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The Business Matrix: Thursday 26 January 2012

WH Smith loses out on star quality

Weak sales of celebrity biographies took their toll on WH Smith over the Christmas period, but the City saluted another jump in profit margins at the stationery retailer and its shares powered ahead. Chief executive Kate Swann described as "pretty resilient" a 5 per cent fall in group like-for-like sales over the 21 weeks to 21 January.

Christmas credit card bills hit £7bn

Spending on credit cards soared over Christmas, but people are still paying off more than they borrow, according the British Bankers' Association. Shoppers spent £7.2bn on plastic in December, making 119 million purchases with cards. But repayments in the month totalled £7.4bn, reducing the total outstanding to £35.9bn.

Coryton stymied by payment plan

The shutdown at the Coryton oil refinery in Essex dragged into its third day yesterday, as payment arrangements prevent the site from selling petrol and diesel to forecourts. Coryton supplies about 600 BP and Texaco forecourts in London and the South-East, and accounts for about a fifth of all fuel sales in the region.

All Leisure Group posts £5.7m profit

All Leisure Group, the operator of the culture vultures' cruise line Swan Hellenic, has posted a profit of £5.7m for 2011, after a £2.1m loss in 2010. The group played down the impact of the Costa Concordia accident, predicting it was more likely to affect lines with "bigger, newer ships which attract families" than its 55-plus market.

Japan reports first deficit for 30 years

Japan recorded its first annual trade deficit for more than 30 years in 2011, as the country suffered from the effects of the earthquake, tsumani and nuclear meltdown and a high yen. The deficit came in at ¥2.49trillion (£20bn), as imports rose by 12 per cent and exports declined by 2.7 per cent.

Tata UK lays off another 110 staff

Tata Steel is laying off 110 staff at its plant in Corby, Northamptonshire, as part of a plan that will result in a total of 200 job losses across Europe. The redundancies follow 1,200 layoffs at Tata's UK plants last May – part of its ongoing drive to cut costs and improve efficiency as sluggish economies drag down demand.

Healthy diagnosis at Renishaw

Renishaw, the measurement- and medical-device manufacturer, said it expects sales to continue to rise after a bumper first half of the year. The firm saw half-yearly revenues grow 11 per cent to £147m and said a recovery in the electronics sector should boost sales further.

Weir agrees to buy Novatech

Weir has agreed to buy Novatech, a US manufacturer of well service pump valves for upstream oil and gas applications, for £113m. Novatech is based in Dallas, Texas, and produces a variety of valves for high pressure applications such as gas and oil extraction.

Charles Stanley's income dips 15%

Charles Stanley's revenues for the last quarter of 2011 fell by 15 per cent to £27.3m as markets remained volatile. The broker said that its total fees increased by 5.8 per cent to £16.6m but commission income fell by £6m to £10.6m.

Drugs firms sued for overtime

Novartis is to pay $99m (£63m) to settle a lawsuit from sales reps who a US court ruled qualified for overtime. As another US court has ruled similarly situated workers at GSK were not due overtime, the issue is expected to go to the US Supreme Court.

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