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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 11 December 2013

End of the road for VW Kombi vans

Engineers at VW's plant in Brazil are putting the finishing touches to the last ever Kombi camper vans to be built in the world. The plant near Sao Paulo was the final factory to make the van, of which 10 millon have been sold since it was first produced in the 1950s as the Type 2 Transporter, following the Type 1 Beetle.

Ward quits Lloyd's and bats for Brit

Richard Ward, the outgoing boss of Lloyd's of London, has landed a new job as chairman of England cricket team sponsor Brit Insurance. Ward, who is leaving at the end of the month, will start the role in February. He was lauded for steering Lloyd's through the financial crisis, having taken up the position in April 2006.

Big harvests will lower food prices

Food prices look set to fall after data suggested Canadian and Australian wheat harvests were up on last year. That means warehouses will be fuller when northern hemisphere farmers harvest 2014 crops. America said global prices next June would average $5.65-$7.15 a bushel compared with $6.70-$7.30 estimated last month.

Lending soars to first-time buyers

Banks and building societies lent £9.9bn to first-time buyers between July and September – the highest amount since the end of 2007 and 37% above a year earlier, according to the Bank of England. Lending for buy-to-let saw an even sharper rise of 42% to £5.9bn, the highest quarterly amount since the second quarter of 2008.

Santander invests in Chinese bank

Santander, Spain's largest bank, is to buy HSBC's 8 per cent stake in Bank of Shanghai, just as many international rivals are beginning to sell out of China. Santander, which already has a consumer finance venture in China, said the deal also included a co-operation agreement, taking the value of its investment to $647m.

Dividend boost for investors

The City thinks Prudential could ramp up its dividend after the insurance giant set an ambitious target to generate £10bn in "surplus capital" over the next four years. Analysts at Panmure Gordon expect "significant returns" for shareholders, with dividends rising to 98p a share from a forecast 32.5p for 2014.

Lloyds' £105m from St James's

Lloyds Banking Group has completed its exit from wealth manager St James's Place selling its final 21% stake for £680m. Lloyds said it made a profit of £105m on the deal and that the cash would increase its key core tier 1 capital ratio balance sheet measure by 0.24%.

'Shadow banking' curbs ruled out

The European Commission has ruled out bringing in hasty curbs on so-called "shadow banking" off balance-sheet investing, in case it crimps finance for the economy. Patrick Pearson of the EC signalled a softening in tone among regulators.

House arrest for head of Uralkali

The head of Russian potash firm Uralkali, extradited to Moscow from Belarus, was released from jail and put under house arrest. Vladislav Baumgertner was detained in Minsk after Uralkali quit its venture with Belarus's state-run producer.

Two years of recession to end

Italy looks set to exit two years of recession after its economy managed to flatline between July and September. The quarter of stagnation came as industrial production for October also looked better, signalling GDP could rise soon.

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