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The Business Matrix: Thursday 19 January 2012

Toys group has a tough Christmas

The popularity of Peppa Pig, Fireman Sam and Doctor Who could not save toy distributor Character Group from suffering a sales decline in its key Christmas trading period. Its boss, Richard King, said its three biggest customers, Argos, Tesco and Toys R Us, had been finding life more difficult, with consumers looking for bargains.

Shell teams up with Tullow Oil

Shell has teamed up with Tullow Oil to find major new fields in the Atlantic. Tullow said the partnership would seek "transformational" discoveries in "underexplored frontier basins". The deal adds to the company's tie-ups, which include exploration partnerships with Anadarko Petroleum, Statoil, Total and Cnooc.

Building materials investigation

The Competition Commission is to launch a full investigation into the £3.3bn building materials industry amid worries taxpayers may be paying too much for cement and other materials used to build schools, hospitals and roads. Five players dominate the market, while government is the industry's biggest customer.

700 jobs go as Lloyds wields axe

Lloyds Banking Group unveiled 700 job cuts yesterday as chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio continues to overhaul the lender. The job losses, 200 of which will be in Cardiff and Newport, form part of 15,000 cuts announced in June under Mr Horta-Osorio's strategic review.

Sarkozy summit on unemployment

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy hosted a summit for labour and business leaders yesterday in an attempt to agree reforms aimed at kick-starting the economy and bringing down an unemployment rate which is nudging 10 per cent.

Major investor backs pay powers

Fidelity is backing the campaign to give shareholders power to curb executive pay packages. The fund manager called for all director bonuses to be subject to a minimum 75 per cent shareholder approval. "Remuneration schemes have become too complex and, in some cases, too generous and out of line with the interests of investors," it said.

BHP Billiton hails production boost

BHP Billiton is expecting iron-ore production to set a new record this year, allaying fears of a slowdown in China. The mining giant added that outstanding performance from its operations in Pilbara, Western Australia, saw production rise more than a fifth to 41 million tonnes of iron ore in the last three months of 2011.

Lotus cars owner changes hands

Bosses at the car maker Lotus have insisted it is "business as usual" despite the Malaysian government selling its controlling stake in its parent company Proton to DRB-Hicom Berhad. The Malaysian conglomerate says it is keeping its options open about selling the loss-making British manufacturer.

RusPetro banks $250m from float

RusPetro is to bank $250m from its London listing as the Siberian oil producer defies choppy market conditions. The flotation, which will be the first on London's main market since Ophir Energy last July, is to begin conditional trading today, and will go unconditional on Tuesday.

Diploma hunts buyout prospects

Diploma, which supplies products to life sciences, seals and controls industries, has said it is on the look-out for acquisitions. The firm said revenues in the three months to 31 December were up 16 per cent and profits margins were flat.

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