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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 28 January 2014

Strikes possible at Ford factories

Thousands of Ford car workers at UK sites including Dagenham and Halewood are to be balloted on strike action in a row over job security and pensions. Unite said workers were demanding commitments on job security in line with their counterparts in other EU countries, as well as improvements in their pension scheme.

McColl’s plans £225m flotation

The newsagent and convenience-store chain McColl’s, with 1,276 sites, has revealed it plans to list on the stock market by the end of February in a flotation that would value the company at around £225m. The decision leaves its founder and chief executive, James Lancaster, in line for a major windfall.

Hovis stake sold to US equity firm

Premier Foods has sold a controlling stake in Hovis to a US private-equity firm for £30m. Gores Group will take a 51 per cent stake in the 123-year-old bread brand. Premier and Gores said they will invest up to £200m in Hovis over the next five years. Premier said it would invest the £28m in its Mr Kipling snack slices.

Morale recovers among businesses

German business morale climbed in January to its highest level since July 2011, suggesting Europe’s largest economy is on track for a strong start to 2014 after growing only modestly last year. The Ifo think-tank’s business-climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 firms, rose for a third straight month.

National trade deficit hits £68bn

Japan’s trade deficit has hit an all-time high of ¥11.5trn (£68bn) as imports were swollen by higher energy prices and a weak yen. The country’s nuclear shutdown since the 2011 tsunami, which triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima plant, has increased Japan’s reliance on energy imports.

Caterpillar profits crawl upwards

Caterpillar reported “some signs of improvement in the world economy” as it posted quarterly profits ahead of expectations yesterday. The US mining and construction equipment giant announced profits of $1bn (£603m) for the fourth quarter, up from $697m a year ago, following cost cutting.

Arm chairman leaves position

City veteran Sir John Buchanan is stepping down as chairman  of microchip-maker Arm Holdings for medical reasons. Arm, which designs microchips used in Apple and Samsung smartphones, said Mr Buchanan would be replaced by Stuart Chambers, chairman of Rexam.

Sony debt given ‘junk’ status

The Japanese consumer electronics firm Sony had its debt downgraded to junk status by credit rating agency Moody’s. The shift from Ba1 to Baa3 could it make it more expensive for Sony to borrow. Moody’s said it was concerned about Sony’s TV and PC businesses.

Shopping around pushes cost down

The cost of car insurance has dropped 9 per cent in the past year as more customers shop around and claims fell. A quarterly index by the ABI shows the average premium on comprehensive policies in the final quarter of 2013 was £370.

Jobless figures reach record high

French jobless claims rose by 10,200 in December to a new record. The number of people registered as out of work reached 3,303,200 last month - the largest total since records began. The jobless rate is nearly 11 per cent.

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