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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 26 February 2014

Watchdog begins Drax loan probe

EU competition regulators have begun preliminary inquiries into whether a Government guarantee on a loan for Drax to convert coal-fired power generation to biomass was fair. Last April, the Government offered a guarantee on a £75m loan Drax took out to convert three of its six generating units at the Drax station at Selby, Yorkshire.

De La Rue chief to head up UBM

The bank note printer De La Rue said chief executive Tim Cobbold – brought in three years ago to help lead a turnaround – has resigned to take the top job at events and communications company UBM. He will leave on 29 March. Philip Rogerson, chairman at De La Rue, will take on responsibilities until a replacement is found.

Newcastle sees profits rise to £2m

Newcastle Building Society said its annual profits leapt to £2m last year from £1.5m in 2012 after a "successful" year. It hailed its plan of returning to a traditional building society model, which saw it withdraw from higher risk lending such as commercial investment loans. The mutual said lent out £350m in mortgages.

UK growth set to outstrip the EU

The UK's economy is set to expand at more than twice the pace of the 18-member eurozone this year after the European Commission lifted its growth forecasts. The commission now expects UK growth of 2.5 per cent in 2014, up from previous estimates of 2.2 per cent. The eurozone is forecast to expand 1.2 per cent this year.

Persimmon set to hand back £1.9bn

Shareholders in Persimmon will get an early payday as a booming market prompted the housebuilder to speed up its plans to return £1.9bn to investors. Persimmon also unveiled a 49 per cent rise in 2013 profits to £330m as it sold 11,528 homes.and said forward sales so far this year are up 41 per cent.

Genus investment keeps profits flat

Pig and cattle breeder Genus saw profits remain flat at £22m in the second half of 2013 as it increased its investment in ventures in China to meet soaring demand for pork. The company could face problems from a recently discovered virus in the North American pig industry.

GM crops should focus on consumer

Consumers will only embrace genetically modified foods when they can see significant benefits, Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury, said at the NFU national conference yesterday. He said new crops had been focused on the producer rather than the consumer.

Emerging markets trouble Ashmore

The investment manager Ashmore said half yearly profits fell to £79.5m from £120m a year earlier as it suffered amid emerging markets turmoil. It saw a net outflow of funds, which drove assets under management down by nearly 3 per cent to £45bn.

McColl's falls on first day trading

The newsagent McColl's suffered a disappointing start as a listed company yesterday, with its shares ending the first day of conditional trading at 184.5p, below the offer price of 191p. The listing values the group at about £200m.

Barclays closes energy desks

Barclays has closed its power trading desks in London and New York, joining a string of global investment banks that are paring down their commodity market activities as increased regulations bite.

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