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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 12 April 2011

Murray may chair trader Glencore

Simon Murray, the Hong Kong-based businessman and former French foreign legionnaire, has confirmed he is in the frame to chair Glencore, the commodities trader planning to float. In 2004, aged 63, Mr Murray become the oldest man to trek to the South Pole.

Sechin quits Rosneft board

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has stepped down as chairman of the board of state-controlled oil company Rosneft. The resignation comes less than two weeks after President Dmitry Medvedev ordered ministers off the boards of state companies.

Apple chief to spill the beans

Apple’s chief executive and co-founder, Steve Jobs, has finally agreed to participate in a book about his life. Simon & Schuster says Walter Isaacson’s iSteve: The Book of Jobs will be published in early 2012. Mr Jobs went on medical leave in January.

Renault boss quits after spy case

Renault’s Patrick Pelata has resigned as chief operating officer after a botched investigation into industrial espionage at the car-maker. Mr Pelata will, however, remain at the firm. Another three executives, wrongly fired over the affair, will be paid compensation.

Toyota cuts output in North America

Toyota will begin cutting production at its North American factories this week in response to supply disruptions caused by the earthquake in Japan. The car maker, which like the wider industry is adjusting to parts shortages, will suspend production at vehicle plants on five dates: 15, 18, 21, 22 and 25 April.

GNK sees profits rise by 35 per cent

GKN, the car parts and engineering firm, has posted a 42 per cent rise in first-quarter profits to £119m. Its Driveline business, which makes driveshafts for nearly half of new cars, saw profits up 35 per cent to £50m despite the disruption in Japan costing it £3m.GKN returned to the black last year after being hit by the global downturn.

Price fixing fine for detergent brands

European Union competition regulators are set to fine Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer giant behind Omo and Surf brands of washing powder, and Proter & Gamble, the US group behind Ariel and Tide, for fixing detergent prices. Germany’s Henkel, which makes Persil and which alerted the European Commission to the cartel, is not expected to be penalised. An announcement is expected on Wednesday.

Housing market dips in March

The housing market remained stuck in the doldrums last month, with a slight downturn in property demand, according to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Six per cent more surveyors reported a fall, rather than a rise in new buyer inquires in March. There were some regional bright spots, with Scotland, Wales and the South East seeing increases in new buyer inquiries.

GW signs Novartis to market Sativex

GW Pharmaceuticals has signed up Novartis to sell its cannabis-based drug Sativex in a range of markets, representing a key endorsement of the treatment from the major Swiss pharmaceutical company. GW said Novartis would register and market the drug, which has been approved as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) in Australia, parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

BAA enjoys slight passenger ascent

Passenger traffic at BAA airports rose slightly last month compared with March 2010, helped by the popularity of flights to China and India from London’s Heathrow and growth at its three Scottish airports. BAA, majority-owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, said 8.27 million passengers flew from its UK airports last month compared with 8.19 million a year ago, when volumes were affected by BA strikes.

French growth forecast upgraded

France’s economic growth will accelerate to 2 per cent this year but unemployment will remain stubbornly high and the government still needs to take steps to meet medium-term deficit targets, the OECD said yesterday. The economic think-tank made a last minute change to its 2011 forecast, raising it to 2.0 from 1.6 per cent.

Dudley warns on rise in bank rate

William Dudley, a top US central bank official, has warned against raising rates and tightening money policy to soon, saying there is still slack in the economy. He added that any rise in inflation due to oil prices was likely to be temporary, although warned the Fed would have to act if expectations of higher inflation became entrenched.

100,000 jobs to be protected

The Government has pledged to create or safeguard 100,000 jobs under plans to invest £450m in businesses across England. Under the first round of the so-called Regional Growth Fund, 50 bids by companies and partnerships to promote economic growth and create new jobs will be given financial support.

Wates builders increase staff

Wates Group has announced plans to employ an additional 300 staff this year after the construction group reported strong results for 2010. The family-owned company said its turnover rose 4 per cent to £985m and pre-tax profits were up 12 per cent to £43.5m despite challenging market conditions in the UK.