The Business Matrix: Tuesday 1 March 2011

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Clarke takes over as new Tesco boss

Philip Clarke the former international director of Tesco, succeeds Sir Terry Leahy as the grocer’s chief executive today. Mr Clarke joined Tesco as a graduate trainee 36 years ago and takes over after Sir Terry’s widely acclaimed 14-year stint in the job.

Michael Lewis facing legal suit

Michael Lewis the ex-investment banker who is now one of the world’s best-known financial commentators has been served a lawsuit over his most recent book, the award-winning Big Short. Mr Lewis faces legal action from Wing Chau, a fund manager.

Clegg welcomes Teesside steel deal

Nick Clegg welcomed a deal to bring steelmaking back to Teesside. The Deputy Prime Minister toured the former Corus blast furnace in Redcar, which was bought by Thai firm SSI for £300m. He said: “It’s a breath of fresh air at a time of difficult news about the British economy.”

Bangladesh tells Yunus to step down

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus is not legally entitled to continue as boss of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, the government said yesterday. Supporters of Mr Yunus, a champion of micro-finance, claim that ministers are waging a political campaign against him.

Bloomsbury hails ‘year of the ebook’

Bloomsbury said its sales of electronic books grew 18-fold in 2010, accounting for almost 10 per cent of print sales. Total sales of £90.7m, up 4 per cent,were also boosted by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love,which was made into a film, and all the Harry Potter titles following the movie release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Tesco in renewed push into China

Tesco is setting up a joint venture with Asian investors to develop shopping malls in China. Britain’s biggest supermarket said it would put £30m into the 50-50 venture, with other investors including Metro Holdings of Singapore.

HSBC warns over UK tax charge

HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, said it hoped to stay in the UK after reviewing its headquarters later this year, but warned that the additional regulatory burden of new measures such as the Government’s bank levy represented an extra cost to consider. HSBC reported an annual profit of $19bn (£12m) for 2010, thanks to a big fall in bad debts, as well as a bonus payment of £5.2m for its new boss, Stuart Gulliver. MORE

Pearson serves notice on Apple

The terms of the subscription service for newspapers and magazines unveiled by Apple last week are not acceptable, said Pearson, the publisher of the Financial Times. It warned that it would investigate deals with the US technology company’s rivals. Pearson said it performed well in 2010, with pre-tax profits up by 28 per cent to £670m. Four-fifths of its sales now come from its education businesses. MORE

Bad weather beats Goals Soccer

Goals Soccer Centres said its post-World Cup sales revival was brought to an end last year as the snowy weather in December wiped £900,000 from its profits. The UK’s fastest-growing branded operator of five-a-side football pitches said like-for-like sales, excluding the opening of new sites, fell 4 per cent in 2010 as adverse weather kept players away from its 41 centres.

Natural disasters hit Hiscox

The Lloyd’s of London insurer Hiscox saw its profits fall by more than a third last year, with earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand among around 960 disasters in 2010, 10 times more than the year before. The insurer, which nevertheless said it would raise its dividend payout by 10 per cent, described the run of bad luck as an “unnatural number of natural catastrophes”.

House prices fall back into the red

House prices in England and Wales registered their first annual decline in 15 months in January, falling by 0.9 per cent as the housing market remained weak. On a monthly basis, prices rose by 0.2 per cent, according to a report by the Land Registry, one of the most accurate surveyors of the market.

Americans save cash from tax cuts

US incomes rose by 1 per cent last month – the biggest rise in nearly two years – but consumers decided against splashing out and used the extra funds, almost all of it from tax cuts agreed by the the Obama administration and the new Republican-controlled Congress, to bolster their savings, dashing hopes of a boost to the economy.

Qatar eyes role in Glencore float

Qatar, the gas-rich emirate, is looking into buying a stake in Glencore, the secretive Swiss commodities trader that is currently briefing City analysts ahead of a possible stock market listing later this year. The country’s Prime Minister said the Gulf state was currently “studying the matter”.

Oil prices flat as supply fears ease

Oil prices remained more or less flat yesterday, despite ongoing fears that the political chaos in Libya could yet spread to other oil-rich countries in the Middle East. After an early spike in the price, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco said all demands for extra supply had been met, calming traders.