The Business Matrix: Thursday 7 March 2013


Peppa Pig hogs a new deal in Russia

Peppa Pig's conquest of the world took another step forward yesterday as the company behind the British children's cartoon character reached a deal to launch the brand in Russia. Entertainment One is airing the cartoon on the Russian children's TV channel Karusel, and a range of Peppa toys and magazines will debut this spring.

L&G plans American drive

Legal & General has positioned itself for an assault on the US market after posting record full-year results. The 177-year-old insurer said it hoped to increase its share of the $15trn (£10trn) of pension assets in America. It reported a 9 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £1bn, helped by strong sales of annuity and investment products.

Final salary deal ends at Wolseley

Wolseley has became the latest company to close its final salary pension scheme to existing members. The FTSE 100 plumbing specialist said the scheme would be shut in December, although benefits that employees have already built up will be protected. Workers will be moved to a defined contribution scheme.

Growth forecasts for 2013 slashed

The UK economy will grow by just 0.6 per cent this year, according to the latest forecasts by the British Chambers of Commerce. The organisation downgraded its 1 per cent forecast for 2013, blaming worsening prospects in the eurozone. The BCC expects unemployment to be 50,000 lower in the middle of 2014 than forecast in December.

More demand for student digs

After the uncertainty triggered by the introduction of £9,000-a-year tuition fees, student digs are in demand again, according to the UK's biggest accommodation provider. Unite Group's boss Mark Allan said reservations for the 2013-14 year stood at 62 per cent of rooms – up from 59 per cent this time last year.

Ikea's profits hit by price cutting

The flat-pack furniture giant Ikea has posted its lowest profits for three years in the UK. But annual sales rose last year at the furniture retailer, which has 18 stores, suggesting that its bottom line took a hit from investing in its operations and cutting prices to match cut-throat competition.

Confused posts profit rise

Comparison site posted its first rise in profits for four years, boosting shares at its parent group, Admiral. It delivered a pre-tax profit of £344.6m in 2012, up 2 per cent. That helped insurer Admiral to increase group profits by 15 per cent to £344.6m.

Death increase boosts Dignity

Listed undertaker Dignity increased the number of funerals it performed to 63,200 last year, as it benefited from an uptick in deaths. This helped Dignity post a 13 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £45.4 million over the year to December 28. Revenues rose 9 per cent to £229.6m.

Business booming at Costain

Costain, the construction firm, said focusing on a smaller number of higher quality customers saw pre-tax profits rise 16 per cent to £29.5m despite a 4 per cent fall in revenues last year. The building group raised the dividend 7.5 per cent to 10.75p.

Lancashire hit by Fascione exit

Lancashire Holdings was rocked by the departure of its chief underwriting officer. Simon Fascione quit to "pursue other opportunities", the insurer said. His departure – less than a month after he was promoted – will raise eyebrows in the City.