The Business Matrix: Friday 20 May 2011

Profits up 83% at Richemont

The world’s second-biggest luxury goods company, Richemont, said strong demand for its jewellery and watches had produced an 83 per cent surge in its annual profits to €1.28bn. The Swiss group, which owns the Cartier jewellery, Montblanc pens and Chloe fashion brands, expanded its sales in all regions but growth was strongest in Asia-Pacific, with exceptionally high demand in China.

Demand for gold rises by 11%

Demand for gold remained strong over the first three months of the year, rising by 11 per cent to 981.3 tonnes, according to figures from the World Gold Council. The rise came as investors bought coins and bars, demand for which was up by 52 per cent to 366.4 tonnes over the quarter. Gold exchange-traded funds, on the other hand, witnessed their first net quarterly outflows since mid-2007.

Fewer cars built, but outlook good

The number of new cars built last month fell by more than 12 per cent compared with a year ago but the outlook for the motor industry remains “extremely good”, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. There were 86,306 vehicles manufactured in the UK in April after output was hit by parts shortages due to the Japanese earthquake.

Manufacturers’ confidence rises

ACBI survey reported a more confident manufacturing sector and stronger order books. A balance of -2 per cent of companies said order books were higher than normal this month, the CBI survey said, up on April’s -11 per cent,while 20 per cent expected a rise in output in the next three months.

Phone operators in rates appeal

Three of the UK’s mobile operators have appealed against Ofcom’s decision to cut mobile termination rates, designed to reduce the cost of calling users on other networks. Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and Three have lodged appeals with the Competition Appeal Tribunal. O2 chose not to appeal. The companies raised different issues with the ruling.

TalkTalk admits customer slump

TalkTalk has admitted it is continuing to lose broadband customers but predicted the slump would reverse as it got to grips with service issues stemming from its 2009 Tiscali takeover. TalkTalk, spun off from Carphone Warehouse, said annual profits rose 25 per cent to £276m as cost and job cuts saved £40m.

Virgin Rail in extension talks

Virgin Rail is in talks with the Department for Transport about an extension to the West Coast rail franchise. The franchise, which is currently run by Virgin Rail – a joint venture between Virgin and SouthWest Trains operator Stagecoach – was due to expire next March but could run until December.

Fall in rail orders hurts Invensys

The technology and engineering group Invensys warned its order book had fallen 1 per cent due to fewer large orders at its rail business Invensys Rail. The group reported a 21 per cent rise in net profit to £181m in the year to 31 March, but said its order book stood at £2.45bn, compared to £2.47bn a year earlier.

Unite gets more students in rooms

The student accommodation provider Unite Group said 73 per cent of its rooms for the 2011-12 academic year had been reserved, against 71 per cent at this stage last year. The company, which provides homes to some 40,000 students in the UK, said it was on track to meet its pipeline of 2,800 beds in London.

London weighting helps Grainger

The UK’s largest residential landlord, Grainger, saw its profits surge in the six months to 31 March to £65.2m, from £3.5m a year earlier. The group, which operates in Britain and Germany, said the gains were driven by the rising value of its London and South-east-weighted portfolio.