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The Business Matrix: Thursday 17 March 2011

Anthony Fry to head BESI in UK

The City grandee Anthony Fry is to head Espirito Santo’s investment bank BESI in the UK. Mr Fry, a veteran of Rothschild and Lehman, who was also a candidate for BBC director general, will chair BESI, which brought control of Evolution Noble last year.

Morrisons FD awarded £1.3m

Morrisons’ finance director, Richard Pennycook, has been awarded shares worth £1.3m. He will receive the shares in two years’ time if he is still in his job and the company’s earnings have at least matched the retail price index measure of inflation.

IHG chief executive packs his bags

Andrew Cosslett is to step down as chief executive of Intercontinental Hotels at the end of June after six years. He will be replaced by Richard Solomons, chief financial officer. The Holiday Inn operator, which has more hotel beds than any other group, is seeking a new finance director. MORE

New finance director for Forth Ports

Britain’s only listed ports company, Forth Ports, has a new finance director. Stuart Paterson has joined the company from regional newspaper group Johnston Press, where he was in the same role. He replaces Wilson Murray who has announced his retirement.

Record half year for oldest brewer

Shepherd Neame, the brewer behind Spitfire and Bishops Finger, has hailed record half-year sales, but warned that soaring grain and fuel prices are hitting profits. Britain’s oldest brewer said it notched up its highest ever beer volumes and turnover, which rose 1.6 per cent to £61.7m but profits slipped 7 per cent to £3.4m.

Beer boost for Marston’s

Marston’s has reported a 4 per cent jump in sales of its own beers such as Pedigree and said its first half performance was looking encouraging across all divisions. The group, which also has more than 2,000 pubs, is focused on its F-Plan strategy – food, families, females and 40somethings. It will publish half-year results in May.

Greggs staff on £5.8m bonus roll

Nearly 17,000 staff at Greggs are to share a bonus pot of £5.8m after the bakery chain delivered record profits last year. The average pay out will be £400 to each of its 16,800 employees, depending on their length of service. Greggs, which has 1,487 shops, grew pre-tax profits by 8 per cent to £53m, as sales rose by 2 per cent to £662m for the year to 1 January. It opened 68 shops in 2010 and plans to open 80 more this year.

Competition bodies to merge

The Government has detailed plans for combining the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission into a new watchdog with the power to require mandatory notifications of mergers and make criminal antitrust cases easier to win. The consultation on plans for a Competition and Markets Authority will run until 13 June. Lawyers yesterday warned mandatory merger notifications could see companies’ costs soar.

Wiseman to supply Co-op brand milk

Robert Wiseman Dairies has won a contract to supply all of the Co-op’s own-branded milk. Britain’s fifth largest supermarket, which currently gets 75 per cent of its milk from Wiseman and the rest from Dairy Crest, has handed a two-year contract to the dairy giant. Around 350 of Wiseman’s dairy farmers will form a dedicated supply chain for the Co-op, receiving a premium rate.

Unemployment hits 17-year high

Unemployment has reached a 17-year high of more than 2.5 million and youth joblessness is at record levels, according to the latest figures from the ONS. The jobless total jumped by 27,000 in the three months to January to 2.53 million, the worst figure since 1994, while the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out ofwork increased by 30,000 to 974,000, the highest since records began in 1992. MORE

Novartis to cut 500 at Horsham

Novartis is to shed around 500 jobs at its Horsham site in West Sussex. The Swiss group – whose decision comes some six weeks after Pfizer revealed plans to close its site in Sandwich, Kent – will consult on plans to restructure the site, which employs some 950 staff, with 330 of those devoted to respiratory research.

BAE to lay off 450 workers

BAE Systems has revealed that about 2,000 workers are to leave voluntarily or move to other jobs in the company, but there will be 450 compulsory lay-offs at several military sites across the UK. The cuts were blamed on decisions such as the scrapping of the Nimrod and the accelerated retirement of the Harrier aircraft.

Stamp duty tax nets more buyers

The failure to increase the higher stamp duty thresholds in line with house price growth has led to a five-fold increase in homebuyers caught by the tax, according to Halifax. The £250,000 and £500,000 thresholds for stamp duty at 3 and 4 per cent, have not risen since 1997. House prices have risen 140 per cent in the same period.

Number of homes for sale rises 25%

The number of properties being put up for sale has soared by 25% year on year as sellers become more realistic about how much their homes are worth, according to the National Association of Estate Agents. The average estate agent branch had 70 properties on its books in February, up from just 56 a year earlier.

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