The Business Matrix: Wednesday 22 February 2012


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Concerns over Lafarge merger

Plans for a £3bn merger of cement maker Lafarge with Anglo American's building materials group Tarmac were up in the air yesterday, after the Competition Commission warned it had a "number of concerns" about the deal. The regulator pointed out the cement market had only four UK producers, and was "not as competitive as it could be".

Genus profits up by 22 per cent

Surging demand for pork, beef and dairy products in China and India saw profits at the British animal-breeding group Genus jump 22 per cent to £23.3m in the six months to December. The company said that a litre of fresh milk now costs the same in India as it does in the UK as demand from a growing middle class soars.

New chapter for Quarto founder

The founder of Quarto Books, known for its illustrated "how-to" non-fiction guides, is to quit as chief executive after 36 years. Laurence Orbach plans to step down in about 12 months and has recruited a successor, but did not reveal his identity. Quarto unveiled a 21 per cent jump in profits to $9.4m (£6m), with revenues of $186.1m.

Tullow Oil seals Uganda deal

Tullow Oil has completed a long-awaited $2.9bn deal to bring in French oil major Total and Chinese group Cnooc as partners to develop its oil fields in Uganda, paving the way for commercial oil production to start in the African country. The conclusion of the deal marks the transfer of $2.9bn to Tullow from Total and Cnooc, after repeated delays.

Amec enjoys energetic boost

Amec has been boosted by demand in the oil-and-gas sector after full-year revenues rose 11 per cent to £3.3bn and profits rose 11 per cent to £311m. The engineer's average number of employees was up 17 per cent to nearly 26,000 following increased activity in the UK North Sea and the Americas.

Another M&S director leaves

Marks & Spencer has been hit by the departure of a second senior director in as many weeks. Susan Aubrey-Cound, the retailer's director of new channels, is to step down after 11 years at the business. Alison Jones, its brand director for general merchandise, quit last week after less than a year in the role.

Earnings up at Orange owner

Everything Everywhere, the Orange and T-Mobile phones firm, increased its earnings by 2.1 per cent to £1.4bn last year despite a fall in customer numbers and revenues. It came as the firm switched more customers from less profitable, pre-paid phones to contracts.

Croda's finding the right formula

The speciality chemicals firm Croda International, which supplies the consumer care and industrial sectors, said full-year profits rose 26 per cent to £242m, while its prospects were underpinned by a "robust business and expanding pipeline of new products".

Poor demand hits Gooch & Housego

Shares in Gooch & Housego fell nearly a fifth after the laser technology firm warned that demand for its so-called Q-switch equipment, which magnifies the heat of lasers, had fallen across the world, particularly in its key market of China.

Profits on rise for Rathbone Bros

A strong rise in investment management fees saw the wealth manager Rathbone Brothers increase profits by 30 per cent to £39.2m last year despite turbulent financial markets in the second half. Funds under management rose 1.4 per cent to £15.8bn.