Business Briefs - March 25th

The number of women on company boards has almost doubled over the past four years to just under a quarter, according to new figures.

It is close to the target that was set to be achieved by 2015 by Lord Davies of Abersoch four years ago.

Ministers believe 17 more women are needed to be appointed to FTSE 100 company boards to meet the figure.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “We must celebrate this outstanding achievement and the change in culture that is taking hold at the heart of British business. The evidence is irrefutable – boards with a healthy female representation outperform their male-dominated rivals.”

HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank, is to relocate the head office of its UK retail bank to Birmingham in a move that will see about 1,000 jobs transferred from London.

The group said the move would take place before 1 January 2019, the deadline UK regulators have laid down for major banks to separate their more risky investment banking divisions from traditional operations such as personal and business accounts.

HSBC, which employs 48,000 staff in the UK, said no net job losses were planned as a result of the head office move.

Cumbernauld-based soft drinks firm AG Barr has reported a healthy rise in annual profits following a strong performance by its water brand, Strathmore.

The company said profit before tax and exceptional items climbed by 10 per cent to £41.9m in the year to 25 January.

Total turnover increased by 2.7 per cent to £260.9m.

Barr said core brands Irn Bru, Barr, Rubicon and Strathmore all outperformed the market.

However, it warned that the UK soft drinks market was experiencing a period of price deflation which could make it more difficult for many businesses to deliver the top-line growth of recent years.

Edinburgh-based upmarket housebuilder CALA Group remains on course to deliver record revenues and profits after a year of significant volume growth, the firm has said.

A trading update by the upmarket home builder revealed that after several years of planned stable volumes, the full year to 30 June 2015 (FY15) represents the first year of significant volume increase as part of the Group’s growth plans.

The Group is already 90 per cent sold for FY15 with four months of the financial year to go. The average selling price (ASP) of net private reservations increased by 27 per cent from £423,000 to £537,000, mainly due to site mix, while the average number of sales outlets went up from 25 to 38.

38 new sites (1,478 plots) were contracted during the period with a potential gross development value (GDV) of £564m and a gross margin in excess of 23 per cent.

Planning permission was granted on 33 sites (938 plots) with a potential GDV of £417m.

CALA’s controlled land bank now stands at over 13,400 plots with a potential GDV of £5.0 billion.