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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 20 April 2011

Sunnucks to head new Gap division

Gap is combining its international divisions under one leadership structure run from the UK. The division will be led by its president of international, Stephen Sunnucks. The US clothing retailer will also take its Old Navy brand worldwide in 2012.

Grosvenor £395m back in the black

Grosvenor, the property group owned by the Duke of Westminster returned to profit last year. The privately owned business, which owns properties in London’s Mayfair and Belgravia, said pre-tax profits were £395m, up from a loss of £239m the year before.

Gunther will take charge of N&P

Norwich & Peterborough Building Society has appointed Anne Gunther as its chief executive. Ms Gunther was chief executive of Standard Life Bank, the life insurer’s foray into mortgages and savings until 2009. She also chaired the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Shareholder sues Buffett and board

Warren Buffett and the Berkshire Hathaway board are being sued by a shareholder after it emerged that David Sokol, a former executive at the investment giant, traded in the stock of a firm before it was bought by Berkshire. Mr Sokol is also named in the suit.

Character shows strength in profits

The toys and games designer Character Group reported a 78 per cent surge in pre-tax profits to £6.6m in the six months to the end of February. The company, which includes Peppa Pig merchandise and Doctor Who figurines among its products, saw revenues rise 35 per cent to £58.1m in the same period.

SAB Miller’s beer volumes up 3%

The beer maker behind Peroni and Grolsch reported a three per cent rise in beer volumes in the first three months of 2011. SAB Miller also said that price rises had helped to push its annual revenues five per cent higher.

Greece pays a high rate for £1.5bn loan

Greece managed to borrow €1.65bn (£1.5bn) in three-month notes on the debt markets yesterday, but was forced to pay a high rate of interest amid investor fears that its debt is unsustainable. Although the Greek government insists that it will repay its debt in full, most economists, and an increasing number of politicians, expect a restructuring, with the German government adviser Clemens Fuest saying that it is inevitable.

Gold futures hit record $1,500 high

Gold futures hit a record high above $1,500 an ounce yesterday while silver surged on a combination of dollar decline, crude oil gains and worries about sovereign debt problems in Europe. Bullion rose to a record for a second straight day on market jitters after the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s on Monday revised the credit outlook of the US to “negative” from “stable”. Spot gold was up 0.11 cents to $1,495.19 an ounce.

Burberry revenues up 32% at £390m

Burberry is planning to expand its store space by more than 10 per cent after a bumper finish to its financial year. The 155-year-old maker of raincoats and handbags posted a 32 per cent surge in revenues to £390m in the three months to March, which it said would result in full-year profits at the top end of expectations. It said that it would increase store space by 12 to 13 per cent in 2012.

UK Coal suffers a second £100m loss

The UK’s biggest coal producer has admitted to “deep-rooted problems” after it recorded losses of more than £100m for the second year in a row. UK Coal, which has three deep mines in the Midlands and Yorkshire, has already made £12m savings through pay and head-office cuts while it works on a full strategic plan that it hopes will help to identify a viable business model.

Promethean hails revenues of £41.9m

Interactive whiteboard maker Promethean World reported a sharp fall in revenues to £41.9m in the three months to the end of March from £53.9m. The group said first-quarter interactive display system revenues were £37m and learner response system revenues £5.3m, a fall of 20 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.

Seagate will buy Samsung division

Seagate Technology is to buy Samsung Electronics’s loss-making hard-disk-drive business for $1.4bn (£858m) as the US group looks to combat rival Western Digital Corp and arrest price wars that have damaged the industry. The deal comes a month after Western Digital sought to buy the HDD unit of Hitachi for $4.3bn.

Mortgages ‘will be scarce until 2014’

Homebuyers are likely to have to wait until 2014 before it becomes easier to obtain mortgage finance, a report suggests. The market analyst Datamonitor said lenders looked set to continue rationing mortgages this year because they still had problems raising funds. Mortgage advances have fallen more than 60 per cent since 2007.

More buyers sign up with agencies

Interest in the housing market rose sharply last month as potential buyers looked for pre-Easter bargains, according to the National Association of Estate Agents. The number of new buyers registered with estate agents rose to an average per branch of 290 in March from 268 in February, according to the NAEA.

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