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The Business Matrix: Thursday 15 March 2012

Growth set to slow for Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss has predicted sales growth will slow in 2012 after the German fashion house reported record figures in 2011. It said it expected sales to rise by up to 10 per cent compared with 19 per cent in 2011. The group is controlled by UK private equity firm Permira and there is growing speculation it is being lined up for flotation.

Government cuts hit Smiths profits

Cash-strapped governments are cutting back spending on an array of hi-tech equipment for uncovering explosives, drugs and hidden weapons, industrial group Smiths warned. Profits at the company's detection business fell 36 per cent to £20m in the half-year to 28 January, as mainly Western governments and agencies slashed budgets.

High iron prices help Ferrexpo

High iron-ore prices helped Ferrexpo, the FTSE 250 miner that makes pellets for the steel industry, to post a 39 per cent jump in pre-tax profit to $691m (£440m). The benchmark price for iron ore imported to China, which is the world's biggest consumer, averaged $167.60 a tonne in 2011, up from $146.70 a tonne a year earlier.

Online loans could 'replace banks'

A senior Bank of England policymaker has suggested that small online peer-to-peer lenders could one day replace Britain's large high-street banks. Andy Haldane, the Bank's Executive Director for Financial Stability, said in a speech in New York yesterday that web-based lenders could one day make conventional banks obsolete.

L&G investors get a sizeable boost

There was a boost to Legal & General shareholders when the insurer shoved up its dividend by more than a third. Britain's fifth biggest insurer will pay a total dividend for 2011 of 6.4p per share, an increase of 35 per cent, much better than the City was predicting. Profits for 2011 edged up a little to £1.06bn.

Foley quits WorldSpreads

Conor Foley quit as chief executive of spread betting house WorldSpreads two weeks after the firm unveiled a profit warning it blamed on "an unusual pattern of client trading". A statement said Foley, still the largest shareholder in the AIM-listed outfit, has left "with immediate effect to pursue other interests".

Miller boosted by coal and houses

Miller Group, the UK's largest privately owned building firm, boosted profits to £20.8m from £2.4m last year after a significant margin recovery in its housing division. Its open-cast mining operation in South Wales also saw a 25 per cent rise in coal sales to 987,000 tonnes.

Marstons sees slow start to 2012

The brewer and pub owner Marstons said profits for the half year which ends this month will be in line with City forecasts. It said that 2012 had started slowly alhtough it is looking for an uplift during the Euro 2012 tournament and long Bank Holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Sanofi plant is to close in Newcastle

Sanofi is to close its pharmaceutical plant in Fawdon, Newcastle, with the loss of 450 jobs. The French-based pharmaceutical firm, which specialises in vaccine development and diabetes treatments, said the plant is due to close in 2015.

Chinese giant to start Euro trading

The Chinese oil giant PetroChina will start full scale oil trading in Europe next month via a joint venture with Ineos. The venture will start crude supply and fuel marketing for the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland and the Lavera refinery in France.

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