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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 12 February 2013

Essar sees refining margins rise

Essar Energy has seen margins shoot up at the UK's second-largest oil refinery this year. Essar's Stanlow plant at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, saw its gross refining margins increase to $5.59 a barrel in the third quarter. It was only $2.45 a barrel a year ago. The group bought Stanlow in 2011 from Royal Dutch Shell.

Stable outlook for house prices

The outlook for house prices has stabilised, according to data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics). In December 2012, the net three-month price expectations balance turned positive for the first time since May 2010. The Rics's headline national price balance improved marginally from -8 to 0.

Rolls renews £61m Hercules contract

Rolls-Royce has been awarded a $97.3m (£61.5m) renewal of its contract to support the US Air Force's fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130J "Super Hercules" transport aircraft. The deal is now in its sixth year, and Rolls-Royce has maintained more than 90 per cent parts for the aircraft and ensured their continued use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Online venture for Hut and Hearst

An online retailer backed by the former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose has teamed up with the owner of Cosmopolitan magazine. Hut Group and Hearst Magazines UK will launch magazine-branded online shopping sites that will sell products selected by editors. The Men's Health website is one of the first to go live this week,

Telecom Plus signs up 50,000

Telecom Plus, which trades as the Utility Warehouse and supplies services such as gas, electricity and telephony to residential and business customers, has achieved a sixth consecutive quarter of growth, by signing up 50,000 new contracts. It is confident of meeting its full-year profit expectations.

Latchways reports record business

Latchways, which makes industrial safety equipment at its factory in Devizes, Wiltshire, said it took a record number of orders in the third quarter, and its results for the second half should be much stronger than the first. However, it said the underlying business climate remained challenging.

Balfour Beatty's £45m uni deal

Balfour Beatty has been named as the preferred bidder for a £45m project to build new student accommodation at Aberystwyth University. It will provide rooms for 1,000 students, as well as enhanced learning and communal facilities for the Welsh campus.

EDF 'has had most complaints'

EDF received more customer complaints than any of the other "big six" energy suppliers, the regulator Ofgem said. EDF recorded 8,072 complaints per 100,000 customers in the final quarter of the year - more than twice the 4,001 logged by rival Npower, which was second.

Survey reveals 4G service variations

Mobile phone users in Cardiff get a better 4G service than those in Sheffield and Liverpool despite paying the same price, research shows. Data from nearly 10,000 readings highlighted varying levels of service on the UK's first 4G network.

Varin leaves BG after seven years

Philippe Varin has stepped down as a non-executive director of the natural gas exploration, development and production company BG after almost seven years in the post. Mr Varin is a former boss of steel company Corus.

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