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  1. Ex-BHS boss hits back at regulator
  2. EU blocks O2/Three merger plan
  3. UK industry returns to recession
  4. Women lose state pension delay fight
  5. Heathrow offers concessions over new runway
  6. Toyota forecasts sharp fall in annual profits

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

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That's your lot for another day. Don't despair, though. The livepage will be back from 6am tomorrow.

Retail stocks weigh on US share markets

Wall Street closed solidly lower as Macy's led falls in retail stocks. The department store cut its profit forecast on Wednesday after reporting a steep drop in earnings. Macy's dropped 15% and other retailers also lost ground.

The Dow Jones index fell 1.2% to 17,711 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gave up 1% to 2,064. And the Nasdaq slipped 1% to 4,760.

Are regulators looking again at Google's dominance?

The US Federal Trade Commission is again asking questions about whether Google has abused its dominance in the Internet search market, according to a report on the respected Politico website.

The FTC's senior antitrust officials have discussed the matter in recent months with representatives of a major US company, which objects to Google's practices, Politico says, without naming sources.

The inquiry appears to be in the early, information-gathering stage, the news website says.

Regulators ended their earlier investigation in January 2013, saying that the company had not manipulated its web search results to hurt rivals.

Oil prices rally as US stocks drop

oil drums

Oil prices rallied on Wednesday, with US crude finishing at a new 2016 high after official data showed a surprise drop in the country's commercial crude inventories. The US Department of Energy said that crude stocks fell by 3.4 million barrels last week. Analysts' consensus had been for a rise of 750,000 barrels.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in June jumped more than 3% to $46.23 a barrel, its highest settlement since last November. In London, Brent North Sea crude for July closed at $47.6 a barrel, a 4.3% jump.

Payday lenders hit back at Google

World Acceptance advert
World Acceptance

Payday lending firms certainly don't like Google's decision to ban their ads - and neither do investors in them. In the US shares in online lender Enova International fell 6.2%, while World Acceptance was down 3%.

"It's disappointing that a site created to help give users full access to information is making arbitrary choices on the advertisements users are allowed to see from legal businesses," Kirk Chartier, Enova's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

And Lisa McGreevy, head of the Online Lenders Alliance, told Reuters: "To make an advertising rule that contravenes state and federal law is not only disturbing, but it's discriminatory.

"A certain class of people who wouldn't otherwise qualify for regular credit now can't get credit ... It's them (Google) deciding who can and cannot have information about credit," she said. 

BHS: 'The fireworks have gone off'

This case always had the potential to pose some far-reaching questions about the structure and regulation of the UK’s pension system but we didn’t expect the fireworks to go off quite this soon or quite so dramatically. The statements from the Regulator and from Sir Philip Green appear to fundamentally contradict each other, so no doubt the Select Committee will be seeking clarification as a matter of priority now.

As this case progresses, it looks increasingly likely that it will lead to significant changes in how pension scheme members’ interests are safeguarded. It could also lead to a period of consolidation, with fewer larger schemes emerging at the end. In the meantime, whilst the members of the BHS pension scheme shouldn’t expect an early resolution to the future of their pension rights, there is no question of the Pension Protection Fund not standing ready to bail them out.”

Tom McPhailHead of retirement policy, Hargreaves Lansdown

Heathrow to tackle Uber 'distress'

Uber app on smartphone
Getty Images

Heathrow is opening a car park for Uber drivers after they caused "a huge amount of local distress" by waiting in nearby villages, the airport's boss has said. The Press Association reports that chief executive John Holland-Kaye claimed that the private hire vehicles had been "a real issue" for local communities.

The new car park is set to open next month. A similar facility is already in place for black cabs. Mr Holland-Kaye said: "Over the last couple of years private hire vehicles, Uber and their like, have just expanded phenomenally and they started to cause a real issue to our local communities.

"We had Uber drivers parking in people's driveways, leaving their rubbish in their gardens, causing a huge amount of local distress because they were trying to get as close as possible to the airport to pick up a ride," he said. 

Is Google too powerful?

Listen to the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones

Wall Street continues to sink in afternoon trading

US share markets remained in negative territory in early afternoon trading, with Walt Disney, Macy's and Fossil weighing heavily on stocks.

Disney shares were down 4.3% after the company posted a rare earnings miss. The stock was the biggest drag on the Dow.

Department store chain Macy's tumbled 13.1% after a profits warning, while watch maker Fossil sank as much as 28% to a six-and-a-half year low after it slashed trading forecasts.

The Dow Jones was down 172.79 points, or 0.96%, at 17,755.56, while the S&P 500 was down 14.09 points, or 0.68%, at 2,070.30. The Nasdaq fell 25.78 points, or 0.54%, to 4,784.10. 

Standard Life logo

The chief executive of Standard Life voluntarily gives up nearly £600,000 of his bonus for next year.

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Google tries to 'do the right thing' with payday ban

Google is banning adverts from payday lenders, calling the industry "deceptive" and "harmful". Effective from 13 July, Google will no longer allow ads for loans due within 60 days and will also ban ads for loans where the interest rate is 36% or higher.

"Our hope is that fewer people will be exposed to misleading or harmful products,'' said David Graff, Google's director of global product policy, in a blog post.

Google controls the internet's largest advertising platforms, so supporters say the ban could be a major step in reining in the payday loan industry. Under the ban, users searching for words such as "loans" or "places to get money" will no longer pull up ads from payday lenders.

Google started life with a motto "don't be evil" but last year the company, and parent Alphabet, replaced it with "do the right thing".

Wood Group facing 'challenging' times

Adidas ends Chelsea deal

eden hazard
Getty Images

German sportswear firm Adidas has announced that it's kit sponsorship deal with Chelsea football club is ending six years early. Chelsea is thought to have lined up another kit sponsor, although no details have been disclosed yet.

The deal, reported to have been worth £300m over 10 years, had been due to end on 30 June 2023, but will now conclude on the same date next year.

Adidas has been making Chelsea's kits since 2006. Chelsea have agreed to pay Adidas compensation.

"Chelsea Football Club and Adidas AG announced today that they have mutually agreed to terminate their existing partnership agreement prematurely," Adidas said in a statement. "This mutual agreement on early termination of the agreement will allow Chelsea Football Club to enter a new equipment agreement with a competitor of Adidas AG. 

FTSE 100 edges higher after oil price rally

A late rally in oil prices boosted commodities stocks and helped the FTSE 100 edge 0.09% higher to 6,162.4 points. Anglo American, up 5.38%, was the biggest gainer, with BHP Billiton up 2.66% and Glencore up 2.2%.

In Frankfurt, the Dax finished the day 0.7% down at 9,975 points, and in Paris the Cac-40 was 0.5% lower at 4,316.6.

The price of Brent crude oil jumped 3.3% to $47 a barrel. US oil was trading up 2.8% at $45.9 a barrel.

FTSE 100 winners/loser

US department store Macy's sees income fall 40% and it slashes forecasts for the year amidst a shopping slump

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Pensions Regulator responds to BHS letter

Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group queries evidence given to MPs on Monday

Lesley Titcomb

As we have launched an anti-avoidance investigation we need to take care not to prejudice our case. We did discuss the proposed terms of a potential deal with trustees and the employer, however, we were not given sufficient information at that time to assess the potential impact on the BHS pension scheme. When addressing the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Lesley Titcomb [above] said that we were not informed of the confirmation of the actual sale of BHS to Retail Acquisitions Ltd until March 11. She explained that we were engaged with the trustees and the employer in the weeks leading up to the sale, and that we were aware a sale was a possibility.

Employers can apply to TPR for a clearance statement if they are considering actions which could be materially detrimental to a defined benefit scheme and its members. Clearance is not approval or authorisation for a transaction to proceed. The employer or the purchaser did not approach us for clearance in this case. Given our concerns regarding the BHS Pension Scheme and the circumstance relating to the sale, and in the absence of clearance, we opened an anti-avoidance investigation which superseded our earlier valuation investigation. We are sending a clarification to the Work & Pensions Select Committee.”

StatementThe Pensions Regulator

Osborne at Treasury Committee

BBC economics editor tweets:

Getting his priorities right

George Osborne is running late

24 hours is a long time in politics

George Osborne appears before Treasury Committee

George Osborn

The Treasury is doing "quite a serious amount of contingency planning" into how Britain would deal with leaving the EU, George Osborne told MPs. 

David Cameron has been criticised for insisting that civil servants were not planning for the eventuality, despite his warnings that a 'Yes' vote would be catastrophic for the country.

The Press Association's political staff point out that as recently as yesterday, Mr Cameron's spokesman was telling reporters: "We are not doing any contingency planning for the referendum being a vote to leave." 

Women lose fight against delay to state pension

Hundreds of thousands of women who are fighting delays to their state pension have had their hopes dashed.

Many women born between April 1951 and 1960 have claimed they were not aware that their pension age was being raised by up to six years.

Although there had been talk of a compromise solution, the new Work and Pensions Secretary has told MPs that will not be possible.

"I don't see there is a do-able policy solution," said Stephen Crabb MP.

Members of the campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) said they were disappointed, but were still hopeful that a solution could be found.

Disney and Macy's weigh on Wall Street

US stocks are falling as oil prices gave up early gains and weak results from Walt Disney and Macy's weighed on the markets.

Disney shares were down 5.5% after the company's results missed expectations as advertising and subscriptions declined at sports channel ESPN. 

Macy's dived 11.4% after the retailer posted weak earnings, dragging down shares in other department store chains. JC Penney, Kohl's, Nordstrom and Dillard's fell between 2% and 6%.

The Dow Jones was down 86.05 points, or 0.48%, at 17,842.3 points, while the S&P 500 fell 7.25 points, or 0.35%, to 2,077.14. The Nasdaq fell 14.98 points, or 0.31%, to 4,794.90. 

Osborne warns of 'difficult trade-off' for Bank

George Osborne

George Osborne says the Bank of England would probably face a "difficult trade-off" between tackling rising inflation and slowing growth if the country votes to leave the EU.

The chancellor told the Treasury Committee: "I just think it would be a very challenging time for monetary policy because you would have two things pulling in opposite directions."

He was responding to a question about the likelihood of an interest rate cut by the BoE in the event of an "Out" vote dealing a shock to Britain's economy. "They (the BoE) would face, this is generally accepted, a quite difficult trade-off between tackling rising inflation and weaker output. What their decision would be, would be for them," Mr Osborne says.    

BHS: Arcadia writes to MPs to 'correct' and 'clarify some facts'

More on that letter from Arcadia, former owner of BHS, to MPs taking evidence into the collapse of the retailer. 

Some committee members, the letter says, "raised questions about dividend policy and the removal of cash from an unspecified company".

Arcadia's company secretary Adam Goldman writes: "There was a suggestion that BHS had been paying dividends up until around 2012. This is wholly inaccurate." No dividends were declared for the past 12 years, he says.

Sir Philip Green, boss of Arcadia, is due to appear before MPs, although no date has yet been fixed.

Osborne gives evidence to Treasury Committee

BBC economics producer Mark Broad tweets:

Osborne gives evidence to Treasury Committee

BBC economic editor tweets:

BHS: Arcadia questions evidence given to MPs

BHS store
Andy Rain

Lawyers for Arcadia Group, former owner of BHS, have written to MPs "to correct evidence" given to a select committee hearing on Monday.

Pensions regulators appeared before the MPs on the first day of a hearing into the collapse of BHS and the impact on the pension fund.

Arcadia's letter takes issue with a claim by Lesley Titcomb, the Pensions Regulator, that she only heard of the BHS sale last year from newspaper reports.

Adam Goldman, Arcadia's company secretary, writes that Arcadia's boss, Sir Philip Green, told the regulator at a meeting on 4 March last year of the "key terms of the proposed sale of BHS... the position of the BHS pension scheme and the plan for the business".

The announcement of BHS sale to Retail Acquisitions was made on 12 March last year.

Lloyds staff complain of sales pressure

BBC Moneybox presenter tweets

Macy's reports fifth fall in quarterly sales

Macy's store
Getty Images

US department store operator Macy's has reported a 7.4% fall in first-quarter sales, the fifth straight quarter of decline, as customers cut back on buying clothes and a strong dollar discouraged tourists from spending heavily. 

Net income fell to $116m, in the three months to the end of April from $193m a year earlier. 

The company's net sales fell to $5.77bn from $6.23bn.

Is it legal to force women to wear high heels at work?

A 27-year-old woman working for a City firm says she was sent home for refusing to wear high heels. But is this legal, fair or healthy?  

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uSwitch applauds blocking of O2/Three deal

Richard Neudegg, head of regulation at, says: 

If this merger had been given the green light, there would have been a real risk of stifling innovation, and the incentive for networks to undercut each other could have been severely diminished. The EC’s move to block the merger supports that school of thought.

The EC has called out the idea that beefed-up "virtual" networks were enough of a remedy to solve the competition concerns around this deal. Constraints by the networks on MVNOs [mobile virtual network operators] are already making it tough for them to compete on mobile data and 4G offerings.

Richard NeudeggHead of regulation, uSwitch

Staples merger with Office Depot abandoned

Staples logo

Another big merger plan was torn up late last night.

In the US, the biggest supplier of office goods, Staples abandoned its merger with smaller rival Office Depot.

That was after a judge granted the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) request for a temporary block to the deal, pending a full review.

Shares in both companies are down sharply in pre-market trading.

BHS: 'Five firm offers as going concern'

Emma Simpson

Business correspondent, BBC News

BHS' administrators are now weighing up multiple bids for all or parts of the the department store chain, including five firm offers for the business as a going concern, the BBC understands. The strong level of interest raises hopes that a buyer could emerge to take on the bulk of the business. But it's very unlikely to mean that all 164 stores would be saved.  

What now for O2 and Three?

What are the options for the owners of O2 and Three?

Here are the thoughts of Kester Mann, principal analyst at CCS Insight.

The most likely eventual outcome for O2 is sale to private equity. However, Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media, could consider a bid. Sale or partial-sale to a deep-pocketed operator from outside the UK such as Softbank or America Movil is also plausible. For the time being however, O2’s parent Telefonica may elect to hold on to an asset that in recent years has impressively out-performed rivals despite its uncertain future.

Three’s future now looks vulnerable as a sub-scale mobile operator in a market rapidly transitioning to multiplay. A possible option could be to acquire TalkTalk. The broadband and TV provider deploys a similar low-cost strategy and could be available in a cut-price deal having been badly damaged by a recent security breach. Such a deal would not attract major competition concerns and would offer greater scale as well as a position in the rapidly-growing UK multiplay market.

Kester MannCCS Insight

O2 will continue to 'compete fiercely'

O2 sign
Getty Images

O2 has released a bullish statement, saying it is performing well in the UK and will continue to do so without the merger with Three.

The O2 business has continued to perform well in the market whilst the Commission process has taken place. Our customers are our priority and we will continue to differentiate, compete fiercely and remain successful, long into the future.”

O2 Spokesperson

Can Three continue to 'disrupt' the UK market?

James Barford who is the head of telecoms research at Enders Analysis asks if, without this merger, Three can continue to be as "disruptive" to the UK market as it has been over the last 10 years.

Back in 2013 it launch a market beating unlimited data deal. But it's had to pull back on that.

Mr Barford points out that it has a relatively small market share (13%) and a lack of network access.

"As data volumes continue to grow H3G (Three) is struggling to provide enough capacity for its existing business," he said.

The timing of the EU's decision

BBC industry correspondent John Moylan tweets:

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Hutchison considers legal challenge over O2

Hutchison has responded to the European Commission's decision to block its takeover of O2.

It  says: 

We are deeply disappointed by the Commission’s decision to prohibit the merger between Three UK and O2 UK. We will study the Commission’s decision in detail and will be considering our options, including the possibility of a legal challenge.

Hutchison statement

We strongly believe that the merger would have brought major benefits to the UK, not only by unlocking £10bn of private sector investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure but also by addressing the country’s coverage issues, enhancing network capacity, speeds and price competition for consumers and businesses across the country and dealing with the competition issues arising from the current significant imbalance in spectrum ownership between the UK’s mobile network operators.

Hutchison statement

Hutchison concessions insufficient to ease competition concerns

The EU Commission says concessions offered by Hutchison failed to adequately address competition concerns. 

The company had offered to boost rivals Virgin Media and Tesco Mobile by offering them access to the merged network. But the merger of O2 and Three would have given them 40% of the market and little reason to compete Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestage says.

The Commission also rejected the industry's arguments that mergers were necessary to spur investments in data-heavy networks, saying that effective competition instead was the main driver.