Haiti Shelters

A BUSINESS event that will raise money for Haiti is being held in Liverpool this lunchtime.

Liverpool City Rotary has organised a networking event at the Lady of Mann pub, Dale Street, from 12pm to 2pm.

The money will go towards shelter boxes and will add to the £3,000 already raised by the group.

Entry is £10 and organisers are encouraging business people to drop in when they can and show their support.

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Coventry Airport

The Swiss fund looking to buy the closed Coventry Airport has said it could reopen in a matter of weeks, in a move which could herald the return of passenger flights to Coventry.

The airport closed down in December with the loss of 70 jobs, after it faced a winding up order in the High Court over unpaid tax bills.

The airport had been running solely as a freight hub after its last passenger carrier – Thomsonfly – left the airport in November 2008.

The announcement came just a month after another operator – Wizz Air – pulled out of Coventry, where it had run flights to Poland.

But a Swiss investment firm now looks set to buy the airport – and has said it could restart passenger flights into Coventry.

Airport Development Partners has been in talks with the landowners, Coventry City Council, about buying the site – a move that could safeguard hundreds of jobs.

ADP is a private airport investment and development firm based in Switzerland, but with mainly American investors.

The fund said it planned to use the airport as a passenger hub serving European destinations, as well as being a centre for freight traffic and aircraft repairs.

Chief executive Thomas Frankl said Coventry could succeed even given the competition from nearby Birmingham and East Midlands airports.

He said: “You might argue that three airports is a lot, but the Midlands is the second biggest economic powerhouse in Great Britain so really there is room for that demand,” he said.

“There would be some overlap, but I would look at Coventry specialising in general aviation and ad-hoc freight, Birmingham on passenger traffic and East Midlands on big cargo operations.

“There needs to be more signs of a solid recovery before we would look at passenger traffic, not necessarily low-cost but niche carriers. Everything is possible in the future.”

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Richard Pennycook, the chain's finance director, is front-runner for the job, but he was facing competition from two executives from European retail groups. The name of the winning candidate could be announced as soon as this week.

Mr Bolland was announced as the new chief executive of M&S last November. Although he no longer works at Morrisons on a day-to-day basis the chain has yet to release him from his contract, which runs until November. Earlier this month Sir Stuart Rose, M&S's executive chairman, said that Mr Bolland was unlikely to join M&S before the spring.

Whoever gets the job to replace Mr Bolland will inherit the UK's fastest-growing large supermarket in sales terms. Last week Morrisons said that like-for-like sales over the six weeks to January 3 rose by 6.5pc, excluding petrol and VAT. The figure compares to 4.9pc at Tesco and 4.2pc at J Sainsbury, although all chains reported for different time frames.

Last week Sir Ian Gibson, Morrisons' chairman and the man overseeing the appointment, warned that 2010 is likely to be a difficult year for the consumer economy: "Although we remain cautious on the economic environment and consumer spending, we look forward to further progress in the coming year."

On Monday Morrisons will open three new stores, creating up to 800 jobs. The stores are in Streatham in South London, Dover and Willenhall, near Wolverhampton.

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League Managers Association

THE League Managers' Association, much more of a force in football since Richard Bevan became chief executive, are planning to increase their profile by moving headquarters to the National Football Centre in Burton.

Bevan will be an interested onlooker at today's FA unveiling of their plans for the NFC, which is still to reach the planning permission stage.

But at least there is now united FA commitment to the long-delayed centre which has seen little progress since the land was bought in 2001 other than the installation of training pitches.

Bevan wants his LMA to relocate from their business park home outside Leamington Spa to purpose-built offices in the Burton complex, which is to become a global hub of football and the ideal location for managers and coaches to learn their trade.

He said: 'The NFC is set to become a university of football and, hopefully, the interaction that takes place there should do a lot to improve the relationship and understanding between all the stakeholders in English football.' The leading light in restoring the NFC dream has been FA board member David Sheepshanks.

He is expected to become an executive chairman of the centre, because his hopes of a second term as Football League chairman are slim due to his Ipswich connections conflicting with the current search for an independent leader.

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Travel Recovery

Business travel budgets have shown signs of recovery as the UK looks to emerge from recession, it has been reported.

Research conducted by the Business Travel and Meetings Show found that more than a quarter of travel budgets will be boosted for 2010 and 35 per cent of buyers plan to book more trips.

Around half of budgets will remain stable, and just 27 per cent of managers will have less money to spend, the firm claimed.

Gill Upton, editor of Business Travel Magazine, said there are "definite signs of an upturn" but business travel behaviour has changed during the recession.

The same survey from the Business Travel and Meetings Show indicated that 81 per cent admitted they had implemented stricter travel policies this year.

Ms Upton commented: "The new era of corporate responsibility would suggest the pattern of downgrading and switching internal meetings to web conferencing, telepresence or videoconferencing will accelerate and certainly continue."

With technology improving all the time, she explained that the new trend of "travelling smarter" will see businessmen working from their smartphones.

And firms which are still using business travel are looking to arrange fewer but longer trips, and gain greater value by booking further in advance, she added.

According to British Airways, passenger capacity last month, measured in Available Seat Kilometres, was down 4.2 per cent on December 2008 levels.
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House of Fraser

Department store chain House of Fraser has revealed record seasonal trading as it offered more signs that retailers enjoyed a robust Christmas.

The chain followed the lead of rivals such as John Lewis and Next by posting like-for-like sales growth of 7.1 per cent for the eight weeks to January 2, including its best ever Christmas week and a Boxing Day sales jump of 27 per cent.

It also hailed a 33 per cent rise in sales for its “House” labels, such as Linea, Kenneth Cole, New & Lingwood, Howick and Episode. Women’s fashion accessories were up 20 per cent and menswear up 12 per cent on a like-for-like basis, it added.

Chief executive John King said the performance reflected ongoing efforts to improve the business, such as through store refurbishment activity and efforts to develop the popularity of the own-brand products.

He added: “It was pleasing that we had our biggest ever Christmas week and Boxing Day, with some of our stores, such as Oxford Street, experiencing their strongest ever performance.”

Online sales were up 91 per cent in the eight-week period, with cosmetics, knitwear and boots being the most in-demand items.

Despite the festive improvement, House of Fraser chairman Don McCarthy said he remained cautious about trading prospects in 2010.

“However, we are confident that investments we have made across our portfolio since being taken private will mean our customers have many reasons to visit our stores over the coming year,” he added.

House of Fraser has 62 stores in the UK and Ireland, including four recently opened shops at the Westfield Centre in London, in Bristol, High Wycombe and Belfast. It employs around 16,000 people.

The retailer was taken private by Highland Holdings in November 2006 in a £350 million deal. It was backed by Icelandic retail investor Baugur, which collapsed earlier this year. Baugur’s 34 per cent stake in the retailer was then put into the hands of the Icelandic bank Landsbanki.

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Mitchells & Butlers

Turbulent pub group Mitchells & Butlers had some late Christmas cheer after announcing sales had risen over the festive period.

The Birmingham company, which owns chains like All Bar One, Harvester and Sizzler, said sales had risen 3.4 per cent in the six weeks leading up to January 2 – which it claimed as a good result taking into account the poor weather over the New Year. The growth was skewed towards food sales at suburban sites, rather than drink.

A statement released to the stock exchange said: "The board is still cautious on the outlook for consumer spending especially in the second half of the year. However, Mitchells & Butlers’ leading brands and proven operational ability mean that we can face the future with confidence."

The growth beat analysts’ predictions, and is a piece of good news for the firm, which has been involved in a boardroom struggle for the past few months.

The board has been at odds with the major shareholder, billionaire Joe Lewis, who it accuses of trying to surreptitiously take control of the company.

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