The Business Matrix: Thursday 2 June 2011

Crackdown on loans market

The Office of Fair Trading is set to crack down on the subprime loan market after a complaint from Citizens Advice. The charity found that thousands of vulnerable people are being targeted by cold callers who charge hefty upfront fees to help them to find a loan. But loans fail to materialise and people cannot get their fees back.

Northumbrian shuns hose ban

Northumbrian Water has said it has no plans to restrict usage despite the driest spring in decades. The firm, which yesterday reported a 6 per cent rise in annual profits to £181m, owns the huge Kielder reservoir in Northumberland. However, it missed its leakage target thanks to burst pipes last winter, leaving it open to fines by the regulator.

Coke considers Shanghai listing

Coca-Cola, the world’s largest soft-drink company, is considering a share listing on Shanghai’s proposed international board as it increases its presence in China. Coke has said it will commit $2bn in investment into China. The NYSE is working with China on an international board that will allow foreign firms to list on the mainland.

Signs that the US recovery stalling

US manufacturing, construction and jobs data were weak for May, adding to the gloom that the US economic recovery is stalling. The ISM manufacturing index fell sharply, while payroll firm ADP said the private sector added only 38,000 jobs last month. Construction industry spending only rose because April’s figure was revised down.

Hut swoops on

The Hut, the online retailer considering a flotation this year, has acquired the sports nutrition retailer in a deal worth £58m. The group, which brought from administrators in 2009, last month appointed Rothschild to advise on its options, including a potential flotation this year.

Premier eyes Wytch Farm

Premier Oil is considering buying BP’s 68 per cent stake in the Wytch Farm oil field in Dorset. BP has agreed to sell its stake to Perenco for $610m (£372m), but Premier has a 12 per cent stake in the fields and pre-emption rights allowing it to gatecrash the deal. It has until 16 June to decide if it wants to.

Telford Homes looks to 2012

The East London-focused housebuilder Telford Homes saw profits fall from £7.3m to £3m in the year to March as the number of completions fell, but the group expects significant growth from March 2012. It said the market remained robust and continued to benefit from investment ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

St Modwen set for ‘top end’ results

St Modwen said it expects interim profits and net asset value growth to be at the top end of its expectations. The Birmingham-based property group added it has pre-sold 85,000 sq ft stores for Sainsbury’s and Tesco at Longbridge and Hednesford respectively and a Travelodge hotel at Edmonton.

Wolseley profits down by 10%

Builders’ merchant Wolseley has reported lower UK revenues and profits after a difficult quarter for its Bathstore and Plumb Center. The group, which generates sales of more than £13bn a year, said profits fell by 10 per cent to £28m in the latest quarter. Overall sales rose 1 per cent in the quarter to April to £3.3bn.

‘Robust’ sales ease off at Topps Tiles

Topps Tiles took the shine off a “robust” winter trading performance yesterday by revealing weaker than expected sales over recent weeks. The floor coverings specialist reported interim profits of £7.2m and said it had increased its market share to 25.5 per cent from 24 per cent a year earlier.