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The Business Matrix: Thursday 17 January 2013

Sales boost for Wetherspoon

Pubs giant JD Wetherspoon reported the best growth in sales so far across the industry for the final three months of last year yesterday but said rising costs would eat into profit margins. Sales from pubs open at least a year rose 8 per cent, and 11.3 per cent including new openings. Profit margins will be about 8.2 per cent for the half year.

Vickers backs 'electric' fences

The architect of ring-fencing UK banks has welcomed MPs' proposals to "electrify" those fences. Sir John Vickers, who headed last year's Independent Commission on Banking, told the Commission on Banking Standards he believed this would make it more likely ring-fencing retail parts from investment banking would work.

G4S will read British Gas meters

G4S, the outsourcing group at the centre of last year's Olympic security fiasco, has won a meter-reading contract with British Gas worth £150m. The FTSE 100 giant has agreed a seven-year deal with the energy supplier, which will start in April. The company already reads meters for Scottish Power and E.ON.

First-time buyers finally get loans

Lenders are finally opening their doors to first-time buyers after the biggest jump in loans for nearly three years in November, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Banks and building societies advanced 21,700 loans to first-time buyers, worth £2.7bn, an 8 per cent rise compared with October, and up 24 per cent on a year earlier.

PetroChina deal for Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce has secured a contract worth $75m (£47m) to supply PetroChina with equipment and services to power the flow of natural gas through China's West-East Pipeline project, which is the world's longest pipeline and a key part of the country's drive for cleaner energy.

Experian expects to see growth

The credit-checking company Experian expects to see high single-digit revenue growth in the year which ends in March after posting a 7 per cent improvement in the third quarter yesterday, driven largely by Latin America. The group also said it expects a "modest improvement" in its profit margin.

Bloomsbury ebooks boom

Bloomsbury Publishing said ebook sales continued to show good momentum, with growth of 58 per cent in the last quarter of 2012. Helped by demand for books such as Hugh's Three Good Things by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury said profits rose because of lower costs.

Midcounties Co-op in the clear

Midcounties Co-operative has addressed competition concerns arising from its acquisition of the grocery and fuel business of Harry Tuffins by agreeing to sell stores in four areas in Shropshire and Gloucestershire. It means the deal will not go before the Competition Commission.

Two contracts for Communisis

The marketing services firm Communisis said it was trading in line with expectations, with recently secured contract awards by BT and Nationwide Building Society due to contribute from early this year.

Festive cheer at Thorntons

A jump in sales of chocolate boxes through supermarkets helped Thorntons avoid a repeat of its dismal Christmas in 2011. Its commercial sales surged 26 per cent to £35m in the festive period, though underlying sales at its own shops fell 1.5 per cent.

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