The Business Matrix: Wednesday 14 May 2014


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Branson takes stake in Bitcoin

Sir Richard Branson has taken part in a $30m (£18m) investment round in BitPay, a US-based online payment processor for Bitcoin. The entrepreneur, who lets customers pay for his commercial space travel business Virgin Galactic using Bitcoins, is also understood to have bought some of the digital currency for himself. 

BlackBerry to sell low-cost phone

BlackBerry is looking to emerging markets to try to revive its battered reputation with the launch yesterday of a low-cost smartphone, the Z3, costing less than $200 (£119). The Canadian investor Fairfax became BlackBerry’s top shareholder last autumn after injecting $1bn into the ailing smartphone maker.

AT&T may merge with DirecTV

City hopes of a takeover bid for Vodafone by AT&T have been dashed after it emerged the American telecom giant is in advanced talks over a $50bn (£30bn) move for the US satellite TV operator DirecTV. If AT&T and DirecTV do merge, it would be close in size to Comcast’s planned tie-up with Time Warner Cable.

Holiday firms beat City forecasts

Brits and Germans looking for sunshine helped the owner of Thomson and First Choice holidays beat City forecasts yesterday as losses were not as bad as feared. Tui Travel reported an operating loss of £298m for the first half of the year – better than the £306m expected by analysts in the Square Mile.

LSE looks to buy Frank Russell

London Stock Exchange has confirmed it is in talks to make what could be its largest acquisition since it bought the 50 per cent of FTSE International it did not already own from Pearson three years ago. The company is hoping to buy the data specialist Frank Russell for a rumoured £1.8bn.

BNP Paribas in talks over US fine

BNP Paribas is in talks with US authorities to pay more than $3bn (£1.7bn) to resolve probes into whether the French bank violated sanctions on Iran, Sudan and other countries.

The bank warned last month it faced fines in excess of $1.1bn over the matter, but declined to provide a specific amount.

National Express reports growth

Snow in the US hit National Express during the first quarter but the transport giant said growth in its UK coach business kept it en route to hitting City expectations. The firm said group sales of coach tickets were up 9 per cent, while sales of train tickets increase by 4 per cent. 

Société Générale expects growth

France’s Société Générale upped its targets for growth and dividends yesterday with much of the improvement set to come from Russia. The bank is looking for 3 per cent growth in revenues through to 2016 and will up its dividend to 50 per cent of earnings.

RBS’s former US CEO paid $7.5m

The former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland’s US business was paid $7.5m (£4.4m) last year, it has emerged. Ellen Alemany headed up RBS Citizens for five years until she was replaced by Bruce Van Saun last October.

Royal London warns of overhaul

Royal London has warned the City regulator it must overhaul the financial-advice market following reforms to the pensions industry. The company increased its life and pensions sales by 18 per cent to £989m during the first quarter.