Monday, 22 October 2007

The Battle for the Best Seat

Virgin Atlantic is understood to have started legal proceedings towards Contour, a Wales-based seat manufacturer for breach of patents in order to protect the design of its Upper Class product after competitors started to roll out suspiciously similar seats. This is the latest in the cutthroat battle for business-class airlines. Contour built Virgin’s seats, but the company has also supplied herring-bone-shaped seats to Delta, Cathay Pacific, Air Canada and Jet Air.

Virgin spent £50 million developing the herringbone shape and layout for its Upper Class and introduced it with great fanfare in 2003. The largest airlines develop their own seats in order to have a unique sales proposition. Virgin has two patents covering the shape and configuration of the seats and the technology used to lower the seat into a bed.

Virgin is thought to be seeking damages from Contour and is also thought to be demanding that these other airlines remove their seats, which could cost them millions of dollars in lost revenue. Contour declined to comment and a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said “the airline did not talk about active legal proceedings.”

Virgin has always sought to differentiate itself from larger competitors by developing innovative service ideas. Upper Class passengers have a bar area onboard and can get massages at their seat. Ticket prices for an Upper Class seat from London to New York are about £4,000 return and the airline is jealously protective of this market. (source: Timesonline)

Earlier this year some shareholders at Berkshire Hathaway, urged Warren Buffett’s (pictured) company to sell its 11% public shares it bought for $500 million (£250 million) in 2006 because of the Sudan issue.

The master at investments and the ability to know when to sell at the right time has finally sold the public shares and made a $3.5bn (£1.7bn) profit in the oil firm PetroChina. Mr Buffett said the sale was based solely on price, rebuffing suggestions he was reacting to criticism of PetroChina's links with Sudan.

In May, at Berkshire's annual general meeting rebel shareholders argued that PetroChina through its government-owned parent China National Petroleum was too closely linked with the Sudanese government. The rebel proposal to sell the PetroChina stake, which Mr Buffett opposed, was successfully defeated.

Nicknamed the "sage of Omaha" because of his success with investments, Mr Buffett is worth an estimated $52.4bn. (source: BBC News)

After a survey to establish which nation is the nation most likely to take risks with their investments, the survey revealed that South Africans are most willing to take risks with their investments. UK, US and Canadian investors are the most cautious, according to research from Barclays Wealth. The company’s latest wealth survey found 84% of investors questioned in South Africa believed a high appetite for risk had helped achieve their riches.

In the UK, only 25% of those surveyed put their wealth down to a willingness to take investment risk, with people more likely to achieve wealth through inheritance, marriage or a good salary in the UK, US and Canada. (source: Telegraph)

Interested in starting a small company? Read the article on a beginners guide at starting a small business by Elizabeth Colman’s -

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