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The Business Matrix: Thursday 17 February 2011

Weidmann to head Bundesbank

Jens Weidmann has been picked to succeed Axel Weber as president of the Bundesbank, the German central bank. Mr Weber quit abruptly last week, on 1 May. Mr Weidmann is currently the Chancellor Angela Merkel’s senior economic adviser.

Madoff says banks were‘complicit’

Bernard Madoff, the jailer fraudster, has said he could not have carried out his $65bn Ponzi scheme without the “wilful blindness” of banks and hedge funds who fed clients into his funds. In the first interview since his arrest, Madoff insisted “they had to know”. MORE

Kloppers admitted fears of espionage

Marius Kloppers has admitted pushing for market pricing on commodities as he was worried about espionage by rivals and China.US diplomatic cables credit the head of BHP Billiton with saying business in Melbourne was like “playing poker when everyone can see your cards”.

Mobile phone chief quizzed in inquiry

Indian police have questioned Anil Ambani, the billionaire who controls Reliance Comm, as part of its inquiry into whether the government sold lucrative mobile phone licences at below-market prices in return for kickbacks.The company denies any wrongdoing

The balls that just keep rolling

The two-billionth Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball rolled off the production line in Wigan yesterday. It will be encased in resin and displayed at a local museum. The sweets, first made in Wigan in 1898, were once favoured by miners as an underground smoking substitute. They are now sold in Harrods and Bloomingdales.

Oil prices spike on Iran/Israel worries

Oil prices surged after Israel warned plans by two Iranian warships to sail through the Suez canal to Syriawas a “provocation”. The London benchmark, Brent crude, jumped $2.40 to $104.04, before closing at $103.78.

Bank hints at rate rise later this year

The latest Bank of England forecasts opened the door for interest rates to rise slowly later this year but the Governor, Mervyn King, told investors not to assume the central bank was in any hurry to pull the trigger. The Bank’s quarterly Inflation Report suggested City expectations that it could start hiking rates towards the middle of this year from a record low of 0.5 per cent were not too far off the mark. MORE

Game plans to boost online sales

Game has set out a three-year plan to focus more online sales and offer more deals to its loyalty card holders as part of a strategy to revive its fortunes. The computer-and-games retailer, which operates 641 Game and Gamestation stores in the UK, is looking to make “a step change” in online and digital sales, as more gamers download software from the internet rather than visiting shops.

Total renegotiating deal with Tullow

Total is renegotiating a deal with Tullow Oil to buy a stake in the London-based explorer’s Ugandan oil fields. Tullow is waiting for approval from Uganda before selling stakes in its oil blocks to the French oil giant and China’s Cnooc. The deal has been held up by a tax dispute between Uganda and Tullow’s former partner, Heritage Oil.

KBR unit to pay £7min bribes case

AUK-based subsidiary of the US engineering and oil services giant Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) is to pay £7m to settle a case with the Serious Fraud Office connected to bribery and corruption involving its parent firm. KBR itself pleaded guilty in 2009 to paying bribes to Nigerian officials to win gas contracts and was fined $402m.

Record number of young out of work

A record number of 16- to 24-yearolds are out of work and more people than ever are in part-time jobs because they cannot find fulltime employment, according to the Office for National Statistics. Unemployment jumped 44,000 in the last quarter of 2010 to nearly 2.5 million, a jobless rate of 7.9 per cent. But the youth unemployment rate is now 20.5 per cent, at 965,000, the highest figures since records began in 1992.

SocGen profits surge to €3.9bn

Profits at Société Générale soared to €3.9bn (£3.3bn) in 2010, almost six times higher than the year before. The French bank’s profits in the fourth quarter quadrupled to €874m after its retail banking and equity derivative trading strengthened. This helped the fullyear numbers as the group bounced back from the financial crisis and the Jérôme Kerviel rogue trading scandal in 2008.

Atkins cuts jobs as austerity bites

WS Atkins has admitted it is cutting staff in the UK after reductions in government spending hit its highways business. The engineer, which works on major construction projects including the London 2012 Olympics site, also said that trading had been difficult in Ireland and Portugal but was ahead of expectations in Asia.

Costain confirms talks with Mouchel

Shares in the business services group Mouchel jumped 6 per cent after the construction firm Costain confirmed it has held initial talks over its recent takeover offer for Mouchel, raising hopes that a deal can be agreed. Costain last month offered Mouchel 0.5531 shares and 30p in cash for each Mouchel share.

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