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The Business Matrix: Friday 30 August 2013

Jewellers fail to sparkle

Sales at jewellers H Samuel  and Ernest Jones fell 8.5 per cent in the 13 weeks to the end  of July to $139.1m (£90m). Owner Signet, which has  500 stores in the UK, said  lower takings were  compounded by currency  movements and store  closures, causing an $800,000 (£516,000) loss.

Economy growth exceeds estimate

The US economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5 per cent between April and June, much faster than the 1.7 per cent previously estimated. The steep revision was largely because US firms exported more goods, and imports declined – helping to offset weaker government spending. Growth was more than double the 1.1 per cent rate in the first quarter.

Admiral profits motor ahead

Motor insurer Admiral refused to get drawn into a price war with rivals during the first half of the year, posting its eighth set of record profits in a row. Boss Henry Engelhardt said its decision not to chase market share had paid off. The owner grew pre-tax profits 6 per cent to £181.4m despite turnover dipping 7 per cent to £1.1bn.

Soco to reward shareholders

Soco International, the British oil-exploration and -production company focused on West Africa and Vietnam, unveiled its first payout to shareholders yesterday. Reporting record production for a third successive half-year, the firm is to pay 40p a share to investors – better than expected – following upbeat drilling and well-testing results.

MeteoGroup in European foray

A British weather forecaster which helps to keep roads gritted and train tracks leaf-free has expanded further into Europe by buying a Swiss-German rival. MeteoGroup, which sells weather services to companies including Network Rail, bought the European arm of MM International for an undisclosed sum.

Salz takes reins at Bloomsbury

The Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury has appointed Rothschild executive Sir Anthony Salz as a non-executive director and chairman of its board. The former corporate lawyer with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer takes over from Jeremy Wilson, who is stepping down after six years as chairman.

Talks to prevent strike at K+N

Crucial talks took place yesterday to prevent a strike by nearly 1,000 lorry drivers and draymen employed by Kuehne + Nagel Drinks Logistics. The Unite union said workers had voted to strike against K+N’s plans to create three hubs to handle national deliveries.

Lamprell leaves dark days behind

The oil-rig maker Lamprell swung to first-half pre-tax profits of £7.8m from £50.8m losses a year earlier. The Dubai-headquartered group, which was fined £2.4m by the Financial Services Authority in March for keeping investors in the dark, said its recovery is on track.

Postal workers to call in on Cable

Postal workers are to take the campaign against plans to privatise the Royal Mail straight to Business Secretary Vince Cable. The Communication Workers Union will deliver a petition to his office in Twickenham, west London, on Saturday.

Revenues up at Stagecoach

The transport group Stagecoach said better weather boosted passenger numbers in its regional bus arm, where revenues grew 4.5 per cent in the 12 weeks to 21 July. The Perth-based group added that sales in its UK rail arm were up 6.5 per cent.

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