The Business Matrix: Monday 21 February 2011

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The Independent Online


Given that RBS has already revealed its bonus plans, the focus is likely to be on the actual results when the part-nationalised bank reports on Thursday. Analysts expect its losses over the past year to have shrunk to £613m, after a £1.9bn loss in 2009. A hit from the troubled Irish banking sector, given its exposure through Ulster Bank, is also expected.


Rank will reveal whether the turnaround in its Mecca Bingo business has translated into full-year profit growth in its annual results on Friday. Mecca reported a rise in the number of visits for the first time in more than a decade in the first half of 2010, and despite December’s snow, the City is expecting operating profits to rise to £60m from £58m last year.


A forecast 29 per cent rise in profits to £2.2bn at Centrica on Thursday is unlikely to endear the utility to consumers after its residential business British Gas increased prices by 7 per cent at the end of last year. While British Gas’s full-year profits could rise 24 per cent to £740m, its second-half profits are expected to have halved. It is the first year profits from Venture and British Energy will be included.

RSA Insurance

Full-year results from More Than’s parent, RSA Insurance, on Thursday are set to confirm the impact of a surge in household claims during December’s freeze. The insurer recently warned the bill for UK weather-related claims was expected to be £110m more than normal after the coldest December for 100 years. Analysts are now pencilling in a 15 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to £470m.


For Lloyds, Friday is expected to mark the first annual profit since being bailed out amid the banking crisis. It will also be the last set of results presented by Eric Daniels before he hands over to Antonio Horta Osorio in March. Despite deteriorating bad debts, the market is still pencilling in pre-tax profits of £2bn – a marked improvement on the bank’s £6.3bn loss in 2009.

National Express

National Express reports on Thursday after a turnaround year for the group under its new chief executive, Dean Finch. Having tapped investors for £375m in a dire 2009 that saw the transport group abandon its East Coast mainline train franchise and post an £84m loss, National Express could even return to the dividend list. Underlying profits are forecast to come in at £157m.

Air France mulls Virgin move

Virgin Atlantic is being circled by a number of airlines, weekend reports suggest, as industry consolidation continues. Air France-KLM and America’s Delta are understood to be trying to tempt Sir Richard Branson’s airline to join their transatlantic SkyTeam alliance. The consortium faces competition from airline Etihad, of Abu Dhabi. Sir Richard hired Deutsche Bank last year to look at options for his 51 per cent stake.

The components of success

Privately-owned Euro Car Parts, the UK’s largest distributor of car and van parts has reported that turnover increased 45.3 per cent to £271.5 million last year. Its profit before tax was up to £15.8 million. The firm opened 16 new branches creating an additional 1000 jobs. The Euro Car Parts network will exceed 90 locations during 2011 with 15 new branches planned for opening.

IMF reveals faith in EU leaders

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said EU leaders must convince investors that they can fix the region’s debt crisis and that he is “confident” they will do so at their summit next month. “Markets aren’t everything, but markets are important,” he told Bloomberg TV. “If a solution comes too late, you’re always behind the curve.”

Collins teams up with Livemocha

A social networking site launched “to help every person on Earth to achieve fluency in a new language” is targeting the UK and has enlisted the help of publisher Collins to encourage more subscribers. Livemocha was set up in the US nearly four years ago and now has more than over 8 million users in 195 countries. The site was named in Time magazine’s top 50 websites of last year.

Sale of RBS stake expected this year

Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to indicate this week that the Government will begin to sell off its stake in the group before the end of the year. Stephen Hester, chief executive of the bank in which the taxpayer has an 83 per cent holding, is expected to make the annoucement when he unveils its annual results on Thursday.

Steeled for a revival in 2011

Hopes for a recovery in the UK steel industry have been buoyed by the announcement that production bounced back in January on increased demand. Production in the UK soared 35.4 per cent in January to 201,000 tonnes a week, compared with 148,574 in December, according to UK Steel figures released this morning.

Industry leads the US recovery

Economists watching the American economy say that data this week will show that home sales probably fell, while goods orders rose as industrial expansion spearheads the revival. According to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, durable-goods bookings increased 3 per cent last month.

Social housing hits a new low

Local Authority planning permissions for house building continued to head firmly downwards in the last quarter of 2010, the Home Builders Federation reveals. It is the third successive quarterly fall and leaves permissions at less than half the rate being granted four years ago, with 5 million people on waiting lists.