The Business Matrix: Friday 15 July 2011

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Yum fattens up on KFC sales in China

Yum Brands, the Kentucky-based owner of the fast-food restaurants KFC, raised its profit forecasts yesterday after reporting better-than-expected sales in China. The KFC restaurant chain is China’s largest restaurant and the country now accounts for 40 per cent of profits at Yum, which also owns the Taco Bell and Pizza Hut brands.

ConocoPhillips splits into two

ConocoPhillips is to split into two separately traded companies, the third largest US oil firm said yesterday. The plan is to divide the group’s exploration and production operations from its refining and marketing activities, making it the first of the global majors to reverse the 1990s trend for consolidation in the oil and gas industry.

Mothercare’s UK sales lag overseas

Mothercare, the maternity retailer, again showed the two-sided nature of its business, as international sales put its struggling UK arm in the shade. Underlying sales in the UK have fallen 4 per cent in the past three months, but overseas sales leapt by 15 per cent, boosted by a series of openings that took its international store count to 900.

Barratt homes returns to profit

Barratt Developments said it returned to the black in the year to 30 June although trading in some areas outside of the Southeast remains challenging. The builder expects profits of about £40m in its full-year results, compared with a £33m loss a year ago. Its average selling price increased by 5 per cent to £204,000 in the second half.

Melrose raises its bid for Charter

The turnaround specialist Melrose said it had increased its offer for the engineering firm Charter International to 840p a share, valuing the company at £1.4bn. Charter, which is considering the move, dismissed a previous £1.3bn approach as opportunistic. Its shares ended up 12p at 829p.

Rolls-Royce wins far-east contract

The engine maker Rolls-Royce has won a £50m contract to make machinery that allows vessels working in the oil and gas industry to handle large industrial anchors. The contract, with marine specialist Swire Pacific Offshore, is to provide the equipment for four vessels currently being constructed in Singapore.

Bebo owner buys SeeSaw

A consortium led by Criterion, the US merchant bank that bought Bebo from AOL, is buying SeeSaw, the video-ondemand service that evolved from Project Kangaroo. Michael Jackson, the former chief executive of Channel 4 and controller of BBC1 and BBC2, has been named as SeeSaw’s chairman.

Spotify unchains melodies for US

Spotify, the digital music service already popular in Europe, launched in the US yesterday. As in Europe, the Swedish company is offering a free, ad-supported version, as well as subscription plans that do not include ads. The service lets users listen to songs on computers and mobile devices. MORE

JPMorgan posts surge in profits

JPMorgan Chase, the US banking giant, cheered up Wall Street with news trading has not been as bad as everyone feared. Its JPMorgan investment bank saw profits surge by 46 per cent and bad credit card loans at its retail bank also fell. Overall, its quarterly profits were up 13 per cent on a year ago at $5.43bn.

Swiss banks to cut 6,000 jobs

UBS is to cut around 5,000 jobs to save SFr1bn (£760m) while its rival Credit Suisse is planning to axe about 1,000 staff, according to reports in Swiss newspapers. Both banks are expected to unveil the cuts when they report quarterly results at the end of this month. The banks declined to comment.