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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 16 January 2013

Halfords rides out flat Christmas

Car repairs and premium bike sales helped Halfords to ride out a flat Christmas, with the group today announcing a modest raise in its profit expectations. The car and bike retailer saw like-for-like revenues up 1 per cent in the 15 weeks to 11 January and now expects full-year profits to be between £68m and £72m.

IG sees slump in half-year profits

The spread-betting industry leader IG Group has reported its first slump in revenues and profits since 2002, a sign of the wider strife in the sector. IG is still in the black, but for half-year profit fell 21 per cent to £81m. Tim Howkins, chief executive, blames "low market volatility" and "fragile consumer sentiment".

Spirits are high for pub group

Spirit Pub Company, the business spun out of Punch Taverns, yesterday showed that there's life in the pub game yet. Sales were up a healthy 2.3 per cent, driven by food sales up 3.3 per cent, in the 20 weeks to 5 January. Chief executive Mike Tye reckons a backroom shake-up of systems will enable cost savings and other efficiency gains.

Dell set to sell his company

Michael Dell is understood to be in discussions with two separate private equity firms with a view to selling the company he founded in 1984, Dell Computers, for an estimated price tag of about $20bn. Mr Dell is expected to hold on to his stake, of about 15 per cent stake, as part of any transaction that the multibilionaire strikes.

Japanese probe Dreamliner faults

The Japanese government yesterday launched an investigation into the problems faced by Boeing's new Dreamliner jet, days after US officials did the same. The new 787 model faced five technical faults last week, all on Japanese airlines' planes. A Japan Airlines Dreamliner twice leaked fuel at the weekend.

Smiths News sees revenue rise

Newspaper and magazine wholesaler Smiths News reported a 2 per cent rise in revenues in the 19 weeks to 12 January despite a 4.7 per cent slide in like-for-like sales in its core business. It said overall trade was boosted by the acquisition of education and care resources supplier The Consortium in April 2012.

Christmas boost for jewellers

The luxury jewellery retailer Aurum Holdings, which includes Watches of Switzerland, Mappin & Webb and the Goldsmiths brands, said like-for-like sales rose 9 per cent in the eight weeks to 13 January. Christmas trading was helped by improved product availability.

Food store sales surge at the Co-op

The Co-operative said its food store sales grew by 2.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis in the three weeks to 5 January. The improvement on a year earlier included more than £35m of business on Christmas Eve. In the three weeks ending 5 January sales increased 2.4 per cent.

Jobs slump sees profits fall

A slump in banking, engineering and construction recruitment in Europe and the Middle East caused gross profit at white-collar jobs group Michael Page to fall almost 5 per cent to £526.8m last year. However, Page's Asian business grew strongly.

Colas wins £420m TfL contract

Colas, a French construction group, has won a £420m contract to maintain the capital's roads for the next eight years. The company won an eight-year contract from Transport for London to upgrade and maintain central London's road network.

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