jack Petchey, real estate firm Moor Park and the venture capitalist Brett Palos.

L&G to vote with National Express

National Express has moved a step closer to defeating the activist shareholder that is seeking to appoint a string of new directors to the company’s board at its annual general meeting next week. Legal & General, the insurer which owns 6 per cent of the transport group, said yesterday that it would vote in favour of National Express’ management at the meeting.

Rentokil struggles to recover

Rentokil Initial said its first-quarter profits had fallen by 10 per cent with its City Link parcels business continuing to frustrate its attempts to revive its fortunes. Rentokil said losses at City Link widened to £10.7m in the three months to 31 March. The chief executive Alan Brown, who joined Rentokil in 2008 with a highly incentivised five-year deal, blamed a difficult parcels market.

Witcomb is new competition tsar

The Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced the appointment of Roger Witcomb as chairman of the Competition Commission on an interim basis for a term of two years. Mr Witcomb succeeds Peter Freeman, whose term of office ended yesterday.

Profits warning hits Helphire hard

Shares in Helphire fell 60 per cent after the supplier of replacement vehicles to drivers involved in accidents said profits for the year to 30 June will be lower than expected because oil prices have reduced car usage. It also warned of an accounting irregularity.