The Business Matrix: Wednesday 9 November 2011


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Hugo Boss looks to China for growth


Hugo Boss, the German fashion house best known for its men's suits, sharply raised its earnings outlook yesterday as it expands its store network and eyes strong growth in China. The group expects sales in Asia will treble by 2015, and account for about a fifth of its group sales of €3bn (£2.6bn) and core earnings of €750m.

Channel Islands' tax break to finish

The Channel Islands tax loophole will be closed on 1 April. Mainland retailers have long opposed so-called low-value consignment relief, which allows retailers with a Channel Islands base to avoid paying VAT on goods with a value of £15 or less and fuelled an industry selling products such as DVDs and CDs to mainland consumers.

Coutts fined over misdirection

Coutts, the private bank that counts the Queen among its clients, has been fined £6.3m by the City watchdog for misleading customers over the risks of a savings product linked to bailed-out US insurer AIG. Coutts sold the fund to 427 customers but investors saw their money in the fund frozen after AIG was bailed out by the US.

Intercontinental sees profits up 33%

Intercontinental Hotels said profits increased 33 per cent to $153m (£95m) in the three months to 30 September, driven by a strong performance in the US and China, although growth in Europe was slower. The group, which also owns the Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn brands, said revenues increased 11 per cent to $467m.

New contracts boost Babcock

Babcock reported a 42 per cent rise in profits to £162m in the six months to 30 September, despite the squeeze in military budgets. Revenues at the defence giant increased by 30 per cent to £1.6bn after a series of contract wins, with more new business expected in the next six months.

Grocers in price war stalemate

There are no outright winners in the supermarket price war, according to Kantar Worldpanel, as the promotions on offer mean the big four players are cancelling one another out. Asda's sales rose 5.1 per cent in the 12 weeks to the end of October but its performance was only marginally better than its main rivals.

Builder sees rise in first-time buyers

Persimmon has seen a 35 per cent rise in the number of first-time buyers compared with a year ago, in a welcome boost to the industry that has seen such buyers frozen out by high-deposit requirements. The housebuilder said visitor levels and prices remained firm, while cancellation rates were low.

Nord Stream gas tap turned on

After 13 years of planning and two years of construction, gas started flowing yesterday along the Nord Stream pipeline that will deliver Russian gas to an estimated 26 million EU homes. The pipeline runs from Siberia to the German town of Lubmin under the Baltic and lets Russia bypass Ukraine and Poland.

DTZ picks UGL as preferred buyer

DTZ said it has selected giant Australian outsourcing group UGL as its preferred buyer yesterday, in a move that would create one of the biggest real estate firms in the world. The property consultant, however, added there is "minimal value, if any" in its shares because of its high levels of debt.

More firms seek to join nuclear group

The UK nuclear joint venture between German rivals RWE and EON has been approached by third parties to join the consortium, the chief executive of RWE's UK business said. RWE and EON, through the Horizon joint venture, plan to build a series of new nuclear power plants in Britain.