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The Business Matrix: Monday 8 August 2011

Upmarket TUI to defy slowdown

Thomas Cook’s trading figures were not a happy precedent last week – let alone the departure of its chief executive – but analysts hope TUI Travel’s third-quarter figures, to be unveiled on Wednesday, will make happier reading. The company is given credit for a more “upmarket image” by Numis Securities, which may have helped cushion it.

Standard Life in the right place

Standard Life has slowly put its problems behind it and Wednesday’s update should show another solid set of results. Looking ahead, the insurer’s next challenge is to cope with the Financial Services Authority’s overhaul of the rules on financial advice – it takes issue with others in the sector which have called for reform to be delayed, suggesting it is prepared.

Bank set to update inflation forecasts

The Bank of England has faced criticism for the way it has failed for so long to bring inflation down closer to its 2 per cent target. With the CPI still at 5 per cent, the Bank remains under pressure, but Wednesday’s Inflation Report may be the first time in several reports that Sir Mervyn King, the Bank’s Governor, does not have have to revise his predictions.

Aquarius’s chance to reassure

Thursday’s results are an opportunity for Aquarius Platinum to build confidence, having admitted last month to missing production targets. The company should at least have benefited from a rising tide – the platinum price has risen in line with the rest of the commodities sector and the company has been helped by the strengthening South African rand.

45,000 Verizon staff out on strike

More than 45,000 workers have gone out on strike at US mobile phone giant Verizon, after the unions walked away from contract negotiations. The Communications Workers of America trade union said yesterday that since negotiations begun, Verizon “has refused to move from a long list of concession demands”.

Regional business gaps widening

London showed strong private sector business growth in July, according to Lloyds TSB’s latest regional purchasing managers’ survey, but the figures also revealed a widening divergence in the UK. Despite the performance in the capital, the output in the North West and the South West showed only marginal growth.

Thai firm’s Redcar recruitment drive

A Thai steel company that bought a mothballed plant in Redcar in the north-east of England, will today start its search for 1,000 employees. The plant had been shut down by Corus, formerly British Steel, in February last year at the cost of 1,600 jobs. It was subsequently bought by Thailand’s Sahaviriya Steel Industries.

Eckoh lands Royal Mail extension

Speech-recognition specialist Eckoh has landed a two-year contract with a major client, believed to be the Royal Mail. The company will today announce the contract renewal for automated tracking and redelivery services is worth £500,000. The customer is thought to be the Mail although Eckoh declined to name them.

Berkshire in $3.2bn bid for reinsurer

Berkshire Hathaway has sparked a takeover battle for Transatlantic Holdings, tabling a $3.2bn (£1.95bn) bid for the reinsurer. The $52-a-share offer from National Indemnity, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, follows Transatlantic agreeing on an offer from Allied World Assurance in a deal that valued it at $2.7bn.

Varde set to secure Crest Nicholson

The takeover of the housebuilder Crest Nicholson is set to complete this month. Crest has been in the sights of the US hedge fund group Varde, which has been buying up its debt for the past year. It has secured an agreement with the other lenders for a debt-for-equity swap, converting its £500m debt into shares.

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