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Summary

  1. Lloyds Bank retail share sale delayed
  2. UK economy expands 0.5% in fourth quarter
  3. EU Commission cracks down on diverted profits
  4. EU considers Google tax issues
  5. TSB annual profits plummet 60%
  6. SSE cuts gas price by 5.3% but leaves electricity prices unchanged
  7. Diageo half year sales rise 1.8%

Live Reporting

By Tom Espiner

All times stated are UK

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Good night

That's it for another busy day on Business Live. We're back tomorrow morning from 06:00 - do join us then.

Wall Street closes higher

US stock markets have closed higher after wavering all day between gains and losses. Oil prices climbed for the third day this week as Russia and Opec discussed cuts in production, sending energy stocks higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.8%, the S&P 500 edged 0.55% higher and the Nasdaq composite finished up 0.86%.

Land Rovering for Breakfast

Ben Thompson is talking to some Land Rover defenders on BBC Breakfast tomorrow morning - owners, not the vehicles themselves, that is... 

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Amazon shares slide

After rising almost 9% today, shares in Amazon have sunk more than 10% in after-hours trading in New York after the e-commerce giant missed sales projections for the fourth quarter. 

Net sales rose to $35.75bn - just short of analysts' predictions. 

Net profit more than doubled to $482m for the three months to 31 December.

Barclays sued for almost £1bn

Amanda Staveley
Getty Images

Barclays has confirmed it is being sued for almost £1bn by deal-maker Amanda Staveley (pictured) in connection with its emergency fundraising in 2008.

The Financial Times reported that Ms Staveley's firm, PCP Capital Partners, had taken legal action against the bank in London.

The fundraising at the height of the financial crisis aimed to bolster Barclays' financial health and prevent a UK government bailout. 

The bank will contest the action, which it said was "misconceived and without merit".

Read more here.

Oil price above $40 'an aberration'

Business Live page reader Vernon Hasley makes an observation about oil prices:

Oil price chart adjusted for inflation
InflationData.com

It is plain that any oil price over $40 is an aberration and today’s levels are a true reflection of economic reality, rather than the unrealistic inflated pricing we have seen in the short-term past. American shale oil, which has been blamed in your pages, among others, for the present supply glut is uneconomic to extract at prices below $45. So Opec is hardly likely to want to support artificially inflating the price to help their biggest and most uncooperative competitor.

Vernon Halsey

Barbie now comes in 'curvy, tall and petite

Barbies
Mattel

Barbie is getting three new body types this year. 

Mattel plans to add "tall, curvy and petite" body shapes to the doll line-up.

Several skin tones, eye colours and hair styles will also be added.

Barbie's figure has come under fire in recent years, with critics arguing it sets an unrealistic body image for girls.

Read more here.

Is LLoyds share sale delay bad news for investors?

A Business Live page reader writes...

Why is the delayed sale of Lloyd’s shares bad news for investors? Mr Osborne wants/needs to sell them at 74p. At the moment they are 64.53p. But at 74p less 5% (announced reduction) is a cost of 70.3p and then 10% to buyer after one year would give 77.33p, a gain of 7.03p per share. If you buy at 64.53p and they go to 74p then a gain of 9.47p; or 25.6% better than buying at 74p. Surely buying now is better for any investor wishing to buy shares is better than waiting? I know there are dealing costs but these will not be much on the £1000 suggested limit…"

David Hill

Reports: EU offers UK 'emergency brake'

The European union and Union flag
Getty Images

The European Union is offering the UK an "emergency brake" rule that could help curb immigration from other EU states in a reform package before a UK referendum on EU membership, according to Reuters.

The proposal would give any member state that could convince EU governments its welfare system was under excessive strain a right to deny benefits to new workers arriving from other EU countries for up to four years.

David Cameron has been demanding a four year migrant benefit ban.

France and Iran deals 'could reach €30bn'

French President Francois Hollande and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Getty Images

France and Iran have signed a total of 20 agreements, including nine commercial deals, following the meeting between the presidents of the two countries, Francois Hollande and Hassan Rouhani.

French and Iranian companies signed a series of agreements in the sectors of air and maritime transport, airports, health and agriculture.

Oil and gas company Total signed an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company on purchases of crude oil.

The total value of the deals could reach up to €30bn, including the €22.8bn for the sale of 118 Airbus passenger aircraft to Iran Air, according to the French presidency.

Labour writes to EU Commission over Google tax deal

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell has written to the EU Commission to ask that the government's £130m tax deal with Google be investigated. Google is paying £130m in tax for a period covering ten years.

Google tax row: What's behind the deal?

BBC business presenter tweets...

Russia says Saudis proposing global oil production cut

The Shaybah mega-project
Getty Images

Russia said on Thursday that Opec's largest producer Saudi Arabia had proposed oil production cuts of up to 5% in what would be the first global deal in over a decade to help clear a glut of crude and prop up sinking prices.

The deal, if implemented, would reduce surplus global output by 1 million barrels per day.

Airbus sells Iran 118 planes

CEO of European aerospace giant Airbus Group Thomas Enders (L) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Getty Images

Airbus has signed a deal to sell Iran 118 passenger planes worth at least $25bn at list prices.

But the planemaker said the deal, signed amid a raft of others during a visit by President Hassan Rouhani, was conditional on getting US export licences because more than 10% of their parts were made in the US.

Airbus said the order comprised 12 A380s, 16 A350-1000S, 45 A320S, and 45 A330s. 

Libor defendant: 'I can get my life back'

BBC business presenter tweets...

Google's tax affairs 'are not private'

A Business Live page reader writes...

Google's tax affairs are not private as Kerry Stephens says. Google is a PLC and its tax affairs are audited and public. It is time for the government to change the rules so megacorps pay reasonable and proportionate tax. I do think there can be wriggle room depending on their value to society. So no discount for Sports Direct then.

Peter Brown

Accused trader was 'unlikely to have caused flash crash'

Navinder Singh Sarao leaves Westminster Magistrates Court
g

A UK trader facing extradition to the US in a trial next week for allegedly helping trigger the 2010 "flash crash" probably had little, if anything, to do with the event, according to a draft academic research paper.

It's "highly unlikely" that the actions of Navinder Singh Sarao caused the dramatic market plunge, the US researchers said. "Indeed, this paper suggests that the Flash Crash could have occurred even without Sarao's presence in the market."

FTSE 100 closes lower

The FTSE 100 has closed 1.06% lower at 5,931 points. Equipment rentals company Ashtead was the top faller on the blue-chip FTSE 100 index, down 7.77% after investors were spooked by an underwhelming set of fourth-quarter results from US peer United Rentals.

Lloyds share sale discussion

BBC business presenter tweets...

Wall Street wavers

US stocks are wavering between small gains and losses following a sharp sell-off the day before.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.1%, at 15,928. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up 0.14% to 1,885. The Nasdaq composite was up 0.46%, at 4,487. 

BG shareholders vote for Shell takeover

A Shell logo
Getty Images

Shell's takeover of BG Group is expected to go ahead on 15 February after BG shareholders voted to accept the $52bn deal.

Shell shareholders voted to back the deal on Wednesday.

I am very pleased that BG shareholders have voted in favour of the combination and look forward to welcoming them onto our register when the transaction closes. BG adds attractive deep water and integrated gas positions and will act as a catalyst for accelerating the re-shaping of our business. We now look forward delivering the benefits of the combination as quickly as possible following completion."

Ben van BeurdenShell chief executive

UK to appoint Oil and Gas Ambassador

Ships are seen in Aberdeen Harbour, the busiest port for the oil industry in the UK
Getty Images

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the oil and gas industry in Scotland is to get £20m for exploration, and that the UK is to appoint an Oil and Gas Ambassador to try to boost North Sea exports.

Earlier, the UK and Scottish governments announced £250m investment for Aberdeen (pictured).  

European Commission statement on Google and tax

Here's the statement from the European Commission (EC) in full. The EC confirming it has received the SNP letter which asked it to look into Google's UK tax deal.

The Commission welcomes that tackling tax evasion and tax avoidance is high on the political agenda on international, EU and national levels. We need to keep up this momentum - just today, the Commission proposed legally binding measures that will counter-act some of the most damaging tax avoidance schemes in the EU and beyond. The Commission seeks to tackle tax evasion and tax avoidance in the EU with a combination of legislative action as well as competition enforcement of EU state aid rules. Its state aid decisions regarding tax rulings in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands show that national tax authorities cannot give any company, however large or powerful, an unfair competitive advantage compared to others. This is illegal under EU state aid rules. As regards potential further investigations, Commissioner Vestager has said before, more cases may come, if we have indications that EU state aid rules are not being complied with. Specifically concerning Google's tax treatment in the UK, the Commission can confirm it has received a letter from a member of the Scottish National Party on this matter. The Commission will look at it and issues raised, as with all letters received from stakeholders.

Are Scottish workplaces racist?

Wall St opens higher as oil surges

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images

US stocks opened higher on Thursday as oil rebounded sharply.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 102.24 points, or 0.64%, to 16,046.7; the S&P 500 rose 13.84 points, or 0.74%, to 1,896.79; and the Nasdaq Composite index gained 60.35 points, or 1.35%, to 4,528.52.

Brent crude is up 6.5% at $35.26 per barrel, and US crude is 5.9% higher at $34.22.

EU regulators to look into Google UK tax issues

European Union antitrust regulators said on Thursday they would examine a complaint from the Scottish National Party (SNP) about Internet group Google's back tax deal with British tax authorities.

Specifically concerning Google's tax treatment in the UK, the Commission can confirm it has received a letter from a member of the Scottish National Party on this matter. The Commission will look at it and issues raised, as with all letters received from stakeholders."

  The letter calling for a probe was sent by SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie.  

SNP sends letter to the EC requesting 'verification' of Google's UK tax deal

Here's the body of the letter from SNP MP Stewart Hosie to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager asking the European Commission to look into Google's tax deal with the UK.

Letter from Stewart Hosie
BBC

US durable goods orders plunge in December

washing machine factor
Getty Images

New orders for long-lasting US manufactured goods fell in December as lower oil prices and softer global demand put more pressure on factories, data from the US Commerce Department shows.

Durable goods orders declined 5.1% last month, after slipping 0.5% in November. 

Durable goods orders cover goods meant to last three years or more and range from toasters to aircraft. The fall in orders is being seen as the latest sign that US economic growth weakened significantly at the end of 2015.

Public has no right to insight on Google's tax affairs

Lloyds share sale

Ford revenues rise

More on those Ford profit figures: The car giant says revenues last year were $149.6bn, up $5.5bn from 2014. 

As well as a jump in sales in the US, Ford saw improvement in Asia and Europe. 

However, the company's Latin America operations made a $295m quarterly loss, and Ford's chief financial officer Bob Shanks said he expects Brazil's economy to continue to contract.

Ford reports $10.88bn profits

Ford factory
Getty Images

US car manufacturer Ford has reported pre-tax annual profits of $10.88bn - an increase of $3.5bn on a year earlier.

It said it earned most of its money in the fourth quarter in North America, where falling petrol prices have spurred demand for large pickup trucks, including the Ford F-150 and Super Duty models. 

But the carmaker warned that profit margins in its US business in 2016 may not equal the 10.2% achieved in 2015.

Safer South African mines?

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Why it's a good thing Monarch boss was unaware of crisis

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Bank shares hit

Shares in Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland have taken a tumble. Investors clearly feel that news of a delay in the Lloyds share sale does not bode well for banks' outlook. Lloyds is down 2.34%. Royal Bank of Scotland is down 3.4%, probably on worries that it means the government's sale of RBS isn't coming any time soon.

Lloyds sale: 'always going to be tricky'

This will be a big disappointment for the hundreds of thousands of investors who had queued up for a chunk of Lloyds, but taking a big loss on selling shares when markets are low was always going to be a bridge too far for the Chancellor. The fall in the Lloyds share price has left them around 10p below what the government thinks it needs to break even, and together with the planned 5% discount and bonus share scheme would have meant the Chancellor putting his hand in his pocket, so now he looks to be pinning his hopes on a recovery in markets later in the year.

The government are looking to obtain a good price for the remaining 10% of the Lloyds Banking Group they own and timing to get the best value around issues such as the Budget, financial and tax year end and Lloyd’s own financial calendar was always going to be tricky.

Laith KhalafSenior analyst, Hargreaves Landsown

Osborne: 'Make tax records public'

BBC economics editor tweets

This should make Alex Cobham, of the Tax Justice Network, happy given his earlier comments on the Today programme.

View more on twitter

Another City broker cleared of trying to fix lending rate

Darrell Read, the sixth and final broker in the latest Libor-rigging trial, has been cleared of trying to fix the benchmark lending rate. Mr Read, 50, of Wellington, New Zealand, was found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud by a jury at London's Southwark Crown Crown. Yesterday the former ICAP broker's co-defendants were all found not guilty.

Let's make sure the tax [Google] paid is the tax due

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

SNP deputy leader and economy spokesperson in the House of Commons, Stewart Hosie was on the Today programme earlier. He’s the MP who was quick out of the blocks to complain to the European Commission about the lack of transparency over the Google tax deal.

He told the programme he wants to “make sure the tax paid is the tax due”.

I think the public need to have confidence that large multinational corporations are taxed and have their tax calculated in exactly the same way that the average man woman or business on the street does.

Stewart HosieSNP deputy leader and economy spokesperson

HBOS probe real reason for Lloyds share sale delay?

BBC economics correspondent tweets