The Business Matrix: Wednesday 4 May 2011

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The Independent Online

Nokia’s Ollila to step down

Nokia’s chairman Jorma Ollila is to step down next year. Mr Ollila, who joined in 1985 and was chief executive from 1992 and 2006, led the Finnish firm’s transformation from a rubber boots and TVs conglomerate into a giant mobile phone company in the 1990s.

Petchey’s bid stalled by Lookers

Jack Petchey, the veteran investor and philanthropist who made his fortune from motors and timeshare, has confirmed his plans to buy Lookers are being frustrated by the firm’s board. The car dealership last week said it had rejected a bid approach.

Nixon walks away from Simon seeks

Simon Nixon, the entrepreneur behind moneysupermarket. com, has walked away from his online travel venture after two years saying the business model was “not viable”. Simonseeks was set up as an online travel guide in 2008, on a revenue share model with its authors.

Weston engineers role at Torotrak

John Weston, the former chief executive of the defence giant BAE Systems, is joining the engineering group Torotrak as chairman. He will take over from John Grant, who is retiring from the gears and transmissions specialist at the beginning of June.

India hikes rates for ninth time

India’s central bank has stepped up its fight against stubbornly high inflation, raising interest rates by half a point to 7.25 per cent and vowing to battle price pressures even at the cost of growth. The Reserve Bank of India has hiked rates nine times since March 2010 but inflation, driven by high food and fuel prices, is still 9 per cent.

Factory gate prices rise in Europe

Surging energy costs drove eurozone producer price inflation to its highest level in two and a half years in March, strengthening the case for more interest rate rises. The European Union’s statistics office said prices at factory gates in the eurozone rose were 6.7 per cent higher than a year ago, signalling inflationary pressures.

SFO drops inquiry into Keydata

The Serious Fraud Office has dropped an investigation into Keydata Investment Services, in which thousands of UK pensioners sank hundreds of millions of pounds, because it could not find enough evidence to prosecute. The SFO, which opened an inquiry after administrators discovered over £100m was missing when the company was pushed into administration in 2009, said it would now focus on tracing lost assets.

BP fined $25m over 2006 Alaska spill

BP has agreed to pay a $25m civil penalty plus interest to settle a federal investigation into a 2006 pipeline oil spill on Alaska's North Slope. The fine is small by oil industry standards, and is the result of BP violating the Clean Water Act when it spilled oil in waters off Alaska in the spring and summer of 2006. The US government said BP also improperly removed asbestos-containing materials from its pipelines.

Hermès cuts last link with Gaultier

The French luxury group Hermès has sealed its divorce from fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier by selling its stake in his fashion company to the Spanish perfume group Puig for about €16m (£14.4m). Jean-Paul Gaultier left Hermès last year shortly after the death of Jean-Louis Dumas, the architect of Hermès’ transformation from a small silk-scarf maker into a leading luxury brand.

William Hill buys US Brandywine

Britain’s biggest bookmaker, William Hill, has unveiled another acquisition as part of its drive to become a key player in the US betting market. It has paid $14m (£8.5m) for Brandywine Bookmaking, which operates 16 sportsbooks in the state of Nevada under the Lucky’s brand and one in St Kitts in the Caribbean. Brandywine is also involved in the Delaware State Sports Lottery.

African Minerals seals better deal

African Minerals has negotiated improved terms from China’s Shandong Iron & Steel for a planned $1.5bn (£907m) investment in its flagship iron ore project in Sierra Leone. Shandong will invest $1.5bn for a 25 per cent stake in the Tonkolili iron ore project and the consideration will be paid on closing rather than in tranches.

Regulator blocks new Kalahari bid

The Takeover Panel has blocked an attempt by China’s CGNPCURC to cut its offer for the uranium miner Kalahari Minerals, saying it had not reserved the right to change the bid terms. Kalahari had agreed to its suitor’s plans to cut the approach from 290p to 270p after the Fukushima accident hit confidence in nuclear power.

Aberdeen profits up 54% at half year

Aberdeen Asset Management has posted a 54 per cent rise in half-year underlying profits on the back of better-than-expected performance fees and equity inflows. The fund manager reported underlying profits of £143m and said its equities strategies enjoyed £5.5bn net new business in the six months to 31 March.

F&C sees subdued start to the year

F&C Asset Management said weaker fixed-income markets offset positive currency movements and higher equity markets to keep asset growth subdued in its first quarter. F&C said it attracted £195m of net inflows outside its insurance business in the three months to 31 March, helping assets rise 0.3 per cent to £106bn.

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