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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 21 March 2012

Severfield-Rowen reduces dividend

Cut-throat competition is still hammering the steel industry as the UK's biggest player slashed the dividend. Severfield-Rowen, which erected the steel for the Olympic Stadium, pictured, and is working on the Cheesegrater skyscraper in the City, posted a 39 per cent fall in profits to £6.8m last year and cut its full-year dividend by a third to 5p.

European airlines face £378m loss

European airlines face losses of $600m (£378m) this year, the International Air Transport Association warned yesterday, blaming recession on the Continent, air travel taxes and the additional costs of the EU emissions trading scheme. Iata cut forecasts for global airlines' profits by $500m to $3bn this year due to the steep rise in oil prices.

Demand for iron ore drops in China

Fears of a hard economic landing for China were reignited as BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, said the country's appetite for iron ore, used in steel production, was declining. The head of the miner's iron ore division, Ian Ashby, predicted that demand from China would hit "single digits, if it's not already there".

Cairn looks for new projects

Cairn Energy is to spend some of its £756m cash pile finding new projects to balance its exposure to oil exploration in Greenland. The oil group, which unveiled pre-tax profits of £2.9bn for 2011 yesterday, accumulated the cash after it sold out of its vast Indian business last year, leaving its main assets in Greenland.

Mears posts a rise in profits

A burst of council outsourcing contracts helped Mears, the social housing repairs group, to post a 9 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £31m for 2011. Revenues hit a high of £589m, up 12 per cent on last year, pushed higher by more contracts to run social housing maintenance and growth in its care services.

Tax deal with Swiss banks

Switzerland and the UK have signed an agreement to begin taxing funds held by wealthy British clients of Swiss banks from January. Interest income will now be subject to an existing EU-Swiss agreement of 35 per cent, plus an additional 13 per cent to ensure tax compliance, adding up to 48 per cent tax.

Regus calls forred-tape cull

Regus's chief executive Mark Dixon called for a Budget bonfire of red-tape today, saying the Chancellor needed to ease the burdens of small businesses in a "very tight economy". The comments came as the serviced office group posted a 12 per cent rise in annual revenues to £1.2bn.

Amazon grabs robot firm Kiva

Amazon has agreed to buy Kiva Systems for $775m in cash, a deal that will bring more robotic technology to the e-commerce company's giant network of warehouses. Kiva develops robots that zip around warehouses, grabbing and moving shelves and crates of products.

Debenhams buoyed by sales

A successful January sale and well-received spring-fashion ranges helped the department store chain Debenhams to make a "resilient" start to 2012. Like-for-like sales at Debenhams rose 2.4 per cent in the eight weeks to 3 March.

Jain's pay cut by 18% at Deutsche

Deutsche Bank's co-chief executive-designate Anshu Jain saw his total pay drop 18 per cent last year to €9.8m (£8m) as Germany's flagship bank missed full-year profit targets. His boss, the outgoing Josef Ackermann, saw his pay rise 4 per cent to €9.4m.

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