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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 23 August 2011

HR Owen doubles profits to £1.7m

The luxury car dealer HR Owen more than doubled profits in the six months to 30 June to £1.7m. The company, which sells Bentleys, BMWs, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, said new car volumes increased to 277 over the period, compared with 240 the previous year. The company’s revenues rose by 18 per cent, from £80m to £93m.

Gold ‘heading for $2,000 record’

The price of gold surged to another record as investors worried that the US economy could slide into a recession after a spate of poor data. Analysts predict that bullion could hit $2,000 soon, given its strong momentum. Spot gold hit $1,895.76 an ounce in New York yesterday. The price of gold has risen more than a third this year.

Stagecoach backs its move on tax

Stagecoach described as “absurd” calls by the leading advisory group Pirc for investors in the transport company to reject its pay policies at this week’s annual meeting. Stagecoach incurred Pirc’s censure after it moved bonus payments forward so its CEO, Sir Brian Souter, and FD Martin Griffiths avoided paying the new 50p tax rate on them.

Micro Focus ends takeover talks

Shares in Micro Focus sank 3 per cent after the software firm confirmed that talks with two finance groups had come to an end. Advent International, one of the potential buyers, said the current market turmoil was partly behind the decision to end the discussions. The business has offices in 20 countries and employs 1,200 people.

Cupid acquires Brazil dating sites

The online dating company Cupid has acquired several Brazilian online dating websites for £500,000. The sites include, a traditional online dating site, and, an online dating site for single parents. These dating sites have a total of 1.4 million members.

New look for Smith & Jones

Barracuda Pub Group, the owner of Varsity student bars, is relaunching its Smith & Jones brand. The company, which owns and operates 205 managed pubs throughout the UK, has redesigned the Smith & Jones logo to broaden its appeal and increase the customer base of the brand.

Lehman sues RBS over ABN swap

The trustee of Lehman Brothers is suing Royal Bank of Scotland over a 1998 swap deal. ABN Amro, now owned by RBS, ended the swap early, one week after Lehman filed for bankruptcy, the the complaint says. But RBS is looking to offset the outstanding $346m (£210m) against amounts owed to it by Lehman.

HSBC mulls sale of Canadian unit

HSBC is believed to be in talks over the possible sale of its Canadian wealth management unit as part of the banking giant’s worldwide restructuring. HSBC declined to comment last night on reports from Canada that it had given potential bidders access to the books on its retail brokerage there.

Red tape delays Essar projects

Shares in Essar Energy sank by 4 per cent after the India-focused refiner and power generator said three projects would be delayed as it continues to battle hold-ups from regulators. The FTSE 100 company posted a 49 per cent rise in half-yearly underlying profits of $478m (£291m).

Malaysia earnings boost Petrofac

Petrofac posted a forecast beating 7 per cent rise in first half earnings to $246m (£150m), boosted by its business in Malaysia. It said it was confident demand from national oil firms would fuel future growth. The company designs and builds oil and gas infrastructure and also invests in oilfields.

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