Planet Business

Fri, Jan 6, 2012, 00:00

LAURA SLATTERYlooks back at the week in business

DICTIONARY CORNER HP DIVORCE

IT’S THAT time of year, apparently – no sooner have the final chords of Auld Lang Syne faded than married couples decide there’s no better time to forget old acquaintances and put themselves on the market for new ones. But first there’s that pricey transitional step of divorce. “Good” news on this front comes courtesy of the Financial Times, which reports that more divorcees are now staggering the cost of divorce payouts over months and years. The number of cases ending in staggered payments rather than one-off settlements is up 50 per cent since 2008, when the financial crisis began, according to Manchester law firm Pannone – a practice it is dubbing “HP divorce” in honour of the hire-purchase principle of spreading the pain of paying for expensive consumer goods in multiple “easy” instalments.

COMMODITY WATCH

New year, new crisis. This time it’s Iranian. Crude oil prices spiralled upwards this week on speculation that mooted oil and petrol sanctions against Iran will curb supplies – speculation that was more than enough to cancel out the dampening effect of Europe’s economic teetering. Like all the best crises, this one is nuclear. EU member states want to embargo Iranian oil as part of a bid to put pressure on the country over its nuclear programme – pressure that has been welcomed in the US with typically diplomatic language. “We do believe that this is consistent with tightening the noose on Iran economically,” said a US State Department spokeswoman. Will it work? Well, more than half or Iran’s revenue comes from oil exports.

"As News International have finally come to their senses, it's time to confirm that yes, this is a fake account"

@Wendi_Deng admits he’s not the real wife of @RupertMurdoch, but just a London man shocked to be “verified” by Twitter

Potter double: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2was the best-selling DVD in the UK last year. Second place went to . . . drumroll . . . Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.

All-for-charidee:Former BP boss Tony Hayward, once dubbed the “Mr Bean” of the corporate world, is donating the yacht he went sailing on during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to charity.

“Excessive” entertainment:The Chinese government has ordered broadcasters to cut the number of entertainment shows during primetime by more than two-thirds in a bid to stave off westernisation and curb shows of “low taste”.

1.2 millionThe number of highchair safety belts being recalled by Swedish furniture giant Ikea, after it received eight reports of belts on its Antilop chair opening unexpectedly

THE QUESTION: Which companies are most likely to be "troubled" in 2012?

Numerous big companies limped through 2011 without biting the dust though some, like entertainment retailer HMV, threatened to do so, placing it near the top of any 2012 “danger” list. But it’s not just the specialist retailers that are vulnerable, as the case of indebted, loss-making department store Clery’s suggests.

The first week of the year brought bad exposure for 131-year-old camera company Eastman Kodak, with reports that it is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection. Fresh from an embarrassing outage in its services, Blackberry-maker Research in Motion begins 2012 aware that it has lost a dramatic portion of market share, while delays on a new line of phones is not endearing the company to tech analysts.

Recession talk in Europe means there will be grim times ahead for any company that depends on consumers for revenue – nobody wants to be the next Saab, bankrupt and potentially broken down for parts. One such consumer-dependent company set to shrink is the Dutch multinational Philips, the world’s biggest light bulb manufacturer.

This could also be the year that markets start to look for some return on investment from social media firms with the risk of pulling the plug if they do not find any.