Market overview: 30 March

■ Mining giant Rio Tinto has joined the China Beijing Metals Exchange, a new electronic trading platform providing additional iron ore trading channels in the Chinese market.

■ Sweeteners giant Tate & Lyle said trading in the final quarter of its financial year has been in line with expectations, consolidating a good performance for the year.

■ Drugs giant AstraZeneca has had a bad run of late so news that a US District Court has ruled that the formulation patent protecting its SEROQUEL XR blockbuster drug is valid will be most welcome.

■ The Gibraltar Limited Partnership, a joint venture in which property group British Land has a stake, has agreed a new five-year loan facility.

■ Revenue growth at electrical components quarter Electrocomponents levelled out in the final two months of the group's financial year, allaying fears that a stalling growth rate would stop altogether.

Globo, the mobile telecoms and software firm, reported a surge in both revenue and profit in 2011, as demand for its mobile consumer applications rocketed (IC COMMENT).

■ Office workers at Canary Wharf were not the only ones feeling a chill wind last year, as Songbird Estates, the company which owns the giant wind tunnel in the East End of London, saw its profits plummet (IC COMMENT).

■ Food additive supplier Anpario has acquired Meriden Animal Health for a total consideration of up to £4.13m (IC COMMENT).

■ While 3i Infrastructure's European portfolio performed well in the year to March 31st, the infrastructure investment firm did highlight a more challenging environment in India.

■ Bacon and sausage supplier Cranswick enjoyed a sizzling end to its financial year, with a positive contribution from all product categories.

Telecom Plus, which supplies a range of utility services under the brand name Utility Warehouse, has enjoyed a strong fourth quarter on the back of successful cross-selling of its services.

QinetiQ is to get a one-off payment from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after the two parties signed an agreement releasing the MoD from accumulated costs incurred in previous years.

■ Bourses operator London Stock Exchange reported a 'continued good operational performance' in the eleven months to February 29th and said it should meet expectations of strong results for the full-year.

■ Utility stock SSE looks set to remain a favourite of income investors as it reaffirmed its intention to increase its full year dividend by at least a couple of percentage points above the year-on-year change in the UK Retail Price Index (RPI).

■ Materials company Cookson has bought German fluxe maker Metallurgica to beef up its offering to the steel industry.

■ Asset management firm Jupiter Fund Management has appointed a new executive director for distribution and strategy.

■ Cloud commerce company @UK has cut losses and won several big contracts to push its share price up significantly.

■ Laminate and foil manufacturer API says sales will come in ahead of 2010's full-year numbers as it prepares to put itself up for sale.

■ Engineer recruitment specialist Morson expects 2012 will be another tough year, with margins under pressure, after it saw profits fall in 2011.

■ Telecoms giant Vodafone says that it will urgently take action to prevent the Indian government from imposing a tax of more than two billion dollars over the 2007 purchase of local company Hutchison Whampoa.

Shire, the specialty biopharmaceutical group, dropped into the bottom spot on the FTSE 100 on Friday after one of its drugs missed the main target during a recent clinical trial.

Essar Energy has said that its subsidiary Essar Oil has made significant progress with its lenders towards exiting the current loan agreement, which relates to the corporate debt restructuring scheme and its Vadinar oil refinery in Gujarat.

■ Engineering and software group Invensys has signed two new five-year multi-currency bank facilities.

■ Despite the recent geo-political challenges that have dogged Randgold Resources as of late, the gold miner has assured that it still expects to hit its medium-term production target.

Business press headlines:

Britain faces a power shortfall that could affect five million homes after German energy giants E.ON and RWE Npower pulled the plug on their joint nuclear venture. The pair teamed up in 2009 with plans to build two nuclear power stations, which together would have produced as much as 6,000 megawatts of clean energy when they opened in the 2020s. Now they will try to sell the project - hoping the glowing torch will fall into the hands of someone with deeper pockets. Faced with spiralling costs in the UK and trouble at home following the German government's U-turn on nuclear energy, the financing of the project came under increasing pressure. First one, then both parties considered dumping the venture - which both vehemently denied at the time. But yesterday morning they issued a joint statement confirming that they would pull out and look for a buyer, The Daily Mail says.

Eurozone finance ministers are expected to extend part of the "big bazooka" bail-out fund in Copenhagen on Friday, but defy international demands to radically boost the size of its firewalls. A draft agreement prepared for the finance ministers' meetings reveals a plan to retain the €240bn (£200bn) rump of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) until next year. The move boosts the available bail-out funds to €740bn from this summer but falls far short of the €1tn firewall that international leaders have been calling for. It marks a concession from Germany but is unlikely to stem fears over the advancing debt crisis, particularly in Spain, according to The Telegraph.

Britain has plunged back into a recession, as the economy continued to shrink in the first three months of the year, according to a leading global authority. After the 0.3 per cent contraction seen at the end of 2011, this would signal that the UK has "double-dipped" back into recession, defined as two quarters of negative growth. The Bank of England should embark on more quantitative easing – its money-printing program which currently stands at £325bn - "sooner rather than later", said Pier Carlo Padoan, chief economist at the Paris-based think-tank, The Telegraph explains.

Workers who assemble iPhones and iPads often put in more than 60 hours per week and sometimes work for a week straight, according to the first independent labour audit of the Chinese factories where Apple products are made. The report released on Thursday by the Washington-based Fair Labor Association (FLA) says Hon Hai Precision Industry (also known as Foxconn), the Taiwanese company that runs the factories, is committing to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours. That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. And the FLA found that most workers at the Foxconn factories want to work even more overtime, so they can make more money, The Telegraph reports.

David Cameron has been accused of presiding over a "shambles" as petrol stations throughout the country ran out of fuel after government attempts to allay panic buying backfired. Ministers had said drivers should not rush to the pumps but should take the "sensible" measure of keeping their tanks two thirds full. Despite there being no possibility of a strike by tanker drivers for at least 11 days, motorists formed queues up to half a mile long at filling stations. In Dorset, police were forced to step in and ask seven forecourts to close temporarily because of fears for road safety, The Telegraph writes.

The Bank of England is facing calls to publish a full account of how it handled the financial crisis after the Treasury admitted it had made mistakes when the UK's banking system was on the brink of collapse. In a 60-page review the Treasury was found to have failed to foresee the financial crisis and been too slow to recruit enough people. It now needs to slow down its high staff turnover if it is to handle any future crisis effectively. The Treasury's account - the result of the public accounts committee calling for a "lessons learnt" report - portrays tensions at the top of the tripartite system of regulation, which divides responsibility between the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services Authority. This system is being ripped up by the coalition, which is handing more power to the Bank of England. The publication of the Treasury's review sparked Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, to call on the Bank of England to do the same, The Guardian says.


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