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The Business Matrix: Friday January 2011

Rose and Price to gauge happiness

Sir Stuart Rose, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer, and Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, have been named on the Government's advisory panel to measure happiness. The shopkeepers will join the economist Lord Stern on the 44-member panel.

Cheshire to join Whitbread board

Ian Cheshire, the chief executive of B&Q's owner, Kingfisher, is to join the board of the hotels and restaurant group Whitbread as a non-executive director. He will replace Philip Clarke, who is about to succeed Sir Terry Leahy as chief executive at Tesco.

AstraZeneca beats profit forecasts ...

AstraZeneca posted better-than-expected profits as key brands such as cholesterol product Crestor helped it weather testing conditions. Fourth-quarter results topped forecasts at $2.7bn (£1.7bn) and meant Astra delivered profits for the year of just over $13bn. Revenues from emerging markets rose to more than $5bn, with China accounting for $1bn.

... while Swiss rival's results disappoint

Earnings at the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis missed forecasts yesterday, slipping 2 per cent to $2.3bn (£1.4bn) in the final quarter due to a drop in demand for influenza vaccine following the end of the flu pandemic. Sales for 2010 were up by 14 per cent year on year from $44.3bn to $50.6bn, pushing earnings up to $8.45bn from $9.96bn.

TUI Travel faces brighter outlook

TUI Travel, the owner of holiday brands including Thomson and First Choice, said the heavy snowfall in Britain and civil unrest in Tunisia had hit its recent bookings but said reservations for this summer were "encouraging". The tour operator also said its underlying operating losses had risen by £20m in the first quarter.

M&B has convivial Christmas report

Mitchells & Butlers, the pubs group behind All-Bar-One and Harvester, reported strong trading over Christmas, but said it remained cautious on the outlook for consumer spending. The company, which has more than 1,600 pubs and restaurants, said like-for-like sales for the nine weeks to 22 January were up 2.5 per cent.

Apple's China sales outdo those in NY

Apple's four stores in China are outselling its flagship outlet on New York's Fifth Avenue, while revenues from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan rose by 300 per cent to $2.6bn (£1.6bn) in the latest quarter. The computer and iPhone maker opened its first store in Beijing three years ago, and has since opened another in the capital and two in Shanghai. It is looking to open up to 25 stores in China over the next two years.

LinkedIn close to stock-market filing

LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals, is close to filing for a US stock-market flotation in what could be one of the hottest initial public offerings of the year. While much of the hype among technology investors has focused on the question of a Facebook flotation, LinkedIn has hired Morgan Stanley and other big Wall Street firms to solicit investors for a sale that is likely to value it at more than $2bn (£1.3bn).

E-books outsell paperbacks

Electronic books have outsold paperbacks for the first time at Amazon.com, the online retailer behind the Kindle e-book reader. The US company reported a 36 per cent rise in sales to $12.59bn (£8bn) for the final three months of 2010, but its shares were marked down as it missed the $13bn figure analysts had hoped for. Since the start of 2011, Amazon has sold 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperbacks, and three times as many ebooks as hardcover editions on its US website.

Microsoft reports dip in profits

Microsoft posted a small dip in quarterly profits as sales of personal computers lagged expectations and Apple's iPad started to eat away at the fringes of its core market. The largest software maker, which powers more than 90 per cent of the world's computers, reported fiscal second-quarter profits of $6.63bn (£4bn), compared with $6.66bn a year ago, when its profits were boosted by revenues from the launch of its Windows 7 operating system.

VAT rate hike hits public confidence

The increase in VAT to 20 per cent earlier this month has contributed to a collapse in consumer confidence. The GfK NOP Consumer Confidence barometer has registered a reading of minus 29, a level not seen since the depths of the recession: the last time it was lower was in March 2009.

House prices fall for seventh month

House prices have fallen for the seventh month in a row after both buyers and sellers stayed away from the market. The average cost of a home in England and Wales dropped by 0.5 per cent this month to stand at £153,600 – 2.2 per cent less than in January 2010, according to housing intelligence company Hometrack.

'Shop around' on underwriting fees

City banks will avoid an investigation by the Competition Commission into the fees they charge for underwriting share issues – despite the Office of Fair Trading saying they are charging too much. Fees have surged since the start of the financial crisis, but the OFT said companies should look for better deals.

UKFI says bonuses vital for banks

Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland must pay competitive bonuses to help the taxpayer get its money back from the banks, the body charged with overseeing the state's bank assets, UK Financial Investments, told MPs yesterday. UKFI said bonuses for chief executives and key staff were vital to keep talent.

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