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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 18 July 2012

Number in schemes falls

The number of Britons in occupational pension schemes fell to 8.3 million in 2010, the lowest level since the 1950s, according to the Office for National Statistics. Those contributing to personal pension schemes also fell to 6 million. According to the latest estimates, there are 7.4 million active members of defined benefit schemes.

Wolseley mulls French options

Wolseley, the FTSE 100-listed building giant behind Plumb Center, is exploring "strategic options" for its business in France, with an outright sale thought to be the preferred option. The firm is thought to also be considering selling off only part of its French assets or hive the business off into a joint venture.

Own-label goods feel the pinch

Consumers are cutting back on buying premium own-label groceries for the first time in four years, as they flock to the discounters Aldi and Lidl in droves. Kantar Worldpanel said that sales of premium own-label products were down 6 per cent, while the grocers' value ranges are growing at 13 per cent.

Rio raises iron ore and coal output

Mining giant Rio Tinto yesterday reported record production of iron ore and coking coal for the first half of the year. The Anglo-Australian group said iron ore production rose by 4 per cent to 94.3 million tons in the first half of the year, while coking coal output jumped by 9 per cent to 3.7m tons.

Spain shifts €3bn of debt

Spain managed to sell a €3.56bn (£2.79bn) tranche of debt into the market yesterday at a lower interest rate than it had to pay at its previous auction in June. However, at an average 4.24 per cent for 18 months of money, the rate remains dangerously high for such short-term debt .

Britons prefer wi-fi to networks

More British smartphone users access the internet on their mobile by logging on to wi-fi rather than their phone network, according to a Deloitte survey. Mobile users in four other major markets – the US, Japan, Germany and France – prefer to use their network.

Shell facing $5bn Bonga oil spill fine

Nigerian regulators have told parliament that Shell should be fined $5bn for damage caused by an oil spill at its offshore Bonga field last December. The spill, of about 40,000 barrels, spread over 950sq km, the regulators said. Shell said there was no legal basis for the proposed fine.

Thrane wins £16m Lockheed order

Cobham's recently acquired Thrane & Thrane business has won an order from Lockheed Martin worth about £16m. The contract is for the satellite communication component of an upgrade for 200 US Air Force C-130J Super Hercules.

Jubilee and rain boost sales

Pubs enjoyed strong trading last month thanks to the wet weather, Jubilee and Euro 2012 tournament, although restaurants fared less well. UK pubs and restaurants saw a combined 1.3 per cent uplift, the Coffer Peach Business Tracker found.

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