The Business Matrix: Thursday 4 August 2011

Thomas Cook boss quits

Manny Fontenla-Novoa has stood down as chief executive of the holiday company Thomas Cook with immediate effect. His resignation comes in the middle of what has been a very difficult year for the company, which has already had to issue three separate profits warnings. Thomas Cook has yet to hire a replacement. MORE

Next bucks gloom on the high street

Next, the high street fashion retailer, said yesterday that it believed that the downbeat assessments of the retail sector in recent months were overdone, as it revealed improved sales in the first half of the year. The retailer also said it expected to see pressure on prices ease during the course of the next 12 months. MORE

Time Warner is buoyed by hits

Time Warner, whose pay-TV channel HBO aired the acclaimed Game of Thrones, recorded net income of $638m (£389m) in the three months to the end of June, up 14 per cent on last year. It also expects a boost from Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, which its Warner Bros unit released after the end of the second quarter.

Tesco tries out small stores in US

Tesco is to pilot a smaller-store format for its Fresh & Easy shops in the US. The Fresh & Easy Express shops – which will be around 3,000 sq ft, compared with a typical 10,000 sq ft store in America – will help the UK retailer to extend its presence to more locations. The first Fresh & Easy Express is set to open in San Pedro, LA later this year.

Mystery suitor stalks Evolution

Evolution Group, the investment bank and stockbroker, said yesterday that it had received a bid approach from an unnamed suitor, though it cautioned that talks were at a “very early stage” with no certainty that a deal would be done. Shares in Evolution rose by 6.25p, or 8.5 per cent, to close at 79.75p.

Swiss move to lower currency

The Swiss National Bank has cut interest rates and promised to peg the cost of borrowing at close to zero in a bid to reduce the value of the Swiss franc. The currency, seen as a safe haven in times of market volatility such as now, has become “overvalued”, the central bank said, which is causing damage to exports.

GKN boosted by automotive sales

GKN posted forecast-beating results yesterday as growth in its automotive business helped to drive half-yearly pre-tax profits up by 14 per cent to £200m. The jump came as sales climbed to nearly £3bn, with chief executive Kevin Smith saying that he expected to grow GKN’s automotive revenues faster.

Rexam lifted by fizzy demand

Rexam, Europe’s largest drinks can maker, yesterday beat forecasts with a 19 per cent rise in first-half profits, helped by demand for energy and ice-tea drinks and a growing trend among cash-strapped shoppers to consume at home. The company makes cans for the likes of Red Bull and PepsiCo.

Smartphone usage increases

More than a quarter of adults and nearly half of teenagers now own a smartphone and many of their users claim to be “highly addicted”, according to new research from Ofcom, the communications regulator. Smartphone users make far more calls than their less sophisticated mobile counterparts, Ofcom said.

Huawei launches a ‘cloud phone’

Huawei, the Chinese mobile phone company, has stepped up its efforts to break into the consumer market with the launch of Vision, a new smartphone that gives users access to services based on “cloud computing” servers. Huawei aims to be one of the top three global handset makers by 2015.