The Business Matrix: Thursday 24 November 2011


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The Independent Online


Warm autumn gives JD a chill

Peter Cowgill, the chairman of JD Sports Fashion, has forecast a "tough Christmas" after posting a dip in underlying sales for its most recent trading period. As well as lower footfall on the high street and retail parks, he said the warm autumn weather had hit purchases of jackets. The group's sales fell 1.5 per cent over the 16 weeks to 19 November.

Fewer complaints to United Utilities

United Utilities said a revamp of its customer services helped complaints fall by a fifth in the first half of the year as it posted a 5 per cent fall in profits, despite rising tariffs, as it spent more on infrastructure. The firm, which supplies water to 3 million homes and firms in the North-west, received more complaints than any of its rivals last year.

Johnson Matthey profits jump 35%

The chemicals and metals group Johnson Matthey saw profits increase 35 per cent to £195m in the six months to 30 September as higher average prices for precious metals boosted revenues. The group said sales of the metals were 17 per cent ahead at £1.3bn, leading to a 29 per cent surge in revenues to £5.9bn.

M&S back in Paris after 10 years

Marks & Spencer makes its long-awaited return to France today, opening a flagship store on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. When the chain pulled out 10 years ago, Parisians deprived of specialities such as chicken tikka masala opened a book of condolence and workers occupied its main store. MORE

Qinetiq expects to exceed forecasts

Qinetiq, the defence firm that develops a range of military products including bomb-disposal robots and protective armour, said it expects to beat its original expectations for full-year performance by 20 per cent. The Hampshire-based group posted profits of £81m for the first six months of the year, against a £38m loss in 2010.

Investors stake £100m in Playtech

Gambling software firm Playtech has raised £100m from investors to invest in new acquisitions and joint ventures. The Isle of Man-based group said it was looking to move into other European countries to take advantage of liberalised online gambling laws. The firm placed new shares at 215p a share with institutional investors.

Premier Oil pulls plug on Gardrofa

Premier Oil is to plug and abandon its Gardrofa exploration well in the North Sea off the coast of Norway as a dry hole after the oil and gas explorer drilled to a total depth of 2,205 metres. The FTSE 250 group said it would now focus its central North Sea operations on the UK.

NBNK and Co-op on Lloyds shortlist

New bank venture NBNK and the mutually owned Co-operative Group have been shortlisted by Lloyds as prospective buyers of the 630 retail bank branches it has been told to sell. Lloyds said it received three formal offers and had decided to take forward discussions with two bidders, but would not confirm the names.

Tesco extends grand price cuts

Tesco is to cut prices on 1,000 products from today, extending the "Big Price Drop" promotional campaign it launched back in September. The supermarket giant is slashing the price on 1,000 staple items, including vegetables and fruit. Its third-quarter results are out on 8 December.

Hester questions bank reform costs

The Independent Commission on Banking report calling for a radical shake-up of the industry has underestimated the cost of implementing its reforms, the boss of Royal Bank of Scotland told MPs yesterday. However, the RBS chief executive Stephen Hester refused to give his own estimate.