Today's letter from the Editor
The Business Matrix: Monday 22 August 2011
Diageo, the drinks giant behind Smirnoff vodka, Guinness stout and Gordon’s Gin, is set to report a 5 per cent rise in annual profits to £2.9bn on Thursday, on sales of £10.1bn. Sales are expected to have remained tough in Europe, where Guinness sales fell 6 per cent in the first half, but its spirits, such as Johnnie Walker whisky, are finding new fans in Africa and South America.
Analysts predict that the UK’s biggest pawnbroker, H&T, will report strong full-year profits of nearly £17m on Tuesday as it benefits from the soaring price of gold and from customers desperate to make some cash. The chain operates more than 130 stores, which also buy and sell jewellery and cash cheques, and nearly 50 Gold Bar outlets, mainly in shopping centres, which buy jewellery.
Rising premiums are expected to help the car insurer Admiral report soaring half-yearly profits of £159m on Wednesday. The firm behind Diamond and elephant.co.uk has grown its share of the market in recent months after it put up prices by less than its competitors. Premiums have soared – gaining 30 per cent last year – after a rise in fraudulent crash-for-cash claims.
UK Coal’s recovery programme seems to have been going on for years, but, after a good first half, Tuesday’s results might indicate a profit is on the way from its mining arm after some tough years. The country’s biggest producer of coal has made progress stabilising its production, which is now ahead of forecasts. Coal prices are also up on last year, while property sales have slashed its debt levels.
Micro Focus ends takeover talks
Micro Focus International has called off takeover talks after bids for the business fell short of expectations, the IT firm said as it announced its plans yesterday to resume a share buyback programme. The news comes after the FTSE 250-listed company said in May that it was exploring a number of approaches.
Bain Capital to buy Australia’s MYOB
The private equity firm Bain Capital is to buy the Australian accounting software firm MYOB for around $1.3bn (£789m). The deal is Boston-based Bain’s biggest acquisition in Australia, and marks a defeat for the British software group Sage and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the rival private equity firm.
Net boom sparks sharp jump in pay
The internet technology boom, termed dot.com 2.0, has led to a huge jump in salaries earned by specialists, according to ReThink Recruitment, which specialises in the sector. Experts in search optimisation can now expect to earn an average salary of £75,000 a year, up from an average of £45,000 three years ago.
Businesses are more downbeat
Confidence among business has declined, with Grant Thornton and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales reporting that their business confidence index fell from 13.7 to 8.1 between May and July, the lowest since the same period in 2009, when the UK economy was still mired in recession.
Verizon workers to call off strike
The two-week-long strike at Verizon Communications is set to end this week after the unions and the US telecoms group reached an agreement to restart negotiations. Around 45,000 workers are expected to start going back to work, with some resuming late shifts today, and the remainder following suit tomorrow.
Chinese lender beats profit hopes
China Construction Bank, the world’s No 2 by market value and China’s biggest mortgage lender, saw a 31 per cent rise in earnings in the first half of the year. The bank, which is around 10 per cent owned by Bank of America, made net profits of 92.8bn yuan (£8.8bn) in the six months to June, against hopes of 92.3bn yuan.
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