The Business Matrix: Saturday 16 July 2011

FirstGroup enjoys passenger surge

FirstGroup has reported an 8 per cent rise in rail passenger numbers in the past three months as more people ditch their cars amid soaring petrol prices. Its rail unit, which includes First Great Western, Capital Connect and Scot- Rail, also benefited from more people holidaying in the UK as the strong pound and fuel surcharges add to the cost of flying overseas.

BHP in $12bn shale gas deal

BHP Billiton has agreed to acquire shale gas producer Petrohawk in a deal valuing the US company at $12bn (£7.5bn). Petrohawk’s assets cover one million acres in Texas and Louisiana and add to the half-a-million-acre Fayetteville shale field in Arkansas that BHP bought in February from Chesapeake for $4.75bn.

Pixar helps drive up Mattel’s profits

Mattel, the world’s largest toy maker, said strong sales of Barbie and products tied into Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 helped its quarterly profits climb by 56 per cent to $80.5m (£50m). Even though raw materials costs have been rising, the US group still managed to increase its international sales by 12 per cent during the three-month period.

Japan troubles hit Sony Ericsson

The mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson has posted a quarterly loss following disruption to its supply chain caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The Swedish-Japanese joint venture, which is headquartered in London, revealed a €50m (£44m) loss for the three months to 30 June, compared with profits of €12m a year ago.

H&M feels the spending squeeze

H&M – the world’s second largest clothes retailer – saw sales fall last month as the consumer spending squeeze spread across Europe. The Swedish chain, which has 2,297 stores worldwide including more than 180 stores in the UK, posted a 4 per cent decline in like-for-like sales in June.

Volkswagen sets new sales record

Volkswagen, which is Europe’s largest car maker, has set a new first-half group sales record after strong growth in the Asia- Pacific region boosted deliveries. The Wolfsburg-based company said that it sold 4.09 million vehicles in the first six months of 2011, up by 14.1 per cent over the same period last year.

Financial advisers fight reform delay

A Treasury Select Committee call to delay reforms to financial advice has met with dismay in the industry. MPs want the Retail Distribution Review, due to start in 2013, moved back a year. But the City regulator said it was committed to the date and 49 per cent of financial advisers were already qualified.

Door-to-door sales team axed by CFS

Co-operative Financial Services is to cut 670 jobs as it shuts down its door-to-door sales team. The job losses are part of the company’s review of its life and savings business, which was set up to consider the impact of new rules on financial advice in the UK. CFS said the RDR will raise regulatory costs.

Three non-execs join board at RBS

Royal Bank of Scotland has appointed three non-executive board members. Alison Davis is a former director of First Data Corporation, Tony Di Iorio has been CFO at Deutsche Bank and Sheila Noakes is currently on the boards of Severn Trent and Carpetright following a career with KPMG.

Credit Suisse in US tax inquiry

Credit Suisse has been drawn into US investigations of tax evasion that has already cost its rival UBS £483m. The Swiss bank said it was notified on Thursday that it was a target of a Department of Justice inquiry into “historical private banking services provided on a crossborder basis to US persons”.