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The Business Matrix: Thursday 2 August 2012

Harley-Davidson powers ahead

A new generation of petrol-head motorcycle enthusiasts are buying Harley-Davidsons, thanks to a concerted marketing push aimed at refreshing the company's image. Harley's sales were up 14.6 per cent in the second quarter, to $1.73bn (£1.1bn), and profits came in above expectations at $247.3m (£159m), up 29.7 per cent.

BMW rings up £2bn profit

BMW, whose Olympic cars are omnipresent on London's streets, has reported its second-best quarter as its premium-priced models sold well. Profits fell from the previous quarter's record performance but still came in at nearly £2bn. Car makers at the cheaper end of the market have been suffering and looking to cut plants and jobs.

Taylor Wimpey building profits

Taylor Wimpey has benefited from strong demand for its properties in the first half of the year. Operating profits rose 50 per cent to £101m as it continued to increase its profit margins and sold 8 per cent more homes – just over 5,000. The group is paying its first interim dividend for four years.

Rexam's success speaks volumes

Rexam said its drinks-can business performed above expectations with half-year volumes up 6 per cent and profits ahead 9 per cent to £226m, despite the impact of wet weather on demand in Europe. Overall, pre-tax profits were up 1 per cent at £207m.

Nervous investors affect earnings

An £11m drop in half yearly earnings to £60m was a "pretty robust given the backdrop", according to Edward Bonham Carter, boss of Jupiter Fund Management. He said investors were "nervous and with their minds on other things".

Mouchel shares face wipe-out

Shareholders in Mouchel are set to see their investments all but wiped out after the troubled motorway maintainer's creditors agreed to write off £87m of its debts in return for control of the company. The debt-for-equity swap will see creditors such as Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Barclays assuming the majority of Mouchel's shares.

AEA Technology under the weather

The climate-change consultancy AEA Technology, which has warned that investors will be left with "little or no value" due to the weight of its pension liabilities, reported annual losses of £35.4m after writing down the value of acquisitions. Underlying annual profits halved to £4.1m, reflecting weaker revenues growth in the US.

Standard Chartered in 9% profits surge

Standard Chartered, the Asian-focused bank with headquarters in London, is confident it will hit full-year targets after performing strongly during the first six months of 2012 with pre-tax profits improving 9 per cent to $3.95bn (£2.5bn). Loans and advances to customers were up 4 per cent to $279bn.

Thomas Cook sells aircraft

Thomas Cook said the sale and leaseback of 19 Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft was complete following delivery of the final group of aircraft. The transaction, which was first announced in May, will generate £187m in order to improve liquidity at the troubled travel firm.

Aviva completes sales to MetLife

Aviva has completed the sale of Czech, Hungarian and Romanian life-assurance businesses to the local operating subsidiaries of MetLife, reflecting its strategy to focus on segments where it can produce strong returns.

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