The Business Matrix: Friday 9 May 2014


Cineworld boosts box office share

Blockbusters such as Noah helped Cineworld increase its share of UK cinema box-office takings to 27.6 per cent in the first four months of the year, as the chain hiked ticket prices almost 5 per cent, against a 1.9 per cent rise in admissions. The Hollywood actor Russell Crowe attended the Noah premiere at the Cineworld in Cardiff.

RSA ‘buzzing’ despite setbacks

RSA Insurance boss Stephen Hester has claimed that the company has been a hub of “intense activity” since the ex-Royal Bank of Scotland chief joined in February, following a turbulent few months during when the insurer issued three profit warnings. RSA’s gross written premiums fell 4 per cent to £1.96bn in the first quarter.

RBS slow to clear up rate swaps

Royal Bank of Scotland is falling behind in its bid to clear up the interest rate swaps scandal. The Financial Conduct Authority said that while it should have calculated compensation for 70 per cent of cases in March, it lagged at 61 per cent. Lloyds is also behind projections, the City watchdog added.

‘The Spectator’ back in the black

The Spectator, the conservative magazine owned by the Barclay brothers, swung to a pre-tax profit of £567,000 in 2013 against a loss of £916,000 the previous year. Chairman Andrew Neil claimed the “significant turnaround” came because of “operational changes and investments” in digital made towards the end of 2012.

Standard Charter still finds it tough

Asian-facing Standard Chartered said the tough conditions that last year triggered its first fall in profits in a decade lingered through the first quarter and continued in April and May. Currency weakness including the Indian rupee hit the bank but stripping this out, it had modest revenue growth.

Randgold digs profits increase

African gold miner Randgold has posted a 14 per cent rise in first-quarter profits, as higher output more than compensated for a drop in the price of the precious metal. New work at the Kibali mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo accounted for most of the 42 per cent rise in gold production.

Banks keep rates at record lows

The Bank of England and  European Central Bank have both held interest rates at record lows of 0.5 per cent and 0.25 per cent respectively. ECB President Mario Draghi said rate-setters were “unanimous” in a commitment to measures such as printing extra cash.

Pret sees growth in lunch trade

Paris, New York and Hong Kong’s growing habit for a sandwich lunch has helped Pret A Manger post a 15 per cent sales jump to £510m and underlying profit up 9 per cent to £67m for the year to January. Healthy food such as porridge and vegetable juices were boosting sales.

Loan arrears at six-year low

Mortgage arrears are at their lowest level for nearly six years, the Council of Mortgage Lenders said. The figures showed 138,200 mortgages with arrears of more than 2.5 per cent between January and March, the lowest since 2008.

Barratt builds sales growth

Housebuilder Barratt  Developments’ forward sales rose 46 per cent to £1.9bn in the last four months, largely because of a surge in buyers, few of whom rely on Help to Buy. Lewisham and Rotherhithe are the London hotspots.