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The Business Matrix: Saturday 23 July 2011

Beazley suffers £15m loss

The Lloyd’s of London insurer Beazley sank to a $24m (£15m) loss after taking a $183m hit from natural disasters in the first half. Earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, Australian floods and US tornadoes inflicted claims in excess of $50bn on the industry. Other insurers are expected to post losses for the start of the year.

United expects ‘sound’ 2011-12

The water services firm United Utilities said it expected to deliver a “sound” performance in 2011-12, helped by a 4.5 per cent increase in regulated prices over the period. The rise in bills has been offset by depreciation and infrastructure renewals expenditure, alongside other inflationary cost pressures.

Travelzest’s pre-tax profits fall

The tour operator Travelzest, which owns nudist firm Peng Travel as well as luxury brands such as Best of Morocco and Captivating Cuba, said the UK market continues to be “challenging”, with summer bookings down 57 per cent as a result of weak demand and capacity cuts. The group said its interim profits fell 71 per cent to £416,000.

German Ponzi schemer jailed

Helmut Kiener, the founder of German hedge fund group K1, has been sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison after scamming investors out of millions of dollars with an elaborate Ponzi scheme. Kiener in April confessed to having set up the con which prosecutors say cost investors, including Barclays, €345m (£303m).

John Lewis gets clearance lift

John Lewis said the mixed weather drove shoppers into its department stores last week, helping lift total sales by 3.7 per cent on a year earlier to £59.9m in the final few days of its clearance. London’s Peter Jones and Oxford Street were the best performing branches, at 9.9 per cent and 6.2 per cent respectively.

Bank holiday boost for McDonald’s

McDonald’s said its UK business served more customers than ever before during the second quarter of the year, helped by the extra bank holiday in April. Global comparable sales increased 5.6 per cent, with the US up 4.5 per cent, Europe up 5.9 per cent and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa ahead 5.2 per cent.

Vodafone posts revenue growth

The mobile phone giant Vodafone said it remained on track yesterday despite the economic storm buffeting its southern Europe markets. The group posted revenues growth of 1.5 per cent to £10.8bn for the quarter to 30 June, helped by continued strong trading in emerging markets such as India and Turkey.

Caterpillar US growth weak

Caterpillar warned that it was experiencing a weaker than expected US recovery yesterday as it posted quarterly earnings below Wall Street’s expectations. The maker of machinery used in mining and construction said rising prices of commodities such as copper and steel hurt its profits, but its outlook was robust.

Verizon trails AT&T in sign-ups

The US’s largest mobile operator, Verizon Wireless, signed up 1.3 million fewer iPhone customers than its rival AT&T in the second quarter, disappointing investors on Wall Street. The company, part-owned by Vodafone, won the right to challenge AT&T’s monopoly on the Apple smartphone in the US this year.

Volvo warning on Chinese market

Volvo, the Swedish group which makes heavy-duty trucks under the Renault, Mack, UD Trucks and Eicher brands, warned that the Chinese market is slowing down. But the world’s second largest truck maker still posted a 60 per cent rise in profits to 7.7bn crowns (£744m) as it benefitted from a pick up in demand.