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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 22 February 2011

Kerry Stokes forges $2bn deal

West Australian Newspaper Holdings is to buy Seven Media Group, owner of Australia’s highest-rated TV network, for $2bn, in a deal forged by tycoon Kerry Stokes that will create Australia’s biggest media company.

Weale backs early interest rate rise

A small rise in interest rates now could reduce the need for rates to rise more sharply in the future, according to Martin Weale, a member of the Bank’s rate-setting committee. Minutes of the last rate-setting meeting will be published tomorrow.

Airbus banks on Mena customers

Airbus expects global sales of its A400M military transport aircraft, a long-delayed project plagued by cost overruns, to reach 400 over the next 30 years. Didier Vernet, Airbus’s head of market development, said Middle East and North African states were expected to order between 50 and 100 planes. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have already placed orders.

Record profits for Cash Converters

Cash Converters, the pawnbroker, which operates in Australia and the UK, reported record half-year profits up 42 per cent to A$14.3m (£8.9m). Store sales in the UK, where it has 41 outlets, rose 14.1 per cent. But cheque cashing income dropped amid the move away from cheques.

Wind farm reopens with new turbines

Britain’s first commercial wind farm is due to reopen today after a multimillion-pound redevelopment. The Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is to relaunch the Delabole wind farm, near Wadebridge in Cornwall, which opened in 1991 with 10 turbines 164ft high. Four new, 325ft turbines will double the potential output to 9.2MW – enough to power 7,000 homes.

Wood looks towards overseas expansion

John Wood, the Aberdeen-based oil and gas services group, is seeking takeover opportunities in Angola, Brazil, Canada, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia as it looks to shift its focus onto its core engineering, production facilities support and gas turbine services. The group recently sold its well support arm to General Electric and unveiled a merger with PSN.

Iceland worries over Icesave

The ratings agency Fitch warned of renewed uncertainty about Iceland’s recovery yesterday after the country’s president triggered a vote on a new bill to pay back Britain and the Netherlands $5bn of debt. President Olafur Grimsson said on Sunday he would not sign the bill, which parliament approved last week, a refusal that forces Iceland to hold a referendum on the new plan. Icelanders rejected the last bill.

Meaty margins boost Devro

The sausage-skin maker Devro reported a 44 per cent rise in underlying pre-tax profits to £36.3m in 2010 as it boosted margins with higher prices and more efficient manufacturing. But the Glasgow-based group said it suffered a £600,000 hit from severe weather in the UK, US and Australia during December. Devro said it expected sales volumes to increase further in 2011 as it saw a growing demand in China.

CSR to pay $679m for Zoran

CSR has agreed to buy the US-listed group Zoran in a $679m (£419m) all-share deal that adds imaging and video to the British chip maker’s wi-fi, Bluetooth and GPS location technologies. “The [new group] is going to be in a position to be very relevant to camera manufacturers,” CSR’s chief executive, Joep van Beurden, said. “The same is true for digital televisions, in cars, in gaming and in handsets.”

Helphire to cut 400 more jobs

The accident claims handler Helphire unveiled another 400 job cuts yesterday as it reported a 37 per cent plunge in half-year profits. The group has now slashed its workforce by 51 per cent – or 1,610 jobs – since 2008. Helphire, which provides cars and handles claims for blameless drivers involved in accidents, said underlying profits plunged to £3.6m in the final six months of 2010 from £5.7m a year earlier.

New Jarrow march over youth jobs

Activists plan to mark the 75th anniversary of the Jarrow March by holding a similar protest to highlight rising youth unemployment. Youth Fight for Jobs said it will march from Jarrow in Tyne andWear to London in October calling for action to help the near one million 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of work.

Hammerson warns over rent arrears

Hammerson, the owner of the Bullring and Brent Cross shopping centres, has warned that rising VAT and government cuts could see some retailers fall behind with rent. Hammerson said its profits rose to £144m in 2010, up from £130m, as retail vacancies fell and a number of new developments were shelved.

London City airport staff to be balloted

Workers at London’s City airport are to be balloted after talks failed to resolve a row over pay and conditions. The GMB said ground staff will vote on industrial action in protest at not having had a pay rise since 2008. The staff, employed by Aviation Resources, provide check-in and dispatch services for CityJet, Air France and KLM.

JJB Sports raises restructuring cash

JJB Sports has raised £31.5m from its five largest investors, including Bill Gates, giving the embattled retailer several weeks to persuade landlords to agree to a restructuring plan and the closure of 95 stores. The retailer then hopes to tap investors for another £30m-£50m to fund its operations beyond March.

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