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The Business Matrix: Thursday 5 January 2012

Wessex wins right to study Channel

Wessex Exploration and an arm of Australian company Norwest Energy have won the right to explore five parts of the English Channel for oil for the next two years. The Department of the Environment and Climate Change awarded the rights to explore the sites to the east and south-east of the Wytch Farm oil field by Poole Harbour in Dorset.

Domino's delivers a profit of £42m

Lance Batchelor, the new chief executive of Domino's Pizza UK, is "confident" about the group's prospects for the year ahead, despite a sharp slowdown in its fourth-quarter growth. Full-year profits at the pizza group were in line with City forecasts of £42m, as online and mobile sales helped boost a 9.5 per cent rise in revenues to £145m.

Unpaid overtime worth billions

Workers gave bosses nearly two billion hours of unpaid overtime last year, the equivalent of a million full-time jobs. Research by the TUC found that more than5 million workers put in an average of 7.2 hours a week unpaid overtime, worth £5,300 a person. London and the South-east did the most unpaid work.

Big discount for UniCredit rights

The Italian banking giant UniCredit has tapped shareholders for £6bn with a heavily discounted rights issue to plug a hole in its balance sheet. The 43 per cent discount underlines the funding issues faced by Europe's banks, which are scrambling to shore up capital buffers.

World Trade Group in MBO

The business conference firm World Trade Group has been bought out by its management in a £27.5m deal backed by private equity firm GCP Capital Partners, which takes a majority stake. The firm runs events in Europe, North America and Asia.

Pain offers gain to Smith & Nephew

Smith & Nephew plans to spin off its biologics business, which supplies products promoting healing and pain relief, in a £165m deal. The manufacturer of replacement joints is rolling the business into a new, US-based joint venture called Bioventus. The private equity healthcare firm Essex Woodlands will own a 51 per cent.

Builders busier in December

Construction activity in Britain grew last month but experts said the wider economy was still likely to have stagnated at the end of last year. The latest Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply/Markit index, where a score above 50 signals growth, rose to 53.2, with expansion seen across all sectors for the first time in nine months.

Mortgage lending highest since 2009

The number of mortgages approved for house purchases has defied expectations by rising to its highest point in almost two years, according to data for November from the Bank of England. But economists warned that deals were becoming more restricted as banks tighten lending conditions.

Cook's frozen food running hot

The frozen ready meals retailer Cook has enjoyed its strongest ever Christmas despite not offering discounts in December. In the four weeks before Christmas, like-for-like sales rose 13 per cent, and sales exceeded £1m in each of the two weeks before 25 December.

Natural disaster claims hit $105bn

Insurance claims from natural disasters like the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand reached a record $105bn in 2011, according to the insurance giant Munich Re. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan is set to cost insurers $35bn to $40bn.

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