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The Business Matrix: Friday 25 April 2014

Losses cut at Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic, the airline majority-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, moved closer to its breakeven goal as it cut pre-tax losses from £102m to £51m in 2013. The airline, which grew turnover by  4.9 per cent, also made significant savings as all 10 of its fuel-efficient A330 fleet were  in operation.

Eurotunnel sees revenues rise

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel posted an 8 per cent rise in revenues, driven by growth in rail freight and at its MyFerryLink ferry service. The tunnel carries the Eurostar high-speed train from Paris and Brussels to London as well as shuttle trains conveying cars, coaches and freight trucks. First-quarter revenues hit €260.5m (£214.7m).

China clampdown hits Pernod Ricard

Absolut vodka maker Pernod Ricard said the clampdown on gift giving by China’s government has hit sales. Like rivals Diageo and Remy Cointreau last week, the French drinks giant said cognac sales in China slowed and Asian sales fell by  1 per cent. It revealed flat third-quarter sales, against the  1.4 per cent growth expected.

Spirit boss sees ‘signs of recovery’

Mike Tye, chief executive of Spirit Pub Company, reported “tentative signs of a consumer recovery” at many of its 1,200 locals. Sales in its 800 or so managed pubs were up by  4.8 per cent in the six months to 1 March, but then rose  8.3 per cent in the next four weeks. First-half pre-tax profits rose 11 per cent to £22m.

More woe for troubled CPP

Troubled credit-card insurer CPP slipped further into the red last year. The company has been forced to pay out £69.8m in costs since 2012, when the City regulator ruled it must compensate customers who were mis-sold its products between 2005 and 2011. It made a pre-tax loss of £43.2m in 2013.

Happier times on the high street

High-street retailers have a “spring in its step” with the sunniest outlook among retailers for more than three years, the CBI said today. Its latest distributive trades survey, carried out in early April, registered a fifth-successive month of year-on-year growth as inflation recedes and the economy improves.

Takeover talk lifts Alstom’s shares

French turbine and rail company Alstom was at the centre of takeover speculation today as reports of a $13bn (£7.7bn) bid from US giant General Electric sent the shares 18 per cent higher. Alstom said it was “not informed” of any approach but traders bet otherwise.

Recalls hit profits at General Motors

General Motors was hit by a $1.3bn (£774m) charge to cover a car recall over defective ignition switches. The faults could turn off the engine, disabling the airbags, and have been linked to at least a dozen deaths. Net income for the first quarter was $125m against $865m a year earlier.

Two new roles for Prettejohn

Nick Prettejohn is to be the new chairman of life insurer Scottish Widows and a director of Lloyds Banking Group. The announcement came just weeks after he quit as a director of the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority.

Regulation threat to e-cigarettes

Makers of electronic cigarettes will for the first time face regulatory oversight in their biggest market, the US, under rules which, if finalised, will limit sales to minors, ban free samples and require nicotine-addiction warnings.

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