The Business Matrix: Thursday 8 March 2012


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The Independent Online

John Lewis staff enjoy 14% bonus

Staff at John Lewis were told yesterday they will be picking up bonuses of 14 per cent of their salary. That was down on the previous year's 18 per cent payout, but was seen as respectable given the market conditions. The chain's operating profits fell 20.4 per cent to £157.9m. It invested £23.8m in its "Never Knowingly Undersold" policy.

Americans take out loans again

US consumer credit expanded sharply in January in a generally positive sign for the economy as people borrowed money to buy cars and go to school, Federal Reserve data showed yesterday. But at the same time, the report also pointed to a decline in credit-card usage, which could point to some jitters among consumers.

Kerry: I'm not the World Bank's man

US Senator John Kerry has ruled himself out of the running for the World Bank presidency. There has been speculation he might be the US President's point-man at the organisation, but his spokesman said he was not interested in the job and had not been contacted by the Obama administration about making a run.

RBS sells chunk of Dutch ops to ABN

Royal Bank of Scotland has sold parts of its merchant banking operations in Holland to ABN AMRO. The deal will strengthen the Dutch bank's position in mergers and acquisitions, advisory, and equity brokerage, ABN AMRO said in a statement. The businesses employs 70 people.       

Death and taxes pay off for Dignity

Undertaker Dignity last year saw relatives pay £210m to see off their loved ones, 5.5% more than in 2010. Profit before tax was up too, 1.3% higher at £40.3m, but Dignity managed to trim its tax rate from 29% in 2010 to 27.5%.

HSBC sells parts of insurance division

HSBC is selling its general insurance operations in Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina and Mexico for a total of $914m (£581m). France's Axa is paying $494m for the Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexican businesses, while the Argentinian business is being bought for $420m by QBE Insurance of Australia.

Time ticking for Swiss watches

Luxury watchmaker Patek Phillippe is hoping a stronger-than-expected recovery in the US will help it sail through a more challenging market in China, where growth is slipping. "People are concerned because they know that if Asia is going down there will be big problems," Thierry Stern, chairman of the firm, warned.

Melrose makes a mint for chiefs

Bosses at Melrose are within touching distance of a £100 million-plus paper fortune as the engineering group hiked profits 32 per cent to £161m last year. The top nine staff will be handsomely rewarded in May when a five-year incentive scheme matures. In that time, the shares have risen by 75 per cent.

Deutsche Bank bumps up traders

Major City employer Deutsche Bank is shaking up its top management to give investment banking and emerging markets more prominence. Its Canadian trader Colin Fan and Australian Robert Rankin will be made co-chief executives of the investment bank, Reuters said.

Bell Pottinger talks 'still alive'

Lord Bell's bid to buy out part of the PR group Bell Pottinger is still on, the chief executive of its parent company, Chime Communications, insisted. Chris Satterthwaite said talks were continuing despite objections from leading shareholder WPP.