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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 24 May 2011

New contracts power Stobart

Eddie Stobart has continued to drive growth for its parent company thanks to new contracts from the likes of Tesco and Irn Bru owner AG Barr. The road transport and warehousing division of Stobart Group posted a 30 per cent rise in annual profits to £33.6m. But group profits fell 11 per cent to £29.5m as the rail and ports units underperformed.

Lloyds presses on with branch sales

Lloyds has named Paul Pester, a former Virgin Money and Santander executive, to lead “Project Verde”, its forced disposal of 600 branches under a European competition agreement. Lloyds has accelerated the sale in a move that could make it difficult for the Independent Commision on Banking to demand it adds more branches to the sale.

Peppa Pig perks up film profits

The film content specialist Entertainment One increased underlying profits by 39 per cent to £32.3m in the year to March as retail revenues from its Peppa Pig character passed the £200m mark. Sales overall climbed 12 per cent to £470m, helped also by the success of the third instalment of the Twilight vampire film series.

Life industry speeds pay-outs

Life insurance payments will be made within four weeks rather than taking up to four months, under guidelines published by the insurance industry. Policy beneficiaries and dependents will be able to cut through legal red tape by agreeing to pay back any money they receive if the legal process decides they were not the rightful recipient.

Record order book for Mitie

Mitie has reported a record order book as more companies look for help in reducing their energy bills and meeting emission targets. Energy services, such as biomass plants, wind power and solar panels now account for a third of revenues at Mitie, which also unveiled a 15 per cent rise in annual profits to £106m.

Rolls-Royce wins Taiwanese order

The aero engine maker Rolls-Royce has won its first order from the Taiwanese airline TransAsia Airways. The contract, worth $150m (£93m), is for Trent 700 engines and long-term service support. The engines will power two Airbus A330 aircraft to be delivered in 2012-13.

EasyJet deputy to stand down

EasyJet’s deputy chairman and senior independent director, Sir David Michels, who has faced criticism over pay deals at the low-cost airline, is to step down from the board at the end of the year. EasyJet’s founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, said Sir David had made the right decision but should step down immediately.

Alwaleed backs Glencore IPO

The Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed and his investment firm Kingdom Holding have invested $400m (£248m) in Glencore’s initial public offering, the firm said yesterday. “[The investment] represents 3.6 per cent of the value of shares offered, Kingdom Holding’s share is worth $60m,” Kingdom said.

EnCore pulls North Sea float

EnCore Oil has cancelled the flotation of its North Sea-focused exploration business XEO, citing difficult market conditions due to Britain’s recent decision to raise taxes for oil and gas explorers. EnCore said the market’s appetite for the UK North Sea had diminished ever since the tax raise was unveiled.

Shell under fire over near leak

Norway’s oil-safety watchdog has criticised Shell for an oil-well incident it said had the potential for a major accident and could have caused a leak. The incident took place last December at the Draugen platform in the Norwegian Sea when engineers attempted to replace a gas-lift valve in the well.