Business news in brief: Faroe | Homes for Scotland | Laura Ashley | Greencoat

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Oil and gas explorer Faroe Petroleum has secured a share in a new licence in the Norwegian Barents Sea.

Chief executive Graham Stewart said the award, handed out by the Norwegian government in its 22nd licensing round, enhanced the group’s strategic position in the region, where it recently vowed to press ahead with further evaluation work despite declaring its Darwin exploration well as dry.

Faroe has a 20 per cent stake in the PL716 licence, while operator Eni has 40 per cent. Fellow partners Bayerngas and Petoro each hold 20 per cent.

New chair chosen at Homes for Scotland

Building industry body Homes for Scotland has formally elected Jim Preston as its chairman for the next 12 months.

The 48-year-old managing director of Veitchi Group has been in construction and house building for the entire 28 years of his career. He first joined the Homes for Scotland’s board five years ago and served as vice chair for the 2012-13 term.

Preston believes smaller and medium-sized home builders were worst hit by the downturn and will be campaigning to ensure their needs are fully represented.

Cold snap drags on Laura Ashley

Fashion and furniture retailer Laura Ashley has blamed the unseasonable weather for a decline in first-quarter sales.

Although its furnishings business put in a strong performance during the 18 weeks to 1 June, the chain said fashion sales “underperformed”, dragging like-for-like sales down 0.6 per cent.

The firm, which has about 210 stores in the UK and 276 franchised outlets around the world, said: “We are continuing to improve and enhance our fashion range and are optimistic that this will be reflected in our second-half performance.”

UK Coal boss joins wind farm investor

Wind farm investment fund Greencoat UK Wind has appointed the chief executive of UK Coal to its board.

The firm, which raised £260 million when it floated in March, said Kevin McCullough, former chief operating officer of energy group RWE Npower, joins as a non-executive director at the start of next month.

Greencoat floated to buy renewables assets from Perth-based SSE and RWE. It has a 50 per cent stake in the Braes of Doune wind farm near Stirling, where Centrica sold its share to Hermes GPE Infrastructure Fund for £59m last month.