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Summary

  1. Low oil prices hit profits at ExxonMobil
  2. Construction firms agree blacklisting settlement
  3. Eurozone economic recovery gathers pace
  4. Government dividend payment keeps RBS in the red
  5. Brussels terror attacks dampen IAG quarterly profits

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

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Ready for take-off: part plane, part helicopter

BBC correspondent Theo Leggett tweets:

Puerto Rico on the brink

Alejandro Garcia Padilla
Getty Images

Puerto Rico's governor says that the US territory is bracing itself for multiple lawsuits as a major default looms over a $470m (£322m) bond payment. The money is due on Sunday, but Puerto Rico is running out of cash.

Alejandro Garcia Padilla says he would like judges to take Puerto Rico's economic and humanitarian crisis into account when ruling on the anticipated lawsuits. "I hope the judges use their conscience," he told reporters. 

The self-governing territory has been in a recession since 2006, and has been dubbed the Greece of the Caribbean.

Wall Street ends the week on a low note

US stocks posted their largest weekly drop in nearly three months as weak corporate earnings announcements continued to weigh on markets. On Friday the Dow Jones fell 56.98 points, or 0.32%, to 17,773.78, the S&P 500 lost 10.5 points, or 0.51%, to 2,065.31 and the Nasdaq dropped 29.93 points, or 0.62%, to 4,775.36. 

For the week, the Dow fell 1.3%, the S&P 500 also lost 1.3%, and the Nasdaq declined 2.7%.

Italy to speed up 'bad bank recovery'

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government has passed a decree to speed up the recovery of unpaid credit for a banking system saddled with billions of euros in bad loans. 

Italy's lenders have some €360bn in bad loans on their books that can take years to recoup, and the decree aims to accelerate the process, Reuters reports.

"This will reduce the time it takes to recoup credit from six to eight years to six to eight months," Mr Renzi told reporters after the decree was passed. "This decree aims to resolve... definitively the problems of our country's banking system," he said. 

Renault faces shareholder backlash

carlos ghosn
BBC

It's not just in the UK where shareholders are revolting over executive pay. In France, 54% of shareholders have voted against Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn's €7.3m (£5.7m) package. It matters little, however. The vote was non-binding.   

Oil rig helicopter crash

BBC Scotland business editor tweets:

Wall Street on course to finish down

US stocks are slipping as technology companies suffer from falls for the second day in a row. Healthcare firms are also falling after weak first-quarter profit numbers from drug and health insurance companies.

The Dow Jones was down 148 points, or 0.8%, to 17,682 in mid-afternoon trading. The S&P 500 fell 22 points, or 1%, to 2,053. The Nasdaq lost 52 points, or 1.1%, to 4,753.

Losses over the last two days have wiped out the Dow and S&P 500's gains from earlier this month. And the Nasdaq is set to fall for the seventh day in a row. 

Chinese consortium 'offers €700m for AC Milan'

AC Milan players
AFP

Reuters is reporting that a group of Chinese investors has offered to buy AC Milan football club, owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The offer values the club at around €700m (£500m), sources have told the news agency.

The identities of the Chinese investors, who first expressed interest in buying the club last year, were not immediately clear. The offer is said to be for the whole club, not a minority stake.

Oil prices hit 2016 high

Nodding donkey
Getty Images

Oil prices have hit their highest levels of the year today, driven up by lower US production and a weak dollar.

Both US and Brent crude prices hit 2016 peaks, trading as high as $46.27 and $48.30 a barrel respectively.

US domestic crude production has continued to fall in recent months, easing concerns about oversupply.

Meantime the dollar has lost almost 2% of its value against other global currencies over the past week.

A weaker US dollar typically contributes to a rise in oil prices, because oil is priced in dollars. When the dollar weakens against other currencies, oil becomes cheaper to buy, pushing up demand.

Why high pay is bad for the health

Lettering
Thinkstock

The roar of shareholder disapproval became deafening yesterday as Weir Group became only the second company in UK history to lose a binding vote on executive pay.

We have seen other insurrections - most notably at BP - but these have been non binding. What's the difference?

Shareholders get to vote on pay every year but only once every three years does their vote have any teeth.

This is the moment when the company presents the pay policy. In other words when it lays out the method by which pay will be calculated for the next three years. If shareholders reject this - as Weir's did yesterday - its back to the drawing board 

Read more from Simon here.

S&P says it expects UK to reject Brexit

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's says it expects that "by a small majority, the referendum will deliver a vote to remain in the EU", when Britons vote on 23 June.

However it says the possibility of leaving the EU is a negative for the country's creditworthiness. 

S&P is the only major ratings agency to maintain a triple-A rating for the UK, but it has a negative outlook.

"The United Kingdom ratings affirmed at 'AAA/A-1+" said S&P.

Why being second best could be good for Leicester

Leicester City's finances could be even stronger if they don't win the Premier League, according to Kieran Maguire, a specialist in sports finance at Liverpool University.

Finishing second would mean they wouldn't pay out as much in bonuses to the manager and players, but they would still cash in on being in the Champions League next season. Listen to the interview below.

The Foxes' finances could be improved by not winning the title, says Kieran Maguire.

FTSE 100 records second straight week of losses

FTSE 100 graph
BBC

The FTSE 100 closed down, hit by a fall in the shares of Royal Bank of Scotland and airline group IAG. The index ended 1.3% lower at 6,241.89 points, recording its second straight week of losses.

RBS fell 6.05% and IAG was down 4.72%, dragged lower by disappointing trading figures. Glencore, up 4.12%, was the main gainer, with other commodities stocks also rising on the back of gains in the price of oil and metals.

Outside the top flight, Restaurant Group sank 26.5% after the owner of the Chiquito and Frankie & Benny's chains warned of "a further deterioration in trading conditions".

Tycoon Mallya breaks his silence over 'exile'

Vijay Mallya
get

Embattled Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines collapsed, has broken his silence in an interview with the Financial Times.  

Creditors are trying to recover about $1.4bn, and a warrant is out for the arrest of Mr Mallya, who is now in London.

He tells the paper: "We have always been in dialogue with banks saying: 'We wish to settle'. But we wish to settle at a reasonable number that we can afford and banks can justify on the basis of settlements done before.

"By taking my passport or arresting me, they are not getting any money." Mr Mallya, who built a drinks empire and owns a Formula One team, says he was in "forced exile" and has no plans to leave Britain.

He denies wrongdoing. "I am absolutely not guilty of any of these preposterous charges of diverting funds from Kingfisher, buying properties or stuff like that," he tells the FT.

Quick trade deal is 'for the birds' - Lord Hill

Lord Hill
BBC

European Union Commissioner Lord Hill has told the BBC’s Tony Bonsignore that the idea of a swift trade deal with the EU post-Brexit is “for the birds".

Lord Hill - who looks after financial services and capital markets for the EU, and plays a key role in negotiating trade deals with non-EU countries – said that after all the concessions made to the UK, “it's a very optimistic person who would think that after all that we would kiss and make up very quickly”.

Lord Hill has been in Manchester, talking to local businesses and taking part in a roundtable on financial services and the EU.

You can listen to the full interview on BBC Radio 5 live at 4.45pm (so hurry).

Blacklist deal: firms say they want to 'draw a line' under matter

Blacklist protesters
BBC

More on the settlement involving construction companies accused of blacklisting workers. 

The eight firms - Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI - say they now want to draw a line under the controversy.

A statement says: "The construction companies have offered financial settlements which all claimants represented by Ucatt, GMB and GCR [a legal firm] have now accepted as fair and reasonable. The parties have also agreed a joint statement to be read in court as part of this settlement.

"These construction companies now wish to draw a line under this matter and continue to work together with the trade unions at national, regional and site level to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice for its workforce."

Blacklisted construction workers settle four-year dispute

construction workers
BBC

Construction firms have offered financial settlements for workers who said they were blacklisted, ending a four year campaign for compensation. The GMB and Ucatt unions announced they have settled outstanding claims.

The action began against eight construction firms following the discovery in 2009 of a blacklist of building workers held by the Consulting Association. The unions, and law firm Guney, Clark and Ryan, acting for the Blacklist Support Group, announced they have also accepted an apology. 

A statement said: "The construction companies have offered financial settlements which all claimants represented by Ucatt, GMB and GCR have now accepted as fair and reasonable. The parties have also agreed a joint statement to be read in court as part of this settlement. The construction companies have also agreed to pay the claimants' legal costs." 

US share markets start the day in the red

Wall Street opened lower as investors assessed earnings announcements, and data showed that US inflation barely rose in March as consumer spending remains weak. Meanwhile, the oil price hit new recent highs earlier in the day and was poised for its biggest monthly gain in seven years as a weak dollar and falling US production eased worries about over-supply.

The Dow Jones was down 52.53 points, or 0.29%, at 17,778.23, the S&P 500 was down 3.91 points, or 0.19%, at 2,071.9, and the Nasdaq was down 0.50 points, or 0.01%, at 4,804.79. 

Exxon was the Dow's biggest riser, up 1.3%. Amazon jumped 10% following well-received profit figures announced late on Thursday.

More than 100 City figures sign EU exit letter

UK and EU flags hanging outside builiding
Reuters

More than one hundred City figures and leading business people have thrown their weight behind leaving the European Union, arguing that the euro and red tape threatens to hold back UK firms.

Signatories to the letter in today's Evening Standard newspaper include Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management, Peter Hargreaves at investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, Paul Marshall, chairman of Marshall Wace, Michael Geoghegan, a former chief executive of HSBC, Pizza Express entrepreneur Luke Johnson, and the founder of buyout firm Better Capital Jon Moulton.

The letter says: "The EU is now shackled to the euro, a project doing damage to the social and economic fabric of member countries, including high youth unemployment. Many of us worry that the eurozone's problems may prove insurmountable.

"Meanwhile there is scant evidence that the EU will foster or support the kind of innovation which is essential if Europeans are to compete with the rest of the world."

The move follows a letter sent by business leaders to the Times in February who want the UK to remain inside the EU. That letter - backed by bosses at BT, Marks & Spencer and Vodafone - said leaving the EU would threaten jobs and put the UK's economy at risk. 

FTSE 100 remains in negative territory

There are still couple of big fallers in top flight this afternoon. RBS and airline group IAG are down close to 5%, both due to investors' concerns about trading. Commodities groups are among the top gainers, with Anglo American and Glencore up about 1.5%. The FTSE 100 is down 47.52 points at 6274.88.

Statoil helicopter crashes

A helicopter carrying around 13 people from an offshore oil field crashed on Friday near the western Norwegian city of Bergen, police said. No survivors had yet been found, Reuters and other agencies reported. Police said the helicopter "has crashed, it is totally smashed".

Chevron reports $725m loss

US oil major Chevron has reported a first-quarter loss as a result of continuing low crude oil prices and weak refining margins.

It says it made a net loss of $725m, compared with a net profit of $2.57bn a year earlier.

Production fell slightly to 2.68 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, it adds.

Nigeria Corruption Plus Illegal Ivory

BBC World Service

Government defeated over docked unemployment benefits

The government has lost the latest round of an extended legal battle involving the docking of benefits for jobseekers who refused to participate in unpaid back-to-work schemes.

However, only a fraction of those affected may receive compensation.

Legal filings indicated that 250,000 people had lost some £130m in benefits.

The Court of Appeal suggested the Department for Work and Pensions would owe a mere 1% of that amount, £1.3m, to just 2,500 people.

The complex judgment on Friday was originally prompted by a challenge from Cait Reilly, a geology graduate from Birmingham.

Exxon Mobil quarterly earnings plunge 63%

Exxon Mobil
Getty Images

Exxon Mobil has reported a 63% plunge in earnings in the three months to the end of march to $1.8bn from $4.9bn on sharply lower oil prices prices and weaker refining margins. It said these were only partly offset by strong  results from its petrol chemicals division.

Russia's central bank holds rates

Russia's central bank has left its main policy rate unchanged, citing inflation concerns, but has hinted it may cut it in the months ahead should inflation fall.

The bank has left the rate on hold at 11% since July, a sign of its determination to bear down on inflation to meet its target of 4% by the end of 2017.

It said:

Should inflation risks fall as much as to ensure with greater certainty that the Bank of Russia achieves its inflation target, the Bank of Russia will resume a gradual lowering of its key rate at one of its forthcoming board meetings."

Energy customers 'could save £325 by switching' says Ofgem

Energy bills
BBC

Energy customers could save up to £325 per year by switching from a standard tariff to a fixed deal, energy regulator Ofgem has said.

Switching is getting popular, with 8% more customers switching in the first three months of the year compared to last year.   

Rachel Fletcher of Ofgem said:

“It’s encouraging to see a continued rise in the number of people switching, and an increasing number of suppliers entering the market. There has never been a better time to switch suppliers and you could save up to £325 according to our latest figures."

Facebook 'has spent $16m on Zuckerberg security since 2011'

Mark Zuckerberg
Getty Images

Facebook has spent more than $16m (£11m) on Mark Zuckerberg's security programme since 2011, business publication Quartz reports.

This includes the cost of private flights and security personnel.  

The article quotes an SEC filing, which says:

"Because of the high visibility of our company, our compensation and governance committee has authorised an overall security programme for Mr Zuckerberg to address safety concerns due to specific threats to his safety arising directly as a result of his position as our founder... We require these security measures for the company's benefit because of the importance of Mr Zuckerberg to Facebook, and we believe that the costs of this overall security programme are appropriate and necessary."  

Credit Suisse asks shareholders for patience

Logo of the Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse
Getty Images

Credit Suisse's chief executive and chairman have asked disgruntled investors for patience following a share slide amid a major restructuring.

Chief executive Tidjane Thiam's blueprint for Credit Suisse has received a mixed response from the market, with shares down more than 40% since he took charge at the bank in July. 

On the back of its first full-year loss since 2008 last year, the bank has warned 2016 will probably be another tough year, but Mr Thiam said the strategy would eventually bear fruit. "We are building our platform for the future," he told shareholders at its annual general meeting in Zurich.

Eurozone economy finally back above pre-crisis level

Bloomberg euro-area economist tweets

Former CITIC Securities general manager arrested in China

China's police have arrested the former general manager of CITIC Securities and several other executives from the brokerage, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.

Cheng Boming, who used to head China's largest securities firm, was suspected of being involved in criminal activity, Xinhua says, without elaborating.

The company had previously said Cheng and other executives were being investigated for possible insider trading and information leakage in September 2015.

Qingdao police also detained Xu Xiang, general manger of Shanghai based Zexi Investment for suspected insider trading, said Xinhua.    

BHS buyers 'aware of pensions deficit'

BBC business reporter James Graham writes...

BBC Radio 5 Live

The trustees of the BHS pension fund met with the team behind Retail Acquisitions before the £1 deal for the chain was agreed a year ago.

Chairman of the trustees Chris Martin told 5 Live Breakfast that they had "brief discussions" and drove home the scale of the deficit, which at that point was £350m-£400m. Since the group went into administration this week it's been estimated at £571m.

Mr Martin said: "They were made aware of the size and the level of annual contributions that would need to be paid, and the period of time they would need to be paid for and they recognised that would be challenging for the business but agreed to carry on discussing it with the trustees post-acquisition."

He added: "We had a limited role in that sales process, we were made aware the sale was likely to happen, we were given the opportunity to meet the Retail Acquisitions team. (We) had some brief discussions with them, asked them some relevant questions around their funding plans and most importantly made them aware of the size of the pension scheme and the size of the pension fund deficit. Making the buyer aware is the most important element in that process."    

No RBS dividend 'until at least 2018'

One piece of potentially big news from RBS was that the bank thinks it might miss the 2017 deadline to spin off Williams & Glyn. And until this happens the bank is unlikely to return to private ownership, or start paying dividends.

The last dividend paid by RBS was in 2008, and it now looks like investors may have to wait until 2018 for the next one, "enduring a decade without dividends from the bank," according to Laith Khalaf, senior analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.

BreakingEurozone economy grew by 0.6% in first quarter

The eurozone economy expanded by 0.6% in the first three months of the year, official figures show. But inflation was minus 0.2% in April and unemployment in March stood at 11.2%. 

Bank of Mum and Dad

BBC personal finance reporter tweets

Sanofi reports 3.5% rise in quarterly profits

Sanofi
Getty Images

Pharmaceutical company Sanofi has reported a first-quarter net profit grew 3.5% on a constant currency basis to €1.72bn (£1.17bn). Sales rose 0.7% at constant exchange rates to €8.54bn.

The  firm says it is confident of winning the support of Medivation shareholders for a possible takeover of the US cancer drug company.

The French drug manufacturer announced a $9.3bn offer to buy Medivation on Thursday, setting up what could be a lengthy takeover battle after the target rebuffed its approaches. 

AstraZeneca earnings hit by patent expiries

Drugs firm AstraZeneca is to increase its focus on cancer treatments in a drive to streamline operations after underlying earnings, hit by drug patent expiries, fell 8% to $1.6bn in the first quarter, broadly in line with analyst expectations.

However, reported operating profit rose 11% to $1bn after lower amortisation charges compared to last year.

Growth figures 'reflect market turmoil'

BBC Business Live

Kamal Ahmed
Getty Images

Market turmoil in the first three months of the year after investor concerns about a slowdown in China and low commodity prices is now being reflected in growth figures, BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed says.

We're looking at now a picture, slightly in the rearview mirror, of January to March. In America overnight they've announced growth figures which are the slowest for two years... and also of course in UK, we announced here that our growth is slowing as well..."

Investor rebellions over executive pay grow

BBC Business Live

Aneel Keswani
Getty Images

A shareholder rebellion over excessive executive pay has gathered pace with Weir Group, Shire, Standard Chartered and Reckitt Benckiser all targeted by investors.

Today the chief executive of AstraZeneca Pascal Soriot faces shareholders, who are expected to cry foul over his $12m pay packout this year.

Aneel Keswani from the Cass Business School says:

Given the fact that companies have been doing less well on the financial markets, shareholders are now up in arms about shareholder compensation."

He adds that shareholder voting rights on UK executive pay coming into force "has focussed the spotlight on executive compensation."

Brexiteers should 'go to North Korea'

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4