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The Business Matrix: Thursday 23 June 2011

Cotton prices hit H&M profits

H&M underlined the challenges on the high street yesterday after high cotton prices and a drop in consumer spending power hit its profits. The Swedish chain, which has 2,297 stores worldwide including more than 180 in the UK, reported a 23 per cent drop in half-year profits £900m.

Decision day for HMV investors

HMV hopes to finalise the sale of its Waterstone’s book chain today in a £53m deal that should help the group secure its immediate future. Shareholders will gather in London to vote on the proposed sale of the 296 stores to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut. Proceeds from the move will be used to help the group pay off debt.

AstraZeneca sells dental unit

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has agreed to sell its Astra Tech business to the Surrey-based firm Dentsply for approximately $1.8bn (£1.1bn). Astra Tech, headquartered in Molndal, Sweden, has two main business divisions, a dental division and a healthcare division.

Princes denied in Fray Bentos bid

Premier Foods is searching for an alternative buyer for its Fray Bentos brand after the Office of Fair Trading said selling it to Princes would create a “near monopoly” in the canned pies market. Premier agreed earlier this year to sell its canned foods unit,which also includes Crosse & Blackwell brand, to Princes in a £182m deal.

Airbus secures $16bn A320 order

Airbus left arch-rival Boeing in its wake with an ever-expanding sales tally at the Paris Air Show yesterday by cementing a $16bn (£10bn) deal to sell 150 of its A320neo aeroplanes and 30 of the original A320 models to the Indian budget carrier IndiGo. By early afternoon, Boeing’s orders at the show stood at 141 planes; Airbus had orders for 550.

Shazam in $32m expansion

The UK music identification service Shazam has raised $32m (£20m) in funding as part of an expansion drive. Shazam, which allows people to identify music using mobile phones, has 150 million users. It is already offering a service in the US that lets users pick up offers or links on their phones from TV programmes or ads showing a Shazam logo.

Amec wins nuclear deal

Amec has won a contract from Magnox to provide nuclear consultancy services at its sites across the UK. The two-year contract, the value of which has not been announced, will see Amec provide both specialist nuclear and safety case services across the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s estate. Magnox operates 10 sites.

FSA warns of lax bank controls

The City watchdog is considering punishing two banks after it found serious lapses in their checks on politically sensitive potential money launderers. The Financial Services Authority said that some banks had risked handling criminal money rather than turn away business from wealthy high-risk customers and promised a clampdown.

Transocean blames BP

Transocean pointed the finger of blame squarely at BP over last year’s fatal oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The drilling contractor, which is in a legal battle with BP over errors leading to the disaster, issued a report saying BP had failed “properly to assess, manage and communicate risk to its contractors”.

Ad market to slowdown in UK

TheUK advertising market is set for a shock slowdown this year after falling retail sales put the brakes on company spending, causing one influential player to downgrade its 2011 forecasts. WPP’s GroupM has predicted that advertising spending in the UK would rise just 1.5 per cent this year.