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The Business Matrix: Thursday 11 April 2013


Bike sales fail to ride high in cold

Recent near-Arctic weather froze sales of bikes, including those designed by Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton, at Halfords in its final quarter, but lifted purchases of its car-maintenance products. The only bike range to see sales hold up were the more specialist range designed by 1992 Barcelona Gold Medalist Chris Boardman.

Weak growth will keep policy loose

Weak economic growth and subsiding price pressures suggest Britain's central bank should run an extremely loose monetary policy, the Bank of England policymaker David Miles said. "It makes sense for us to assess where the trajectory of inflation is likely to be and to set monetary policy in a way consistent with inflation," he said.

Prezzo restaurants cook up hot profits

Prezzo, the Italian restaurant group, has unveiled a leap in profits and the continued expansion of its Mexican chain, Chimichanga. The group cooked up an 11 per cent rise in profits to £18m last year, on sales up by 17 per cent to £144m, driven by improving its food, service and restaurants, as well as opening 31 new units.

Severn Trent chief will retire in 2014

Severn Trent, which supplies 3.7 million homes and businesses, said that it chief executive for the past six years, Tony Wraym, had told the board that he wants to retire in the spring of 2014. That will give the board a year to identify his successor from both internal and external candidates. It will also allow Mr Wray a handover period.

Less than Sweett reception for boss

The property group Sweett has criticised its former chairman for trying to force his way back on its board. The London-listed surveyor said Francis Ives, who controls about 4 per cent of the group, was acting against the best interests of shareholders, who include well known City names such as Brewin Dolphin.

Dunelm warns of hard times ahead

The home furnishings retailer Dunelm has warned sales growth will be "much harder" to achieve from this month as it starts to overlap buoyant revenues from last year. The out-of-town chain shrugged off the unseasonal weather to post a 5.2 per cent rise in sales in the past three months.

Electra in offload of Esure shares

The private equity firm Electra has offloaded two-thirds of the Esure shares it held after the insurer's IPO last month, it has emerged. The investment vehicle netted £11.2m from the sale of 4 million shares but will retain 2 million due to a "lock-up arrangement".

Marshalls looks to sell off quarries

The landscaping products firm Marshalls is in advanced discussions with Derby-based Breedon Aggregates over the sale of quarries supplying aggregates, sand and gravel for up to £19m. The Marshalls sites are at Clearwell, Dunsville and Astley Moss.

Name change is due for Prupim

M&G, the investment arm of Prudential, said property business Prupim will be renamed M&G Real Estate from the end of June. Prupim has £17bn of assets under management, investing on behalf of Prudential and external clients.

WS Atkins hopeful of positive results

The design, engineering and project management firm WS Atkins said results for the year to 31 March should be slightly ahead of market expectations. Its UK arm has been boosted by opportunities in rail, airport development and aerospace.