The Business Matrix: Tuesday 15 February 2011

Cohen to advise Big Society Bank

Sir Ronald Cohen, one of the founding partners of the private equity firm Apax, is to be an adviser to the Government’s Big Society Bank. Sir Ronald, who stood as a Liberal Party candidate in the Seventies, more recently has been a Labour donor.

Spanish gongs for BA-Iberia merger

Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways-Iberia tie-up International Airlines Group, and Antonio Vázquez, the IAG chairman, were awarded the Encomienda de Número of the Spanish Order of Isabella the Catholic at the Spanish embassy in London yesterday.

Kim keeps stake in copper miner

Vladimir Kim, head of Kazakhmys, has agreed not to cut his stake in the copper miner further before October, ensuring he remains its biggest shareholder. Mr Kim sold a third of his stake to the Kazakh government last year, sparking concerns about state involvement.

EU to propose Praet for ECB position

The European Union is set to recommend Belgium’s Peter Praet to join the European Central Bank Executive Board at the end of May. Mr Praet, who will also serve on the Governing Council, is believed to be centrist on monetary policy, perhaps even slightly dovish.

Model display at the NYSE close

The president of Time’s Sport Group and fashion models rang the closing bell of the NYSE last night to publicise the 2011 edition of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The annual swimsuit issue, started in 1964, has become something of a US institution, and is even credited with making bikinis acceptable beachwear in the US.

Cupid captures Indian dating site

Online dating company Cupid has bought for $200,000 (£124,751). has around 600,000 members and is mainly focused on the Indian community in North America.

Number seeking online advice soars

The number of people contacting a debt advice charity for help online doubled during January as growing numbers of people struggled to keep up with their borrowings. The Consumer Credit Counselling Service said 8,591 people used its online CCCS Debt Remedy tool during the month – twice as many as in December. Overall, a total of 65,825 people used the online service during 2010, while 287,120 people sought help by telephone.

Portugal heads towards recession

Portugal’s economy shrank 0.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2010, reversing a third-quarter expansion and reinforcing market expectations of a new recession this year as public sector cuts eat into consumer demand. However, the data also showed growth of 1.4 per cent across the whole of 2010, mainly thanks to a rise in exports, and the government insisted exports would offset falls in public and private consumption this year.

New Look value written down

The private equity owners of New Look have slashed the value of their stake in the retailer after tough high-street conditions caused its sales to fall. Full-year results from SVG Capital – which invests in New Look through Permira, which owns a 27.7 per cent stake in the retailer – revealed SVG cut the value of its investment in New Look by 47 per cent, to £13.5m at the end of last year.

Speedy predicts a return to profit

Speedy Hire’s tools and building equipment hire business returned to sales growth in the final quarter of 2010 despite the contraction in the construction industry. The company, which operates from 325 sites, said that sales growth slowed to 2.1 per cent in January, but it could return to profit at an underlying level in its second half, providing that it continues to trade well in the next few weeks.

Air travellers to hit 3.3 billion by 2014

Another 800,000 travellers will be flying every year by 2014, taking the total to 3.3 billion, according to estimates from the International Air Transport Association. The largest proportion of the 6 per cent growth will come from an 11 per cent hike in Chinese air travel, with an extra 181 million domestic and 33 million international flights.

Boeing unveils ‘green’ jumbo jet

Boeing has unveiled its latest “environmentally friendly” passenger 747 jumbo jet. The US aircraft maker says the 747-8 Intercontinental, which seats up to 500 people, offers the lowest seat-mile cost of any large commercial jetliner, while being quieter and creating fewer carbon emissions than its predecessor, the 747-400.

Gatwick boost from Euro flights

Gatwick airport handled an increased number of passengers last month. A total of 2.09 million passengers passed through the airport in January – an 11.8 per cent rise on January 2010, when services were hit by heavy snow. The biggest increase last month was on European scheduled services, which rose by nearly a fifth.

Rolls-Royce wins Emirates deal

Rolls-Royce has unveiled a long term services deal with Emirates worth $2.2bn (£1.4bn). The agreement will see R-R technicians maintain the Trent engines of 70 Airbus planes that Emirates will have delivered over the next few years. The deal brings the number of Emirates planes under its TotalCare contract to 128.