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The Business Matrix: Friday 26 April 2013

Admiral dips as premiums fall

Admiral's fortunes dipped during the first quarter as the cost of insuring cars finally began to fall. Turnover fell 9 per cent to £470m. Separate figures from the AA confirmed that consumers were enjoying some respite after years of personal injury claims inflating premiums. The insurer said overseas business' revenues up 20 per cent at £48m.

Watchdog plan angers Spirit boss

Spirit Pub chief Mike Tye yesterday joined the chorus of voices from the trade taking issue with Vince Cable's plans for a new pubs watchdog.

Angered by years of some pub firms exploiting freelance landlords, the Business Secretary says there should be a code of conduct and independent adjudicator.

Go-Ahead in rail fares boost

Fare increases on the Southern, Southeastern and London Midland train routes have helped transport giant Go-Ahead enjoy "resilient" trading in 2013. The firm took 12 per cent more in fares on London Midland, 9 per cent more on Southeastern and 4 per cent more on Southern from January to April.

Chemicals lift Exxon profits

Exxon, the world's largest company by market value, saw its pre-tax profit rise in the first quarter, thanks mainly to its chemical division. First-quarter profit at the Texas-based firm was $9.5bn, compared with $9.45bn this time a year ago – higher than expectations.

Ocado deal talk continues

Ocado said its tie-up talks with Wm Morrison don't extend to the supermarket taking over the FTSE 250 delivery company, or buying a stake. It added: "Discussions are ongoing, however, there can be no certainty an agreement will be reached."

Santander set for rebound

Santander UK's profits fell 22 per cent in the first quarter, but it predicted a steady improvement in its business over the rest of the year, paving the way to a much-delayed share sale by its Spanish parent in 2015. Ana Botin, chief executive, said: "I expect greater stability in our operating environment in the context of the UK economy."

Taylor Wimpey in scheme lift

Taylor Wimpey yesterday became the latest housebuilder to report rising demand off the back of the Government's Help to Buy scheme. Its order book is up 18 per cent to £1.2bn in 2013 against the same period of last year. Wimpey said buyer interest had been up 15 per cent before the £5.4bn package of loans and guarantees in the Budget.

BAT puffs up sales with price push

British American Tobacco has adopted the simple solution to falling sales: put up its prices. The tobacco giant yesterday reported a 5 per cent rise in revenue for the first three months of the year. That beat City expectations thanks to "strong" pricing momentum, which more than offset the reduced volume.

Unilever misses forecasts

Unilever showed its growing reliance on the emerging markets of Asia and South America yesterday as falling sales in the struggling eurozone saw it miss City forecasts in its first quarter. The consumer goods giant also blamed the extremely cold weather across much of Europe.

Truckmaker Volvo's sales fall

Swedish truckmaker Volvo swung into the red in the first quarter, as sales slumped by a quarter to 58.3bn kronor (£5.7bn) on the back of lower demand. Chief executive Olof Persson said the sales drop was "the result of the weak order intake."

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