The Business Matrix: Thursday 16 June 2011

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Zara owner posts 10% profit rise

Inditex, the owner of Zara, the high-street fashion chain favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge, posted a 10 per cent rise in profits to €332m (£292m) in its first quarter and said it would launch in South Africa, Peru and Taiwan this year. The company, which had 5,154 stores by the end of April, opened 110 stores in 29 countries during the quarter.

Cheques to stay ‘until at least 2016’

Cheques will not be abolished until an alternative paper-based payment has been set up, the head of the Payments Council told MPs yesterday. Richard North also said a decision would not be made before 2016. He said they would only be abolished if groups that rely on cheques, such as the elderly and charities, were using the alternatives.

Pandora debut hits a high note

Pandora, the internet radio company with 90 million subscribers, has followed LinkedIn and Yandex to become the latest soaraway flotation in New York. The loss-making company and its founders sold $235m (£145m) of shares. The stock enjoyed a further pop on its opening, at one point 25 per cent above the $16 float price.

Barclays in revenue push

Barclays is targeting up to £6.4bn of extra revenue by 2013 in an attempt to increase shareholder returns. Bob Diamond, chief executive, said he would move capital to businesses that could generate more than the cost of equity. Antony Jenkins, retail banking head, also dampened speculation Barclays would buy a Spanish savings bank.

Argos launches its own TV channel

The catalogue retailer Argos has launched its own home-shopping television channel – a first for a UK high-street retailer. Argos TV will feature exclusive offers as well as celebrity products such as Davina McCall’s health-and-fitness range and jewellery collections from Coleen Rooney and Alesha Dixon.

Oil prices dive 5% on demand fears

The price of crude oil slid by more than 5 per cent, as signs of further US economic weakness fed demand worries and a rising dollar also weighed on prices. London’s benchmark, Brent crude, fell by $3.14 to $117.02 a barrel in afternoon trade, while US crude fell by more than $4 to $94.01.

Galliford Try wins Thames deals

Galliford Try has been awarded new business contracts worth £80m under its current contract with Thames Water. The largest of the schemes, worth £28m, involves the development of sludge treatment and storage facilities at three waste-water treatment works in Surrey and West Sussex.

Siemens agrees £20m turbine deal

The property-regeneration specialist St Modwen has signed a £20m deal to build a new gas turbine servicing facility in Lincoln for the engineering firm Siemens. Building work on the 135,000-square-foot development is expected to start this autumn and is due to be completed by the end of 2012.

McFarlane gets top job at Aviva

The insurance giant Aviva has named John McFarlane as its next chairman, taking over from Lord Sharman. The Dumfries-born banker made his name turning round Australia and New Zealand Bank, which he led until 2007. He will step down as a non-executive at Royal Bank of Scotland to take up the role next June.

Finance chief quits Mouchel

Mouchel’s finance director, David Tilston, is leaving just 10 months after joining the troubled outsourcing group. His exit comes as Mouchel warned that tough trading conditions are set to continue as local government spending cuts hit its revenues. Shares in Mouchel fell by 11 per cent on the news.