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  1. Insolvency Service to probe BHS collapse
  2. Manufacturing sector contracts in April
  3. Australia cuts interest rates to a new record low
  4. Lufthansa reports €8m net loss for first quarter

Live Reporting

By Chris Johnston

All times stated are UK

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Good night

That's all we have time for today on Business Live - thanks for reading. We're back at 06:00 tomorrow - do join us then.

US stocks fall as global growth fears weigh on Wall Street

Wall Street traders

Wall Street stocks closed down, joining most European and Asian markets in retreating on fears of weakening global growth. 

Weak Chinese manufacturing data and a downgrade to eurozone growth projections by the European Union weighed on markets, analysts said.

The Dow Jones lost 0.8% to end at 17,750.91 points, while the broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.9% to 2,063.37. The Nasdaq dropped 1.1% to 4,763.22. 

Vice and ESPN in deal to produce sports series

Fast-growing, youth-focused Vice Media, which operates a popular YouTube channel, has reached a deal to produce "short-form" programmes about the world of sport for ESPN.

ESPN, a sports cable channel controlled by Disney's ABC network, said the tie-up would allow collaboration on "brand new short-form series" that "will take audiences around the world to look at dominant athletes, fascinating characters and championship events that reside outside the mainstream".

Vice includes the Murdoch family's 21st Century Fox among its investors.

In the clouds...

Norway's new EU deal

Norwegian flag
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Business correspondent Jonty Bloom writes:

Norway and the EU have signed a new agreement on its contributions to the poorest parts of the EEA - the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Norway's payments will increase from €360m a year to €391m from 2014 to 2021.  The money is paid to various schemes in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

In parallel, Norway has negotiated an agreement on better market access in the EU for Norwegian seafood. The figures are important as Norway is often held up as a possible model for the UK's relationship with the EU after a possible vote to leave. 

WhatsApp back in Brazil

WhatsApp icon
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A Brazilian judge has overturned a temporary ban on WhatsApp in the country - the second such freeze in five months. On Monday, a judge in the northeastern state of Sergipe had ordered Brazil's five main wireless operators to block access to WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, for 72 hours. 

The reason for the order was not made public due to legal secrecy in an ongoing case before the state court. 

The chat app has some 100 million users in Brazil.   

Bowers & Wilkins sold to Silicon Valley start-up

B&W factory

Bowers & Wilkins, the British loudspeaker maker that has some 1,100 employees, is being bought by a tiny Silicon Valley start-up with just 40 workers, Bloomberg reports. Eva Automation was set up two years ago by Gideon Yu, a former Facebook chief financial officer and co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers NFL team. 

Joe Atkins, chief executive officer of B&W who holds a 60% stake, will run the combined company, while Mr Yu will be executive chairman. No financial details have been disclosed.

B&W was founded in Sussex in 1966 and has a factory in Worthing (pictured above).

'Serious questions'

Iain Wright, chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee, says: “The sale and acquisition of BHS raises serious questions about the stewardship of the business both before, during, and after the sale. We welcome this opportunity to question the key players and we will also be keen to quiz advisers on their role in this process”.

More BHS witnesses

BHS store

Frank Field has asked Sir Philip Green if Wednesday 15 June at 9:30am is a "suitable time" to give evidence to the joint hearing of the Work and Pensions and Business select committees. 

The three other groups of witnesses the Work and Pensions Committee intends to call ahead of Sir Philip are the Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund (on 9 May), the BHS pension trustees; and Retail Acquisitions owner Dominic Chappell.

No questions for Lady Tina

Philip and Tina Green
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While Sir Philip Green will give evidence to MPs on the Work and Pensions select committee, his wife Lady Tina will not be asked to do the same.

Committee chairman Frank Field writes that he believes Sir Philip "will be able to answer all of our questions on the operations of BHS’s pension fund”.

That saves the Greens one air fare back from Monaco at least.

Liberty House submits Tata bid

Port Talbot
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Liberty House has formally submitted its bid to buy Tata Steel's UK assets, which include the Port Talbot works employing about 4,000 people (pictured). 

Liberty, headed by Sanjeev Gupta, was first to express an interest in the assets when they were put up for sale earlier this year. 

Class warfare

Reader Jarrod Glover has taken me to task for being - in his words - "classist" about smokers in my earlier post. If I have offended any working class smokers, sincere apologies. Use a vape instead. 

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Ashley sells JD shares

Buzzfeed business editor Simon Neville tweets:

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Bookmakers' pain

Leicester fans
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The betting industry is licking its financial wounds in the wake of Leicester City winning the Premier League.

"In the history of betting, certainly since it was legalised in 1961, a [single event] winner with odds of 5,000-1 has never happened," says Simon Clare from the betting firm Coral. "Every bookmaker is crying out in pain. That's a barometer of what Leicester have done and just how amazing this win is."

Read more from Emily Young here.

BreakingMPs to quiz Sir Philip Green

Ross Hawkins

Political correspondent

MPs will question the former BHS owner Sir Philip Green, it has been confirmed.

He has accepted an invitation to appear before a joint session of the Work and Pensions select committee and the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee.

The invitation was reported at the weekend but no date for his appearance has yet been released.

Oil falls again

Oil pump
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Oil prices have fallen as much as 3% for a second consecutive day on Tuesday on renewed oversupply fears, a rebounding dollar and weaker stock markets. "There are enough supply stories out there to slow or temper any gains," said Energy Aspects analyst Richard Mallinson.

Brent crude was down $1.10, or 2.4%, at $44.73 a barrel, while US oil shed $1.40, or 3.1%, to $43.38. 

FTSE takes a tumble

The FTSE 100 has ended the day down 0.9% at 6,185 points, while in Paris the CAC 40 retreated 1.6% and in Frankfurt the DAX tumbled 1.9% to fall below the 10,000 points level.

Anglo-American fell 12.8%, while RSA Insurance was the biggest riser, up 2.8%.

Misconduct 'will be taken very seriously'

BHS store
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Back to BHS and business secretary Sajid Javid says he had asked the Insolvency Service not to wait the usual three months for the administrators to report before opening their inquiry into the retailer's collapse. 

"This investigation will look at the conduct of the directors at the time of insolvency and any individuals who were previously directors. Any issues of misconduct will be taken very seriously.

"Should the investigation conclude that one or more present or former directors have been involved in any misconduct, an application may be made to a court to ask that they be disqualified from acting as a director for a period between two and 15 years depending on the nature of their misconduct.  

Where conduct for which a person was disqualified took place subsequent to 1 October 2015 and caused a loss to creditors, an application could also be made to a court for an order that compensation be made for losses incurred." 

Another bid for Tata Steel UK

Port Talbot
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Earlier today Liberty House confirmed it was making a formal bid to Tata Steel's loss-making UK assets that include Port Talbot. 

Now Excalibur Steel UK - the vehicle founded to mount a management buy-out, said it has also registered its formal interest with Tata.

Stuart Wilkie, chief executive of Excalibur and previously the hub director of Tata Steel’s UK Strip Products business, said: 

We believe we have a large number of the pieces in place required to make this a success, including a management team with vast experience of steel making and processing. We are confident we can turn the business around and sustain profitable steel-making in the United Kingdom.”

Savills to advise

Meanwhile, the administrators of BHS have appointed Savills to advise on the failed retailer’s property portfolio, reports Property Week.

'Unusual' decision

BHS store
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The decision by the business secretary to order an Insolvency Service investigation is unusual, as the Telegraph reports: "It is usually for individual administrators to report on the conduct of directors in their final report on a collapsed company, and suggest to the government body whether or not to proceed with a probe." 

The move "reflected the level of concern about this case", according to an insider.

Third BHS probe

The Insolvency Service is able to strike off directors and mount criminal prosecutions. Its investigation into BHS, under the Companies Disqualification of Directors Act 1986, will be the third official probe into the failed retailer - and may not be the last. 

BreakingJavid orders BHS inquiry

BHS store
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Business Secretary Sajid Javid has ordered the Insolvency Service to conduct an inquiry into the collapse of retailer BHS. 

VW scandal claims Porsche scalp

Porsche logo
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Volkswagen's Porsche division has parted company with Wolfgang Hatz, who has been suspended since the start of the VW emissions scandal. He has been both VW's head of engine development as well as at head of development at Porsche

Mr Hatz ended his employment contract "on his own initiative'' due to the ongoing investigation, despite the company saying it had found "no indications he shared responsibility" for the rigging.  

Australia hikes cigarette taxes

Aussie cigarette packets
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Bad news for smokers in Australia's Budget today - a packet of fags will cost A$45 (a whopping £23) by 2020 following a 12.5% annual increase in duty, the Guardian reports.  

The move, which the government is calling a health measure, will raise close to A$5bn (£2.6bn) over the next four years. 

Poor old Aussie smokers - they've already got to contend with nasty pictures on cigarette packages like the ones above. Time to give up, perhaps?

More on Scott Morrison's budget here.

Wall Street woe

NYSE trader

London is in the red and it's not a great start to the trading day on Wall Street either. Both the Dow and the S&P are off almost 1%, with just one riser on the Dow: Pfizer.  

BreakingGM sales skid in April

GM Camaro
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General Motors says total US vehicle sales fell 3.5% to 259,557 in April - much worse than the 2.6% decline that had been expected.

Up, and down...

Leicester City fans
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Given the battering the bookies will take on Leicester City winning the Premier League, you might think that shares in the listed bet-takers might be down a tad today. You'd be right - and wrong: Ladbrokes is down 1.2% at 115.8p, although William Hill is almost 1% higher at 315.5p.   

Sorry, wrong number...

O2 logo
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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the European Commission will block the merger of mobile networks O2 and Three, according to EU insiders.

That would not come as a huge surprise given that competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has opposed similar mergers in other countries that would reduce the number of networks from four to three.  

The deal would have created the UK's biggest mobile network with a combined market share of more than 40%.

Good afternoon

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Thanks to Katie and Tom for this morning's coverage. Chris Johnston here with you for the rest of the day - do stay with us. I'm also on Twitter at @cajuk if you want to follow me. 

Gold continues to shine

Gold bars
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The price of gold has continued to climb and earlier touched its highest level in almost 18 months, hitting $1,302 an ounce before falling back.

The gold metal has risen more than 20% since the start of the year, boosted by a weaker US dollar, which makes gold cheaper for non-US buyers. 

 "The recent weakness in the dollar triggered a lot of bullishness in the gold futures market ... which can easily reverse if the Fed turns more hawkish about hiking interest rates," said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke. 

Estee Lauder reports profit fall but sales tick up

Estee Lauder poster
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US cosmetics giant Estee Lauder has reported better-than-expected third quarter sales boosted by demand for  its M.A.C .brands. However, profit fell.

Sales rose 3% to $2.66bn in the three months to the end of March, with net income down to $264.6m compared to $272.1m a year ago.

Restructuring costs of $15.2m related to improving its technology weighed on the results as did negative currency effects. 

President Fabrizio Freda said the firm still expected sales growth of 7% to 8% for the full year. 

ECB warns on US economic data leaks

Mums returning to part-time work will be worse off under universal credit:

BBC business correspondent tweets...

Pfizer's shares boosted by better-than-expected results

Pfizer logo
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Pfizer shares have jumped around 3% in out-of-hours trading after the US drugs giant reported a better-than-expected first quarter. Net income rose 27% to $3.02bn (£2bn) from $2.4bn a year ago, while revenues surged 19.7% to $13.01bn.

It also upped its forecast for both profit and revenues for the full year.

The results come just a month after Pfizer scrapped a planned merger with Ireland's Allergan amid plans to change US tax laws, which were expected to block the deal's tax benefits.

Halliburton net loss widens

A Halliburton facility in Port Fourchon, Louisiana
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Oil services firm Halliburton has reported a net loss of $2.4bn - a year earlier the firm's net loss was $643m.

Excluding these charges,even with the prolonged slump in oil prices, Halliburton earned seven cents per share.

Australia unveils ambitious budget

Business reporter Leisha Chi writes...

Sydney skyline
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Australia is still trying to shore up its economy following the end of the mining boom.

The government's annual budget comes two months ahead of an expected election.

It plans to reduce income taxes, increase defence spending and release more funds for infrastructure projects such as roads and railways.

This means the deficit is expected to widen to A$37.1bn (£19.1bn;$28.1bn) in the 12 months to June 2017.

Sell in May and go away?

FTSE 100

The FTSE 100 has extended its losses and is now down more than 1%. CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler says the old adage "sell in May and go away" appears to be true. 

He blames weak manufacturing data from China and the UK as well as the Reserve Bank of Australia cutting interest rates to ward off deflation for investors' gloomy mood.

Stock markets have recovered all of their losses from the start of the year but sentiment is still damaged from the sell-off. While markets can still push higher, the beginning of May is a seasonal weak point that already appears to be triggering some profit-taking."

Jasper LawlerCMC Markets analyst

Bank of Mum and Dad: what to watch out for

BBC Breakfast

'Bank of Mum and Dad' worth £5 billion a year to the property market

While having a generous mum and dad willing to hand over a hefty deposit to help their kids buy a home sounds great, it's important the financial help is a gift not a loan. 

Independent property expert Louisa Fletcher tells BBC Breakfast's Steph McGovern why.

The so-called Bank of Mum and Dad will help to finance 25% of all UK mortgage transactions this year - at an average amount of £17,500, according to Legal and General's research.  

Wall Street expected to open lower

US index futures currently suggesting Wall Street will open lower, with the Dow Jones forecast to open 100 points lower. The S&P and Nasdaq are also expected to slip at the open. 

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