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  1. HSBC faces French tax investigation
  2. Southern England oil find could be 100bn barrels
  3. Co-operative Group returns to profit
  4. Bank of England leaves interest rates at 0.5%

Live Reporting

By Chris Johnston

All times stated are UK

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Over and out...

That's all we have time for from Business Live today - thanks for reading. We're back at 0600 on Friday - do join us then.

Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde has been answering more questions on Greece - and whether it might leave the eurozone. "I think it would be a terrible situation for the Greek people," the IMF managing director said when asked about a "Grexit". On a brighter note, she added that the eurozone was now in a less vulnerable position due to its banking union and strengthened fiscal union.

Sterling slides

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Fears about a hung parliament after next month's general election have taken their toll on sterling, which fell almost 1% to $1.4729 on Thursday - close to a five-year low of $1.4635 struck in late March. It was also slightly weaker against the euro at €1.38. Hamish Pepper, currency strategist at Barclays, said: "There is a lot of uncertainty ... a hung parliament is the most likely outcome."

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

Tune into Business Live on BBC2, BBC News Channel and BBC World at 0830 Friday to catch business editor Kamal Ahmed's interview with

Michael Lewis, author of Flash Boys - about high frequency trading - and The Blind Side.

Varoufakis vow

Yanis Varoufakis
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Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has been talking to Bloomberg TV and - surprise, surprise - is confident that a bailout deal will be reached with its creditors later this month. While

compromises are to be expected, he adds: "We wouldn't be fit for the purpose if we were not prepared to take the political costs which are necessary to stabilise Greece and lead it to growth, but let me be very precise on this: we are prepared to make all sorts of compromises; we are not prepared to be compromised."

Via Twitter

Online news payments

Douglas Fraser

Business and economy editor, Scotland

How much would you pay for online news if you had to pay?

Interesting survey from online ad bureau, @pressgazette

Lagarde and Greece

Christine Lagarde
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Never one to mince words, IMF boss Christine Lagarde confirmed that Greece had made a crucial €459m ($495m) loan payment to the fund on Thursday. "Yes, I've got my money back," she replied when asked at an event in Washington DC whether Athens had sent the funds.

FTSE 100

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The end of another trading day in London has rolled around already and the

FTSE 100 has added more than 1% to close above the 7,000 point mark once more.
Aberdeen Asset Management was the top riser, up 4%, while
Aggreko shed about 3.7% to be the top faller.

H&M inspections

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Fast fashion retailer H&M (or Hennes & Mauritz if you insist in spelling it out) said that by the end of this year half its garments will be made of fabric from mills that it had inspected. The Swedish company has extended its inspections from factories that make its clothes to those supplying fabric and yarn. H&M's social sustainability manager Hanna Hallin said the move would improve conditions for workers in those factories and ensure no child labour was used.

Intel deal destructs

Intel logo
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Not every big deal that is announced actually results in a transaction, and it appears that the mooted $10bn takeover of chipmaker Altera by its bigger rival Intel falls into that category. Discussions between the two companies have broken down over price, according to an insider quoted by Reuters. The report sent

Altera shares down 0.7% to $41.71 in morning trading in New York, while
Intel stock was largely flat at $31.26.

French air strike

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The strike by French air traffic controllers has prompted Easyjet to cancel 331 flights on Thursday, including 78 to and from the UK. The airline cancelled 248 flights on Wednesday on the first day of the industrial action. Ryanair, meanwhile, has cancelled more than 500 flights on Wednesday and Thursday. The Irish airline said: "We again call on the EU and French authorities to act now and prevent thousands of travellers being held to ransom by these French [air traffic control] workers."

US employment

US store
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The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week and the four-week average hit its lowest level since 2000, suggesting an abrupt slowdown in job growth in March was likely to have been a fluke. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 for the week ending 4 April, the Labor Department said. "The claims data provide no confirmation of the March employment slowdown," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

HSBC probe

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More on that bumper €1bn (£720m) bail that French magistrates have ordered HSBC to lodge. It represents about half the €2.2bn worth of the

alleged tax fraud, according to a source quoted by Reuters. The money must be posted by 20 June, which would allow an appeals court to consider HSBC's appeal. Under French law, companies can be ordered to post a deposit when they are put under formal investigation - even if charges are not brought.

Bank bailout bill

euro notes
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interesting figures from the European Central Bank today, which show that the UK spent the equivalent of just 6.3% of GDP on bailing out its banks following the financial crash. That is less than the 8.8% Germany spent despite Britain having a much larger financial sector. Ireland tops the table at 37.3%, followed by Greece on 24.8% and Slovenia at 14.2%.

Gatwick oil find

It's not often that share price rises make it into double figures, let alone three digits, but the

bumper oil discovery at Horse Hill reported on Thursday by UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG, to use its ticker symbol), has
sent its shares rocketing by no less than 189% in afternoon trading in London. Even so, they are now worth at a princely 3.2p apiece and the AIM-listed company's market cap is just over £53m.

Greece coughs up

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Greece has made a payment of €450m to the International Monetary Fund for a loan instalment due on Thursday, according to a government official. There had been question marks over the cash-strapped country's ability - and desire - to make the payment. It is feared that Athens could run out of cash within weeks.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch
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Good news for Britons wanting to be among the first to get their hands on an Apple Watch. Online pre-orders will open at 1201 West Coast time on Friday, which is a civilised 0801 in the UK. Anyone on the East Coast will either have a late night or an early morning - it's a 0301 alarm call for buyers in cities such as New York or Washington DC. The smartwatches will start to ship on 24 April and will also be available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan.

HSBC probe

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French magistrates have put HSBC Holdings under formal criminal investigation over alleged tax-related offences at its Swiss private bank and imposed €1bn bail on Europe's biggest bank. HSBC said it believed the French magistrates' decision was "without legal basis" and intended to appeal. The probe relates to alleged offences in 2006 and 2007 and is the latest problem to hit HSBC, which has admitted failings at its Swiss private bank.

Good afternoon

Hello from me, Chris Johnston, on what is a glorious sunny day in central London. Thanks to Tom Espiner and Ben Morris for keeping us up to date thus far - I'm here until 1800. Do get in touch at or on Twitter: @bbcbusiness

Big UK oil find?

BBC Radio 4

Professor Alastair Fraser from Imperial College says oil exploration is focusing on a 30km radius from where Surrey, Kent, East and West Sussex meet.

He estimates there could be 40 billion barrels of oil under the ground. But the real question for him is how that oil is extracted. Conventional drilling is one option, but for "commercial rates" of oil flow they will have to use hydraulic fracturing, Professor Fraser says on The World at One.

LinkedIn deal website

LinkedIn, the social network where you can explain what you do for a living,

is buying online education company The cash and stock deal is worth $1.5bn. Jeff Weiner, chief executive of LinkedIn said: "'s extensive library of premium video content helps empower people to develop the skills needed to accelerate their careers." So if you need some empowering, check it out.

Walgreens-Boots Alliance results

New York City store

Walgreens Boots Alliance is closing 200 US stores as part of a cost-cutting programme. It also reported

quarterly net sales of $26.6bn (£17.9bn), an increase of 35.5%, which was better than expected.

Fiat UK official name change

A Fiat 500
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Fiat Group Automobiles UK has announced that it has changed its company name

to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles UK. Fiat has owned a majority stake in the US car company since 2009, and Chrysler became a wholly owned Fiat subsidiary in January 2014.

Market update

BMW badges
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Shares in Europe's big car makers are doing well.

Renault is up 3.2% in Paris. In Frankfurt
BMW is up 1.8% and
Volkswagen is up 1%. A report out late on Wednesday showed that the recovery in the car sector has broadened to France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Here in London the
FTSE 100 has pushed higher through the morning. It's now up 0.8%.
Burberry continues to be the biggest winner, up almost 4%.

Possible Poundland probe

Poundland sign
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proposed acquisition of 99p Stores could be subject to in-depth investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), "unless acceptable undertakings are offered,"
CMA says. "The transaction gives rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition in 80 local areas where the companies currently overlap - and in a further 12 areas where they will be competitors in the near future," CMA said after an initial investigation.

Surge in fake invoices


In recent weeks there's been a surge in computer malware hidden in fake invoices, BBC personal finance reporter

Kevin Peachey writes. The malicious software is used to steal businesses' banking details.

No shift in Bank of England rates

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has

voted to maintain UK interest rates at 0.5%. Rates have been kept at their record low for more than six years.

French TV hack

Hackers being able to temporarily bring down 11 TV channels of French firm TV5Monde is "a concerning development" says Edward Parsons of KPMG's cyber security practice. "Until recently the most effective attacks have been conducted by groups closely aligned to state powers... Unfortunately the capabilities and infrastructure previously reserved for nation states and their proxies have been commoditised and made available to all in online criminal marketplaces," he says.

French TV hack - 'determined terrorists'

Bernard Cazeneuve

The Paris prosecutor's office says it has opened an investigation into a concerted hack attack which knocked out 11 TV channels of French broadcaster TV5Monde and affected social media. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: "We are facing determined terrorists and we are determined to fight them."

On his Twitter account, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the attack was "an unacceptable insult to freedom of information and expression".

Lafarge - Holcim deal

An update on

everyone's favourite cement merger. The board's of France's Lafarge and Switzerland's Holcim have confirmed that Eric Olsen will take over as chief executive should the deal go through. But not everyone is convinced that will happen. News agency AFP quotes analysts at Vontobel who say that chances of the deal getting shareholder approval are just 50%.

'Powerful' cyber attack

Yves Bigot

A hacking attack which knocked out 11 TV channels of TV5Monde and affected its social media services was a "very powerful cyber attack", TV5 director, Yves Bigot, says. "We have very strong firewalls, that had been checked very recently, and were said to be very safe. Obviously, it's a very knowledgeable and powerful cyber attack."

Via Email

Big UK oil find?

Mike Jakeman

Commodities Analyst, Economist Intelligence Unit

Although the numbers sound good, this discovery is unlikely to prove a significant tonic for the UK energy industry. The global oil market is currently in the supply glut. The bargain price of oil at the moment means that only the cheapest oilfields are being exploited. Higher-cost ventures are not economically viable at the current price level. And this discovery in the UK would almost certainly fall into this category.

Leighton: 'We've had unco-operation'

Co-op chairman, Allan Leighton

"We lost the heart of what the Co-op was. I mean look at what's happened to the business, it's terrible... The Co-op did used to stand for something and it was in the community, membership was important. Co-operation was important, but we've had unco-operation, we should have been called the unco-operative. Because that's the reality of where we've been," Co-op Group chairman

Allan Leighton told BBC Business Editor, Kamal Ahmed.

Via Email

Satyam scandal

Simon Atkinson

Editor, India Business Report

The founder of Satyam Computers has been jailed for seven years for his role in one of India's biggest corporate scandals - according to Indian TV reports. The sentencing had not been expected until Friday.

Greece unemployment

Greek flags for sale
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The good news for Greece is that unemployment eased slightly in January. The bad news is that it's still painfully high at 25.7%,

according to the national statistics agency. December's rate was revised downward to 25.9%. Unemployment is more than double the eurozone average of 11.3%.

Via Email

UK trade figures

Paul Hollingsworth

UK Economist, Capital Economics

February's trade deficit came in worse than expected and will have re-ignited fears that the strong pound and weakness in demand in the euro-zone is acting as a straightjacket on exporters. Looking ahead, there are still some reasons to remain optimistic.

UK trade position deteriorates

Port of Felixstowe
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The value of goods exported by the UK fell to its lowest level in more than four years in February, according to

the Office for National Statistics. There was a particularly sharp fall in the export of manufactured goods to nations outside the European Union. Overall the trade deficit on goods and services expanded to £2.9bn in February compared with £1.5bn in January.