The Business Matrix: Wednesday 29 February 2012

 

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The Independent Online

HK brokers in lunch-break fury

Hong Kong stockbrokers yesterday marched through the city's financial district in a last-ditch effort to stop bosses from shortening their 90-minute lunch break. The brokers enjoyed two and a half hours off at lunchtime until last year, when Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, which runs Hong Kong's stock market, slashed the trading break.

China's cars appetite lifts GKN

Strong sales of luxury cars in China have helped the car and plane parts maker GKN to a 15 per cent jump in profits for 2011. The group, which numbers BMW, Audi and Volkswagen among its biggest customers, hiked its full-year dividend by a fifth to 6p a share, as its sales rose 13 per cent. Pre-tax profits came in at £417m.

HSBC prepares for likely charges

HSBC has admitted it is likely to face criminal or civil charges from an expanding US investigation into its ties to allegedly illegal money transactions, including some tied to Iran. The disclosure in a regulatory filing shows the increasingly serious nature of inquiries into the London-based bank's business.

Hotels go flat for Whitbread

Whitbread, the group behind Costa Coffee and Premier Inn hotels, said it is budgeting for "a flat economy" this year, even as it posted a 24 per cent rise in sales at its coffee stores in recent months. But sales at its hotels were down by 0.9 per cent over the 11 weeks to 16 February.

Money website profits double

Moneysupermarket has reaped the benefit of its "You're so Moneysupermarket" advertising campaign with a 15 per cent jump in earnings so far this year. Profits at the price comparison website more than doubled in 2011 to £24.3m on sales of £181m.

Foreign investors increase UK stock

Overseas investors owned 41 per cent of the value of the UK stock market at the end of 2010, up from 30.7 per cent in 1998, the Office for National Statistics said. Pension and insurance firms' holdings fell to 5.1 and 8.6 per cent from 21.7 and 21.6 per cent respectively, reflecting a shift to bond investments which the industry credited to regulation.

US contractor moves to Britain

An American oil drilling contractor is ditching the US for its legal headquarters and relocating to the UK, so it can expand its North Sea operations and bring its tax rates into line with international competitors. The company, Rowan Companies, already has substantial operations in the UK and has several prominent Britons on the board.

Stagecoach held up by loss

Stagecoach Theatre Arts, the performing-arts college, sank to a half-year loss after middle-class families cut back on sending their kids to its schools. The group said the number of students attending schools in the autumn term fell by 2.4 per cent to 38,291, reflecting closures or mergers of some of its schools.

BP sells its interest in Hugoton gas

BP is selling its interests in the Hugoton natural gas field in Kansas and its associated processing plant to America's Linn Energy for $1.2bn (£757m) in cash. It's part of an asset sales programme as BP looks to raise billions of dollars to pay for the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Indian giants set to move on Cove

The battle for Cove Energy is heating up after two Indian oil giants said they were seeking to trump two earlier offers for the East Africa-focused explorer by preparing an estimated £1.25bn bid that would value Cove Energy at 245p a share.

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