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  1. FTSE closes down 0.7% at 6,886 points
  2. Varoufakis expects Greek deal 'in next couple of weeks'
  3. Alibaba shares jump 7.7%, replaces chief executive

Live Reporting

By Chris Johnston

All times stated are UK

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Over and out...

That's all we have time for at Business Live on Thursday - thanks once again for reading. We are back for the last time this week on Friday at 0600. Do join us then.

Fitbit goes public

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Fitbit, the San Francisco-based fitness band maker, has applied to become a listed company. It plans to offer shares worth up to $100m, but that figure could change. For the three months to 31 March, Fitbit reported profits of $48m on revenue of $337m. The company sold 10.9m devices last year.



Could another mega-merger be in the works? Reuters reports that agricultural companies Monsanto and Syngenta are working with investment banks on a takeover deal that would create an industry giant with combined sales of more than $31bn. Syngenta, the Swiss crop chemicals maker, is working with Goldman Sachs to assess the merits of a sale to the world's largest seeds company, Monsanto, which is being advised by Morgan Stanley, according to sources cited by Reuters. There were rumours of talks between the two companies last month. Monsanto and Syngenta both declined to comment.

Wall Street close

At the close of another day in New York, the

Dow Jones ended up 82 points, or 0.5%, at 17,924, while the
S&P 500 was a touch behind, rising 0.4% higher to 2,088 points. The
Nasdaq was also 0.5% higher at 4,945 points.

Sir Maurice Flanagan

maurice flanagan
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Sir Maurice Flanagan, the first managing director of Emirates who helped start the airline three decades ago, has died at his London home. The airline made the announcement on Thursday but did not provide his age or cause of death. A former British Airways manager, Sir Maurice led a 10-strong team to launch a new airline in Dubai 1985. He was knighted in 2010 and retired as executive vice-chairman of the airline's parent company, Emirates Group, in 2013.

Common People

BBC World News

Universal Records

Once upon a time, a band called Pulp had a song called

Common People. Its opening line is: "She came from Greece she had a thirst for knowledge/She studied sculpture at Saint Martin's College." For some reason, rumours have been swirling that Danae Stratou, wife of Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, is the woman Jarvis Cocker was singing about in the song. After discussing more weighty matters when speaking to the BBC earlier on Thursday, he was asked about those rumours. Watch Mr Varoufakis's response

Yelp up for sale

Yelp, which owns reviews website, is exploring a sale that could fetch more than $3.5bn, the

Wall Street Journal reported.
Shares in the San Francisco-based company up by more than 18% on Thursday. Yelp is working with investment bankers and has been in touch with potential buyers in recent weeks, according to the Journal reported. The company listed in 2012 and was worth about $2.9bn as of Wednesday.

Wall Street update


Dow Jones is up 0.7%, or 126 points, at 17,968, while the
S&P 500 is 0.5% higher at 2,090 points in afternoon trading in New York.

Jamaican lottery scam conviction

Sanjay Williams, convicted of lottery fraud in Jamaica

A 25-year-old Jamaican man was convicted for a lottery scam that cost victims in the country millions of dollars,

reports AP. Sanjay Williams was found guilty of wire fraud and money laundering. He is the first person from Jamaica convicted of selling lists of vulnerable people for fraudsters to target. He told one of his victims that she had won $19m and a new car and needed only to pay the taxes and fees - she eventually ended up being conned out of $300,000. Lottery scams are a $30m annual industry in Jamaica.

Oil prices

World Service

Indian road
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World Business Report asks whether greater demand from India and China is responsible for the 50% rise in oil prices since the start of 2015. Listen to Thursday's edition of the programme


Iain Conn shares

Iain Conn

No company would be silly enough to sneak out bad news this afternoon, would it? Centrica might beg to differ, but the decision to put out an announcement after the market closed about awarding close to 1m shares to new chief executive Iain Conn (pictured) does seem a bit fishy. The 943,012 shares given to him under the long-term incentive plan (LTIP) are worth just over £2.4m based on today's closing price of 257.4p. Mark Hanafin, managing director of Centrica Energy, and Mark Hodges, managing director of British Gas, both get 637,170 shares worth £1.6m.

More Varoufakis

BBC World News

Greece has made considerable progress on the list of reforms to be agreed with its creditors, Yanis Varoufakis also tells BBC World News. "It's not black and white - there is a lot of grey. Some of us would like greater speed ... but eventually Europe gets there. You better wish that we do, because Britain is not going to experience any joy if the eurozone begins to fragment."

Varoufakis vow

BBC World News


Greece has been "making promises it couldn't keep" in recent years - and its international creditors have been believing them, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis tells BBC World from Brussels. "This cycle of debt deflation and insincerity has to end. We are prepared to go all the way down to the wire." While he doubts that an agreement with Greece's creditors will be reached on Monday, Mr Varoufakis expects one to be struck in the "next couple of weeks".

FTSE close

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Another day of declines for the

FTSE 100, with London's blue-chip index ending the day down 0.7% at 6,886.95 points - its lowest level since early April. "The risk of a hung parliament is causing people to sell out a bit to cash in on the rally," said Dafydd Davies, partner at Charles Hanover Investments. It was a bad day for
Morrisons, which fell 6.5% to 176.9p after reporting
falling sales and the shares going ex-dividend. The top riser was
Carnival, which added 3.7% to £30.11.

Alibaba revenue

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Business Live reader Martin Blagoev thinks I may have been a bit harsh on Alibaba blaming its

sharp share price rise solely on the chief executive's departure. "The company also posted great revenue data, something that in itself is very commendable given the sort of results that other major companies have recently published," he comments. Indeed, revenue was up 45% in the company's fourth quarter, with revenue from mobile devices more than quadrupling to account for 40% of the total.

Oil prices

Oil rig
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Don't bank on the price of crude continuing to climb, says

Capital Economics. "We think that oil prices are now more likely to fall than to rise further over the rest of the year. Our end-2015 forecast for Brent remains $60," the consultancy writes in its Capital Daily note on Thursday.
Brent is down 2%, or $1.38, to $66.39 in afternoon trading in London.

New York Bitcoin deal

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A bitcoin exchange called ItBit Trust Company has been granted a charter under New York state's banking law, becoming the first virtual currency company to win such approval in the state. It can begin operating immediately, but will be required to meet the obligations for both a trust company under New York law and upcoming "BitLicense" regulations. The department of financial services is expected to issue final regulations to licence bitcoin and other virtual currencies later this month.

Via Twitter

US jobless claims

Gerard Lyons, economic adviser to Boris Johnson, tweets: Today 4 week moving average of US jobless claims reached 279,500 - lowest since May 2000. US, like UK, seen solid jobs growth in recent years ...despite those US jobs numbers, still strikes me that the US economy, also like UK, doesn't need a rate hike just yet.


Lonmin job cuts

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South African platinum miner Lonmin said it is in talks with unions about cutting some 3,500 employees, or some 10% of the workforce. Low platinum prices are forcing it to reduce labour costs. "This reduction should hopefully be achieved through a voluntary process," the company said.

Shares in Lonmin are down almost 5% in London at 143.5p.

Email overload

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Do you answer work emails at night and weekends? Well, stop it immediately. That's the message from Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University. "For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country," he says. Read more


Via Twitter

SABMiller bid?

Dominic Walsh of The Times tweets:

SABMiller shares up about 1.3 per cent amid - yes, you've guessed it - rumours of a £50-a-share bid from ABI,
@WarrenBuffett & 3G Capital

Bombardier float

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Bombardier will float a minority stake in its rail business in the fourth quarter, the Canadian company said on Thursday as it announced a better than expected quarterly profit. The main listing is likely to be in Germany, where the rail division is based. Bombardier is seeking to raise cash to deal with cost overruns in its aircraft business. Trains for London's Underground and the new Crossrail link are being made by the company.

Alibaba bounce

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It's always a bit embarrassing when a company names a new chief executive and its shares duly bounce higher. But that's what happened with Alibaba on Thursday after it said Daniel Zhang would replace Jonathan Lu as boss. almost 10% at $87.55 - making the e-retailer worth $218bn.

German rail strike

rail strike
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No respite for German commuters as a rail strike drags on. The leader of the train drivers' union said on Thursday that its seven-day industrial action would continue until Sunday, rejecting the latest offer by Deutsche Bahn for mediation in the dispute over pay and rights. The action has caused widespread disruption in Germany this week.

Italy to expand

Italian flag
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Italy has never fully recovered from the global financial crisis, slipping back into recession three times since 2008. However, the country's statistics agency says that the eurozone's third-largest economy will expand by 0.7% this year. Exports are being boosted by a weaker euro, while lower energy prices are aiding domestic spending. Unemployment is also expected to fall from 12.7% to 12.5%.

Via Twitter

Hugh Pym, health editor, tweets: European Commission has set up a taskforce to review aviation safety regulation including pilot health checks following Germanwings crash



Good afternoon and thanks again to Tom and Ben for keeping us up to date through the morning. Chris Johnston here once more until 2130 with the rest of the day's business news and views. Got something to say? Email us on

Zynga cuts jobs

Zynga website

Digital games maker Zynga is cutting 364 jobs, which is about 18% of its workforce. The company is trying to save $100m a year. Zynga is best known for creating Farmville, but has struggled to follow that big hit. Zynga has also reported a loss of $6.7m in the first quarter.

Global food prices fall

Palestine potatoes

Global food prices fell in April to their lowest since June 2010, with prices down for most commodities, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The world food import bill will reach a five-year low in 2015, mainly driven by a decline in international prices, low freight rates and a strong US dollar,

it added.

'Eye-watering' cash burn at Tesla

Tesla logo

Tesla shares have fallen sharply in pre-market trading. Late on Wednesday it reported a wider first quarter loss, but it was not as bad as some analysts were expecting. However, analysts at Morgan Stanley described cash burn at the electric car maker as "eye-watering".

End of the big four retailers?

Shopping trolley, Diss, UK
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Jon Copestake of the Economist Intelligence Unit says there could be much more upheaval in the grocery business. "There may be question marks about whether the rise in share from premium and discount retailers will enable the UK retail market to support a 'big four' in the longer term, which could result in a significant scale-down in size beyond the store closures currently planned".

Alibaba results

Mobile revenue for Alibaba soared in the quarter compared with last year, jumping 352% to 5.2bn yuan ($846m, £556m). The firm said the growth was driven by both an increase in the number of buyers using mobile devices, and people spending more.

Alibaba results

Alibaba has reported a 45% increase in fourth quarter revenue, with sales rising to 17.4bn yuan ($2.8bn, £1.8bn) in the three months to the end of March. Net income fell 49% to 2.87bn yuan ($462m, £304m). That fall was mainly due to an increase in share-based compensation.

BreakingBreaking News

Alibaba replaces chief executive

Alibaba Group chief executive Jonathan Lu

Chinese online giant Alibaba has replaced its chief executive Jonathan Lu (pictured) with Daniel Zhang, effective from Sunday. Mr Zhang has been chief operating officer since September 2013. Mr Lu will become vice chairman of Alibaba Group.

Greece 'red lines'

A Greek and an EU flag

Greece's government is sticking to its non-negotiable "red lines" on labour and pension issues and expects EU and IMF creditors also to make concessions to reach a deal, a government spokesman has said. "There should not be an expectation on the part of institutions that the government has to back down on everything in order to have a deal," Gabriel Sakellaridis told a news conference. "When you negotiate, there should be mutual concessions. We won't go beyond the limits of our red lines. It's clear that we cannot cut pensions," he added.

Greece warning

Michel Sapin

French finance minister Michel Sapin has told the European Parliament finance committee that the EU should support Greece or risk eurozone growth. "If we don't stabilise things in Greece, it wouldn't be an economic disaster... for the eurozone... but it would be a factor hampering the overall recovery," he said.

Dutch bank ING results

ING bank Amsterdam
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Dutch bank ING has seen a sharp reversal in first quarter fortunes, reporting a €1.77bn (£1.32bn) net profit, compared with a €1.9bn loss in the same period last year. In retail banking, ING's most profitable banking division, the company said profit rose strongly in the Netherlands and Germany.

Emirates profits soar

Emirates A380
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Emirates Group has announced an annual profit of $1.2bn, up 40% over the previous year's results. It carried 49.3 million passengers, up 11% from the previous year. The airline received 24 new aircraft including 12 A380 superjumbos. (Emirates financial year ran until 31 March 2015).

Why are bond prices on the move?

Euro symbol
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Why are we seeing such dramatic moves in government debt prices? Well, investors piled into bonds, when the ECB announced its bond-buying scheme, betting that prices would just go higher, says Richard McGuire, head of rates at Rabobank. However, there's been a shift in sentiment, and investors think inflation may pick-up. But for investors it's proving harder to sell bonds than it was to buy them. Banks are "unwilling" to warehouse bonds, says Mr McGuire, which is why you are seeing sizeable daily moves as investors scramble to unload unwanted debt.