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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 28 June 2011

Diageo set to lift spirits stake

Diageo has been given the go ahead to take a controlling stake in Sichuan Chengdu Quanxing, the maker of the top Shui Jing Fang brand of Chinese “baijiu” vodka. The deal, part of £1.4bn signed between China and the UK, will see the Johnnie Walker drinks giant increase its stake in the firm to 53 per cent and offer to buy out the rest.

US banker ‘stole $19m from Citi’

A former vice-president of Citigroup has been charged with embezzling more than $19m (£11.8m) from the US bank. Gary Foster, 35, was arrested at New York’s Kennedy airport on a flight from Bangkok. His lawyer said he would plead not guilty to charges that he transferred $19.2m from Citi to a personal bank account.

Wolfson slumps on slower growth

Shares in Wolfson Microelectronics, maker of chips for gadgets such as BlackBerry phones and TomTom satnavs, plunged 26 per cent after it revealed the impact of the consumer spending squeeze. Wolfson said it now expects sales growth for the full year of 10-20 per cent, compared with previous City forecasts of 30 per cent.

Higher pension for same price

A simpler, more generous state pension of £140 a week would remove millions from benefits without costing taxpayers more than the existing system. The NAPF found that a third of pensioners would be eligible for the means-tested pensions credit by 2055, but under a single-tier state pension this would fall to 5 per cent.

US consumers fail to help recovery

US consumer spending was flat in May, breaking a string of 10 months of gains, as households struggled with rising prices. When adjusted for inflation, spending slipped 0.1 per cent, falling for a second month. The report suggested that consumer spending would offer little support to the economy.

Li Ka-shing eyes Northumbrian

The Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings admitted it is considering buying Northumbrian Water, sending the utility’s shares up 8 per cent. Any move could trigger a bid war with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which already owns 27 per cent.

Cairn slashes Indian deal price

Cairn Energy has cut the price tag for its deal to sell control of Indian assets by more than $600m. The surprise move was announced shortly before the London stock market closed last night, with Cairn and Vedanta saying that the deal price would fall to just over $6bn from $6.65bn.

Boost for Rockhopper

Rockhopper moved a step closer to demonstrating the commerciality of its Sea Lion oil find off the coast of the Falkland Islands after it said an appraisal well flowed at a strong rate. Questions have been asked about whether there are sufficient quantities of oil to justify investing in infrastructure in the area.

Betfair’s CEO to leave next year

Betfair’s chief executive David Yu has said will not extend his contract when it expires in October 2012. The online betting exchange is now looking for a successor to Mr Yu, who has been boss for almost six years. Shares in the firm, which were listed in October at 1,300p, were worth just 722p yesterday.

Chief executive quits Charter

The chief executive of Charter International, Michael Foster, quit with immediate effect yesterday, just days after the tool and equipment maker warned on profits. The engineer said that its chairman, Lars Emilson, would assume the helm until a replacement for Mr Foster is found.