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The Business Matrix: Thursday 10 March 2011

Lloyds executives step down

Helen Weir and Archie Kane have decided to leave Lloyds after the new chief executive, Antonio Horta-Osorio, unveiled a shake-up yesterday. Ms Weir is the head of retail banking while Mr Kane runs the high street bank’s insurance division.

Network Rail will not pay bonuses

The nine top executives at Network Rail, including its new chief executive, David Higgins, will not be paid annual bonuses this year. Executives at the rail network operator last year pocketed £2m in bonuses, despite calls for restraint from politicans and regulators.

Fry to leave Johnston Press

John Fry is to step down as chief executive of Johnston Press next year, the regional newspaper group said yesterday. The media group, which owns The Scotsman, also revealed yesterday that government spending cuts have already hit advertising revenues this year.

Mark Zinkula to take helm of LGIM

Legal & General Investment Management, the largest pension funds manager in the UK, has promoted Mark Zinkula the head of its American operations, to chief executive. He succeeds Kevin Gregory, who stepped in as interim CEO last April after Peter Chambers retired.

Petrol reaches £6-a-gallon record

Petrol prices hit £6 a gallon for the first time on record yesterday, with a litre of fuel costing more than £1.32, according to the AA. The rise means that the cost of petrol is up 6.93p per litre since the beginning of the year. Prices have climbed by 1.68p in the past week alone. Diesel is also on rise, hitting £1.37 per litre.

Ageas loses £25m thanks to big freeze

December’s cold snap led to Ageas UK, the insurer formerly known as Fortis, recording a loss of £24.8m for last year. Excluding bad weather and one-off events, it said profits were £51.5m, up from £17.3m the previous year.

Asda clear to open 168 new stores

Asda plans to open 168 new stores this year after the Office of Fair Trading said it would not refer to the competition watchdog the company’s acquisition of the UK arm of the discount supermarket chain Netto. The Walmart-owned grocer first unveiled its £778m purchase of Netto UK in May 2010 but it has been unable to proceed with converting the 147 stores until it received regulatory approval.

UK profits offset E.on warning

The multinational gas and electricity company E.on said earnings this year would fall sharply as it reported a 28 per cent decline in net profits to €6.28bn (£5.4bn) for 2010. But the Düsseldorf-based firm also posted a 24 per cent rise in adjusted underlying earnings in the UK to £1.3bn. The group blamed a new tax on nuclear power in Germany and contracts forcing it to buy gas at above-market prices for the decline.

MPs attack errors in benefits system

The Government has been urged to tackle “considerable” errors in the benefits system after the Public Accounts Committee found that more than £2bn was overpaid and £1.3bn underpaid to claimants. While the value of the errors as a proportion of total benefit spending of £148bn was low, the report by MPs said it still involved “very significant” sums of public money.

Airbus order helps Eads back in black

The European defence group Eads bounced back into the black in 2010 thanks to a boost from its Airbus aircraft business, according to annual results. Profits soared to €533m (£457m) from a €763m loss in 2009, on sales up by 7 per cent to €46bn. The biggest single boost to the group’s €83bn order intake was 574 commercial aircraft ordered from Airbus.

Greencore gives up on Northern bid

Greencore, the largest maker of sandwiches in the UK, has walked away from its pursuit of Northern Foods after admitting it was unable to trump a rival bid for the Fox’s Biscuits firm. The Dublin-based firm’s move leaves the way clear for Ranjit Boparan, the owner of Harry Ramsden’s, to complete a £342m buyout of Northern.

Restaurant Group’s annual profits rise

The owner of Chiquito and Frankie & Benny’s dished up a 12 per cent jump in annual profits as it revealed new-year sales had bounced back after December’s snow disruption. The Restaurant Group hailed a “superb” performance at its Garfunkel’s restaurants, which are located largely in tourist hot-spots across London.

Toyota targets sales of 10 million

Toyota is to focus on hybrid vehicles and emerging markets and push for global sales of 10 million cars by 2015. The Japanese car giant’s president, Akio Toyoda, outlined the plans as part of a “global vision” for rebuilding the firm after it dropped to its first net loss in 2008, and was then hit by a series of car recalls.

Record results at Lookers

The car dealership Lookers has reported profits of £33.6m for 2010, up from £11.5m the year before. The firm said the record result came despite the end of the car scrappage scheme in the UK. Cost cuts at its motor division offset a near-5 per cent fall in new-car sales, while profits and sales also surged at its car parts business.