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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 10 April 2012

Jump in new buyer enquiries

New buyer enquiries saw their biggest jump in nearly two years in March as would-be house buyers rushed to beat the end of the stamp duty holiday. Nine per cent more surveyors reported increases in new enquiries than decreases in March, compared to a 7 per cent balance in February, according to the latest survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

AOL sells patents to Microsoft

Internet giant AOL announced plans to sell more than 800 of its patents and related applications to Microsoft for just over $1bn (£630m) in cash. The company's shares jumped by nearly 40 per cent in morning trading after the company promised to return "a significant portion of the sale proceeds" to its shareholders. AOL will be left with about 300 patents after the sale.

Avon taps J&J executive McCoy

Avon Products has recruited Johnson & Johnson executive Sherilyn McCoy to be its new chief executive as the struggling beauty products company looks to regain its former glory. The appointment comes just days after the beauty products maker, Coty, announced a $10bn offer for Avon that was rejected.

China sets up rare earth association

China has set up a rare earth association to oversee the natural resources sector. Rare earth minerals are a vital ingredient in many manufactured items and China produces about 95 per cent of the world's supply. It has been imposing export quotas to ensure it keeps more of them for its own manufacturing needs.

Sony to axe 10,000 jobs

Sony plans to cut 10,000 jobs, or 6 per cent of its workforce, as its new chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, looks to steer the electronics and entertainment group back to profit after four years in the red. In December 2008 Sony made 16,000 redundant after the global financial crisis hit demand for its products.

Fuel trucker talks to resume today

Fuel delivery contractors will resume talks today with the Unite union representing tanker drivers, who have threatened to strike over pay and conditions. After 24 hours of discussions over two days between Unite and six fuel distribution contractors, talks adjourned on 5 April.

Flybe hopes to fly out of danger

Punters in Flybe have been hit by a run of profit warnings recently, with the most recent one coming in January. They will therefore be hoping there is no more bad news today when the small-cap regional airline announces a pre-close update ahead of its full-year results, which are set for release in June.

Homeware sector returns to growth

Dunelm will be in the spotlight tomorrow as the rapidly-expanding home furnishings retailer unveils its figures for the third-quarter, with Panmure Gordon's Jean Roche forecasting like-for-like sales to have risen 2.5 per cent. The analyst expects the homewares sector to return to growth by late 2012.

Hiring and firing firms see growth

After Robert Walters released first-quarter figures last week, it is Michael Page's turn tomorrow to continue the run of updates from the recruiters. At the time of its final results in April the group said gross profits had risen by 10 per cent and Oriel Securities' analysts are looking for "growth to have picked up".

Tough times for Mothercare

Times have been tough for Mothercare, with the baby products retailer's share price around half of what it was before October's profits warning. That sparked the resignation of its long-time boss Ben Gordon. Panmure Gordon is expecting like-for-like sales to have dropped 11 per cent over the three months.

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