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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 21 November 2012

EasyJet takes off on business flyers

Surging numbers of employers forcing executives to fly easyJet helped the budget carrier to post a 28 per cent surge in pre-tax profits to a record £317m yesterday. EasyJet said business travellers on pricier, flexible fares helped average revenues per seat to rise 6 per cent to £58.51. Annual-passenger numbers rose 7 per cent to nearly 60 million.

New Look fattens profit margins

New Look, the debt-laden fashion chain, has vowed to return to profitability this financial year after it plunged to a £55m loss in 2011. The retailer, which has more than 1,100 stores in 16 countries, has repaid £74m of debt, slashed costs and improved profit margins by selling more clothing at full price over the past six months.

Rise in profits at HomeServe

HomeServe has shrugged off the prospect of a large fine from regulators as overseas growth helped half-yearly profits to rise 5 per cent to £19m. The emergency-repairs group, which provides cover for problems such as broken boilers, said an inquiry into whether it mis-sold products to customers was ongoing.

Paragon profits hit record high

Profits at the buy-to-let lender and consumer-finance group Paragon jumped 16 per cent to a record £95m in the past year as it profited from what the CEO, Nigel Terrington, described as "the credit-crunch hangover". He added that opportunities would be around for some time.

Morgan Sindall in deals worth £42m

Morgan Sindall has won two deals worth £42m. Network Rail awarded the group the North Doncaster Chord project, to build a 3.2km twin-track railway and a viaduct to remove an East Coast Main Line bottleneck. It also won Yorkshire Water work.

October boost for mortgage loans

The Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme is finally breathing life into a largely moribund mortgage market after a 14 per cent jump in home loans in October, the Council of Mortgage Lenders said yesterday. Lenders advanced £12.9bn in house-purchase and remortgage loans over the month, well ahead of September's £11.4bn.

Record £3.5bn spent on lottery

Britons bet a record £3.5bn on the National Lottery in the six months to 19 September, 8 per cent more than the same time last year. Ticket sales were up 3.4 per cent at £2.4bn, while £999m was spent on scratchcards, up from £816.8m in the same six months of 2011. Operator Camelot raised £750m for the Olympics and Paralympics from sales.

British Land chief to leave post

Chris Gibson-Smith is quitting as chairman of the developer British Land after six years in the role. The company said Mr Gibson-Smith will be replaced by the City veteran John Gildersleeve at the end of the year. The news came as Land reported a 2 per cent rise in net rental income to £142m.

Enterprise boss decries beer duty

Ted Tuppen, the chief executive of Enterprise Inns, has attacked beer duty, saying the "ill-conceived" duty escalator had cost 55p a pint since it was introduced in 2008. The pubs chain, which has net debt of £2.7bn, returned to the black with annual profits of £34m.

Big Yellow wary of VAT on rents

Big Yellow Group said underlying half-yearly profits rose by a fifth to £13.9m, but warned the introduction of VAT on self-storage rents on 1 October would leave rents lower in the second half. The firm said net rents had fallen 3.8 per cent due to the VAT.

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