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Summary

  1. MPs question Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley and others on employment practices
  2. Worker 'gave birth in Sports Direct warehouse toilet'
  3. Halifax says house price rises will slow down
  4. Sterling up against dollar and euro following EU referendum poll findings

Live Reporting

By Karen Hoggan

All times stated are UK

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Good night!

That's it from Business Live for another day.

It's been a day dominated by the Business select committee's hearing into Sports Direct.

Tomorrow MPs will be focusing on BHS, so join us from 6am for all the latest.

Thanks for reading.  

S&P at near-12 month high

Despite the modest rise for the S&P 500 today, it is in fact the highest close for the index since 22 July last year.

Dow and S&P end higher

Shares of oil companies jumped on Tuesday, lifting the Dow and S&P 500 after US crude closed above $50 a barrel for the first time since July. Chevron and ExxonMobil climbed 2.2% and 1.6% as supply disruptions in Nigeria boosted oil prices. 

However, the Nasdaq finished slightly lower after two biotech companies, Biogen and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, reported disappointing clinical results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both rose by 0.1%, while the Nasdaq shed 0.1%. 

Mike Ashley's £63m bounce

Bloomberg reporter Sam Chambers tweets:

View more on twitter

Unilever boss's Brexit warning

Paul Polman
Getty Images

Paul Polman, the Unilever chief executive, has waded into the Brexit debate, warning that leaving the European Union would "destroy jobs" and - heaven forbid - raise the price of ice-cream. 

He told Channel 4 News that a Brexit vote would have "serious consequences" for his company, which does a third of its business in Europe. "If you go out you will significantly create insecurity that will destroy jobs here and certainly put many other jobs at risk," Mr Polman said. 

He also warned that leaving the EU would mean tariffs on dairy products, meaning "the price of ice cream will go up". 

Advertisers warned over digital marketing

Marketing Week magazine tweets

Firms 'must hunt out hackers'

Compilation picture of computer screen and shadowy figure
Thinkstock

Many companies have the wrong strategy in place to tackle data breaches, according to research released to coincide with Europe's largest cybersecurity event.

Too often firms just react to what software flags on their network instead of actively hunting out intruders, says the security firm Mandiant.

It says hackers get control of about 40 machines in the average breach.

But, it adds, often only a handful of servers are typically cleaned up.

The result, it says, is that attackers can linger on internal networks for months, giving them the opportunity to steal more information. Read more here

Do you work in a cold and ugly office?

The Daily Telegraph

Whether you're still in the office or already home after a long day - just how would you rate your office environment?

Well, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph, if you're in Britain you're likely to be pretty scathing. 

Apparently, British offices are the coldest and ugliest in the world. An Ipsos poll of 12,000 people found that staff feel "uncomfortable, uninspired and unable to concentrate at work." 

Nearly 20% of British workers would describe their offices as cold. 

Thirteen per cent think their workplace is ugly, which is almost twice as high as the global average.

And three in ten Brits reckon their workplace is "impersonal". 

Apparently open-plan and overcrowded offices have a lot to do with this dissatisfaction, the study believes. 

Unite says Sports Direct business model 'exploitative'

Steve Turner, the Assistant General Secretary at the Unite Union gave evidence to the Business Committee this morning, ahead of the founder of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley.

He disputes Mr Ashley's claim that he needs to have 80% of his workforce on zero hours contracts. 

This is a business model that employs people in the most exploitative way, that's the reality of it and that was the evidence that we were given today. And it's firsthand evidence that we've received from our members and other employees that we speak to day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out at Sports Direct. There is no reason why a business that operates 52 weeks a year, 24 hours a day at its warehouse operation, and 364 days a year in terms of its retail outlets, can't employ people with dignity and respect, on contracts that offer stability and security, guaranteed earnings and guaranteed hours, week-in, week-out. This is 21st century Britain, not 19th century Britain."

Steve TurnerUnite Union, assistant general secretary

BHS blame game

BBC Business tweets

Employees criticise LSE-Deutsche Boerse merger

Deutsche Boerse logo
Getty Images

Deutsche Boerse employees have criticised the terms of a $30bn (£23bn) merger agreed between the German exchange operator and the London Stock Exchange.

They want the planned holding company to be based in Frankfurt, reports Reuters.  

"The planned constellation is not a merger of equals," Deutsche Boerse's works council, which represents the interest of employees, said in a statement aimed at shareholders, but seen by the news agency. 

"Key corporate decisions will be made solely from London in the future; Frankfurt's loss of significance is pre-programmed," the works council said, adding that this would damage the German economy. 

LSE and Deutsche Boerse said earlier this month the combined group could initially cut 1,250 jobs.

"We are in contact with the works council but want to hold these talks bilaterally and not over the media," a Deutsche Boerse spokesman told Reuters. 

Luxury shopping in Rio

BBC South America correspondent tweets ...

Sports direct: From dinghy to oil tanker

Some more insights from the Sports Direct committee and at one point it's put to founder Mike Ashley that: "Your own analogy is you woke up one day and your little business was an oil tanker. Well, if you've gone from a dinghy to an oil tanker shouldn't you get someone who knows how to sail and drive an oil tanker?"

"Possibly, possibly," Mr Ashley replies. "I can accept the criticism - some of the things you've said to me today would actually lead me to believe that it's definitely outgrown me." 

Sports Direct founder quizzed over security check bottlenecks

More from the Sports Direct select committee earlier today ... 

Founder Mike Ashley was asked if he accepted that because bottlenecks at security checks added time to the working day, the company was effectively paying workers below the minimum wage.

"On that specific point for that specific bit of time, yes," he responded. 

He was then asked if he had now addressed that.

"I hope so," he said.   

FTSE edges up

London Stock Exchange logo
GEtty

The FTSE 100 index edged up slightly on Tuesday and ended the day  at 6,284.53 - up 0.18%. 

Royal Dutch Shell was the biggest riser after the oil giant increased its estimate of cost savings from the BG deal.

Shares rose more than 3% after it said it expected $4.5bn of savings following its merger with BG, higher than its previous estimate of $3.5bn.

Energy shares were also helped as oil prices remained near seven-month highs.

More generally shares were boosted by comments from the head of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, who suggested yesterday that US interest rates were unlikely to rise this month.

BHS funding 'was never agreed' by potential investor

A potential investor in BHS never agreed a line of credit for Retail Acquisitions, the investment vehicle which bought the department store chain from Sir Philip Green.

Nicholas Giauque of Farallon Capital Europe told MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee that his firm had made a preliminary expression of interest in providing credit, but never got to the stage of doing due diligence.

Low profile of Sports Direct founder

Financial Times chief political correspondent tweets

Union wants to discuss 'issues' with Sports Direct's Mike Ashley

More on the Business Select Committee investigating working conditions at Sports Direct ...

The Unite trade union's Luke Primarolo was questioned by the committee before Mr Ashley. Speaking this afternoon, he described Mr Ashley's evidence as "extraordinary". 

Mr Ashley seemed to acknowledge that there are a lot of issues at that site, which we welcome but question, in the sense that we've been trying to contact him for some considerable time because we have a lot of evidence of the kind of things that have been happening at that site. Because obviously what we want to do is sit down with him and discuss these issues and find a way through to resolving them. Something up until now we have not had the opportunity to do.

Luke PrimaroloUnite trade union

Sports Direct's shares close up

Shares in the sports Retailer Sports Direct close up 5.39% at 383.20p following boss Mike Ashley's appearance before the Business Select committee. 

Court rules former Soc Gen trader unfairly dismissed

BBC World Service

Societe Generale logo
Getty Images

A French trader - who was convicted of making unauthorised transactions which lost his bank more than $5.5bn - has won a claim for unfair dismissal, reports BBC World Service. 

An employment tribunal in Paris said Jerome Kerviel's former employer, Societe Generale, should also pay him $0.5m in damages. The judge said the bank "couldn't pretend" it was unaware of Mr Kerviel's operations prior to firing him in 2008. 

Societe Generale said it would appeal against what it called the scandalous ruling.  

Shake up at Ralph Lauren as sales fall

Ralph Lauren shop window.
Getty Images

Luxury fashion retailer Ralph Lauren is to cut several layers of its management team and close more than 50 stores as it restructures its operations, moves that are expected to save the brand up to $220m (£151m) annually. 

Over the course of the current financial year year, it expects sales to decrease at a low-double digit rate as it scales back on its inventory levels, closes stores, and faces continued weak traffic at its stores. 

Company founder Ralph Lauren stepped down as chief executive last November and the company hired Stefan Larsson from Old Navy to replace him.  

Valeant shares drop 15%

The Canadian drug maker has disappointed investors with a lower-than-expected first quarter profit figure, and a cut to its outlook for 2016. Shares are down more 15% in Wall Street trading.

Wall Street up on Fed boss's remarks

Wall STreet sign
Getty Images

Wall Street has opened higher today, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's  expressed confidence in the health of the economy, and as oil prices hit 2016 highs. 

Ms Yellen's remarks were expected to be her last public comments before a interest rate decision next week. She was trying to calm  nerves after a weak monthly jobs report raised concerns about the economy's health and its ability to absorb a rate hike as early as this month. 

The S&P 500, on Monday, closed at its highest this year as Ms Yellen's remarks helped ease those concerns, and reinforced hopes that the Fed may be in no rush to raise rates. 

The dollar fell following her remarks and that helped oil prices jump more than over 1% to their highest for seven months. 

"Oil is likely to lead the market higher today. There is a good possibility we may see the S&P make a new 52-week high as enthusiasm continues to build." said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York. 

A short while ago the Dow Jones was at 17,977.65 - a rise of 0.32%.

The Nasdaq was up 0.02% at 4,967.67.

And the S&P 500 edged up 0.24% to 2,114.45.

Agrekko preferred bidder for Amazon region power

BBC Scotland business and economy editor tweets...

Dogs become masters?

Oral questions

House of Lords

Parliament

Puppies
AP

Earlier, in an exchange on puppy welfare, government spokesman Lord Gardiner told the House that prospective owners "increasingly look to buy their pet online" and revealed 130,000 "inappropriate" adverts had been removed from the web.

It prompted Labour's Lord Lea of Crondall to pose the question: "Is the minister looking forward to the day when dogs can choose their owners online?"

Lord Gardiner said he was.   

Positive outlook for New Look

The reported full-year underlying sales growth of +3.6% compares to +4.5% after 9 months, and therefore implies a weaker like-for-like final sales quarter than last year. We believe this reflects the challenging environment for UK apparel retailers with unfavourable weather affecting short-term demand, as well as some evidence that consumers are choosing to divert more of their disposable income towards leisure activities. As such, while New Look has not been immune to the weak footfall we are seeing across the industry in the UK, the company reports improving sales conversion and also continues to enjoy very strong online growth, which mitigates the effect of lower UK like-for-like bricks-and-mortar store sales. Therefore, notwithstanding the challenges the company faces to grow sales in its physical store estate, we expect that a continuation of positive sales growth online, in China and in menswear will continue to support New Look’s profit growth during its new financial year.

David BeadleVice President - senior credit officer, Moody's

New Look results buck trend

New Look logo
PA

Retailer New Look strong sales and profits in its first full year of ownership under South African firm Brait, which acquired it for £763.5m in May 2015.  

Revenue rose 5.4% to £1.4bn, driven by a 3.4% increase in like-for-like sales at its UK stores while pre-tax profits were up 16.8% to £59.1m.

Website sales jumped by 27.9%. 

New Look also said sales were growing in China and it would open 50 more Chinese stores, taking its total to 142. 

The results buck the recent trend which has seen fashion retailers suffering in the face of flagging consumer spending. 

These are good results during what has been a milestone year for the business. As for current trading, retailing in the UK is more challenging than it has been for some time, and we expect some impact on the business. However, whilst we remain watchful of volatility in consumer sentiment I am confident in our strategy and our ability to continue to execute it long term.

Anders KristiansenChief executive, New Look

Sports Direct shareholder calls for stronger 'independent oversight' on board

More on today’s Select Committee hearing on working practices at Sports Direct ...

Royal London - which holds 1,057,691 shares worth £3.85m in the retailer - has this to say ...  

Today’s select committee hearing has highlighted that significant corporate governance failings amongst the management of Sports Direct still exist and are yet to be addressed. We firmly believe that, over the long term, shareholder value is intrinsically linked to corporate governance and companies ignore this at their peril. In our view, the long list of corporate governance failings at Sports Direct, highlighted at today’s hearing, are a contributing factor in its fall from the FTSE 100. Mr. Ashley frequently suggested at the hearing today that he has no oversight or knowledge of large parts of the company’s business; this is extremely concerning for investors. It is critical that these issues are addressed and the likelihood of this being achieved will be greatly increased by strengthening independent oversight on the board.

Piers HillierChief Investment Officer at Royal London Asset Management
EU Referendum Reality Check graphic

George Osborne says the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would have to be hardened if the UK left the EU. Is he right?

Read more

Markets update

The markets are pretty much as they were when they opened - up, but only very slightly. 

The 100 share index is up 0.11% at 6,280.36. 

The pound has risen almost 1% against both the dollar and the euro. It's at $1.4573 and €1.2841. 

Halifax on house prices

houses
Getty Images

You might have missed this in the melee that was Mike Ashley's appearance in front of MPs. 

Earlier Halifax said that growth in house prices is likely to slow over the rest of this year.

The Halifax said house price inflation in the year to May remained unchanged at 9.2%, which was the lowest rate since last autumn.

It said there would be a further slowdown in the months ahead, due to "affordability issues".

Ashley on BHS

The final question of Mike Ashley is about BHS. Would he have bought BHS? "I wanted to buy BHS 100%!" 

Incidentally, MPs are also asking questions of some of those involved in the BHS business this afternoon. Full coverage, of course, on this Live page.

Correction

To clarify, an earlier post stated that three people were killed in Sports Direct workplaces. In fact, Andy Sweeney from Best Connection Group, which provides agency staff to the retailer, said in his testimony to MPs: 

"Since we have operated, we have had three people who were killed in the workplace across all the companies that we supply." 

That means not necessarily at Sports Direct.

Ashley: Sports Direct abuse 'repugnant' if occuring

Mike Ashley was quizzed by MPs over some of the allegations about working practices at Sports Direct, including whether a woman who wanted a contract was sexually propositioned by managers.

"If it does, it should 100% not be going on. I don't know what I'm going to be able to put in place to stop it, but at least I'm going to try. You sit there and say those things to me. Honestly - they're repugnant, they're disgusting - what do you want me to say? Would you like it if you were me?"

Sports Direct working conditions

A reminder about what kind of allegations have been made about working conditions at Sports Direct. The union said there were "Victorian" working practices, conditions were likened to a "labour camp", staff were in constant fear of losing their jobs, faced disciplinary action for spending too long in the toilet, or for "excessive" talking, and had their pay docked if they were held up in a queue being checked by Sports Direct's own security which included getting workers to show their under clothes to ensure they weren't stealing stock from the warehouse. 

Sports Direct needs someone else at the helm, MPs suggest

BBC TV current affairs reporter tweets...

'Physically impossible' for Sports Direct to directly employ most staff

Mike Ashley is still defending his use of agency workers. He says his business grew too fast over the past ten years and they could not have taken on employees directly. It was physically impossible, he says, but he had to rely on professionals. That is Transline, the people who were getting grilled earlier.

Ashley : 'I've got nothing to hide'

Mike Ashley: "I've got nothing to hide"

The founder of Sports Direct has said he has "nothing to hide", as he appeared before MPs to answer question about conditions for workers. Mike Ashley also said he would allow "impartial people" to conduct a review of the company if he was requested to do so.