The Business Matrix: Thursday 21 April 2011

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New direction for ex-Compass boss

Ian el-Mokadem former UK head of catering giant Compass, is to become chief executive at Exova. The materials testing firm, spun out of Bodycote, is owned by the private equity group Clayton Dubilier & Rice and covers areas from aerospace to food safety.

Hancock heading £78m Ideal buyout

Mike Hancox, the chief executive of Ideal Shopping, is heading up a £78m management buyout of theTV home shopping group backed by the private equity firm Inflexion. ISD’s founders, who stand to make £28m on their 36 per cent stake, are backing the deal.

Weller closes book on Argos career

Sara Weller, the boss of Home Retail’s catalogue business Argos, said yesterday she would step down in June for health reasons. Home Retail’s chief executive, Terry Duddy, will lead Argos until a permanent replacement can be found. MORE

Chaucer boss gets £2.1m in takeover

Bob Stuchbery, the chief executive of the Lloyd’s of London insurer Chaucer, stands to pocket £2.1m after it agreed to a cash takeover by Hanover of the US. Mr Stuchbery, a director of the group since 1998, owns 0.68 per cent of Chaucer’s shares. MORE

Heineken toasts rise in demand

The brewing giant Heineken said demand for its beer increased in Britain, France and the Netherlands in the first quarter of 2011, and it was still seeing double-digit sales growth in Africa and the Middle East. The Dutch company said its underlying earnings rose by more than 20 per cent in the three months to 31 March.

DS Smith confident of earnings growth

Shares in DS Smith, the recycled packaging supplier, rose by 6.8 per cent after it forecast “significant” growth in full-year earnings. It said its corrugated packaging unit grew underlying volumes by 8 per cent for the year to 30 April.

Reckitt sales up 5% despite rising costs

Reckitt Benckiser issued first quarter figures that pleased the City, despite its rising input costs, and helped its shares to recover after recent losses. A 5 per cent rise in like-for-like sales and a 15 per cent increase in underlying earnings to £530m saw the household goods giant, whose brands include Cillit Bang and Dettol, recover ground lost after last week’s news that chief executive Bart Becht will quit after 16 years.

Tens of thousands ‘denied legal rights’

Tens of thousands of employees are denied their legal right to time off work and paid holidays, especially if they work in small, non-unionised companies, says a report by Citizens Advice. Care home workers, hairdressers, bar staff, cleaners and shop assistants were among 87,000 cases reported to the CAB in the past three years. Most of those involved were women in part-time jobs who juggled home life with work.

Mortgage lending on the rise again

Mortgage lending soared by 21 per cent during March as both buyers and people remortgaging returned to the market. A total of £11.3bn was advanced during the month, the highest level since November, but still slightly down on the £11.5bn that was lent in March last year, the Council of Mortgage Lenders said. It attributed the increase to a rise in activity in the housing market.

Yorkshire to merge with rival N&P

Yorkshire Building Society has confirmed plans to merge with its smaller rival Norwich & Peterborough in a move that will create a mutual with three million members and 224 branches. Yorkshire – the UK’s second-biggest building society – pledged to keep the Norwich & Peterborough brand and committed to retaining all of the mutual’s 46 branches for at least two years.

Judge rejects PPI challenge by BBA

A High Court judge has rejected a challenge brought over new regulations to control the selling of payment protection insurance to borrowers. The judge, who had heard the regulations could cost the industry £4.5bn, ruled against the British Bankers’ Association, which wanted the regulations to apply only to new policies. MORE

Virgin to try out 1.5Gb broadband

Virgin Media is to begin testing the “world’s fastest broadband” with trial for the 1.5Gb service later this month. Yesterday, the cable company posted first quarter profits of £376m, a 7.6 per cent increase on last year.

‘Sunday Sport’ to return nextmonth

The Sunday Sport will return to news-stands next month after David Sullivan, one of its former owners, saved the bawdy red-top publication from the brink of collapse. The paper’s parent company Sport Media Group – which also owned the sister title Daily Sport – went into administration earlier this month.

Regional sales dip hits STV revenues

The commercial broadcaster STV said national television revenues rose 11 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, but regional sales were down 10 per cent because of the slower pace of economic recovery in Scotland. The impact of Scottish elections will also result in regional revenues being down 19 per cent in April and 10 per cent in May.