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Family business roundup: High spirits at Westfield but subdued at Cargill and Bombardier

The family behind shopping centre chain Westfield may be sitting pretty after reporting a big jump in earnings for the first half of this year, but the mood at family-controlled News Corp, Cargill and Bombardier will likely be subdued due to poor results.

The family behind shopping centre chain Westfield may be sitting pretty after reporting a big jump in earnings for the first half of this year, but the mood at family-controlled News Corp, Cargill and Bombardier will likely be subdued due to poor results.

In a statement on 15 August, Australian family business Westfield said its net profit for the six months to 30 June rose 31% to AUS$800.1 million (€684 million). Joint chief executives and family members Peter and Steven Lowy said the results were thanks to a new “strategic plan that positioned the group to generate greater shareholder value”.

The business, which is expecting around 60 million visitors to its two shopping centres in London this year on the back of the Olympics, also said its outlook for the full year remained positive despite the current tough retail environment. “We are confident in the future of the group’s business model and opportunities for growth,” added the Lowys.

But things are not looking as bright for three family firms in North America. Media conglomerate News Corp, headed by Rupert Murdoch, saw net income for the year ending 30 June drop to $1.2 billion (€976 million) from $2.7 billion the previous year. In a statement last week, the group said the fall was mainly due to charges incurred during the restructuring of its publishing operations.

Its revenues increased, albeit marginally, to $33.7 billion – a 1% rise over last year.

Meanwhile, fellow family-run agribusiness Cargill also saw a huge drop in its earnings. For fiscal 2012 – ending 31 May – the company saw a 56% fall in income to $1.17 billion.

“We did not trade as well in this year’s markets, which were driven as much by the economic and political environment as by the fundamentals. Cyclical trends in the global soybean processing and North American beef industries also were in play, decreasing margins in parts of Cargill’s oilseed processing and beef processing operations,” said Greg Page, non-family chairman and chief executive of Cargill, in a statement.

Canada’s train and plane-maker Bombardier, run by the founding family, has also had a tough second quarter. Net income for the three months ending 30 June fell to $182 million from $211 million the year before. Sales were also down to $4.2 billion compared to $4.7 billion during the same period last year.

But the group reckons its revenues for the full year will be in line with figures in the last fiscal year.

On the upside, Hennes & Mauritz, the Swedish clothing retailer controlled by the Persson family, said sales in local currency rose 11% for the month of July. The family firm is expected to publish its results for the third quarter in September.

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