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The Business Matrix: Wednesday 8 February 2012

Amazon tops HMV at Christmas

Amazon overtook HMV in the run-up to Christmas to become the UK's top home entertainment retailer. The online giant captured 22.4 per cent of the CD, DVD and computer games market in the 12 weeks to 25 December, pushing the troubled HMV into second place with 17.5 per cent of the market, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel.

Natural disasters hit Beazley profits

Profits at the Lloyd's of London insurer Beazley fell from $251m (£158m) to $63m last year, in what its boss Andrew Horton still called a "strong performance in the worst year on record for insured natural catastrophes". The insurer had $215m of losses from earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, US storms and floods in Thailand and Australia.

Pensions face new '£85bn deficit'

Firms with defined benefit pensions are likely to face rising pressure to plug deficits that could grow by £85bn this year, according to Pension Insurance Corporation. The warning comes as the Bank of England looks set to unveil more quantitative easing, which would depress yields on gilts, a pension fund staple.

Gas prices hit new six-year high

Wholesale gas prices have hit a six-year high above £1 a therm as the big freeze showed no sign of letting up in Britain and Europe. Supply shortages and a surge in demand have pushed up prices while Brent crude hit a six-month high of $116.70 as Italy turned to burning oil to produce electricity.

888 Holdings revenue soars

888 Holdings posted a 26 per cent rise in annual revenues to £209 million as the number of customers betting on its websites grew by a fifth. The Gibraltar-registered company said it had 10.6 million registered customer accounts by the end of 2011.

Misys set to merge with Temenos

Misys has reached an agreement in principle to merge with its Swiss rival Temenos in an all-share deal that will create one of the world's largest financial-software firms. Temenos boss Guy Dubois will head the group, while Misys's CEO, Mike Lawrie, who received a controversial £2m bonus last year, will leave to pursue "a new opportunity".

Demand rises for full-time staff

Firms took on more permanent staff for the first time in four months during January. A report by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation and KPMG said demand is strongest for engineering and construction workers, though it also warned the pool of people fighting for posts is growing as unemployment hits 2.68 million.

TalkTalk shares up by 11 per cent

TalkTalk's shares leapt by 11 per cent after the company's chief executive, Dido Harding, upgraded profit forecasts. TalkTalk sells voice, mobile and broadband, known as a triple play, and there will soon be quad play as it launches an internet-backed TV offering, YouView, with the BBC, ITV and others.

Abbeycrest enters administration

Abbeycrest, which designs, manufactures and distributes jewellery for UK retailers such as Argos and Asda, has fallen into administration, joining a string of companies brought down by the weakness of the UK retail sector as the economy stagnates.

Concordia bill for Amlin to hit £10m

Amlin said the grounding of the cruise ship Costa Concordia last month is expected to cost the specialist insurer £10m. Elsewhere, the group said floods in Thailand will lead to property and catastrophe reinsurance claims between £50m and £70m.

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