The Business Matrix: Tuesday 4 October 2011

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The Independent Online

Solar panels for Thames bridge

The first of 4,400 solar panels will be mounted on Blackfriars Bridge across the Thames today, as construction begins on central London’s largest energy generator. The giant photovoltaic solar array will in effect form a roof over the bridge and will supply energy to the new Blackfriars railway station, which is being built at its north end.

Rural property prices soar

Homes in the British countryside have gone up in value by nearly £600 a month in the last decade to be worth £196,316 on average – £27,000 more than urban properties, Halifax said today. The lender said West Dorset is the least affordable rural area, with houses costing £256,332 – eight times more than the local average earnings.

Firms may pay for staff’s longer life

Britain’s biggest companies may have to pay more into staff pension schemes as their employees live longer and low interest rates erode returns, according to Mercer. The pension consultant found FTSE 100 firms raised the assumed life expectancy of scheme members by four months on average last year – a 1 per cent increase in scheme liabilities.

Sales slow at distributor

The electronics distributor Electrocomponents said revenues grew by about 5 per cent last month, slower than the 8 per cent seen in the quarter to September and 11 per cent in the half year from April. The firm, which distributes 550,000 products ranging from semiconductors to power tools, said it continued to gain market share.

Costa opens 2,000th store

Costa Coffee has opened its 2,000th store, in the centre of Leeds, as part of its rapid global expansion plans. The chain, which has shops in 25 countries and is owned by the leisure group Whitbread, wants to have 3,500 stores by 2016. The firm said the Leeds Briggate shop created 20 jobs.

Patsystems warns on annual profits

Patsystems warned on its profits following a delay in sealing deals with some clients. Shares of Patsystems, which provides software for electronic trading and exchange systems, fell 38 per cent after it said profits and trading system revenue – accounting for about 85 per cent of total sales – would be lower than last year.

Amec to work on Cygnus gas field

The engineering and project management specialist Amec has been awarded a contract on GDF Suez’s Cygnus gas field development, one of the most significant undeveloped fields in the North Sea. The contract includes work on the detailed design and procurement phase, valued at an estimated £50m.

NWF expands with Swan buy

The agricultural and distribution business NWF is to acquire Swan Petroleum, a 42 million litre fuel distribution business based in Shropshire. The deal increases volumes at the NWF Fuels division by 10 per cent and enhances its market position in the North-west and North Wales.

Sainsbury’s fuels discount war

Sainsbury’s will launch a new price promotion on petrol tomorrow, in the latest attempt by the supermarkets to combat the tough trading environment. The grocer, which is also expected to report flat recent sales, will run the promotion until Sunday, and offer customers who spent £60 in store 10p a litre off petrol.

Peacocks debt discounted

The debt of Peacocks is trading at a substantial discount, as the fashion chain seeks to restructure its capital base. Peacocks, which declined to comment, is selling debt to give it more headroom with its banking covenants. But it is being traded at about 50p in the pound, down from more than 80p recently.