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The Business Matrix: Thursday 22 November 2012


Halfords cashes in on Olympic boom


Halfords will massively expand its cycling clothing and accessories offer next year to capitalise on the interest in the sport inspired by the success of the Olympic medallists Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. The group is to tap into the growing trend of middle-aged men in Lycra taking to the road, raising its clothing and parts offer.

JD beats slump with sales jump

JD Sports again showed it is possible to keep growing even in the face of a prolonged economic downturn, as its sales in the three months to 20 November rose 1.5 per cent. "The trading environment in our markets remains tough and particularly so for [fashion]," it said, adding that sports goods rose 3.5 per cent in the 16-week period.

Compass makes £400m buyback

Catering giant Compass said it planned to return another £400m to investors after strong growth in North America wetted its appetite for 2013. The company said it would launch the share buyback next year once it had completed a previous £500m buyback.

UK Mail posts big profit increase

After Royal Mail hiked business postal prices by 11 per cent this year, rival UK Mail has poached some of its postbag. The company enjoyed a 24 per cent rise in revenues in its mail business in the six months to October, helping pre-tax profit rise 7.8 per cent on the previous year to £7.3m.

More delay for Greece bailout

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras lashed out yesterday after EU finance ministers delayed a vital €31.5bn (£25.3bn) loan package to save the nation from default. Ministers will meet on Monday to seek agreement on outstanding issues.

Newspaper bosses turn to Monty

Daily Mail & General Trust and Trinity Mirror have put their faith in ex-Mirror Group boss David Montgomery to turn around their local newspaper businesses with his new £100m venture Local World. DMGT will sell its Northcliffe regionals for £52.5m for a 38.7 per cent stake. Trinity won't sell its titles, investing £14.2m for a 20 per cent stake.

Axe falls at Standard Life

Standard Life today cut 139 jobs across its UK and European business following an internal review of its structure. The insurer said the cuts would affect its IT, marketing, advisory and investment divisions. Paul Matthews, head of its UK and Europe business, said: "Our current model and structure has to change."

Connection halts sales decline

There were signs of stability at French Connection yesterday as it arrested a dramatic sales decline. The fashion chain said third-quarter revenue was flat on last year, a relief to investors concerned by the 9.5 per cent fall in sales in the first half of the year. That fall translated into a loss for the period of £6.3m.

The improvement is partly a result of "more autumnal weather", which boosted demand for coats and knitwear, the company said.

Spain faces deficit threat this year

Spain's economy shows no signs of recovery and risks missing budget deficit targets this year and in 2013 as recession drags on, its central bank governor said. The downturn and record unemployment have fuelled doubts Madrid will be able to bring its deficit into line.

Argos man heads to Mothercare

Mothercare has hired a new finance director from the catalogue specialist Argos at a critical time in the maternity retailer's turnaround under new chief executive, Simon Calver. Matt Smith will join Mothercare at an unspecified date.