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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Currys and PC World see rising sales

Category : Business

Dixons Retail, the owner of Currys and PC World, reports growth in sales in the last 12 months.

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Winners emerge from high street wreckage

Category : Business

Primark and Asos succeed in fashion market and Dixons and Argos benefit from demise of Comet

A burst of retail winners have provided hope for the high street after a week of gloom that has seen the collapse of three of retail’s biggest names.

Primark and Asos revealed soaring fashion sales despite the economic downturn, while Dixons and Argos revealed strong sales, albeit helped by the demise of the electricals store Comet. Soaring sales of tablet computers helped Dixons, the owner of Currys and PC World, and Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos, to a better-than-expected festive season.

Dixons, the last major electricals chain on UK high streets, said it sold more than 1m tablets, such as iPads and Google’s Nexus, in the three months to January – three times more than in the same period of 2011. Sebastian James, the Dixons chief executive, said shoppers had snapped up five tablet computers a second in the weekend before Christmas.

Terry Duddy, the Home Retail Group chief executive, said Argos had enjoyed its strongest quarterly sales growth for five years as tablet sales soared more than 50%. In the 18 weeks to 5 January, underlying sales at Argos climbed 2.7%. “Christmas was absolutely about technology. People were buying lots of tablets and e-readers and using tablets and smartphones to buy other gifts,” Duddy said.

Shoppers also bought more small electrical items, such as kettles and toasters, and large kitchen appliances, such as washing machines. Duddy said the chain had benefited from reduced competition from the supermarkets, who focused on food over Christmas, and from last month’s collapse of Comet.

Dixons reported a 25% rise in sales of large kitchen appliances. James said: “Once the Comet stores closed, we did see a lot of customers coming across the street to us.”

He described the failures of Comet, camera retailer Jessops, entertainment store HMV and movie rental chain Blockbuster as part of “quite seismic” changes on the high street. “It is quite heartbreaking to see all those great brands disappearing from the high street,” he said, “but the people that will win will be those who really embrace multichannel concept.”

James pointed to a 25% leap in online sales which helped Dixons’ UK business achieve a better-than-expected 8% rise in underlying sales in the quarter.

The popularity of internet shopping was also clear at the online fashion store Asos, which recorded sales up 34% in the UK compared with the same month a year earlier, while international sales jumped 47%. It smashed City expectations with a 41% rise in Christmas sales.

Nick Robertson, great-grandson of tailor Austin Reed and the founder of Asos in 2000, put the success down to cutting the prices of its own brand clothing, which accounts for 50% of total sales. “We acknowledged that prices had probably crept up, while our customers are getting poorer,” he said. Black-and-white themed outfits, bomber jackets, 90s caps and retro trainers were among the biggest sellers.

Asos delivers to 160 countries and is continuing international expansion, with new Russian and Chinese language websites planned for this year.

The high street fashion chain Primark is also expanding overseas. It is looking to France this year after moving into Austria and beefing up its Spanish chain last year. Its top sellers included trendy Victorian-themed fashions, novelty Christmas jumpers and onesies. The chain – part of Associated British Foods group which also produces Kingsmill bread and Silver Spoon sugar – raked in a 25% increase in sales in the 16 weeks to 5 January, which analysts said equalled a 9% rise once the impact of new store openings was stripped out.

But not everyone was a winner. Total sales at Homebase, the DIY and homewares chain owned by Argos’s parent Home Retail Group, fell 4.5%. Duddy said it had won market share but underlying sales dipped 3.9% and profit margins slipped as shoppers avoided expensive purchases such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Mothercare reported a 5.9% fall in UK sales in the 13 weeks to 12 January. Chief executive Simon Calver, who joined Mothercare from LoveFilm last April, admitted the mother and baby retailer was being “squeezed in the middle” as supermarkets beat it on price at the bottom end and luxury brands, such as The White Company, stole some high-end customers. He said it would take three years for Mothercare to return to profit as it invests in improving its website, stores and product ranges.

Strong Christmas sales at Dixons

Category : Business, World News

Dixons Retail, owner of Currys and PC World, reports robust sales growth over Christmas, despite competition from Comet’s fire-sale.

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Retailer shares drop on sales data

Category : World News

Shares in French Connection and Thorntons drop after reporting sales data, while electrical retailer Dixons falls on fear of an imminent profit cut.

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Dixons sales growth gathers pace

Category : Business

Dixons Retail, the owner of the PC World and Currys outlets, reports sales growth in its key markets.

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FTSE falls as Spain fears increase, with banks hit by scandals and sovereign debt worries

Category : Business

Leading shares hit by eurozone crisis, while Barclays’ analysts turn negative on rival Lloyds

It was another bad week for the banking industry, with the continuing libor-fixing scandal, accusations of money laundering for drugs barons and new fears of further eurozone bailouts.

All that helped drag markets sharply lower, after the FTSE 100 had looked set to record its seventh successive week of gains. The pressure intensified once Spain’s bond yields soared to new highs after its heavily endebted Valencia region asked for financial help from central government. At the same time Spain cut its economic forecast for 2013 from 0.2% growth to a 0.5% decline, amid continuing protests against its austerity programme.

So the leading index ended the day 62.42 points lower at 5651.77, a 15 point fall on the week.

Barclays, down 5p at 159.25p, continued to be in the firing line over libor, but the bank’s analysts decided to pick on rival Lloyds Banking Group as the UK’s weakest link. In a new note which avoided mentioning the interest rate investigation, they put an underweight rating and 27p price target on Lloyds, which on Thursday agreed to sell 632 branches at a knock-down price to the Co-op. Barclays said:

With leading market shares in UK retail banking, Lloyds is often perceived as a structurally higher-return business, particularly when compared to its domestic peers. However, we believe that large loss-making or low-return non-core and wholesale divisions and a shrinking higher-return retail business will lead to continued disappointment on returns at the group level.

In addition, Lloyds is the most weakly capitalised UK bank on a Basel III basis, which leads to lower capital-adjusted returns and makes the resumption of dividends look unlikely. Reflecting this as well as increased regulatory risk and ongoing Eurozone concerns, we reinstate an underweight rating.

As it happened Lloyds performed better than Barclays, although it closed 0.295p lower at 29.94p. Meanwhile HSBC, implicated in money laundering in Mexico, fell 16.2p to 533.2p. Royal Bank of Scotland lost 7.6p to 204.7p while Standard Chartered dropped 26.5p to 1492.5p.

Insurer Resolution lost 12.4p to 215.5p after it cancelled a proposed £250m cash return to shareholders because of current market uncertainty. Smaller rival Phoenix, tipped as a possible bid target for Resolution, fell 15p to 490.5p on the basis that was now less likely

Following the Olympic security guard fiasco, G4S failed to convince investors the problems were under control, not helped by an uninspiring performance by chief executive Nick Buckles at a select committee hearing. The company’s shares closed 1.7p lower at 241.8p, down 36.9p from the start of the week. It has lost nearly £700m from its market value since the problems first emerged.

Rival outsourcing group Capita closed 4p lower at 689p ahead of first half results next week, despite a buy note from UBS. The bank said:

G4S’s well-documented Olympics contract issues have shown outsourcing in a negative light. Police outsourcing is a key new market for Capita (albeit less than 5% of its £4.6bn current pipeline) and has come under further scrutiny, with the West Midlands/Surrey contract in some doubt. An update on likelihood, changes to and timing of larger current bids will be important, less for 2012 where we see organic growth as well underpinned but for 2013 and beyond.

UBS also said it hoped for news on possible acquisitions:

Capita has indicated the April equity placing, raising £274m, was almost all to fund future M&A. Two smaller acquisitions have since been completed but we hope for an update on where/when the rest of this capital will be spent.

Vodafone fell 3.05p to 180p after the mobile phone group issued a disappointing trading statement, a day after its hopes of a dividend payment from its US joint venture Verizon Wireless were seemingly dashed.

BG dipped 0.5p to 1289.5p despite the gases group and its partners signing $4.5bn worth of deals for the construction of platforms to develop their projects in the Santos Basin in Brazil. Andrew Whittock at Liberum Capital said the news showed the projects were making good progress:

The awards, along with a tender process for an additional [floating production, storage and offloading unit], demonstrate the intent of the partners to deliver the fast-track development of the massive resources. Progress also continues in Australia and BG appears on-track to ramp-up near-term production and meet longer term volume targets.

The shares have bounced off their lows but are still below our value for BG’s current assets (1507p) which we see as a floor for the price. The shares may look relatively expensive but we still believe this is justified by the long-term growth profile. We retain our positive view and buy recommendation.

BG’s shares flared up early in the week after analysts at Barclays talked up the potential for its liquefied natural gas business. But they were soon deflated after Credit Suisse cast doubt on its Brazilian and Australian operations, with analyst Thomas Adolff saying the market had not fully appreciated the transitional challenges the company faced. He said the company’s new chief executive, to be unveiled next February, should consider a partial sale of the Australian and Brazilian businesses to unlock value for shareholders.

Shares in International Airlines Group lost 5.3p to 154.8p after a bond issue for its British Airways subsidiary failed to take off.

Early in July the group said it hoped to raise £250m with its first secured bond, to be backed by its take-off and landing slots at Heathrow and its routes between London City Airport and New York.

But it has now said it would not proceed with the issue:

There was a lack of demand for this bond at a price which would compare with other financing alternatives.

CRH, the FTSE 100 building materials group, closed 25p lower at £11.79 in the wake of reports earlier in the week that it was interested in a £1bn deal to buy cement plants in India, but pumps group Weir rose 6p to £15.31, benefitting from positive trading news from US peers Baker Hughes and Gardner Denver.

A couple of days after denying it was in takeover talks, troubled insurance and repairs group Homeserve issued a soothing annual meeting statement.

In its latest update Homeserve said it was making progress in simplifying and refocusing its business, although the investigation into its past actions by the Financial Services Authority are likely to hang over it for months. Even so, the shares added 6.6p to 195p following the statement.

After recent gloomy news from the high street, Dixons Retail proved a bright spark.

Its shares added 1.6% to 16.52p in the wake of a positive weekly update from John Lewis and reports of strong sales of white goods such as tumble driers.

John Lewis reported overall sales at its department stores were up 17.3% year on year, with electrical goods up 37%, the best figure since early June. Analyst Richard Cathcart at Espirito Santo said this was positive news for Dixons, given its move towards more high tech and service led premium lines.

Meanwhile Adam Woolf at Indesit, the Hotpoint manufacturer, has said it saw an 8.5% increase in shipments to retailers in May, with sales of tumble driers up 38% in the past two months as consumers have been prevented from hanging their washing out to dry because of the wet weather. That should also be good news for Dixons.

Lower down the market, insulation specialist Superglass dropped 4p to 5.25p after it warned trading since its last update in February had been disappointing, with construction activity hampered by the bad weather. On top of that, there are concerns that insulation sales could fall in 2013 after the government changes its home improvement scheme from a carbon emission reduction target to its new Green Deal. The company said:

[This must] be contrary to the desired outcome. The board continues to make representations to the UK government to encourage initiatives to ensure an effective transition.

Vodafone holds for Orbis, while Spain awaits Willie Walsh’s arrival

Category : Business

On this week’s agenda: a telecoms takeover, an airline storm brewing, and the new man at Dixons takes centre stage

Vodafone has a history of getting its own way in takeovers – so the form book suggests we should back the mobile phone giant to complete its £1.04bn offer for Cable & Wireless Worldwide when shareholders vote on Monday. Still, there remains a small chance of a poor reception for the 38p-a-share bid from some fund manager called Orbis.

For reasons best known to itself, Orbis has been building a 19% stake in CWW – more than doubling its stake at an average of 53p a share over the past two years. Its clients will take a painful hit if the current offer goes through, but at least the chunky holding means it could conjure up some interference, as Vodafone needs 75% of the vote.

Orbis insists it will only decide which way to jump just before the meeting, and while it might be a long shot, it could delay a merger that will make Vodafone the UK’s second largest telecoms group behind BT.

The deal also potentially allows Voda to use CWW’s heroic losses to make tax savings – which would be a thorny area. Last week the mobile operator was busily penning letters trumpeting a “vindication” from the National Audit Office in regard to its infamous £1.25bn settlement with HM Treasury. That must have been pleasing. It can now address the PR damage by writing letters, not cheques.

Walsh faces strong headwinds in Madrid

This is your captain speaking. We will shortly be arriving in Madrid, where we are anticipating a bumpy landing. Please fasten your seatbelts.

That is essentially the scenario confronting International Airlines Group boss Willie Walsh, as the man piloting the British Airways and Iberia brands prepares to touch down in Spain for this week’s annual general meeting.

Usually when you hear a London-listed company is meeting shareholders outside London, you assume the board is trying to duck something – and that would be the knee-jerk reaction here. Two years ago, at the last British Airways annual meeting before it merged with Iberia, Walsh was heckled by flight attendants and subjected to a barrage of hostile questions. Two seated rows of cabin crew members even mocked Walsh by laughing sarcastically when the boss said the airline was “not in dispute with staff” and in one sharp exchange a crew member stated: “I am not a child, Mr Walsh.”

So is he wriggling out of a dogfight by decamping to Madrid? Don’t be silly. Walsh’s scrap del día is with his Spanish pilots. Tactfully, he calls their contracts “frankly outrageous”.

James steps out on the playing fields of Dixons

We’ve heard very little about Sebastian James, the new boss of electricals retailer Dixons, since the publication of that Bullingdon Club photograph where he sat perched at the feet of the future prime minister.

Their relative positions have altered little since, but this week gives the son of Kent landowner Lord Northbourne (and descendant of Victorian politician Sir Walter James) a chance to enlighten the City on how he’s finding flogging flatscreen TVs.

James, who is also an Eton contemporary of David Cameron’s, took the controls at the retailer in February after Apple poached boss John Browett. Thursday’s full-year results will be the new boy’s debut outing and investors will be interested in how he is getting on, not least because retail-watchers reckon he will eschew City tradition and not trash his predecessor.

“We expect him to give an upbeat view of the company’s prospects,” predicts Philip Dorgan of broker Panmure. “This is worth mentioning, because many new chief executives like to lower expectations in the hope that they will beat them and subsequently look like heroes.”

Still, don’t expect such munificence if prospects turn worse. Old Etonians don’t always retain their charm when

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Currys owner gains new funding

Category : Business, World News

The owner of Currys and PC World, Dixons Retail, says it has been given new credit by its banks and will be able to meet this year’s debt repayments.

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Currys owner posts stronger sales

Category : Business

The owner of Currys and PC World, Dixons Retail, reports an 8% rise in sales for UK and Ireland in the final quarter of its financial year.

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Dixons Retail jumps 7% on hopes of an iPad and digital television switchover boost

Category : Business

Electrical retailer lifted by demand for Apple’s latest tablet, as well as John Lewis weekly sales figures

The Apple effect seems to be rubbing off on Dixons Retail.

As customers queued up at Apple stores to get their hands on the new iPad, investors are hoping that Dixons will also benefit from the demand for the US company’s latest tablet.

Dixons’ shares have jumped 7% – up 1.12p to 17.09 – making it the top riser in the FTSE 250. It has also been given a lift by the latest weekly John Lewis figures, which indicated strong growth from its electrical division. Vision (ie televisions) was the best performer ahead of the forthcoming digital switchover in the south east.

Close behind Dixons in the mid-cap index is Imagination Technologies. The graphic chip designer is up 43p to 682.5p after Goldman Sachs raised its price target from 850p to £10 in the wake of the company’s results last week.