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Summary

  1. Germany rejects Greece extension request
  2. Air France-KLM to accelerate cost cuts
  3. Centrica shares slump after dividend cut

Live Reporting

By Rebecca Marston

All times stated are UK

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Rebecca Marston

Business reporter, BBC News

Business Live is withdrawing for the night. Fresh blood will arrive tomorrow to restart at 06:00.

Greek-German phone call

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and German chancellor Angela Merkel held a "constructive" phone conversation on Thursday, a Greek government official told Reuters. It is said to have lasted 50 minutes.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting clip featuring Lesley
Youtube

Britain punches well above its weight when it comes to musical exports. The winners of the Music Export Growth Scheme from

the BPI and UK Trade and Investment include Public Service Broadcasting, whose Spitfire track features Lesley Howard's sonerousness. The funding will help the acts tour abroad and raise their profile.

Greece stand-off

Yanis and Wolfgang
AFP

A top European official said the stand-off had come down to a clash of personalities with Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble furious at the negotiating style Greece's "fast-talking" Yanis Varoufakis. "There is a real problem of personalities and I understand that. Schaeuble is outraged by comments made by Varoufakis," the official said.

Greek banks

Tensions mount ahead of Friday's deadline for a Greek deal. Greece's central bank governor said outflows from its lenders were under control and the bank would aim to protect liquidity and the banking system. "We are here to prevent any accidents," Yannis Stournaras told reporters after a meeting the country's deputy prime minister.

Currencies

The

Pound remains above €1.35 against the euro, it rose 0.13% to €1.3562 and against the dollar it was up 0.1% at $1.549.

Via Blog

Robert Peston

Economics editor

Blogs: "There is a paradox in Germany financial Puritanism... If Greece were to leave the euro, Gernany's losses would be greater than any other country's, as Greece's biggest indirect creditor via bailout loans and European Central Bank support."

Market update

Flat. That's how the

FTSE 100 closed, down 1.83 points at 6896.25. -1.83 is down 36 points, or 0.5%, to 6,861, dragged down by
Centrica, whose shares 8.5%.
BAE Systems, an earlier faller, finished up almost 1% on comments defence spending might be about to rise. In Frankfurt and Paris, the
Dax rose 0.36% to 11,000.85 and the
CAC 40 was up 0.63%.

Energy supplies

Further indications there's a lot of energy lying about. Following reports US oil stocks have jumped, gas oil stocks held at the Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam hub hit a new record high of 3.15 million tonnes this week.

Wal-Mart staff boost

Wal-Mart protests
AP

Wal-Mart has been under pressure for years to raise pay. Staff will now start on $9 an hour, $1.75 above the minimum US wage. Another important promise to improve staff conditions is to find ways to be able to schedule worker shifts further in advance. Campaigners have long complained about split shifts and late call-outs required of staff.

Wal-Mart staff boost

Endorsement for the Wal-Mart management from a fellow corporate American colossus, Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo chief. She

tweets: "So happy for @Walmart associates and proud of @Walmart mgmt. A great leadership decision by Doug McMillon."

Wal-Mart staff boost

Doug McMillion
Wal-Mart

Mr McMillon's letter to staff contains this emollient: "We... made a few changes aimed at productivity and efficiency that undermined the feeling of ownership some of you have for your business. When we take a step back, it's clear to me that one of our highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year." It is well worth a read. And there's footage, too.

Wal-Mart staff boost

Wal-Mart's CEO Doug McMillon speaks to staff about the pay rise and educational opportunities it's affording them: "This company has given so many of us opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. We joined Walmart because we wanted a job but found much more than that. This company is a really special place." I feel the company dance coming on...

Wal-Mart staff boost

The climate underpinning Wal-Mart's move to boost pay and opportunities for staff is highlighted by

weekly jobs stats from the US. The number of people looking for unemployment benefits last week fell sharply. Demand for labour is rising in the US.

Air France - strike costs

Air France planes
Getty Images

Air France has said that a

two-week pilot strike in September 2014 had an impact on its bottom line. In 2014 Air France-KLM made a net loss of €198m (£147m). Without the impact of the strike, the firm would have made a net profit of €296m.
Shares are down 4.5%.

BAE Systems

The fight against terrorism and in particular Islamic State may could provide a boost to BAE Systems, which has suffered from years of government military spending cuts. "Defence and security is high on governments' priorities at the moment," Ian King, the chief executive, told reporters after

BAE posted profit figures. He noted that, for the first time, Middle Eastern countries were deploying their military against Islamic State.

Oil falls

US stock piles are thought to be at a record high. American Petroleum Institute figures showed stocks rose by 14.3 million barrels last week. Is that a lot? Oh wow, yes. The biggest jump since 1982.

Oil falls

WTI chart
BBC

Oil is down around 4% a barrel - both the UK's benchmark Brent and

US WTI. West Texas is just above $50 a barrel in early US dealings.

Market update

The US markets open lower. Falls in oil and gas company shares are leading the way down.

The Dow Jones is 0.5% lower at 17,936, the
S&P 500 is 0.4% lower at 2,092 points and the
Nasdaq is 0.11% lower at 4,901.02.

Wal-Mart staff boost

Wal-Mart store
AP

It appears Wal-Mart is taking steps to help its employees. It just announced a plan to boost wages and educational opportunities for its half a million US workers. Both full and part timers are getting a pay rise this year and next.

Ukraine gas

Ukraine has had to suspend gas supplies to its eastern regions, says the state gas firm Naftogaz. It says fighting between pro-Russian separatists and government forces has left the gas network damaged. It's not yet safe to fix it, it says.

Rebecca Marston

Business reporter, BBC News

Hello. I'm back in place as your afternoon Business Live host. Brace yourself.

'Rift' between Germany and EC

Mark Lowen
BBC

Germany and the European Commission appear to be divided over Greece, says the BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens. The German

rejection of the Greek proposal after an encouraging EC statement suggests "a rift between Brussels and Berlin at the very highest level on this," he says. "It's not yet clear which side will prevail, and which side will give ground, but clearly the hopes that Greece was moving towards a deal... have been thrown into doubt once again."

Asda sales down

Asda logo
PA

Asda reported a 2.6% fall in like-for-like sales over the Christmas trading quarter, which comprised the 12 weeks to 4 January. Asda is owned by US retail giant Walmart. The big supermarket chains struggled over Christmas. Tesco reported a 2.9% sales fall, Sainsbury was down 1.7%.

ECB divided over QE

Euro notes
Getty Images

The European Central Bank has released minutes from the policy meeting where the governing council decided to launch a massive bond buying scheme to lift European economies (also know as quantitative easing or QE). It confirms what we suspected, that there were divisions at the ECB over whether to launch the programme. "In the view of some members there appeared to be no urgent need for monetary policy action," the minutes say.

Germany rejects Greek proposal

German parliament
Getty Images

The German finance ministry rejected a new proposal from Athens on Thursday for an extension of its bailout programme, saying it fell short of the conditions set out by Greece's eurozone partners. "The letter from Athens is not a proposal that leads to a substantial solution," ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said in a statement. "In truth it goes in the direction of a bridge financing, without fulfilling the demands of the programme. The letter does not meet the criteria agreed by the Eurogroup on Monday."

Market update

FTSE 100
BBC

After early losses the

FTSE 100 has crept into positive territory. Following a recent bad run, shares in
Rolls-Royce are leading the FTSE higher, up 2.5%.
Centrica is still the biggest loser, down 8.5% after cutting its dividend.

EC: Greece request 'positive'

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
EPA

Greece's

request for a debt extension is a positive step towards a compromise, an EC spokesman has said. "(European Commission) President Juncker sees this letter as a positive sign, which, in his assessment, could pave the way for a reasonable compromise in the interest of the financial stability in the euro area as a whole," Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing.

Via Blog

Centrica boss urges UK - stay in Europe

Kamal Ahmed

BBC Business editor

Iain Conn, Centrica's chief executive, told me: "In my view Britain is better off inside Europe". "There are some new competitors who we haven't seen for 100 years, such as China and India and they are very big, as big as Europe in total or bigger.

CBI manufacturing data

Car manufacturing
PA

Manufacturers have "more of a spring in their step" this month,

according to a report from the CBI employers' group. Growth in output volumes is the highest level for seven months, and export orders are at a six-month high. "The drop in oil prices is good news for the manufacturing sector in the UK, bringing with it lower operating costs, but North Sea producers are clearly suffering," said CBI economics director Rain Newton-Smith.

Lenovo computers

Lenovo computer
AFP

China's Lenovo Group, the world's largest PC maker, has been forced on the defensive today amid claims it pre-installed a virus-like software on its laptops that makes them more vulnerable to hacking. Cybersecurity experts say the Superfish programme is malicious software. Lenovo has told the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones that it has removed Superfish from new PCs, disabled it on existing PCs and is "thoroughly investigating all and any new concerns".

Allan Leighton

New Co-operative Group chairman Allan Leighton has the company running through his veins. "I grew up with this business, because my father ran the local Co-op," he says. "I have a very real understanding of the importance of the Co-operative to local communities."

Allan Leighton

Allan Leighton
Co-op

Allan Leighton, formerly of the Royal Mail and Asda, is to be the Co-operative Group's first independent non-executive chairman. He takes over straight way,

the Co-op said in a statement.

Greece debt talks

Bild headline
Bild

Feelings run high in Germany over giving more money to Greece. The mass market Bild features pictures of Putin and Tsipras with the headline: "The Russian or the Greek: who is more dangerous for us?" Meanwhile, a commentator in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: "The Greek government appears to believe it can treat its partners like fools."

AWOL executives

Naibu website
NAibu

This is an odd situation. British non-executive directors at

Chinese sportswear maker Naibu, have had only minimal contact with the
company's chairman and executive director in China. As a result they are not able to provide shareholders with an update on the company's financial position and they have called in auditors KPMG to prepare a report on the group's financial position. Naibu shares have been suspended on the AIM market since January.

Greece debt talks

AFP reports that the Eurogroup, which comprises eurozone finance ministers, the European Central bank and the European Commission will discuss Greece's loan request on Friday. At the moment we don't know exactly what Greece has proposed.

Madoff: The TV show

Richard Dreyfuss
AP

Actor Richard Dreyfuss (pictured) has agreed to play disgraced fund manager Bernie Madoff, according to reports.

Bloomberg says the US network ABC is planning a four-hour mini-series about Madoff. In 2009
he was sentenced to 150 years in prison for masterminding a scheme that robbed investors of $65bn. HBO is also reportedly working on a show about Madoff, starring Robert De Niro.

Mortgage lending falls

The Council of Mortgage Lenders estimates that gross mortgage lending was £14.3bn in January. This is a 14% fall from December's £16.6bn, and is 11% down on the £16.1bn lent in January last year.

Greece debt talks

News agencies are reporting that Greece has now formally asked the European Union for a loan extension which would buy the cash-strapped nation time to work on new anti-austerity reforms. "The request has been sent" to Brussels, a Greek government source told AFP.