The Business Matrix: Thursday 24 February 2011

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Lachlan Murdoch to run Ten TV

Lachlan Murdoch has become acting chief executive at the Australian television network Ten after the board ousted the existing CEO. Mr Murdoch, whose father, Rupert, used to own Ten, joined the board last year after buying half of James Packer’s 18 per cent stake.

Locums founder quits the board

Kate Bleasdale has resigned from the board of Healthcare Locums, three weeks after the staffing firm announced an inquiry into “serious accounting irregularities”. She remains an employee of the company which she founded in 2003 and owns 12 per cent of.

Adams to join Halfords’ board

The retail veteran David Adams is joining the bike and car supplies chain Halfords as a non-executive director. Mr Adams, who is also chairman of the camera retailer Jessops, and was deputy chief executive at House of Fraser, joins the board on 1 March.

Former Mabey executives jailed

Two former executives of the engineering firm Mabey and Johnson have been jailed for paying bribes to secure engineering contracts with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussain. Charles Forsyth and David Mabey were sentenced to 21 and 8 months imprisonment respectively after paying kickbacks for oil-for-food contracts.

Crew Clothing triples profits

Crew Clothing, the casualwear retailer, more than tripled its profits last year after improving its product offer. The UK chain, backed by Isis Equity Partners, posted pre-tax profits of £2.56m for the year to 31 October. Justin Hampshire, its finance director, said trading had rebounded since the snow disruption in December.

Capital Shopping warns of rent rises

Britain’s biggest shopping centre owner has warned rents will rise this year as fewer new developments drive competition for space. Capital Shopping Centres, which last month added Manchester’s Trafford Centre to its portfolio, said a “measure of confidence returned in 2010” as it swung out of the red with profits of £446m.

PPI complaints jump at Lloyds

Lloyds Banking Group saw a 14 per cent jump in the number of customers who complained during the second half of 2010 as it continued to be dogged by disputes over controversial payment protection insurance. The increase was driven by a jump in the number complaining about payment protection insurance. Banking complaints at the part-nationalised bank over the period actually fell by 12 per cent.

BP sells Duckhams and Veedol brands

BP is selling Duckhams, the engine lubricants brand it has owned for about 40 years. BP has begun the search for buyers for the Duckhams and Veedol brands as it focuses on its other makes of lubricant, including Castrol. Duckhams has been in production for more than 100 years and is perhaps best known for teaming up with the Formula 1 Lotus team. Veedol was the motor oil chosen by Henry Ford for the Model T.

Multipack boost for Rexam

Rexam, the world’s biggest drinks can maker, said strong growth in sales of fizzy drinks in the UK helped it to post record profits. Rexam, which makes cans for brands such as Pepsi, Carlsberg and Red Bull, said high levels of promotions of multipacks of soft drinks boosted its sales of cans in the UK in 2010. Underlying profits jumped 45 per cent to £412m as sales rose 2 per cent to £5bn.

Cost of borrowing starts to fall

The leading rate for a personal loan has fallen below 7 per cent for the first time since June 2008. Competition in the personal-loan market has been intense since the start of the year, with eight lenders now offering deals for less than 8 per cent, and M&S Money now charging 6.9 per cent on loans of £7,500- £15,000. But the average rate for a £3,000 loan is still 14.39 per cent, against 10.6 per cent in 2007.

Home loan market stuck at 2 year low

The number of mortgages approved for house purchase remained close to a two-year low in January as activity in the property market remained subdued. Just 28,932 loans were approved for people buying a property during the month, broadly unchanged from December, which was the lowest since January 2009.

Staff sickies signal economic recovery

Sickness absence fell to record levels during the recession but has since increased, with more than 600,000 workers taking time off in the last quarter of 2010, according to the Office for National Statistics. The sickness absence rate was back to pre-recession levels by the end of 2010, with 2.5 per cent of in the week surveyed.

Housebuilder sees signs of recovery

Galliford Try reported a 29 per cent rise in underlying profits to £17m for the six months to 31 December as it benefited from a pick-up in housebuilding demand. The Middlesex-based house builder said house sale completions rose 28 per cent, while the average selling price on private sales lifted 4 per cent to £204,000.

Businesses gain confidence

The latest survey of the UK’s service sector reveals sharply differing fortunes, says the CBI. Firms dealing directly with consumers have endured a whole year in which confidence has declined, says the employers’ organisation – but business-to-business companies are much more bullish about the outlook.