The Business Matrix: Tuesday 14 June 2011

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Greece’s credit rating slashed

Greece has become the country with the lowest credit rating in the world after Standard & Poor’s cut its long-term debt by three notches to CCC. S&P said that a de facto default, with Greece’s debt restructured either by a bond swap or by extending maturities on existing bonds, looks likely to be imposed by European politicians.

Maple bid for TMX turns hostile

The consortium of Canadian financial firms bidding for the Toronto Stock Exchange called on investors to reject the rival merger plan with the London Stock Exchange in a crunch vote at the end of this month. The Maple consortium formally went hostile in its C$3.7bn (£2.3bn) bid for the Toronto exchange’s parent company, TMX, yesterday.

Spain stubs out Imperial profits

Imperial Tobacco, the Gauloises cigarette owner, has warned profits from its Spanish business would fall 40 per cent this year after a price war broke out in the country. Sales across Spain have been hit by a tightened smoking ban that came in at the start of 2011 and made it illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants, on TV, in hospitals or near schools.

Pyrrho looks to block MWB bid

Pyrrho has pledged to use its 8 per cent stake in Business Exchange to block MWB’s bid for the office space supplier. BE has backed MWB’s £33m offer over a £60m approach from rival Regus, which was withdrawn yesterday. Pyrrho said MWB’s threat to use its 72 per cent stake to delist BE was “holding a gun” to other investors’ heads.

Trader guilty of insider dealing

A former trader at the US hedge fund Galleon has been found guilty on insider trading charges in the second important victory for prosecutors who wiretapped the fund’s senior staff. The conviction of Zvi Goffer comes less than a month after Galleon’s founder Raj Rajaratnam was also found guilty.

Barbican makes a move on Omega

The privately owned insurance firm Barbican has become the third company to declare an interest in Omega, the Lloyd’s of London insurer which unveiled a proposal from rival group Novae last month. Back in January, Omega received a bid approach from another private peer, Canopius.

Sterling Energy slumps on well

Sterling Energy said the deeper parts of a key well in the Kurdistan region of Iraq failed to produce gas at commercial rates, wiping nearly a quarter off the company’s stock market value. The company, whose shares have fallen by nearly 70 per cent in the past year, said it would test shallower parts of the well.

Gulf Keystone share transfers

Gulf Keystone has revealed its CEO Todd Kozel had £17m worth of shares in the Kurdistan oil explorer transferred to his name by a company he part-owns. Mr Kozel, whose divorce proceedings prevent him from dealing in the stock, did not know about the deal and said the shares were beneficially owned by his family.

West Mids ahead in jobs recovery

The West Midlands is leading the nation’s labour market recovery, according to the latest survey from the recruitment firm Manpower. While employers in Wales, Scotland and the North remain pessimistic about jobs growth, those in the Midlands are seemingly buoyed by the revival in manufacturing.

More bad news for property market

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said that May saw a further slippage in property transactions and a rise in the numbers of new instructions, both pointing to a softening in values, at least outside London. Although extended holidays were blamed for a soft market in April, May failed to show a pick-up.