Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Summary

  1. Tata board still considering bids for UK steel assets
  2. M&S shares fall as retailer warns revamp plan will hit profits
  3. Royal Dutch Shell to cut more than 2,000 jobs
  4. MPs hear more evidence into the problems at BHS

Live Reporting

By Karen Hoggan

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Good night!

That's it from Business Live for today. 

Tomorrow we're expecting to hear more about those changes to the British Steel pension scheme that the UK government is considering.

We will, of course, keep you up to date with that and all the rest of the day's business news.

Thank you for joining us.

We'll be back from 6am in the morning.   

Unions 'likely to back steel pensions' changes'

Unions are likely to support government proposals to reduce the benefits of one of the UK’s biggest pension schemes to try and safeguard thousands of steel workers jobs, the BBC's business editor, Simon Jack, reports. 

The BBC understands that union leaders have accepted that this proposal is a better deal than seeing the pension scheme shunted into the pensions lifeboat  - the Pensions Protection Fund - which can see some members losing 10% of their payout immediately and receiving lower increments in future years.  

The proposal, and the union reaction, reflects the sense of urgency on all sides to resolve an industrial crisis which has put 10,000 steel workers' jobs in imminent danger. 

Government going down 'very dangerous path'

More reaction to the news that the government is considering changes to the British Steel pension scheme. 

The Government is going down a very dangerous path. Everyone has huge sympathy for steel workers and for efforts to protect jobs, but rushed changes to pension rules risk driving a coach and horses through the pension security of hundreds of thousands of workers, well beyond the steel industry. The rules to protect pensions have been carefully worked out over many years. Rushed legislation could open the floodgates to employers who may wish to walk away from their pension schemes rather than honour their pension promises. The Government must tread very carefully in this area.

Steve WebbDirector of Policy at Royal London and former pensions minister

Labour: 'Steel workers' pensions must be protected'

More on the news that the government is considering changes to the British Steel pension scheme ...  

As we've been reporting, it's expected there will be a written statement tomorrow in the House of Commons,

In it, ministers will announce a consultation that could reduce 130,000 pension scheme members' benefits by changing the annual increase from the current retail price measure of inflation to the usually lower consumer price measure.  

Here's the opposition Labour Party's reaction to those reports ...

Dealing with the Tata pension scheme must be a central part of any Government package to save our steel industry, so it will be totally inappropriate for Ministers to rush out this vital announcement, in a written statement without any scrutiny on the final day before a recess. Steel workers’ pensions must be protected, they’ve earned them with hard graft over many years. So if Ministers are considering measures which might see those pensions reduced, MPs from all parties, especially those representing steel communities, will want a chance to question the plans, along with the trade unions who are playing such a vital and impressive role standing up for Tata workers. If these reports are accurate, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions should come to the House to explain precisely what is being proposed, including how current and future steel pensioners will be affected and what precedents might be set by any changes to hard won pension protection legislation.

Owen Smith MPLabour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary

Nigeria finance chiefs face questions over currency

NIgerian currency
AFP

Nigerian MPs have summoned the finance minister and central bank (CBN) governor to brief them on new proposals to ease the country's economic crisis.

It comes after the CBN announced plans to introduce "greater flexibility" into the foreign exchange market, a move which would allow the naira to devalue.

President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently opposed its devaluation.

The economy shrank in the first quarter of 2016, with the oil-producing nation hit by the fall in commodity prices.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy and most populous nation. CBN governor Godwin Emefiele warned of Nigeria's "impending recession" in a statement announcing the policy shift on Tuesday.

Wall Street up for second day running

Front of New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images

At the close shares in New York had maintained the gains we reported at the beginning of the trading day in New York. 

One key reason seems to be a growing acceptance that US interest rates could go up as early as next month..

"What you're seeing is a recognition that this is going to happen and investors are getting more comfortable with it," said Kurt Brunner, a portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia. "There's a recognition that economic growth is okay." 

The Dow Jones closed at 17,851.51 - that's a rise of 0.82%.

The Nasdaq was up 0.70% at 4,894.89.

And the S&P 500 also rose 0.70% to finish at 2,090.54.

Higher oil prices have also helped to boost the market - with oil approaching $50 a barrel on reports of a larger-than-expected drop in US crude inventories.

McDonald's closes HQ for third year in a row ...

Reuters tweets

Tata Steel 'considering retaining UK business'

The Guardian

Tata Steel is considering keeping its UK business, raising hopes that the Port Talbot steelworks and 11,000 jobs can be saved, reports The Guardian. 

Sources close to Tata Steel say it is evaluating the performance of its UK operations and the package of financial support that the government has offered, at the same time as running a sales process.

Sajid Javid, the business secretary, held talks with Tata Steel in Mumbai before of the company’s board meeting on Wednesday. He is thought to have asked it to consider keeping the business.

At a press conference after the board meeting, Koushik Chatterjee, executive director of Tata Steel, said the company was still evaluating offers for the UK business. Read more here

Spain arrests 30 suspected of laundering money in bitcoin centres

Spanish police have arrested 30 people suspected of illegally distributing pay television content and of laundering the proceeds by investing in bitcoin "mining" centres for processing transactions in the digital currency, which use intensive computing power to generate more bitcoins.

The arrests took place across Spain, including in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Cordoba, police said in a statement.

Government mulling changes to British Steel pension scheme

Port Talbot steel works
Getty Images

The government is considering changes to the £15bn British Steel pension scheme to protect the future of UK steel making, says the BBC's business editor, Simon Jack. 

In a written statement tomorrow in the House of Commons, ministers will announce a consultation that could reduce 130,000 pension scheme members benefits by changing the annual increase from the current retail price measure of inflation to the usually lower consumer price measure. 

The fund and its £500m deficit has been a source of unease for current owners Tata and a deal breaker for any would-be buyers. 

Reducing its burden will make a sale easier and may even convince Tata to hang on to its UK steel business. 

Any such change would be very controversial as it would set what some would see as a dangerous precedent. 

The move is evidence of the Business Secretary’s sense of urgency to resolve an industrial crisis which has put 10,000 steel workers jobs in imminent danger.

Co-op aims to be 'destination' not 'distress' retailer

Marketing Week magazine tweets

30 hour app terms and conditions reading marathon

Woman reading app terms and conditions
Twitter/@forbrukerradet

Ever been frustrtaed by the sheer length of the terms and condtions for smartphone apps?  Well, here's a story we missed earlier ...

Norwegians have spent more than 30 hours reading out terms and conditions from smartphone apps in a campaign by the country's consumer agency.

The average Norwegian has 33 apps, the Norwegian Consumer Council says, whose terms and conditions together run longer than the New Testament.

To prove the "absurd" length, the council got Norwegians to read each of them out in real time on their website.

The reading finished on Wednesday, clocking in at 31:49:11.

Some of the world's most popular apps were chosen, including Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Angry Birds.

BHS Manchester: 'Storeroom empty'

Colletta Smith from the BBC's 5 live tweets:

View more on twitter

Irish watchdog to refer Facebook data transfer to top EU court

Facebook logo
Getty Images

The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has said it will ask the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to determine the validity of Facebook's "model contracts" - legal arrangements used by thousands of firms to transfer personal data outside the 28-nation EU.

The move follows an Irish investigation into Facebook's transfer of European Union users' data to the United States to ensure that personal privacy is properly protected from US government surveillance.

Facebook, like many other tech companies, has its European headquarters in Dublin.

Banks help lift Wall Street

Dow Jones Industrial Average
Getty Images

Wall Street is higher, extending gains from Tuesday as oil prices rise and investors became more comfortable with the prospect of an interest rate hike as early as next month.

Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are up between 1.8% and 2.5% in afternoon trading.

Are people ready for robot colleagues?

BBC technology editor tweets...

Former McDonald's chief 'suggests replacing employees with robots'

The Guardian tweets...

BHS plan 'a bit of a punt'

BBC business editor tweets...

City Link collapse: Employees awarded 90 days pay

Coventry Telegraph

An employment tribunal has ruled that workers who were made redundant from Coventry parcel firm City Link without consultation are entitled to money.  

City Link van and exterior of warehous
Coventry Telegraph

Pretty Polly tights maker blames BHS woes for collapse

BBC industry correspondent tweets

FTSE closes up, despite big fall in M&S shares

Trader in front of screen
Getty Images

In London trading today banking shares helped to boost the market, but shares in M&S fell after the retailer said its turnaround plan was set to debt profits.

The FTSE 100 closed 43.59 points, or 0.7% higher, at 6,262.85.

M&S shares sank 10% after the retailer warned of a hit to short-term profits as it attempts to revive its clothing business.

But bank shares helped to bolster the wider market, with RBS up 4.4%, Standard Chartered rose 3.5%, and HSBC finished 2.8 % higher.

Royal Mail shares rose 1% after regulator Ofcom said it would not impose any new price controls on the company.

L&G makes 'error' in boss's pay

Legal & General, the insurance company, has admitted it made a mistake in the pay of its chief executive, Nigel Wilson, when it published its annual report almost 10 weeks ago, the Guardian reports.

In a statement to the stock exchange, L&G said Wilson was paid almost £5.5m in 2015 rather than the £4.7m previously reported a couple of months ago. “We apologise for this error,” the insurer said.

The Guardian observes that the admission, ahead of tomorrow's AGM where L&G investors will vote on the remuneration report, is" embarrassing for the insurer".

Thomas Cook cabin crew back industrial action

Tail of Thomas Cook plane
Getty Images

In a ballot of members of the Unite union who work for Thomas Cook Airlines as cabin crew, nearly three-quarters (74.4%) of those who voted backed strike action.

The dispute is over "health and safety concerns and ‘dangerous’ changes to rest breaks", it said in a statement.

Unite said it would be entering further talks with the company tomorrow at the conciliation service Acas in a bid to resolve the dispute. Further talks are scheduled next Tuesday, 31 May.

We hope that the company take note of this strong vote in favour of action and works with us constructively to resolve the dispute and avoid any potential industrial action. We have already had exploratory talks with Thomas Cook at Acas. Over the coming days we will be approaching further Acas talks in a positive manner and trust that Thomas Cook adopts a similar approach to address our members’ legitimate concerns.”

Oliver RichardsonUnite national officer

Transferwise raises $26m

International money transfer platform Transferwise has raised $26m (£17.7m) in an investment round led by asset management firm Baillie Gifford.

Transferwise - which launched in 2011 -will to use the money to fund its Worldwide expansion plans. It currently has more than a million customers and 600 staff in offices in the UK, Europe and the US. 

Other investors in the company include Andreessen Horowitz, Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures and Sir Richard Branson. 

Transferwise's funding now totals $117m.

What else is being proposed?

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Among the other changes being proposed today, as part of a revision of the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services directive, include:

  • a requirement that video-sharing platforms including YouTube adopt "better" measures to protect minors from violent content and people of all ages from clips that act as an incitement to hatred
  • a call for the creation of new symbols or phrases that would warn viewers of potentially harmful video content - such as bad language, sex or drugs - that would be used across the EU by both broadcasters and internet-based platforms
  • the ability for TV broadcasters to have more flexibility as to when they show adverts. 

Environmentalists lobby Exxon AGM over global warming

BBC World Service

Exxon logo
Getty Images

Environmentalists are lobbying the oil giant Exxon's annual general meeting in Texas to work out a strategy against global warming, reports BBC World Service.

They want Exxon to say how it will help keep the rise in global temperatures within the safe limit of two degrees Celsius agreed in Paris last December. 

Large shareholders, including the Church of England and Norway's Sovereign Fund, are backing the move.

Rivals including Shell, BP and Statoil have already agreed to re-evaluate their resources to comply with the Paris Agreement, but Exxon has said it is already doing enough to combat global warming.  

Commissioner: Measures will end 'discrimination'

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip tells MEPs that the Commission's measures aim to prevent "unjustified" discrimination against those purchasing services online in the EU. 

"In a true single market, you should not be discriminated against based on your nationality," he adds. 

However, he says the EU executive has "no intention" of imposing single prices across Europe.  

Andrus Ansip
BBC

'No bids shortlisted' for Tata's UK steel assets

At a press conference in Mumbai Tata Steel group executive director, Koushik Chatterjee, said the company hadn't drawn up a final shortlist of the bidders for its UK steel assets.

He said it was in the process of evaluating the offers and bids that have come up.

Tata's board was in the confidential phase of the process and needed more time to evaluate the bids, journalists were told. 

How will the new quota work?

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

EU rules already oblige traditional TV broadcasters to invest about 20% of their revenues into making or commissioning original content, and to spend at least 50% of their time showing European works, including material made in their own country.

The measures announced today would mean online-only broadcasters such as Netflix would to have catalogues offering “European content” that covers 20% of what they broadcast online.

This would not be enforced centrally from Brussels – but rather the EU legislation would give powers to national authorities to check the quota is being followed.

The new rules would also allow national regulators to force streaming websites in their jurisdiction to make financial contributions towards national film and television funds. 

Netflix on screen
AP

Carwyn Jones: No final decision yet on Tata's UK steel assets

Carwyn Jones
Getty Images

More on the Tata board meeting where the future of UK steel assets is being discussed. 

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones - who's been meeting Tata officials in Mumbai -- described the meeting as positive but he said no final decision had been taken.

They emphasised they want to deal with this as quickly as possible, from their perspective I understand that but they also want to be fair in terms of assessing the bid. So there's no date yet in terms of when this will be finalised but hugely important that the bids, because they are significant and complex bids, are assessed in some detail before a decision is taken.

Carwyn JonesFirst minister of Wales

MEPs begin debate on EU digital measures

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Dutch King Willem-Alexander has finished his speech, and MEPs have now been joined by Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip to debate measures announced today aiming to boost trade in digital services across the EU.

The measures include plans to give national regulators the right to demand that the catalogues of on-demand video streaming sites offer at least 20% “European content”.

There will also be legislation aiming to boost transparency of charges for goods purchased online that are delivered to another EU country, in a bid to bring down prices.

Also planned are greater powers for national regulators to stop online shopping websites re-routing internet shoppers within the EU to national websites offering different sales and promotions.

The legislation will have to get the approval of national governments and MEPs before it can come into force. 

Wall Street rises as markets accept rate rise 'not the end of the world'

Wall Street sign and US flag
Getty Images

Wall Street has opened higher today, building on gains it made on Tuesday. 

Oil prices are up and investors are getting used to the idea that US interest rates could rise as soon as June. 

"We've had some good economic data and investors are coming around to the fact that higher rates in a small measured dose isn't the end of the world, but is a measure of confidence in the economy," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey. 

Oil approached $50 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time in seven months on expectations of shrinking supply due to well fires in Canada and other disruptions.   

The Dow Jones is up 0.5% at 17,799.15 .

The Nasdaq is up 0.48% at 4,884.61.

And the S&P 500 has risen 0.64% to 2,089.31.

What China's doing about chemicals in its rice crop

BBC World Service

How poisonous cadmium gets into rice in China, and what is being done about it? Jennifer Holdaway of the Social Science Research Council speaks to the BBC's Justin Rowlatt.

French unions step up opposition to labour reform

BBC World Service

French protestors
Getty Images

Trade unions in France have hardened their strike against the government's proposed labour reforms, reports BBC World Service. 

Workers in the port of Le Havre, who handle 40% of the country's crude oil imports, voted almost unanimously on Tuesday to continue their action. 

With many refineries slowing production, the French Petrol Industries Union said the government had authorised the use of strategic reserves. Union members in nuclear power plants have also voted for industrial action short of a strike.  

What does the latest Greek bailout mean?

BBC economics correspondent tweets

Hanging on line to HMRC cost taxpayers £97m, NAO finds

Taxpayers forced to hang on the phone while calling HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) lost the equivalent of £97m last year, a spending watchdog has said.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the quality of service at HMRC "collapsed" over an 18-month period between 2014 and 2015.

Call waiting times tripled during that time, as some customers were kept on hold for up to an hour.

In response, HMRC said most calls were now being answered in just six minutes.

Tiffany sales fall 7.4%

Tiffany store logo
Getty Images

Tiffany & Co has reported a 7.4% fall in quarterly sales, the sixth straight quarter of decline, as a strong dollar discouraged tourists from buying its high-end jewelry and ate into revenue from markets outside the United States.

Sales at the jeweler's stores open for more than a year fell 10% in the Americas region in the first quarter. 

Tiffany's net income fell to $87.5m in the three months to the end of April from $104.9m a year earlier. Net sales fell to $891.3 m from $962.4m. 

Mitsubishi restates profits after fuel data scandal

Mitsubishi Motors dealership
Getty Images

Mitsubishi Motors says its profits for the 2015-16 financial year were lower than first estimated because of costs from the fuel data scandal.

Mitsubishi admitted last month that it had manipulated the test data on four vehicle models for decades.

In a statement, the carmaker said it had estimated the scandal cost it 19.1bn yen ($173m; £118m) last year.

As a result, it says net profits for the year were 72.6bn yen, a fall of 39% from a year earlier.

It had previously estimated a full-year net profit of 89bn yen.

French strikers blockade refineries

BBC industry correspondent tweets:

Chappell plans had 'credibility'

BHS Inquiry

Select Committee

Parliament

Andrew Frangos
BBC
Andrew Frangos

Work and Pensions Committee chair Frank Field asks about the grand ambitions of Dominic Chappell and his group, beyond their purchase of BHS. Did the panel think his hope for a retail empire was plausible?

Andrew Frangos of Cornhill Captial says "we were thinking this is hugely ambitious, for us it's a bit of a punt".

Mr Field asks "what other names was he suggesting that might be part of his empire?"

Mr Frangos says he doesn't "want to be specific" but says a Swiss retailer and a "small UK retailer" were mentioned. He adds that the plans had "credibility".

And with that, after just over three hours, the committee hearing is over. The inquiry is still to hear from both Dominic Chappell and Sir Philip Green over the next few weeks.