The Business Matrix: Tuesday 31 May 2011

Northumbrian to continue to flow

The water groups’ reporting season continues this week, and after recent updates from Pennon, United Utilites and Severn Trent, Northumbrian Water takes its turn tomorrow. Royal Bank of Scotland’s Iain Turner predicts that the utility’s pretax profit for the year will rise to £185m from £170m thanks to positive changes in the prices it can charge, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch only expects it to reach £176m.

Kingfisher enjoys its day in the sun

The recent run of bank holidays, together with plenty of sunny weather, means there is rather a lot of positivity ahead of Kingfisher’s first-quarter results on Thursday. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Aurelie Caspar believes the DIY retailer’s B&Q business will have seen its like-for-like sales rise 1.5 per cent over the three months, though she is less optimistic about big-ticket items.

Wolseley struggles with US exposure

Wolseley releases its third-quarter interim management statement on Wednesday, with the plumbing supplies group having suffered recently from its exposure to the United States. The country contributes roughly 40 per cent of its turnover, but recent housing market data has not provided much reason for optimism, so its performance across the Atlantic over the period will be closely watched.

Asos set to meet high expectations

Asos has been one of the major success stories of the last few years, with the Aim-listed online retailer’s share price jumping 500 per cent in the last 24 months. Such performance means tough expectations, however, and the Share Centre’s Nick Raynor says that – with hopes high ahead of Thursday’s preliminary results – “anything less [than positive] will not please the market”.

Small business lending falls again

The value of loans offered under the Government’s flagship small business lending plan, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme, have fallen by a further 11 per cent in the last three months, down from £103m in Q4 2010 to just £92m in Q1 2011, says Aldermore, the new British bank. This is a new low for the scheme.

Banks suffer loss of popularity

A survey of bank customers today shows increasing dissatisfaction with the service they receive. Leading consultancy firm Accenture found that the number of British high street bank customers declaring themselves satisfied with their high street bank declined from 84 per cent to 73 per cent.

Cuts spell bust for building firms

The number of businesses going bankrupt in the construction sector has jumped by 19 per cent in the last quarter to 948, up from 796 in the previous quarter says Wilkins Kennedy an accountancy firm. The cancellation of public sector building programmes, such as Building Schools for the Future is blamed for the rise.

Wheat prices drop on end of ban

World wheat prices fell sharply yesterday after the Russian government announced the end of its ban on exports, imposed last year after a disastrous harvest. Prices fell by around 5 per cent as investors reacted to the news, and a prediction from the Russian authorities that the grain harvest this year will be “quite good”.

Customers put off by what bosses say

More than a third of people have decided not to purchase products or services following negative comments from a chief executive or celebrity ambassador, according to a poll. Carried out by Com-Res on behalf of Kiln, an insurance group, showed that 37 per cent of people were been put off buying following negative comments.

Lord Myners finds a new City role

A year after leaving office as minister for the City, Lord Myners is to become a partner and chairman in a leading City firm of “active investors”. Cevian Capital, Europe’s largest active ownership fund manager, is a so-called “hybrid investor”, which has a more active approach to its stakes than a traditional pension fund.