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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 18 February 2014

More passengers for Channel trains

More than four million extra train passengers could be travelling by Channel Tunnel by 2020, according to a report commissioned by its owner, Eurotunnel. High-speed services to Geneva, Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt – proposed by operators Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn – could add 2.5 million passengers within six years.

Yorkshire to pay back £8m in fees

Yorkshire Building Society is to refund £8.4m to some 33,900 customers whom it charged administration fees when they fell behind on mortgage payments. Yorkshire said that it  would repay all fees charged on arrears for  the period, not just those which were wrongly charged. The average payout will be £247.

Growth slump hits recovery plan

Japanese growth slowed sharply at the end of last year, putting pressure on the central bank to pump billions more into recovery efforts. Growth of 0.3 per cent between October and December was well below expectations. Economists expect it to pick up again in the present quarter as shoppers rush to beat an April VAT hike.

Marine group to float at £600m

Gulf Marine Services is to float in London with a valuation of more than $1bn (£600m). The company, which wants to raise $100m, has the largest independent fleet of self-propelled self-elevated support vessels in the world. They are used for working on oil and gas platforms from the Middle East  to the North Sea.

Fund boss reduces Hargreaves stake

John Alexander, manager of the £282m Hansa Trust, has sold 160,000 shares in Hargreaves Services for almost £1.4m, still leaving Hansa with 2.5 per cent of the coal group. The disposal came after Hargreaves released interim results that were welcomed by the market, with a 28 per cent dividend hike.

Ofgem to curb firms’ profits

The energy regulator, Ofgem, has announced plans to curb the profits of Britain’s electricity distribution companies after they were criticised for a slow response to power cuts over the Christmas. Ofgem said it would cap cost of capital for most distributors at 3.8 per cent in 2015-16, with further falls ahead.

Google buys log-in tech firm

Google has bought an Israeli start-up that lets people use sound to log in to websites securely. Slick Login’s technology broadcasts almost-inaudible sound from a computer’s speakers, picked up by a smartphone app. The app returns a signal, replacing passwords.

Occupancy at 97% for Hammerson

The retail park group Hammerson said occupancy was up at 97.7 per cent last year. Rental income rose by  2.1 per cent while new space let to retailers rose 25 per cent. It is spending £500m over three years to expand Brent Cross and its joint venture in Croydon.

Salaries rise as currency dives

The miners Kazakhmys and ENRC are to raise salaries in Kazakhstan by 10 per cent after devaluation of the currency, the tenge. President Nursultan Nazarbayev said the country’s largest exporters should raise pay to protect workers.

Telecom Plus hikes dividend

The utility services company Telecom Plus has hiked its  dividend for the year by 13 per cent to 35p. The company, which trades as Utility Warehouse, said customers rose to 513,379 in the last three months of 2013 from 494,940.

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