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The Business Matrix: Tuesday 8 February 2011

Best Buy loses two more directors

Best Buy UK, the joint venture between the US electricals giant and Carphone Warehouse, has lost two more directors, a week after its chief executive Scott Wheway stepped down. Kevin Styles, the marketing director, is leaving to explore new opportunities, while the commercial director, Harry Parmar, is returning to Canada.

Furse to chair Lead Expert Group

Dame Clara Furse, the former chief executive of the Stock Exchange, is to chair the Government’s Lead Expert Group, which is looking at how computer-generated trading in financial markets might evolve and how it might affect financial stability.

M&S poaches Laura Wade-Gery

The head of Tesco’s website and catalogue business is moving to Marks & Spencer to head up the retailer’s online shopping business. Laura Wade-Gery had been due to take over as Tesco’s commercial director for UK clothing, electricals and general merchandise next month. MORE

Huffington in new role after AOL sale

Arianna Huffington, the liberal commentator behind the Huffington Post website, is to run the newly-formed Huffington Post Media Group, after selling her eponymous website to AOL for $315m (£195m). The new business will also incorporate AOL news sites such as Engadget. MORE

US clamps down on Wall St bonuses

US regulators are to propose that bankers at the largest financial institutions have half their bonuses deferred for at least three years, in the most forceful attempt yet to clamp down on bonuses on Wall Street. This is still milder than EU guidelines, which say top bankers should only get 20 per cent of their annual bonuses upfront in cash.

Santander bids for Zachodni buyout

Santander has bid to gain full control of Poland’s Bank Zachodni, offering to buy out minority investors in a deal that values the bank at $5.7bn (£3.5bn). The Spanish lender, which has been on a spending spree, agreed in September to buy 70.4 per cent of Zachodni from Allied Irish Banks in a €2.9bn (£2.4bn) deal.

Ensco gets Pride for $7.3bn

Ensco is buying rival Pride International for about $7.3bn (£4.5bn) in a deal that will create the world’s second-largest offshore oil and gas driller, behind Transocean. The deal will give Ensco, which is UK-based but listed in New York, new access to lucrative deepwater markets off Brazil and west Africa. The firm will have 21 deepwater drilling rigs, giving it a strong position in the most lucrative segment of the offshore market.

888 looks to a deal with Ladbrokes

Online gaming firm 888 said it was hopeful of being taken over by bookmaker Ladbrokes yesterday as it reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter sales. The chief executive, Gigi Levy, said negotiations were continuing, contradicting weekend claims that they were on the verge of collapse. Operating income rose to $71m (£44.8m) in the fourth quarter, up 18 per cent on the quarter before. Shares rose 1.7 per cent to 44.5p.

Microsoft seeks 1,000 apprentices

The Government is calling on employers to help create 100,000 more apprentices by 2014. As the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, marked the start of Apprenticeship Week by underlining the Government’s commitment to increase the budget for apprenticeships to over £1.4bn in 2011-12, the computer giant Microsoft said it would create 1,000 apprenticeships in London over the next three years.

Obama targets corporate taxes

Barack Obama has stepped up efforts to woo the US business community, seeking their help to tackle “burdensome” corporate taxes in a speech at the US Chambers of Commerce, which has vocally opposed his policies such as healthcare reforms. Mr Obama declared “now is the time to invest”, urging firms to spend some of the $2trn cash on their books to boost the economy.

Egyptian worries push oil higher

Oil prices climbed back above $100 a barrel yesterday on worries that unrest in Egypt could spread to other parts of the Middle East, disrupting energy supplies. A Kuwaiti official said oil prices could exceed $110 per barrel if the turmoil in Egypt continued, while Venezuela said prices could hit $200 if the Suez Canal closed.

Bellway Homes’ enjoys sales jump

Bellway reported a rise in average sales over the past six months, as the builder sold 2,332 homes, 85 more than a year earlier, for an average of £168,000 each, an 8 per cent bump year-on-year. The group also said it had been “encouraged” by the number of visitors and reservations since the beginning of January.

Copper prices hit a new record high

Copper hit a fresh record as concerns about supply, especially from top producer Chile, added to a recent stream of positive economic data that boosted the outlook for industrial metals demand. Tin also hit a record high on worries about supply problems in Indonesia. In London, copper hit a record $10,160 a tonne.

St Modwen turns things around

St Modwen reported a recovery in the residential land market yesterday as it recorded its first full year profit in three years. The firm, which specialises in town centre redevelopment and bringing former-industrial sites back to life, posted profits of £37.5m in the year to 30 November, compared to losses of £119m the year before.

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