Morning business round-up: Eurozone woes loom again

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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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