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The Business Matrix: Saturday 29 September 2012

Wet summer good for Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook has given its long-suffering investors hope after the revealing it was boosted by a late rush of British people fleeing the wettest summer on record. The tour operator, which almost collapsed last year under the weight of its debts, said late bookings were good, especially to Turkey, Spain and Greece.

BoA pays £1.5bn to settle class action

Bank of America has agreed to pay $2.43bn (£1.5bn) to settle a shareholder lawsuit claiming it made misleading statements during its 2008 buyout of Merrill Lynch in one of the largest-ever settlements of a securities fraud class action. The bank denied the allegations and said it had settled to end the long-drawn-out litigation.

Dods doubles its losses to £2.8m

Losses at Dods, the political publisher which boasts Tory donor Lord Ashcroft as a major shareholder, have almost doubled in the last six months to £2.8m. Exceptional costs from a failed acquisition and the abrupt exit of its chief executive were the main reasons for Dods' slump deeper into the red.

Sales at Harvester up three per cent

Mitchells & Butlers has shrugged off the wet weather and people staying in to watch the Olympics by delivering an improvement in recent trading, prompting the City analysts to lift their annual forecasts. Sales at the Harvester owner rose 3 per cent in the recent weeks.

Good spirits in spite of losses

Newbury Racecourse said its half-yearly losses had widened to £1.4m, but underlying racing revenues rose 5 per cent. The group added that its recent makeover went down well with racegoers, with food and drink sales up 20 per cent.

Direct Line float could realise £2bn

Royal Bank of Scotland's long-awaited flotation of Insurance by will be priced at between 160p and 195p, the bank said yesterday, towards the bottom end of expectations. At the mid-point, the insurer – which also owns the Churchill, Green Flag and Privilege brands – will be valued at £2.7bn.

Electronics firm sees sales slump

Electrocomponents has warned that its half-year profits will slump by a third, after recent sales tumbled by 6 per cent in the US and by 1 per cent in Europe. UK sales were helped by the Raspberry Pi, a low-cost mini-computer developed to promote computer skills.

Metro seeks new chairman

Metro bank, the first high street bank to be launched for 100 years, is looking for a new chairman after Anthony Thomson stepped down. Metro wants to appoint a new chairman by January 2013 to help it through to a planned IPO, expected around 2015. The bank has 12 branches in London and the South-east.

Services sector sees rise in output

The services sector – which makes up 75 per cent of the economy – grew rapidly in July, according to the ONS, with output up 1.1 per cent in the month. Year on year, three of the four main components of the sector – government, business services and financials – rose, raising hopes of a end to the recession.

Senior HMRC resignations soar

Resignations by senior managers at HM Revenue & Customs have rocketed 45 per cent in the past year as it came under criticism over issues such as PAYE code mistakes . Forty-two managers resigned in 2011-12 compared with just 29 in 2010-11.

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Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?