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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 17 January 2012


Slump in commercial deals

Commercial property values weakened in 2011, according to the Investment Property Databank. Five London skyscrapers being developed by firms such as Land Securities have only signed one office pre-let deal between them. The main potential tenant for Hammerson's proposed Principal Place skyscraper in London also pulled out yesterday.

E.ON cuts prices for 3.7m customers

E.ON has become the latest big energy supplier to cut prices when it announced a 6 per cent fall in electricity bills, benefiting 3.7 million customers, from 27 February, but the group left gas prices unchanged. E.ON also said customers still on fixed deals will be able to switch to another tariff. Only Scottish Power has yet to announce a cut.

Hotel Chocolat's all-in-one shop

Hotel Chocolat will today open the UK's first shop that sells and makes chocolate under one roof. The chocolatier's store in London's Covent Garden will show customers how cocoa beans are roasted and ground in a "conch" to create chocolate. Hotel Chocolat posted sales growth in December, which he described as a "resilient performance".

Past Times calls in administrators

Past Times has called in KPMG as administrators. The retailer's remaining business, comprising 51 stores and 500 employees, is continuing to trade in the short term with an "orderly wind down" planned if a sale cannot be sealed. Past Times confirmed 507 staff were made redundant before the administrators were appointed.

Sean Quinn declared bankrupt

Ireland's High Court has declared Sean Quinn, once the country's richest man, bankrupt, barring him from the corporate arena for at least five years. Mr Quinn, 65, who turned a quarry on his family farm into a £3bn empire, had tried to be declared insolvent in Northern Ireland, which has a less onerous bankruptcy regime.

Beauty gives Boots a boost

The owner of the chemist chain Boots has reported a strong Christmas, driven by sales of beauty and cosmetic gift sets. Alliance Boots said its UK retail division, which has more than 2,500 stores, saw like-for-like sales grow 4.1 per cent in the last five weeks of 2011, while group revenue rose 14 per cent.

The Belfry resort put up for sale

The golf and business resort The Belfry is expected to attract "significant international interest" after it was put on the market. The 550-acre Warwickshire resort, which has hosted four Ryder Cups and European Tour events, will be marketed by Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels.

Rise in fixed-rate mortgage deals

Mortgage lending picked up in November, according to the Council for Mortgage Lenders, as the number of homeowners taking up fixed-rate deals hit the highest level in more than two years. The number of loans to buy homes rose year-on-year for just the second time in 2011.

Shares in ISG fall 18 per cent

Supermarkets and banks are shelving building and refurbishing work, Interior Services Group warned yesterday. Shares in the firm, which counts Tesco among its major clients, sank 18 per cent as it said such delays would wipe £3m off its UK profits.

Unilever staff strike on pensions

Unilever workers will escalate strike action this week with 11 days of rolling stoppages starting tomorrow in a dispute over plans to axe the Persil and PG Tips maker's final-salary pensions. Its staff held the first UK strike in its 82-year history in December.