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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 9 February 2011

Phoenix puts Clive Bannister in top job

The zombie insurance fund manager Phoenix has named Clive Bannister, left, as chief executive, replacing Jonathan Moss. Mr Bannister, who is the son of the four-minute mile athlete Sir Roger Bannister, used to run HSBC’s private bank and insurance business.

Mittal pays himself $478m dividend

Britain’s richest man Lakshmi Mittal paid himself a $478m (£297m) dividend yesterday from ArcelorMittal. The steel group, of which Mittal owns 41 per cent, posted a $780m loss in the final quarter of 2010, but made a $2.9bn profit for the year.

Bad debts rise for Clydesdale & Yorks

The Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks have seen bad debts rise after UK economic recovery faltered at the end of 2010. Owner National Australia Bank said the business continued to “demonstrate resilience” and was on track to deliver its two-year pledge to advance £10bn loans by October.

UBS returns to profit after four years

UBS, the Swiss finance giant, was finally able to report a return to profit yesterday, four years after its last period in the black, but said it still planned to cut the bonuses paid to bankers. It is also continuing its policy of not paying a dividend to shareholders. UBS made a Sfr7.2bn (£4.7bn) profit last year, against Sfr2.7bn loss in 2009.

Sour note for Warner Music

Sales at Warner Music Group fell by more than expected in the three months to 31 December, pushing it to an $18m (£11m) loss. The world’s third-largest music company declined to comment on recent reports that it had put itself up for sale while simultaneously exploring the possibility of buying smaller rival EMI.

High gas prices boost BG profits

The oil and gas explorer BG posted a 13 per cent rise in fourth-quarter earnings to $1.1bn (£680m), lifted by high gas prices. The group also said production was set to rise by 7 per cent a year until 2020. Full year earnings came in at $4bn.

Tinned food names sold to Premier

Premier Foods has sold it canned grocery business – which includes such household brands as Crosse & Blackwell and Fray Bentos, as well as factories in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire – to Princes for £177.4m. Princes, which has grown from being an importer of canned fish, has also secured a long-term licence to make products such as baked beans and canned pasta under the Branston and Batchelors brands.

WH Smith buys 22 British Bookshops

WH Smith bolstered its high street estate yesterday with the acquisition of 22 stores from the administrator of British Bookshops and Stationers. The retailer paid just over £1m for the outlets. British Bookshops started life in Sussex in 1938 but went into administration in January. The recovery firm Zolfo Cooper said it was pursuing options for the remaining 29 stores, which have all remained open.

Unionto re-ballot BA cabin crew

The union representing British Airways cabin crew will re-ballot its members over possible strike action after it admitted a recent vote was vulnerable to being challenged as legally invalid. Cabin crew voted last month to hold further strikes but BA argued the ballot was unlawful. Unite said it would hold another vote on taking industrial action “within the next 10 days or so”.

Copper-bottomed gains at Xstrata

Xstrata beat expectations as it posted a 75 per cent rise in profits on soaring metal prices such as copper and pledged a 50 per cent boost in volumes by the end of 2014. The Anglo-Swiss miner, which is listed on the FTSE 100 index, saw profits leap to $7.7bn (£4.8bn) in 2010, said an overhaul the previous year paid off.

Another Russian float in difficulty

The Russian pump manufacturer HMS Hydraulic Machines & Systems has slashed the price and size of its London listing, casting further doubt on the chances of a smooth ride for other planned Russian share sales. HMS’s struggle to get over the line came days after the coking coal and pig iron producer Koks cancelled its $520m (£323m) float, citing market conditions.

Cars drive German export success

German luxury car makers provided clear evidence that they are driving the country’s dramatic export boom yesterday after announcing record January sales figures. BMW said deliveries were up 28 per cent on a year ago, while its rival Audi reported year-on-year sales increases of 23 per cent.

Rio Tinto predicts demand doubling

A senior executive at Rio Tinto predicted the demand for metals such as iron, copper and aluminum would double in less than two decades. The comments from the head of the miner’s diamond and minerals unit, came just days before Rio’s full-year results, which are expected to show a bumper rise in profits last year.

US inquiry clears Toyota throttles

A10-month US investigation has found no link between electronic throttles and unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. The world’s largest car maker also lifted its annual forecasts after better than forecast sales, but a heavy reliance on exports is expected to keep it a laggard as long as the yen stays strong.

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