The Business Matrix: Wednesday 2 February 2011

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Harrison lands top job at Best Buy

Best Buy Europe, the joint venture between the US electricals retailer Best Buy and Carphone Warehouse, has promoted its chief operating officer Andrew Harrison to chief executive. He will replace Scott Wheway, who will provide strategy advice.

Bland to chair Alcatel in the UK

The former BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland has joined Alcatel-Lucent, in a move that re-unites him with Ben Verwaayen, the former chief executive of BT. Sir Christopher will chair Alcatel’s UK and Irish operation. Mr Verwaayen is chief executive of Alcatel.

Head of GAP US quits post as sales fall

Marka Hansen, the head of Gap North America who oversaw the retailer’s failed attempt to update its logo, has quit. Gap abandoned its attempt to change its blue box logo last autumn within a week in the face of a customer revolt. Ms Hansen has overseen recent falls in underlying sales.

Prettejohn lined up as Brit chairman

The former head of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, Nick Prettejohn, has been nominated as chairman of Brit Insurance by Apollo and CVC, the private equity firms bidding £888m to buy the insurer. The pair also said they had acceptances for 72 per cent of Brit’s shares.

Northumbrian survives cold snap

Northumbrian Water said the cold snap in December led to an increased number of leaks across its network. But the firm said it maintained supplies with minimal impact on customers and additional costs were not significant, adding trading between 1 October and 31 January was in line with expectations.

Record results for Autonomy

Cambridge-based enterprise search software maker Autonomy said it achieved record results in 2010 as revenues rose 18 per cent to $870m (£538m) and underlying profits leapt to $282m (£175m) from $266m in 2009.

Copper nears $10,000 record

Copper hit a record high yesterday, nearing $10,000 a tonne on data suggesting the global recovery is picking up speed as well as supply concerns and a weaker US dollar. The benchmark copper contract for delivery in three months on the London Metal Exchange closed at $9,945 a tonne, up from $9,745. The metal, which is used extensively in the power and construction industries, earlier hit a record $9,955.

Train drivers call off strike action

A planned strike by train drivers in Wales on the day of the Wales v England Six Nations rugby game has been called off after legal advice. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Arriva Trains Wales were due to walk out for 24 hours on Friday in a row over pay and conditions, threatening disruption for rugby fans attending the game in Cardiff. Union members will be re-balloted for industrial action, the RMT said.

Car makers have strong start to 2011

Car makers are making a strong start to 2011, soothing concerns about slower demand growth in Asian markets and a bumpy recovery in Western markets. General Motors posted a 22 per cent rise in sales last month, while South Korea’s Hyundai said global sales increased by 14 per cent. But analysts said the growth in car sales in China and India is now cooling off.

Carpetright warns on profits outlook

Carpetright, Britain’s biggest floor coverings retailer, warned on profits after a third-quarter sales slump, showing how a weak housing market, tax hikes and Government cuts have hit consumer confidence. The retailer, which trades from 694 stores in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, also said customers faced double-digit price rises after raw material prices soared.

Scotland-Norway power cable plan

Five energy companies, including Scottish & Southern Energy and Sweden’s Vattenfall, have joined forces to plan an underwater power cable between Scotland and Norway by 2020. Vattenfall said the cable would allow Norway’s flexible hydroelectricity production to link with Scotland’s intermittent wind power.

Manufacturing expands apace

The manufacturing sector expanded at a record pace last month, offering some hope for the otherwise sluggish economy, but rising factory costs highlighted the threat posed by growing inflationary pressures, according to the latest purchasing managers index published by Markit/Cips yesterday.

Southern Electric profits on target

Scottish & Southern Energy, which supplies electricity and gas to 10 million customers under the Southern Electric and Swalec brands, said it will meet City forecasts for annual profits of around £1.3bn. This is despite operating profits in generation and supply being slightly below previous hopes.

Mortgage lending at a record low

Net mortgage lending fell last year to £8.15bn, the lowest level since Bank of England records began in 1987, as the market showed no signs of revival. The number of mortgages approved in December was down by 10 per cent 42,563 – well below the 70,000 to 80,000 level considered to be consistent with stable house prices.