That's all we have time for on Business Live for Wednesday. Join us again at 0600 on Thursday. Thanks for reading.
- FTSE 100 closes flat ahead of election
- Brent crude nears $70 a barrel
- EU announces overhaul of e-commerce market
Zynga, the company behind the FarmVille game, reduced its net losses to $46.5m from $61.2m for the first quarter to 31 March, while revenue rose to $183.3m from $168m. Zynga also plans to cut about 18% of its workforce. Shares closed up 4.4% to $2.61.
Kale in the morning, anyone? Nine McDonald's restaurants in southern California are putting kale on their breakfast menus for a trial period. One of the "breakfast bowls" has kale along with turkey sausage, egg white and spinach, while another has chorizo and egg. Kale is regarded by some as a nutrient-rich "superfood" that has become more popular in the US in recent years.
So why is Apple raising more money when it has $178bn stuffed down the back of the sofa? In two words: it's cheaper. Almost 90% of its cash mountain is held outside the US, and the company would have to pay the top corporate tax rate of 35% if it returned the money from abroad. That is also why Apple has made numerous European acquisitions in recent years.
Despite having enough cash on its books to bail out Greece - well, almost - Apple is once more raising funds with an $8bn bond sale.The Wall Street Journal reported that the deal received about $20bn in orders from buyers, allowing the company to sell more than the roughly $6.5bn initially expected. Maturities range from two to 30 years. Apple will use the money to help pay for share buybacks and dividends. Apple shares are down 1.4% to $124.04.
Douglas Fraser, Scotland business and economy editor, says the recent rebound in oil prices does not mean that oil companies are about to turn the capital expenditure taps on again anytime soon. Read morehere.
Shares of British cancer drug developerAdaptimmune are down after it raised $191.3m by listing on Nasdaq on Wednesday. Adaptimmune sold 11.3 million US-traded shares - more than it originally expected - at $17 each, which was the high end of expectations. After jumping as much as 15% in morning trading, the stock was down more than 4% to $16.30. The company is developing immune therapies designed to target and destroy cancer cells and is running several clinical trials in a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.
US stocks fell broadly in afternoon trading in New York after the release of weak economic reports and mixed corporate results. Yields on US government bond yields rose to their highest level in two months and oil prices continued to climb towards $70 a barrel. TheS&P 500 was down 0.6%, while the Dow fell 0.7%.
The lack of a clear winner in the general election is likely to affect the appetite of businesses to borrow,senior bankers have told Reuters. Banks are reluctant to be seen to be taking sides, it says but have privately expressed concerns over the prospect of there being no effective government for weeks or even months after the poll. Neither the Conservative nor Labour party are expected to win an overall majority.
Chief US economist, Capital Economics
"The 1.9% annualised decline in productivity in the first quarter and the 5.0% annualised increase in unit labour costs obviously look awful. But this is exactly what happened at this time last year, when the unseasonably bad winter hit output more than employment. Productivity will rebound in the second quarter and unit labour costs will drop back."
Forbes have released their latestfootball rich list and there are few surprises. Real Madrid retain their place as the most valuable football team in the world for a third straight year. But the team's overall value fell 5% to €3.26bn (£2.42bn) with revenues of €746m. Their main Spanish rivals Barcelona came a predicable second in the 2015 list with a value of €3.16bn followed by Manchester United in third with a value of €3.10bn. However, Manchester United saw its overall value increase by 10% this year suggesting it could overtake Real Madrid soon.
Wendy's - the third-largest US burger chain - reported better-than-expected quarterly sales as more customers visited its revamped stores. Like-for-like sales rose 3.2% in the first quarter, better than the 2.5% increase expected by analysts. However, net profit fell 40.6% to $27.5m as Wendy's sold 240 restaurants to franchisees in the quarter.Shares were up 5.4% in afternoon trading in New York following the results.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has struck partnerships to test commercial drones that can fly beyond an operator's line of sight - regarded as a first step for autonomous drone operations such as delivering packages. PrecisionHawk will test applications for surveying crops in rural areas, while BNSF Railway - owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway - will use drones to inspect rail lines in isolated areas. A third partnership between the FAA and CNN will allow the network to test newsgathering in urban areas with drones that would remain visible to operators. The announcement raises hopes that beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) technology will be included in new commercial drone regulations that the FAA aims to finalise by 2017.
Bit of a lacklustre day on the London market, with the FTSE 100 closing up just 6.16 points, or 0.1%, at 6,933.74 points. That was despite a 8% rise inSage Group to 536p after posting organic revenue of £682m in line with its 6% growth target for 2015. Biggest faller was Aberdeen Asset Management, down 4.3% at 431.1p following a disappointing trading update on Tuesday.
Oil is hovering close to $70 a barrel, with Brent crude up $1.60 to $69.12, after hitting a 2015 peak of $69.63 earlier on Wednesday. US crude was $1.54 higher at $61.89 a barrel - close to an intraday high of $62.58. A month-long rally has been helped by the first fall in US crude stocks since the start of January. "Bulls are in control of the market," said Tamas Varga and Stephen Brennock, analysts at PVM Oil Associates, in a note.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the out-of-town supermarket was about to become an endangered species, but Sainsburys boss Mike Coupe begs to differ. Despite the rise of online and convenience stores, forecasts indicate that "big box" stores will still account for 60% of UK grocery spending by 2022. He says: "We believe that fundamentally the age of the superstore is not dead. In the end the format of choice will be the large out-of-town superstore." Do you agree? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
And in the last word on Greece for a bit, Yanis Varoufakis hastweeted a link to an article he has written titled A Blueprint for Greece's Recovery. He says there has been little progress on a Greek debt deal because "all sides are focusing too much on the strings to be attached to the next liquidity injection and not enough on a vision of how Greece can recover and develop sustainably. If we are to break the current impasse, we must envisage a healthy Greek economy." Read more here.
And in more news from Greece in the wake of its €200m payment to the IMF on Wednesday, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker discussed the need for reforms to Greece's pension system during a phone call to assess progress in debt talks. The pair "discussed the importance of reforms to modernise the pension system so that it is fair, fiscally sustainable and effective in averting old-age poverty", according to a joint statement from Greece and the EC.
Following a meeting with his Italian counterpart Pier Carlo Padoan on Wednesday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis says he is confident about reaching a deal with Greece's international creditors, with a meeting of eurozone finance ministers next week potentially serving as a "platform". "We had a very fruitful and intense exchange of views on the best ways to make the Eurogroup next Monday a platform to enter into the kind of agreement between Greece and our partners which not only resolves the current negotiations but will lead to a period after June that will allow the Greek economy to recover and grow again," Mr Varoufakis said.
Rugby club Wasps hasclosed its retail bond after reaching the £35m it had targeted in just over a week. It was the first time that a sporting club had raised funds in this manner and the offer was oversubscribed. David Armstrong, chief executive, said the funds would allow Wasps to pay down debt and put the club on a solid foundation.
Janet Yellen said the Federal Reserve is prepared to take further action to make the financial system safer. Speaking to the International Monetary Fund, the Fed chair said that regulators were too focused on individual firms before the crisis rather than the entire financial system. Policy makers, including the central bank, must "remain watchful for areas in need of further action or in which the steps taken to date need to be adjusted", she added on Wednesday.
Mikhail Fridman's LetterOne fund is expected to start the sale process for the 11 North Sea gas fields it bought from RWE, bowing to UK government threats to revoke the assets' licences unless the Russian tycoon relinquishes ownership. The move signals that Mr Fridman has decided against challenging the rare intervention. The fields are expected to fetch up to $1bn (£650m), according to banking and industry sources. LetterOne declined to comment.
Thanks to Tom and Ben for this morning's coverage. Chris Johnston with you through until 2130 with the rest of the day's business news and views.
US productivity fell at an annual rate of 1.9% in the first quarter,according to the Labor Department. That was a slight improvement on the previous quarter when productivity was falling at an annual rate of 2.1%. They were the first consecutive quarters of falling productivity since 2006. However, economists say that bad weather is partly to blame and think the decline should be temporary.
This is a financial year Sainsbury's management "will want to forget", says Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers. "Intense competition, led by the discounters, lies at the heart of the group's challenges, with key financial metrics including the dividend payment all moving lower," he says. "The current consensus analyst opinion of a sell unlikely to change," he adds.
Navinder Singh Sarao, who is fighting extradition to the USon charges of having contributed to the 2010 'flash crash' on Wall Street, has said in a court appearance: "I've not done anything wrong apart from being good at my job. How is this allowed to go on, man?" Prior to the outburst the judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court, Elizabeth Roscoe, had denied an application to lift a £5m bail condition.
Market conditions have been "very tough" for Sainsbury's, chief executive Mike Coupe tells the BBC. "It's been the toughest market that I've see in my thirty years in the industry," he says. Changes in shopping habits and deflation in grocery prices hit Sainsbury's bottom line, he added.
European Union antitrust regulators haveopened an investigation into cross-border e-commerce in a move aimed at removing borders to online sales as part of a broad strategy to overhaul the EU's digital market. The European Commission said the probe would focus on barriers to online sales in electronics, clothing and shoes, as well as digital content.
The European Commission wants harmonised EU rules on contracts and consumer protection when people buy online as part of itsdigital single market strategy. It also wants more efficient and affordable parcel delivery, it said.
The European Commission will conduct a comprehensive review this year of the role of web giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon to decide whether it should regulate them more tightly, it says. The inquiry will focus on the transparency of search results and pricing policies, how online platforms use the data they acquire, their relationships with other businesses and whether they promote their own services to the disadvantage of competitors. The review is part of adigital single market strategy unveiled by Commission vice-president Andrus Ansip.
Microsoft is considering a bid for Salesforce.com,reports say. Salesforce provides software that manages customer relationships. It is also a big provider of business software via the internet (or cloud services). Last year Microsoft struck an agreement that allowed its software to work better with Salesforce products. Salesforce was started fifteen years ago, but has never made a profit.
Greece's unemployment ratedropped slightly to 25.4% in February from 25.6% in the previous month, statistics agency Elstat said on Wednesday. February's figure, based on seasonally adjusted data, is the lowest since July 2012. The jobless rate hit a record high of 27.9% in September 2013.