The Business Matrix: Thursday 27 October 2011

BAT downplays smoking cutback

British American Tobacco (BAT), the maker of Kent and Dunhill cigarettes, said the number of smokers cutting back in the downturn was moderating, but it still posted a 0.6 per cent fall in nine-month volumes to 523 billion “sticks”. BAT said its core brands were up 8 per cent despite the threat of illegal trade and excise-driven price rises.

Shake-up at Lloyds owner

Celesio, the German drugs distributor behind the UK’s Lloyds Pharmacy chain, has unveiled a major overhaul of its business in an attempt to stem sliding earnings. The company has been hit by price curbs in Germany, like its rival Alliance Boots, and wants to focus on distribution and expanding outside Europe in less-regulated markets.

Peugeot to lay off 6,000 workers

PSA Peugeot Citroën, Europe’s second-largest car maker after Volkswagen, will lay off 6,000 people on the Continent next year, including 2,500 contractors and 2,500 sales and back-office staff, after a downturn in sales accelerated in September. The company said it was increasingly having to offer discounts to shift cars.

SSE drops Scottish wind farm plan

SSE, one of Britain’s six big energy suppliers, has pulled the plug on its plans to build a 72.5MW wind farm at Waterhead Moor in North Ayrshire, Scotland, citing construction and planning challenges. SSE said the proposal was initiated before the site was designated as a European Special Protection Area, which added to its complexity.

High street jobs areonthe slide

In the last quarter the retail sector suffered its largest fall in employment since 2009, underlining the high street’s troubles. Retail employment fell by 0.8 per cent (5,780 job losses) in the three months to 30 September, said the British Retail Consortium. There were 23,000 fewer store jobs last month than a year ago.

BP to drill again in Gulf of Mexico

US offshore regulators have approved BP’s first drilling permit for an exploration well since it was hit by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in last year. The permit, for the Kaskida field in the Gulf of Mexico, was approved after a “thorough well design, blowout preventer and containment capability reviews”.

Wincanton hit by fall in imports

The logistics firm Wincanton warned that its container business had been hit unexpectedly hard by a drop in imports. The Wiltshire-based firm said year-on-year volume growth in the division would fall short of expectations and that, as a result, profitability in the business would be hit.

Stobart’s profits are ‘back on track’

Stobart said that disruption as stores launched promotions to offset the tough economic conditions had held back profits. The group, which handles distribution for Tesco, Coca-Cola, Mercedes and Unilever, said attempts to improve its reaction times to problems had pushed profits back in line.

IQE suffers from destocking

The semiconductor materials maker IQE warned that destocking by some of its major wireless customers is set to hit its sales, sending its shares down 25 per cent. IQE, which counts chip firms such as Canada’s TriQuint and the US’s Avago Technologies among its clients, was hurt by shifts in market share

CSR warns of falling demand

The Cambridge-based chip maker CSR has warned its quarterly sales will fail to meet market forecast as its customers in the autos, home audio and mobile sectors grow more cautious. The maker of GPS, bluetooth and wifi chips, said consumer demand was being hit by economic uncertainty.