The Business Matrix: Thursday 08 December 2011


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Comet crashes to loss of £22m

The trading slump which prompted the electricals retailer Kesa to sell Comet for only £2 was highlighted yesterday after Comet posted losses of £22m for six months trading. The disposal left its mark on Kesa's accounts as the owner of Darty in France reported half-year bottom-line losses of £127m, compared with a profit of £23m a year ago.

Bridgepoint rides off with Wiggle

Wiggle, the online cycling retailer, has been acquired by the private equity firm Bridgepoint in a deal worth £180m. Bridgepoint saw off competition from EQT, the Swedish buyout company, to purchase Wiggle, which serves customers in 88 countries from Japan to New Zealand. Bridgepoint also owns the retailers Fat Face and HobbyCraft.

Saab is running out of road

The administrator for Saab will ask a court to end its voluntary reorganisation for the cash-strapped company, potentially opening the door for creditors to liquidate the Swedish car maker. Swedish Automobile and its creditors have a week to submit their views to the district court in Sweden before it decides if it will end the reorganisation.

Carillion boosted by UK demand

Carillion expects UK demand for energy services and outsourcing, plus increased spending on infrastructure overseas, to drive its growth in 2012. The firm, which maintains motorways, railways, military bases and telephone lines, said its pipeline of contract opportunities had topped £30bn, boosted by work in the UK and Middle East.

Stagecoach profits derailed

Stagecoach predicted it will have a stronger second half as its East Midlands rail unit returns to profitability, after a loss at the franchise weighed on its first half. Group profits at the bus and rail operator fell 18 per cent to £89m as the rail unit – which recently began getting a government subsidy – went into the red.

DS Smith wraps up a 25% gain

The packaging firm DS Smith said its UK division increased half-year profits by nearly 25 per cent to £39.9m after "disciplined pricing" offset year-on-year increases in raw material costs. The Berkshire-based group, which employs 12,000 people, said group-wide profits were up 20 per cent to £42.8m.

Citigroup wields axe in London

Citigroup has began a round of lay-offs among its London-based investment bankers this week, with jobs in advisory, equities and fixed income set to go as the bank readies 4,500 redundancies worldwide. Citi's cuts equates to about 2 per cent of its 267,000 workforce. About 10,000 of those staff are in London.

Henderson facing £450m legal fight

The fund management giant Henderson is being sued for up to £450m by pension funds, including Tesco and the BBC, over its £1bn takeover of John Laing, the construction firm. The investors say the 2006 deal breached a mandate to focus on PFI projects. Henderson vowed to "vigorously defend" the case.


Academic to run Soros foundations

George Soros has put a new man in charge of giving away his multi-billion dollar fortune. The hedge fund manager named Christopher Stone, a criminal justice professor from Harvard, to run his Open Society Foundations. Mr Soros set up the venture to promote human rights and education around the world.

Tesco creates new commercial post

Tesco, the world's number three retailer, has appointed Kevin Grace, a 30-year veteran of the firm, to the new post of group commercial director. Mr Grace, who has been a property services director since 2006 and has also worked for Tesco in South Korea and Poland, will report to group CEO Philip Clarke.