Morning business round-up: Eurozone woes loom again

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What's making the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

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Spain, France and Portugal have failed to cut overspending to agreed targets, the European Commission has said.

Spain's government deficit was 10.2% of the country's economic output in 2012, well above the agreed 6.3% target, and will stay far above target into 2014.

Meanwhile, the Commission joined other major international organisations in admitting that the eurozone economy would contract in 2013.

It is forecast to shrink 0.3%, making the governments' task even harder.

The Commission is concerned about a "surprise" fall in Portugal's economy, which fell 3.2% in 2012 and is forecast to contract by another 1.9% in 2013.

Financier Nathaniel Rothschild has lost his bid to oust the current board of coal mining giant Bumi, the company he helped to found.

Chairman Samin Tan survived a vote to remove him but informed the board he was stepping down.

Mr Rothschild had wanted to rejoin the company and expel 12 of the 14 board members, including the chief executive and chairman.

Shareholders rejected his attempts and voted to remove just two members.

Air France-KLM, the Franco-Dutch airline, says it made a big loss in 2012, blaming sharply rising fuel costs and trouble with its cargo business.

Net losses increased 47% to 1.19bn euros (£1bn; $1.57bn), after a 471m-euro restructuring charge and a 890m-euro increase in its fuel bill.

But operating losses fell to 300m euros, from 353m euros the year before.

Revenues rose 5.2% to 25.6bn euros, thanks in part to increased prices on its North Atlantic routes.

Singapore's economy expanded more than expected in the fourth quarter, boosted by the manufacturing sector.

The economy grew by 1.5% in the three months to the end of December, from a year earlier. Initial estimates were for growth of around 1.1%.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, the economy grew 3.3%, beating initial estimates of 1.8%.

A slump in its manufacturing sector due to the global slowdown has hurt Singapore's growth in recent years.

Britain's four biggest accountancy firms have been heavily criticised by the Competition Commission.

The regulator has accused PWC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG of being too dominant and enjoying too cosy a relationship with company management.

The four accountancy firms act as auditors for 90% of the UK's stock-market listed big companies.

They have also been criticised in the past for not doing enough to warn of the financial crisis.

In other UK news, a multi-billion-pound scheme to help long-term unemployed people into work has been branded extremely poor by MPs.

The government's Work Programme only managed to get 3.6% of the people on the scheme off benefits and into secure employment in its first 14 months, the Public Accounts Committee said.

The government said it was "early days" for the scheme and the committee's report had painted a "skewed picture".

But the opposition Labour party said the programme was "worse than doing nothing".

For an in-depth examination of the business issues behind the headlines, listen to the latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service.

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Business Live

  1.  
    11:43: Aer Lingus
    Aer Lingus

    The Irish government expects BA owner IAG to sweeten its €1.36bn offer for Aer Lingus to convince it to sell its 25% stake in the airline. Deputy prime minister Joan Burton said the transport minister anticipated "further offers forthcoming from IAG".

     
  2.  
    11:30: Mikhail Fridman

    David Cameron's spokesman says the PM "entirely backs" the seven-day deadline to decide the fate of Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman's newly acquired North Sea assets. He added that the government was ready to act if assurances were not received.

     
  3.  
    11:22: TSB pay
    Paul Pester

    TSB has revealed its chief executive Paul Pester (pictured) received a salary and bonuses totalling just shy of £1.9m last year. As a comparison, Barclays boss Anthony Jenkins was paid £2.3m last year. TSB listed in London last June - although its shares are 10% below the float price at 260.1p.

     
  4.  
    11:06: Car sales up in February

    Staying on a car theme, UK new car sales rose 12% in February, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). February car sales totalled 76,958, taking sales in the first two months of 2015 to 8.3% overall. Sales rose by nearly 10% last year, their highest rise in a decade, the SMMT said in January.

     
  5.  
    10:49: Aston Martin at Geneva
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  6.  
    10:35: Cold homes
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    The health watchdog NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - is calling on plumbers and heating engineers, as well as family doctors to sound the alarm if people in England are living in homes that are too cold. The aim is to reduce the higher level of deaths in winter.

     
  7.  
    10:19: Greek unemployment
    A man walks by greek flags for sale

    Greece's jobless rate rose to 26% in December from 25.9% a month earlier as the economy shrank slightly in the last quarter of 2014, statistics agency ELSTAT says. That's the lowest unemployment rate since September 2014 and now quite a bit below the record high set in September 2013, when unemployment hit 27.9%.

     
  8.  
    Mobile World Congress Via Twitter
    BBC

    BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweets: From the Ubuntu phone to VR headsets find all our coverage by choosing mobile phones topic in BBC news app @BBCRoryCJ

     
  9.  
    09:42: Zalando expansion
    Zalando

    Watch out Asos... Zalando, Europe's biggest online-only fashion retailer, plans to hire 2,000 new staff as it aims for sales growth of 20% to 25% this year. It is considering setting up local distribution hubs in Britain as well as Italy, Spain and the Nordics to complement its existing warehouses in Germany. Frankfurt-listed Zalando is worth almost €6bn (£4.3bn); Asos is valued at £2.7bn.

     
  10.  
    09:24: House prices

    The current figures may be slightly deceptive however. Halifax says prices rose by 2.6% in the three months to February, compared with the previous three months. Its housing economist, Martin Ellis, says a modest rise in activity reflects increases in real earnings and spending power, recent falls in mortgage rates and changes to stamp duty.

     
  11.  
    09:10: House prices
    Sale and Sold signs

    House price in February were 8.3% higher than the same month a year ago, according to the latest Halifax figures, falling back from 8.5% rise last month and a peak in July of 10.2%. Compared with January prices were 0.3% lower. The average house now costs £192,372, Halifax adds.

     
  12.  
    08:57: Market update

    London's FTSE 100 Index is up 0.14% at 6,929 as traders wait for more details of the European Central Bank's bond-buying programme to be released later today. Aviva shares have jumped this morning after it raised the dividend by 30% on a strong set of annual results.

     
  13.  
    08:44: Carrefour results
    Carrefour

    Carrefour - the world's second-largest retailer after Walmart - plans to spend about €2.5bn (£1.81bn) on revamping stores in 2015 - the final leg of a three-year turnaround plan. The French group could also go ahead with an IPO of its business in Brazil - the supermarket chain's second-largest market - if conditions remain favourable. Operating profits came in at €2.38bn for 2014.

     
  14.  
    Via Twitter Radio 5 live

    Sean Farrington tweets: On Wake Up to Money's podcast today...After 6 yrs of low interest rates, where could you have got good returns? @seanfarrington

     
  15.  
    08:25: Virgin Money
    London marathon

    After listing in November, the challenger bank is set to be admitted to the FTSE 250 later this month. Its shares are up 13% to 327.5p, valuing it at £1.4bn. Virgin Money, which sponsors the London marathon, said today that underlying pre-tax profits rose 127% to £121.2m for 2014.

     
  16.  
    08:23: ECB bond buying BBC Radio 4

    Andrew Wilson, chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, also tells Today it will take time before we will see the impact of the ECB's bond-buying programme. He expects inflation to remain low for most of this year: "Almost certainly we will see negative rates of inflation this year; we're really talking about 2016 to see the impact of this policy."

     
  17.  
    08:12: Bupa results

    Bupa wants to capture a slice of India's fast-growing health insurance market when rules on foreign investment are relaxed. Stuart Fletcher, chief executive, says it's "still quite a nascent market - there is tonnes of headroom for growth". The private healthcare group posted annual profits up 8% to £638m today.

     
  18.  
    SFO bank probe Robert Peston Economics editor

    Does alleged scamming of £200bn Bank of Eng scheme to rescue banks show that some bankers need psychiatric help?

     
  19.  
    07:53: Best investments Radio 5 live
    Lego

    Wake Up To Money was asking listeners earlier about the best investment they have made. For one listener it was a Lego Millennium Falcon set. Have you made a particularly canny investment? Give us your thoughts at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or @bbcbusiness.

     
  20.  
    07:42: Aviva profits

    Mr Wilson's comments came as the insurance giant Aviva reported a 6% rise in pre-tax operating profit of £2.17bn, compared with just over £2bn a year earlier. The insurer has has been going to through a strategic overhaul including the sale of its North American business last year. It also raised in annual dividend by 30%.

     
  21.  
    07:31: Aviva profits
    Aviva stadium

    Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson says its annual results show the insurer is making "tangible progress". Aviva - sponsor of Dublin's rugby stadium - started "2015 in a position of strength", but he adds it would be "wrong to assume that our turnaround is nearing completion, as we have further to travel than the distance we have come".

     
  22.  
    07:20: London Stock Exchange Group
    LSE Group

    Another good year for London Stock Exchange Group, with revenue up 32% to £1.28bn and adjusted pre-tax profits up 17% to £445.9m. However, on the pure pre-tax level profits slipped 5% to £284.3m. The company is worth £8.3bn and its shares have risen 18% in the past year.

     
  23.  
    SFO Bank investigationVia Twitter Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    "Unprecedented" much over-used by us hacks, but this actually is @BBCNews SFO launches Bank of England criminal probe

     
  24.  
    07:10: ECB bond buying BBC Radio 4
    The EURO logo

    The European Central Bank reveals more details of its bond-buying programme later today - but don't expect any surprises, Andrew Wilson, chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, tells Today. He says we've already seen "marked weakening" of the euro, so it will be interesting to see what impact ECB action will have.

     
  25.  
    06:55: Drones
    drone

    The House of Lords has called for a tracking system for all drones and their users. A report by the EU Committee of the House of Lords described drones - or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, to give them their official title - as an "exciting new technology", but warned that their use poses risks to the general public and other airspace users.

     
  26.  
    06:44: China growth BBC Radio 4

    China's 7% economic growth target for 2015 is about "sending a message" particularly to local governments, which look to Beijing for guidance in setting their own targets. But at the the same time the government is very concerned about the level of debt in the banking sector - something it is trying to address, Duncan Innes-Ker, China analyst with the Economist intelligence Unit, tells Today.

     
  27.  
    06:30: AbbVie

    Big news from the pharma world overnight as US company AbbVie announced a deal to buy leukemia drugmaker Pharmacyclics for $21bn (£13.8bn). It appears to have won the prize from under the nose of Johnson & Johnson, which some reports say was close to a deal.

     
  28.  
    06:20: Brazil economy Radio 5 live
    Copacabana beach

    The Brazilian currency - the real - has hit a 10-year low after the central bank raised interest rates by half a point to a stonking 12.75% overnight. The BBC's Daniel Gallas in Sao Paulo tells Wake Up to Money that the country could tip into recession this year as the government embarks on an austerity drive, raising taxes and cutting spending.

     
  29.  
    06:11: Interest rates Radio 5 live

    It's been six whole years since the Bank of England cut the base rate to 0.5%. That's been good for borrowers, but not so great for savers - of which there are many more after all. Vivan Slattery, an independent financial adviser, tells Wake Up To Money many of her clients have stayed in cash but are now looking at alternatives given that rates do not seem set to increase sharply anytime soon - particularly as many mortgage holders are now on the standard variable rate.

     
  30.  
    06:05: China growth Radio 5 live

    China has announced that its target growth rate for 2015 is 7% - down from 7.5% for last year. The BBC's Ali Moore in Singapore says the new target is not a reflection of panic in Beijing but part of its drive to lower expectations and rebase the economy to focus more on domestic demand. "It's more about quality than quantity," she adds.

     
  31.  
    Welcome to Thursday Chris Johnston Business reporter

    Good morning from me and Matthew West. Another busy day of business news coming up - we'll be here to guide you through it all. Get in touch with your comments at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on Twitter at @bbcbusiness.

     

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