The Business Matrix: Wednesday 4 January 2012


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The Independent Online

Selfridges takes £1.3m in an hour

Retail sales in London's West End broke the £100m barrier in the week to New Year's Eve, amid a late surge of bargain hunting. Shops posted a rise in sales of up to 3 per cent over the week to 31 December. Among the star performers was the luxury retailer Selfridges, which took a record £1.3m in one hour on Boxing Day.

Belgian takes top economics role

Peter Praet has been appointed to the chief economic role on the European Central Bank's executive board. The holder of the position is responsible for setting the template that determines the bank's interest rate decisions. The Belgian replaces Jürgen Stark, who resigned over objections to the ECB's purchases of eurozone sovereign bonds.

Carillion gets M6 management job

The Government has awarded Carillion a £105m contract to manage part of the M6 motorway. It will work on the Birmingham section, imposing variable speed limits and opening up the hard shoulder to traffic in an attempt to alleviate bottlenecks, improve safety and reduce journey times. The contract will run until 2014-15.

TalkTalk swoops for O2's Meader

TalkTalk has poached a senior executive from O2 to boost its expansion into mobile phones. Dan Meader has become mobile director of the telecoms group as it tries to persuade its 4.2 million customers who take broadband and home phone to add mobile. TalkTalk has won only 50,000 subscribers for its mobile offering.

Sinopec and Total in energy deals

China's Sinopec and France's Total made major purchases into the US energy sector, pouring $4.5bn into deals to buy into booming production from shale rock formations. Sinopec made a $2.2bn investment to create a joint venture with Devon Energy, while Total unveiled a $2.3bn deal with Chesapeake Energy.

Sports Direct to bid for Blacks

The sportswear giant Sports Direct is among four trader buyers piecing together final-round bids for Blacks Leisure. Ahead of tomorrow's deadline, Mike Ashley-controlled Sports Direct is gunning for the entire business of Blacks Leisure, which has debts of £36m and operates 98 Blacks and 208 Millets stores.

Balfour in line for £800m waste deal

Balfour Beatty has been named preferred bidder on an £800m joint venture for a sustainable waste treatment facility in Essex. Balfour will invest about £7m in the project before it is handed over to the waste manager Urbaser. It will treat up to 417,000 tonnes of waste a year.

Oil prices surgeon Iran tensions

Oil prices surged more than 4 per cent yesterday with benchmark Brent crude futures in London settling at their highest level since mid-November, as tension between Iran and the West reinforced fears about supply disruptions. Brent settled at $112.13 a barrel, up $4.75.

Fastest US growth in six months

US manufacturing grew at its fastest pace in six months in December but a European slump and rising oil prices posed threats to the economy this year. The ISM's index of factory activity hit 53.9, the highest since June. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.

Centrica unit buys Indiana gas firm

Centrica's North American unit Direct Energy has acquired the Indiana-based natural gas retailer Vectren Source for £25m. The business has more than 146,000 customers. Direct Energy already has 210,000 residential customers in Ohio.