The Business Matrix: Thursday 26 February 2015


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Plan for single energy market

The European Union is hoping to reduce its dependence on Russia for gas while political tension with Ukraine remains by setting up a single European energy market. The plans were approved by the EU Commission yesterday and would give members more influence in negotiating gas supply contracts.

Shareholder vote  on Petropavlovsk

The future of Petropavlovsk will be decided today when shareholders vote on a £150m rescue plan. Shares in the gold miner have dived because of mounting debts and falling gold prices. The board needs 75 per cent of investors to back the rescue to proceed. The plan has been criticised by an activist investor, Sapinda Holdings.

Mall sales surge past £2bn mark

Annual sales at Westfield London, which will become the biggest shopping centre in Europe following its extension, and Stratford City have surged past the £2bn mark for the first time after 70 million visits last year, according to the Australian shopping mall  giant Westfield. Sales reached nearly £2.1bn.

Whitbread upbeat on annual results

Demand for flat whites and cheap, purple-hued hotel rooms saw Costa Coffee and Premier Inn-owner Whitbread predict its annual results will hit the top of City expectations. Premier Inn’s like-for-like takings jumped 9.1 per cent in 50 weeks to this month, while Costa’s sales rose 6 per cent. Shares closed up 140p at 5,245p.

Man Group raises buyback pot

The hedge fund manager Man Group raised its share buyback pot to $175m (£112m) after turbulent markets helped deliver better returns last year. Funds under management  rose 35 per cent to $72.9bn  last year and net inflows  were $3.3bn compared with outflows of $3.6bn.

Weir profits down 2% to £409m

The oil and gas services firm Weir has reported a 2 per cent drop in profits to £409m for last year as it highlighted an uncertain outlook for 2015. Chief executive Keith Cochrane said strategic progress and cost initiatives will only partly offset the impact of a substantial reduction in demand.

Barratt: cost  pressures easing

Barratt Developments said yesterday that cost pressures had moderated as the supply of materials and labour increased. Its operating profits for the six months to December 31 rose by 60 per cent to £224.1m after completion volumes increased 12 per cent to 6,971.

RBS suspends two more employees

Royal Bank of Scotland suspended two more employees in an investigation into alleged manipulation of the forex markets. Three had previously been suspended since RBS was one of six banks fined a combined $4.3bn (£2.7bn) last month over the scandal.

NY may bring in random audits

New York authorities could start carrying conduct random audits to test how successfully banks combat money laundering. Executives may also be required to vouch that the systems are strong enough to detect possible laundering.

EU warning over budget deficit

France must cut its budget deficit over the next three years to bring its finances in line with EU rules, the Union warned. The decision is expected to be fought by President François Hollande, who stood on a platform of fewer cuts.