The Business Matrix: Wednesday 28 May 2014


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The Independent Online

Strikes put South Africa on the ropes

The South African economy has suffered its worst contraction in five years, shrinking 0.6 per cent in the first quarter, and underlining the challenges facing Jacob Zuma’s government. Four months of mining strikes and a 25 per cent fall in output in the sector hit activity harder than feared. The currency fell to 10.47 rand against the dollar.

PwC recruits 30% more graduates

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the City’s largest recruiter of graduates, is to swell its ranks of university leavers by 30 per cent. The accountant plans to take on a record 1,532 graduates and 143 school-leavers this year, up from 1,220 last year. Its human rescources director said it had “held its nerve” during the economic downturn.

Co-op appoints first ethics chief

The Co-operative Bank has appointed Laura Carstensen to chair its new values and ethics committee. Ms Carstensen was previously a partner at the law firm Slaughter & May and deputy chairman of the Competition Commission. Richard Pym, the chairman, said the move marked a vital stage in rebuilding the bank.

New role for M&S chairman Swannell

Robert Swannell, the Marks & Spencer chairman, is to lead the advisory board of the Shareholder Executive, which looks after Government holdings ranging from the Met Office to Channel 4. Mr Swannell, a former senior banker at Schroders and Citigroup, replaces Patrick O’Sullivan, chairman of insurer Old Mutual.

Rising sales put a fizz into AG Barr

Advertising and marketing campaigns for Irn-Bru and Orangina drove sales at the Scottish drinks group AG Barr. The Glasgow-based firm, which is sponsoring this year’s Commonwealth Games in the city, said total sales for the 15 weeks to 11 May were up 5.2 per cent on last year.

Punch plan falls flat with investors

Shares in the pubs chain Punch Taverns fell 27 per cent to 10.25p after it unveiled a refinancing package that it hopes will cut its £2bn of debts, but which would see ordinary shareholders lose out. Under the plans, shareholders’ stakes would be slashed from 100 per cent to about 15 per cent.

Tax cuts ‘needed to boost growth’

Europe-wide tax cuts are needed to boost growth, the Dutch Minance Minister said yesterday. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said the eurozone must “jointly reform”, adding that high taxes on labour were an obstacle to growth.

AstraZeneca’s shares tumble

Shares in AstraZeneca fell yesterday as the City warned it was unlikely that the drugs giant’s US suitor Pfizer would return with a £69bn deal this year. Analysts said any tie-up between the firms was likely to be at a lower price. Its shares fell 1.75 per cent to £42.52.

Intercontinental to float Euronext

IntercontinentalExchange, which runs the New York Stock Exchange, is to float part of its European business, Euronext, on its Euronext bourses in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon. It has also applied to run an exchange in London.

Tax pot grows by an extra £24bn

The Treasury collected a record £23.9bn in extra taxes during the year to March as HM Revenue stepped up efforts to tackle avoidance. The figure is £3.2bn higher than last year and almost £1bn above the target set out in the Autumn Statement.