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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 3 April 2013

Newbury fails to get over hurdles

An increase in the number of punters attending Newbury Racecourse failed to offset falling annual takings from concerts and conferences as the business suffered in tough economic conditions. The Berkshire-based operator of the course said its core trading business slumped into the red last year after sales at its events arm plunged 15 per cent.

Moving up north as safe as houses

First-time home buyers should go north, where houses are still within reach of people on average local incomes, according to a new study. Average prices in cities such as Hull, Sunderland and Salford were just under £160,000, around two and a half times the earnings of average local couples, property search engine said.

Tough medicine for AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca swallowed some more bad news yesterday when a US court ruled that a patent protecting its Pulmicort Respules asthma medicine was invalid. Pulmicort Respules brought in US sales of $136m (£90m) last year, and a spokesman said: "AstraZeneca strongly disagrees with the court's decision [and] is considering an appeal."

Magara takes over troubled Lonmin

Beleagured platinum miner Lonmin has appointed Amplats head of engineering Ben Magara to be its new chief executive.

Magara will take up the position on 1 July, replacing Ian Farmer who was forced to step down due to a serious illness. Mr Magara will have a tough job to deal with platinum prices, high costs and the threat of further strikes.

Wembley Hilton in £30.1m share sale

Quintain Estates has sold a half-share in Wembley's Hilton hotel for £30.1m to Howard Marks' Oaktree Capital. The 361-room four-star hotel opened last summer and has hosted, among others, the French women's football team. The stake has been bought by a company which the billionaire set up in 1995.

RBS wants Bostock as finance chief

Royal Bank of Scotland is understood to have lined up Nathan Bostock, Abbey National's former finance director, to succeed Bruce van Saun as finance chief. Mr Bostock was previously Abbey National's and his expected appointment comes as Mr van Saun prepares to move to RBS Citizens in the US.

Glencore and Xstrata deal stalls

The merger between the commodities giants Glencore and Xstrata is set to rumble on for at least another month, as the completion date was pushed back because of investigations in China. China's commerce ministry has been examining the £56bn but approval has yet to be granted.

Bank chief's inflation pledge

The new governor of the Bank of Japan, Haruhiko Kuroda, has promised to use all options available to achieve its 2 per cent inflation target. Mr Kuroda's comments have reinforced expectations of bold monetary stimulus ahead of his first policy-setting meeting tomorrow.

Shanks puts first woman on board

The all-male composition of the Shanks board ended yesterday when the 133-year-old waste-management company appointed its first female member. TomTom's finance director, Marina Wyatt, has joined as a non-executive director.

Bumi digs its way to a loss

Bumi Resources, the coalmining group co-founded by financier Nat Rothschild, reported a $666m loss for 2012, compared to a net profit of $21m the year before, blaming losses on derivatives investments and foreign exchange transactions.

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