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The Business Matrix: Thursday 31 March 2011

James Murdoch heads to New York

News Corp has promoted James Murdoch to the role of deputy chief operating officer, in a move that will be seen to mark him as eventual successor to his father Rupert. The newly created role will mean he will move to New York from London. MORE

Allen accuses Gates of decreasing stake

Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, has accused his former business partner Bill Gates of plotting to dilute his stake in the world’s largest software company before he left in 1983. Mr Allen’s claims come in a new biography due to be published next month. MORE

Milner fund set to invest in Spotify

Digital Sky Technologies, the investment fund set up by Yuri Milner, has raised a second fund and is expected to take a stake in the online music group Spotify, according to the Russian business paper Vedomosti. The first DST fund invested in Facebook.

Regulator faces insider charges

A US Food and Drug Administration chemist and his son were charged with using inside information about drug approvals to reap more than $3.6m in profits. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Cheng Yi Liang, 57, and his son Andrew, 25, with illegally trading in advance of at least 27 announcements.

Moss Bros hire business is better

Suit hire at Moss Bros hit an all-time high last year, helping the retailer narrow its losses. The firm said its turnaround plans, including a bespoke range, had begun to make progress. The suit hire firm saw record sales despite a declining market after it benefited from the collapse of Suits You and Young's Hire in November.

Topps Tiles sees rise in sales

The flooring specialist Topps Tiles said it had seen underlying sales rise in the past six months and it was likely to report a 1.5 per cent increase in revenues for the second half of its year when it releases full-year results in June. The company also said it had completed a refinancing of its loan facilities.

UK sales lose their sparkle for Signet

Signet, the parent company of Ernest Jones and H Samuel, posted accelerating sales declines across its UK business as consumer caution hit high-street spending. But the jeweller was able to post a 30 per cent rise in annual profits to $300m (£187m) thanks to better demand across its US operations.

Not so good sofa for DFS Furniture

DFS Furniture, the UK’s biggest sofa retailer, joined other retailers remarking on falling consumer demand as it reported a slump in sales growth. The firm, sold by Lord Kirkham to the private equity firm Advent International last April, said growth in first-half sales slowed to 1.8 per cent, from 4.2 per cent in the first quarter.

Google strikes Buzz settlement

Google and the US Federal Trade Commission have agreed a deal to settle charges alleging that the search engine giant had been deceptive in leading users of its Gmail services to believe that they could decline to take part in Buzz, its foray into social networking. The firm has agreed to set up a comprehensive privacy policy and agreed to have independent privacy audits at two-year intervals for the next two decades.

Junior ISA limit set at £3,000

The Treasury has set the yearly contribution limit for its new tax-free children’s savings scheme at £3,000. Junior ISAs, the replacement for Labour’s Child Trust Funds (CTFs), will be introduced in the autumn but will not include any government contribution. Annual limits for existing CTFs will be raised to the same £3,000 level, the Treasury confirmed last night. Any cash put into JISAs will be locked-in until a child is 18.

Bellway posts a 26%rise in profits

Bellway has reported a return to normal spring trading levels as it posted a 26 per cent rise in interim profits. The UK’s fourth biggest housebuilder’s chairman Howard Dawe said consumer confidence remained fragile, but added “visitors and reservations have returned to the pattern of a traditional spring market”. The positive outlook came as Bellway recorded half-year profits of £24m.

Domino’s suffers bout of indigestion

Domino’s Pizza revealed a further slowdown in sales growth yesterday after a double-digit plunge in Ireland offset gains in the UK. The company said underlying sales in its 48 stores in the Irish Republic were down more than 10 per cent so far this year as consumer spending slowed, while UK sales – which account for 93 per cent of its business – rose by more than 5 per cent.

Inflation triggers a rise in pay deals

Pay increases appear to be picking up in response to rising inflation, with recent deals worth at least 3 per cent, according to Incomes Data Services. The settlements are still below the current rate of RPI inflation, which is forecast to remain around 5 per cent until the end of the year.

Workers stick at jobs for longer

Fewer workers resigned, retired or were made redundant in the past year, leading to a lower turnover in staff amid rising unemployment. A Chartered Management Institute survey of 350 firms found staff turnover fell from 12.3 to 10.5 per cent the year before, while only 3.9 per cent of workers resigned, a five-year low.

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