The Business Matrix: Wednesday 17 August 2011

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1,000 jobs cut in Qantas shake-up

Qantas is to cut up to 1,000 jobs as part of a shake-up of its international business that will see the launch of two airlines. The Australian flag carrier, which is struggling to offset losses from its international operations, will invest in a new airline in Asia and will also launch a budget airline, Jetstar Japan, alongside Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi.

BofA to close UK card business

About 4,000 jobs are at risk after Bank of America decided to exit its credit card business in the UK and Ireland. The MBNA division employs 500 people in Ireland and 3,500 at its site in Chester in Britain. The US bank has also decided to sell its Spanish and Canadian credit card operations, to TD Bank and Apollo Capital respectively.

John Menzies increases profits

John Menzies said it was scouting for acquisitions in its newspaper and magazine distribution and aviation businesses as it reported higher first-half profits. Results at its aviation services unit – which provides passenger handling for airlines such as easyJet and Emirates – overtook its distribution business for the first time.

More bidders look at Evolution

Evolution said yesterday that it had received more takeover approaches following bids from Canadian company Canaccord Financial and the South African financial group Investec. The investment bank said that the approaches came from a number of other parties interested in either part or the whole of the company.

Cement firms face anti-trust inquiry

The building materials sector has been referred to the Competition Commission amid concern taxpayers are paying too much for public schemes. An initial investigation by the OFT into the £3.4bn a year cement and aggregates industry suggested a flurry of deals may have overconsolidated and distorted the market.

Easterbrook goes to Pizza Express

Steve Easterbrook has quit as head of McDonald’s Europe to take the helm at Pizza Express. Mr Easterbrook will become chief executive at the upmarket pizzeria, replacing Mark Angela, who left last month. Pizza Express is part of the private equity firm Cinven’s Gondola business, which also owns ASK and Zizzi.

Asda suffers drop in shopping trips

Shoppers are visiting Asda less often as they try to save money on fuel. The supermarket, whose stores are mainly out of town, said shopper numbers fell 1.2 per cent in the last quarter. While the average spend rose by 1.7 per cent and sales were up 0.5 per cent, inflation at 4 per cent suggests that total sales volumes fell.

Extreme ends of market do well

No-frills supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl are continuing to do well out of the trading-down trend, according to the latest quarterly analysis by Kantar Worldpanel. At the other end of the spectrum, John Lewis’s Waitrose chain saw sales rise at more than twice the total market rate of 3.8 per cent.

Guardian sold to private equity

The Dutch insurer Aegon is selling Guardian Financial Services to the private equity firm Cinven for £275m. The sale of Guardian, which has more than 300,000 policies and 170 employees but stopped taking on new clients about 10 years ago, is expected to trigger further consolidation of “zombie” life funds.

Resolution gives policies new life

Resolution has set up a separate unit to manage its “back book” of life policies no longer sold to new customers – so-called zombie funds – in a sign it may seek separate buyers for the business when it puts itself up for sale. The new division, UK Heritage Business, will allow the insurer to focus on selling new policies.

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