Thursday 30 December 2010

Customers don’t trust price comparison websites despite using them to search for deals.

A survey carried out by Which? Money magazine in August revealed that 77% of people had used a price comparison site in the past six months, with seven out of 10 using the site for comparing car insurance quotes.

Out of the 1,703 people questioned, the survey revealed that half of the people who used the sites for comparisons went back and bought the product from the provider directly, instead of through the comparison website with only 21% of people trusting the sites to find the best deal.

The survey showed overall customer satisfaction was very low with ratings ranging from 47% to as low as 38% - a disappointing number.

Chief executive of Which?, Peter Vicary-Smith said comparison websites needed to do more. He added: “Comparison websites are part and parcel of renewing insurance or finding new financial products so they really need to do a better job at keeping their customers happy.”

National Express awarded c2c extension.

Following threats from former transport secretary Lord Adonis to terminate National Express from operating, the group has now won a two-year extension to its c2c franchise.

The c2c commuter line, which runs between Essex and Fenchurch Street in the City of London, has been granted an extension to May 2013. The contract was previously due to expire in May 2011.

The line which sees approximately 30 million passengers every year will prove very important during the 2012 Olympic Games as it will provide the London, Tilbury and Southend services until 2013.

National Express won the two-year extension after achieving record-breaking punctuality across the c2c franchise. Chief executive, Dean Finch said: “It is testament to our highly professional team who have made the c2c one of the best performing train operators in Britain.

“We are resolute in our commitment to customer service and are determined to continue delivering the highest standards of train service performance.”

Paddy Power to buy remaining Sportsbet shares.

Paddy Power invested in 51per cent of Sportsbet in 2009, and boosted their stake to 61% last February. The Irish bookmaker will now pay £86.2m for the remaining 39.2per cent shares in Sportsbet.

Chief executive, Patrick Kennedy said the acquisition would mean an easy platform for further expansion in Australia. He said: “It gives us the ability to develop further in Australia. For as long as we owned 61 per cent of the business it wasn’t easy to make further acquisitions because you had minority shareholders so I think it positions us to do other things.”

It is expected that the deal will be completed by the end of February 2011. Patrick Kennedy added: “This is a good deal to acquire the remaining shares early, which will allow us to drive development and investment and secure full participation in the upside of the business.”

Monday 20 December 2010

REC says the UK is facing a skills shortage

A survey carried out by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) revealed the jobs market grew at its fastest rate for three months in November. Recent months saw the UK job market remain at a loss, however the latest report from the REC revealed a rise in both temporary and permanent job placements.

But the REC warned this boost in jobs also showed a skills shortage across many areas. REC chief executive, Kevin Green said: “As the jobs market grows, skills and talent shortages are starting to emerge. Our members have identified specific job categories that are already in short supply, including HGV drivers, engineers, IT specialists and chefs.”

Mr Green added that the changes to the immigration policy would only make things worse. He said: “We need to build pipelines into growth sectors through better support and guidance to job-seekers and a targeted skills agenda.”

With unemployment remaining low as a whole following the economic crisis, Mr Green said the report at least revealed hope among the private sector: “The jobs market remains fragile – especially in the light of the public sector squeeze – but confidence does seem to be returning among private sector employers.”

Stagecoach report high profits despite recent heavy snowfall.

The bus and rail operator reported pre-tax profits in the six months to the end of October had risen to £108.7m, an increase of £33.2m from last year.

The company saw an increase in their UK bus division with profits rising by 16.5 per cent thanks to increased passenger numbers

As the company’s revenue increased by 5 per cent to £1.1bn, chief executive Brian Souter said: “These are a strong set of results and we are encouraged by the increased demand for our services in the UK and North America.”

The company’s US business, also had a boost with profits up 9.7%. Ahead of the increase in fuel prices, Mr Souter said the group would “monitor closely the rate and sustainability of economic recovery.”

He added: “The group has a strong financial position and we remain focused on robust cost control. We have made a good start to the second half of the financial year and current trading remains in line with management expectations.

“We look forward with confidence and believe the outlook is positive for our bus and rail services.”

Tesco reports strong sales as consumer confidence continues to grow.

With Christmas approaching, Tesco revealed like-for-like UK sales have risen 1.5% in the three months to 27 November.

Chief executive, Terry Leahy said of the increase: “It’s not party time, but people are recovering in confidence.”

Total sales across the group’s 5,000 stores rose by 8.8 per cent. Tesco’s Finest line also saw a boost as sales increased by more than 10 per cent compared with two years ago in the run up to Christmas.

With 30.7% of the market share, Tesco finance director Laurie McIlwee said: “The build up to Christmas is going well. We have given Finest an extra push and we are seeing consumers trading up. Non-food is also going well which is a good sign of consumers’ confidence.”

Wednesday 8 December 2010

BP to sell stake in Pan American Energy to pay for oil spill.

 Continuing its plan to rid itself of $30bn by 2011, BP has sold its 60% stake in Pan American Energy (PAE) for $7bn. In selling its shares in the Argentine oil company, BP will have raised more than $20bn since July. The oil spill crisis is estimated to cost the company $40bn in total.

BP chief executive said the sale showed BP was strong enough for the company to continue despite its large liabilities.

He said: “This agreement further demonstrates both the high quality and attractiveness of the assets throughout BP’s global portfolio and also the company’s ability to meet our significant financial commitments arising from the Gulf of Mexico tragedy.

“We now have agreements in place that should secure the majority of our divestment target. We will continue to identify further assets that may be strategically more valuable to others than to BP as we complete the programme.”