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The Business Matrix: Thursday 31 January 2013

One cigarette in five 'is duty-free'

One in five cigarettes smoked in Britain now comes from black-market or duty-free sources, losing the Government more than £3bn a year, Imperial Tobacco said yesterday. "There has been a sharp upsurge in illegals in the last few weeks," an Imperial spokesman said. "Last year, it was running at 16 per cent."

No buyer found for Mothercare

Mothercare's Australian business has collapsed into administration after it failed to find a buyer for the baby products retailer.

Mothercare Australia had been in talks with The Myer Family Company to sell the business, which has 74 stores in Australia and New Zealand, but these talks "ended inconclusively".

Output falls 1.8% on one year ago

Austerity-stricken Spain's deepening recession failed to give the markets a reality check yesterday as sterling lost yet more ground against the euro. Spain's economy shrank 0.7 per cent between October and December, for the sixth quarter in a row of shrinking output. The latest fall meant the nation's output was 1.8 per cent lower than a year ago.

Safestore tumbles into the red

The UK's biggest self-storage firm counted the cost of the Chancellor's Budget raid on the industry and a falling pound yesterday as it veered into the red. George Osborne's move to impose VAT on self-storage last year saw Safestore tumble to a pre-tax loss of £19.5m for the year to 31 October, well below the previous year's £8.5m profit.

Hornby back on the right track

The toymaker Hornby was back on track yesterday after last autumn's profit warning, which wiped a third off its value. The difficult-to-shift Olympic toy cars and memorabilia have virtually disappeared in discounted sales while new products shown at the recent London Toy Fair have gone down a storm.

Recession hits United Utilities

United Utilities, which provides water and sewage services to around seven million people in north-west England, said current trading has been in line with hopes. Revenues have increased at a rate slightly below the allowed regulated price rise for 2012/13 due to the impact of difficult economic conditions.

Catalyst downturn hits Matthey

Materials technology firm Johnson Matthey said sales in the quarter to December 31 were down 2 per cent on last year at £635m, while profits fell as expected by 19 per cent to £84.3m. The decline partly reflected a downturn in demand for vehicle catalysts in Europe.

Bovis signs new credit deal

Bovis Homes has signed a new long-term credit deal with its banks that will provide it with "significant financial flexibility". It has entered into a £125m credit facility expiring in March 2017 and a three-year loan of £25m, replacing the previous £150m credit facility.

China boost for Renishaw

Motion control and precision machinery firm Renishaw said second quarter revenues were 2 per cent higher at £78.3m, having jumped 36 per cent in the previous quarter due to a more than doubling of revenues to the Far East, specifically China.

UPS bid for TNT Express blocked

EU anti-trust regulators blocked a €5.2bn (£6.5bn) bid by United Parcel Service for TNT Express, denting the world's biggest package delivery company's hopes of expanding its presence in Asia and Latin America.

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