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The Business Matrix: Saturday 28 April 2012

Ofcom puts cap on cost of stamps

The postal regulator Ofcom has proposed a cap on prices that Royal Mail can charge for second class large letters and small parcels, saying it wanted to protect vulnerable consumers. The move means that average price increases for large letters and small parcels will be capped at 34 per cent up to 2019.

North America saves Ford profits

North America propped up Ford's profits in the first quarter, which otherwise took a beating in Europe, where sales fell by 60,000 vehicles. A slowdown in Chinese demand was behind a 25,000 fall in vehicle sales in Asia. Overall, Ford earned $1.4bn in the quarter, down from a record $2.5bn a year ago.

Pearson hit by apprenticeships

Pearson warned yesterday that the educational-training business which accounts for 60 per cent of its profits is being hit by the way the Government funds apprenticeships. The group also said its Penguin Books unit is performing "in line", while subscriptions to its Financial Times newspaper are up, to 285,000.

First profit in four years for UK Coal

UK Coal posted a profit for the first time in four years yesterday – but said it is still in talks about closing its Daw Mill pit in the West Midlands. The mining group reported a profit of £58m for 2011 compared with losses of £125m a year ago. Its pension scheme deficit, however, rose from £250m in 2009 to £430m.

Extra coffee shot boosts Starbucks

Putting more coffee in its drinks may have helped Starbucks turn round its performance in the UK. A year ago, the US coffee-chain giant added an extra shot of Fairtrade espresso to most of its drinks at no extra cost. Sales of latte and cappuccino in the UK have risen 9 per cent since.

Group revenues increase at WPP

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP – the world's biggest advertising group – said the Government is still in need of a credible growth plan and risks being "blown off course" by events. His comments came as he unveiled a 4 per cent rise in group revenues at WPP, home of Ogilvy & Mather, on a like-for-like basis.

Samsung selling 1m mobiles a day

Samsung's sales of mobile phones have overtaken Nokia, the one-time dominant player in the market. The South Korean group also sold more smartphones than Apple in the first three months of the year. First-quarter profits smashed records at £3.2bn as it sold 93.5 million handsets – equivalent to 1 million a day.

Alliance rejects outsourcing

Shareholders at Alliance Trust have rejected a proposal from the activist hedge fund Laxey Partners which called on the investment trust to outsource the management of its funds. Although its rival Aberdeen has offered to run the trust, nearly 80 per cent of shareholders at the annual meeting rejected the idea.

McAlpine takes on £650m job

Sir Robert McAlpine has partnered with US contractor Harbert to build the new US embassy in Wandsworth, London. The £650m job will feature several landscaped defences, including a moat around part of the building to protect the embassy against terrorist attacks.

US cools despite consumer boom

US growth cooled in the first quarter as firms cut back on investment and restocked shelves at a slower pace, but the biggest rise in consumer spending in more than a year cushioned the blow. The economy expanded at a 2.2 per cent annual rate, down from 3 per cent at the end of 2011.

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