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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 4 December 2012

Pickfords bought by directors

Pickfords – the 400-year-old removal company – has been bought out of administration, it emerged today. The firm underwent a so-called pre-pack administration at the end of last month which saw it immediately bought back by directors Yogesh Mehta and Timothy Romer under a new company. The move preserves 900 jobs.

Late rush hope on high streets

The high street is banking on a "late Christmas rush" after anaemic spending by consumers last month. Retail sales rose just 0.4 per cent in November, according to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG. KPMG's David McCorquodale said: "Consumers are holding off for as long as they can to see if there might be bargains in the next few weeks."

Foreign firms' Xmas VAT threat

Foreign traders at UK Christmas markets could be hit by hefty VAT bills this year, it has been warned. The accountancy firm Blick Rothenberg said changes to European tax laws meant overseas traders no longer qualified for the £77,000 threshold on sales. Under the new VAT rules this will only apply to businesses established in the UK.

UK output creeps up but no growth

Manufacturing saw a modest improvement in November, with the Markit/Cips PMI rising to 49.1, up from 47.3 in the previous month. But it stayed below the 50 mark dividing growth from contraction. Output was supported by companies running down work backlogs, rather than new orders. In the eurozone the manufacturing PMI rose to 46.2 from 45.4.

Sorrell warns on Europe economy

Sir Martin Sorrell, the head of advertising giant WPP, has sounded a fresh alert about Europe, warning "we may just be halfway through a lost decade". Sir Martin, who is picking up Management Today's UK's Most Admired Leader annual award, said staff want to quit Western Europe for Brazil or India.

South-east homes the wealthiest

More than one-in-seven households in the South-east of England are in the top 10 per cent of the wealthiest households, the Office for National Statistics said. Scotland has the lowest share of wealthiest households, with less than 1 in 14 households coming from the top 10 per cent.

Paragon thinking of buying lender

The buy-to-let mortgage firm Paragon said it is considering the acquisition of specialist lender Hampshire Trust, a subsidiary of National Counties Building Society. The group, which trades as Paragon Mortgages and Mortgage Trust, said the discussions were at an early stage.

Festive boost for Waitrose

The supermarket chain Waitrose said sales excluding petrol were up by 7.8 per cent on last year in the week to Saturday, helped by a 58.2 per cent improvement in its online division. The business, owned by John Lewis Partnership, has 288 shops in the UK.

Thames Water's profits down

The UK's biggest water company has reported a 6 per cent slide in half-year profits to £312m as more customers struggled to pay their bills. The London and Thames Valley supplier said customer bad debts were expected to reach £70m this year.

Gabby Logan joins Perform's board

The sports media firm Perform has named the Gabby Logan as a non-executive, saying it hopes to tap into the broadcaster's knowledge of the sport's world. Before her appointment, Perform, like about a third of mid-cap firms, had no female directors.

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