Business week in review


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The Independent Online

In profit...

Many students would doubtless think that Dr Stephen Wright has the best job in the country. The research & development director at GW Pharmaceuticals confirmed on Tuesday that the group's cannabis-based drug, Sativex, has been approved in 10 more European countries, including Finland, Luxembourg and Slovakia.

The medicine, which acts as pain relief for multiple sclerosis sufferers and is being tested to see if it could be used to help cancer patients, is already on the shelves of UK, Danish Spanish and German chemists. Sativex now has approval in 18 countries, with launches in the latest wave expected by the end of the year.

Justin King, Sainsbury's chief executive, was all smiles on Wednesday after the UK's third-biggest grocer reported results that showed it had reached its highest market share for nearly a decade. Sales, excluding VAT, were up 5.6 per cent to £22.3bn for the 12 months to 17 March, and the dividend was hiked 6.6 per cent to 16.1p.

Dixons Retail boss Sebastian James was also in good cheer, on Thursday, as the group smashed City forecasts with a fourth-quarter sales surge. Apparently, sales of Apple's latest iPad have been "stonking". a loss

The "shareholder spring" came to a head with the darkest of black Tuesdays. Andrew Moss quit Aviva, the UK's second biggest insurer, making him the third major scalp of the rebellion against excessive remuneration.

Trinity Mirror boss Sly Bailey and AstraZeneca head David Brennan had already announced their departures, but Moss's resignation after five years at the helm is perhaps the greatest symbol of growing investor power. The previous week, Aviva had become only the fourth FTSE 100 company to lose a vote on its remuneration report.

The insurer said Moss "felt it was in the best interests of the company that he make way for new leadership". Still, he won't go hungry: he leaves with a £1.5m payoff.

Also on Tuesday, 49.9 per cent of William Hill's shareholders voted against a £1.2m "retention" package for chief executive Ralph Topping. The equivalent of twice his salary, the dough was to ensure he stayed at least until the end of 2013.

On Wednesday, Clinton Cards became the latest name to fall into administration. Turnaround plans drawn up by boss Darcy Willson-Rymer were rejected by debt-holder American Greetings.