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. FTSE closes almost unchanged despite jump for RBS shares
  2. Kraft Heinz shelves £115bn Unilever bid
  3. Unilever shares fall back 7%, having risen 13% on Friday
  4. Disability Works: BBC looks at disability and business
  5. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

Get involved

That's all from the livepage. There's no Wall Street update today because the markets are closed to celebrate George Washington's birthday.

We'll be back from 6am tomorrow. Please join us.

Greece: Less austerity, more reform?

Greece and its European creditors have agreed to resume talks on what economic reforms the country must make next in order to get the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy and a potential exit from the euro this summer.

The creditors also hinted that they would temper their demands for budget cuts, a welcome thought for austerity-weary Greeks who have seen poverty and unemployment spike as their economy shrank by a quarter over the recent crisis-ridden years. 

"There will be a change in the policy mix, if you will, moving perhaps away from austerity and putting more emphasis on deep reforms,'' Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official, told Reuters.

At face value, that means fewer tax rises and spending cuts and deep reforms to the country's tax system, pensions and labor laws. Such reforms could help the economy and generate income that the Greek government can use to push for further growth - such as through tax cuts or even spending increases.

There could be fiscal space for growth-enhancing measures," Mr Dijsselbloem said. 

Business rates concerns genuine - former minister

A high street
Getty Images

Critics of the government's planned changes to business rates are raising "genuine" concerns, a former local government minister says.

Bob Neill was speaking after ministers claimed there had been a "relentless campaign of distortions and half-truths" about the move.

The changes come into force on 1 April as a result of a revaluation of premises carried out by the government.

Business groups and some Tory MPs have warned of high street store closures.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Neill, the Conservative MP for the South London constituency of Bromley and Chislehurst, said the government had "swallowed a line" from the Valuation Office Agency, the organisation that handles property valuations relating to tax changes, which was "wholly out of touch".  

Oil prices edge higher

Oil prices inched higher as investor optimism over the effectiveness of producer cuts encouraged record bets on a sustained rally, although growing US output and stubbornly high stockpiles kept price gains in check.

Top Opec exporter Saudi Arabia's crude oil shipments fell in December to 8.014 million barrels per day (bpd) from 8.258 million bpd in November, official data showed on Monday.

Brent futures ended the session up 0.7% at $56.18 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude was up 29 cents, or 0.5%, at $53.69 in very thin trading. 

Unite promises to fight BMW pensions change

BMW car
Getty Images

Talks between the Unite union and BMW over the carmaker's plans to close its defined benefit pension scheme are to continue, but the threat of industrial action remains.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey met with company bosses to make clear the union's opposition to the proposed closure of the final salary pension scheme by the end of May.

Unite said the move could lead to workers losing up to £140,000 over the course of their retirement. Mr McCluskey said: "While there was a cordial exchange of views, BMW were left in no doubt as to the depth of anger their pension plans have generated.

"BMW should be under no illusion though. A failure to speedily respond to the points we have raised and negotiate meaningfully in finding a solution will result in a ballot for industrial action in the near future." 

Greek bailout

What is the current thinking of the eurozone lenders to Greece?

"There is still a lot of work to do," said the Dutch finance minister in Brussels.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem made the comments at a news conference, after a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels to consider the current negotiations about the Greek bailout programme. 

"I want to temper expectations. There is no need for a disbursement in March, April or May," he said. 

But Greece will need new funds to pay its debt by July. 

More on that Greek debt bailout

The cruel saga of Greece and its massive debts rumbles on. The World Service economics correspondent, Andrew Walker, explains the latest developments.

A Greek national flag hangs outside a shop on February 20, 2017 in Athens Greece
Getty Images

Finance ministers from the countries that use the euro have agreed to send a team of experts to Greece for further negotiations before they release the next payment of bailout money. The Dutch finance minister, who chaired the meeting, said he hoped an agreement could be reached as soon as possible. Greece is, once again, being pressed by its lenders to do more to reform its economy to stimulate stronger growth. The situation is complicated by a dispute between the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund over the IMF's view that Greece needs more debt relief. So far the IMF has not contributed financially to this third Greek bailout. Greece needs the bailout instalment in order to make debt payments which are due in July. There are concerns that the negotiations might be affected by a series of forthcoming European elections starting with the Netherlands next month.

Renewable energy in Saudi Arabia

A large banner shows Saudi Vision for 2030 as a soldier stands guard before the arrival of Saudi King Salman at the inauguration of several energy projects in Ras Al Khair, Saudi Arabia, November 29, 2016.
Reuters

Saudi Arabia has asked local and international businesses to start bidding for work on the first stage of its huge project to build big renewable energy plants in the country.

The project is called the National Renewable Energy Programme, and is aimed at producing 9.5 gigawatts of energy by 2023. 

It is part of a plan known as Vision 2030, aimed at getting away from the country's reliance on using oil. 

The first part of the project will involve a 300 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in Sakaka, the Al Jouf Province in the north. There will also be a 400 megawatt wind farm in Midyan in the northwest. 

VW: minister offers help to consumers

Transport Committee hears evidence about diesel scandal

VW car badge
Reuters

Transport minister John Hayes has told MPs that he will soon meet legal representatives of consumers seeking to take legal action against Volkswagen to see what help the government could give them. 

In January a British law firm launched legal action seeking thousands of pounds of compensation each for UK drivers affected by the carmaker's emissions scandal, and other firms have since sought to join the move. 

VW: transport minister to visit Germany

Transport Committee hears evidence about diesel scandal

UK transport minister John Hayes says he will go to Germany next month to meet his German counterpart to request detailed technical information regarding the Volkswagen diesel emissions.

He told MPs he continues to press the issue of compensation with Volkswagen over the UK cars affected by diesel scandal.

VW report: why wasn't it published?

Transport Committee hears evidence about diesel scandal

John Hayes
Parliament TV

One contentious issue concerns publication of a report into the emissions scandal by lawyers Jones Day, which was commissioned by VW.

The MPs said VW had promised the committee that it would be published, but the carmaker had now decided not to.

Transport minister John Hayes (above) also said he was told it would be published.

So, why has it not been released?

One could "reasonably assume" that one reason is "that it contains information which contradicts what Volkswagen have said both publicly and to this committee", the minister said.

VW: difference of opinion

Transport Committee hears evidence about diesel scandal

Transport minister John Hayes has not been impressed with the evidence given earlier by VW's UK chief Paul Willis.

Mr Hayes, who's looking in to the diesel emissions scandal's impact in the UK,is asked about Mr Willis' comment that VW has given him all the information asked for so they could press on with inquiries.

"It's not true," Mr Hayes says.

will.i.am to advise a bank?

will.i.am performing
Getty Images

The performer will.i.am, best known for fronting the group Black Eyed Peas, may be about to get in bed with a bank.

Sky News says he is about to sign a deal to become, believe it or not, a “consultant and board adviser” to Atom bank, which was set up in the UK last year as a bank accessible only by a mobile app and with no branches. 

The company’s PR person said: “I’m sorry but I can’t confirm or deny anything at the moment.” 

Apparently the price for Mr will.i.am’s services will be to let him buy 3.55 million shares in Atom Bank, at £1.15 each, over a three year period. 

So that’s just over £4m in (presumably) cheap shares, in return for doing some publicity for the bank and giving it his best advice.

RBS leads FTSE risers

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland soared after the Government put the brakes on the bank's sale of Williams & Glyn. RBS shares closed up 6.8% on the news.

Unilever fell 6.56% after US food giant Kraft Heinz called off its proposed £143bn mega-merger with the consumer goods firm.

Despite these big moves, the FTSE 100 ended the day virtually unchanged at 7,299.8 points.

VW chief wants to 'remove doubt'

MPs are a bit bemused with some of Paul Willis' answers to their questions.

Some 1.2 million diesel cars in the UK are being recalled for "technical fixes" following the diesel emissions scandal in the US.

But Mr Willis, VW's UK chief, says there is nothing wrong with the UK engines and that so-called defeat devices - used in the US to flatter emissions readings - were not fitted in UK cars.

So why are you recalling the cars? "It's all about removing doubt," Mr Willis says.

Puzzled looks all round.

Vauxhall: PSA's pride

Ellesmere Port production line
Reuters

Returning to Vauxhall for a moment...

Greg Clark says that executives from PSA told him last week that the French company took pride in not shutting plants.

There are mounting concerns in Britain, where GM operates a car plant and a van facility under the Vauxhall brand, that a takeover deal could prompt job losses and site closures.

Mr Clark said: "One of the points the PSA executives made to me was that since the new management of PSA has been in place, they have taken some pride in having part of their strategy not to close plants."

VW: Most UK cars yet to be fixed

Transport Committee hears evidence from VW

Paul Willis, VW UK chief
Parliament TV

VW's most senior executive in the UK, Paul Willis, says that of the 1.2 million cars in Britain needing a diesel fix, 470,000 have been done.

He added there have been no redundancies in the UK because of the diesel issue. Indeed, the company is trying to recruit more people to help with the technical fixes, he tells MPs.

VW: no compensation for UK diesel owners

It is not only Vauxhall that is being discussed in Parliament. VW executives are before the Transport Committee, answering questions about the diesel emissions scandal.

Many UK VW owners are outraged that there will be no compensation, as there will be for customers in the US. 

But the German giant's UK boss Paul Wallis tells MPs that "there is no legal basis for compensation." He says there is no comparison between the situation in the US and Europe.

Vauxhall: 'Premature speculation'

Meanwhile, Germany's Deputy Economy Minister Matthias Machnig said on Monday that General Motors and PSA had so far not given any binding guarantees on German jobs, but that there had been some encouraging signs.

"This is why speculation is premature at this point," Machnig told German television station ARD. He expressed hope that a combination with France's PSA could form the basis of a better future for Opel.

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag has reported that PSA had pledged to continue operating all four of Opel's German production sites. That sent alarm bells ringing in Britain.  

Vauxhall: job protection a priority

Greg Clark
Parliament TV

Business secretary Grey Clark dismisses suggestions that France's PSA would not invest in the UK once Britain leaves the EU.

Mr Clark says that conversations he has had with PSA lead him to think otherwise.

And he promised "unbounded commitment" to protect jobs at Vauxhall.

"And I will of course work with all of the groups, including the trade unions, including the workforce, to make that case, if new owners there are to be, to those new owners," he added. 

Vauxhall: 'A vigorous response'

Asked by Labour's Pat McFadden about the future of the UK's supply chain, Greg Clark again hails the UK's competitive car parts sector. "That makes it attractive to investors," he says.

But he had nothing to add about when Prime Minister Theresa May would have a proposed "private conversation" with PSA chief Carlos Tavares 

"No one could be under any illusions at the vigor of our response," Mr Clark said.

Vauxhall: carmaker's success 'well known'

Greg Clark tells MPs that workers at Vauxhall's Luton and Ellesmere Port plants have no reason to fear for their jobs. 

"From my initial conversations [with PSA and General Motors] I think it is understood that Vauxhall's plants are very efficient," he says. 

He sidestepped a question about whether any sweeteners were on offer to ensure PSA - if it take over Opel - will maintain UK manufacturing.

The UK car industry is very competitive, has a flexible workforce, and is investing in technology. "The UK is a beacon of success in this, and other, industries," Mr Clark says.

Vauxhall: UK secretary answers questions

Greg Clark, business secretary
Parliament TV

UK business secretary Greg Clark is answering questions in the Commons on the proposed PSA takeover of Opel - which includes the UK's Vauxhall.

He says his French counterpart told him it was important that all Opel's factories across Europe are treated fairly. There are fears that PSA, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, will want to restructure European operations.

Mr Clark says: "We have a very strong domestic market and Vauxhall has a large share of that - something PSA recognises."

FTSE 100 update

The FTSE 100 remains just a few points lower, but that masks some big movers. RBS continues to be the biggest riser, up 7% on hopes it is closely to resolving some major legacy issues. The bank's rise is closely followed by Rolls Royce, 6.2% better after an upgrade from Goldman Sachs.

Unilever is the main faller, losing 7.3% after Kraft withdrew its takeover bid.

With just over an hour to go before the London market closes, the FTSE is down 0.13% at 7,290.2 points.

Another female executive joins Saudi Stock Exchange

Saudi stock exchange
Getty Images

Days after it named its first female chair, the Saudi stock exchange has appointed another woman - Rania Mahmoud Nashar - as its new chief executive.

It is unusual for women to be given senior roles in finance in Saudi Arabia, with many employers still demanding a woman has the consent of a male guardian before she can be hired. 

The exchange said Ms Nashar has almost 20 years' experience in banking and is an anti-money laundering specialist. She replaces Sajjad Razvi, who has resigned for personal reasons. 

Last week the exchange appointed Sarah al-Suhaimi - boss of NCB Capital, the investment banking arm of National Commercial Bank - as chairwoman of its board.

Why have West Somerset's business rates soared?

Reality Check

Table from the Times
The Times

If you saw this box on page two of the Times today, you may be wondering why business rates appear to have rocketed in West Somerset.

Rates in the constituency of Bridgwater and West Somerset have gone up by 65.8% on average.

A spokesperson for DCLG says this is because of the revaluation of the Hinckley Point site, adding that as the area is fairly rural this has a considerable effect on the average for the area. 

Migrant workers join labour boycott
Migrant workers have signed up to a labour boycott to highlight the role they play in British society.

'It makes for a fantastic business mind'

We heard earlier from entrepreneur Kelly Perks-Bevington as part of the BBC's Disability Works week.

Kelly, who has a muscle wasting disorder, started her concierge business for Premier League and Championship footballers after becoming frustrated with her previous employer. 

She says in the past she let the way she viewed her disability hold her back in business, but not anymore.

Pensions paper: 'Sensible, but...'

CBI responds to the government's launch of a Green Paper on defined pension schemes:

Two pensioners on a beach
Thinkstock

The Green Paper is a sensible start to what is a complex conversation about how we both boost growth and honour pensions promises. Firms will welcome proposals to offer schemes greater flexibility, as well as proportionate changes to the powers of the Pensions Regulator, as businesses carry the bulk of the costs of failure through the PPF levy.

What we need to avoid are any measures that risk damaging the health of the sponsoring employer, and therefore the security of the scheme, like mandatory clearance on certain corporate transactions. Actions like moving to the official measure of inflation for indexation and encouraging different ways to accurately and appropriately measure the funding position of schemes, could provide real support to businesses.”

Neil CarberryDirector of people and skills, CBI

Greece saga rumbles on

Greece and EU flags
Getty Images

Is the IMF about to ease its stance on a third Greek debt bailout, which is currently being negotiated? Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, appears to think so.

Reuters reports him as saying he “believes the IMF will be part of a Greek bailout”.

So what?

Well, for a while now the IMF has been saying it will not take part in any further deal with the Greeks, unless they are let off some of their huge debts by the various eurozone lenders.

That is something to which those lenders have been totally opposed. Is that stance by the IMF about to be reversed?

One small step

Tim Peake in space
Tim Peake

Could the UK soon boldly go where it's never been before?

A new SpaceFlight Bill is being unveiled in Parliament. It will pave the way for the creation of "spaceports" and enable the launch of satellites from the UK for the first time.

The satellites could provide broadband to rural communities and monitor weather systems. Rockets could also fly scientists to the edge of space to carry out experiments in zero gravity, which could help develop vaccines and antibiotics. 

In time, it's even possible rockets could carry tourists into orbit. Prepare for lift off...

Defined benefit pensions 'still viable'

Most defined benefit (DB) pension schemes are currently in deficit - but the government says, despite that, many are still affordable for employers.

The total deficit of all such schemes was £197bn last month - down from £459bn five months ago - and the government is unequivocal that most firms can clear their pension deficits if they want to.   

View more on twitter

French bond yields jump on Le Pen poll

Marine le Pen
Getty Images

French government bond yields have risen sharply after a poll showed Marine Le Pen narrowing the gap with her opponents in the race for the French presidency. 

The poll showed the far right candidate 16 points behind centrist Emmanuel Macron - down from 20 points previously - and 12 points behind centre right candidate Francois Fillon, from 14 points previously. 

Ms Le Pen has pledged to lead France out of the euro - something the country's central bank boss warned would lead to €30bn in increased borrowing costs annually.

Earlier, France's 10-year bond yield rose 7 basis points to a one-and-a-half week high at 1.14%. By contrast, yields on short-dated German government bonds - considered a safe-haven for investors - fell to a record low at minus 0.85%.

RBS shares recover Brexit losses

RBS cash points
Getty Images

It's taken nearly eight months, but Royal Bank of Scotland's shares are back where they were before the Brexit vote.

The state-owned bank's stock jumped 6.5% in morning trade to 258.10p - just over the 250.50p it finished at on 23 June, the day of the EU referendum. 

It's topping the FTSE leader board today on the back of UK government plans to abandon RBS's sale of its Williams & Glyn business. The plan would allow RBS "to start to return to business as usual" after spending £2bn to deal with the small business lender, according to Schroeders analyst Jessica Ground. 

Investors were also cheered by comments from RBS chief executive Ross McEwan, signalling the bank would make its first profit in a decade next year.

Youtube to ditch unskippable 30-second ads

YouTube is to scrap "unskippable" 30-second advertisements on the video-streaming service from 2018.

Google confirmed the plan to the BBC's Newsround programme, saying it wanted to focus on "formats that work well for both users and advertisers".

View more on twitter

Single malt Scotch whisky exports top £1bn for first time

Whiskey bottles
SWA

Single malt Scotch whisky topped £1bn worth of exports for the first time in 2016.

The milestone reflects a return to growth for exports of Scotch more widely, with nearly £4bn of overseas sales in total.

Exports account for around 93% of production.

That follows a dip in 2014 and 2015, when a rapid increase in previous growth was checked by disrupted overseas markets.

Read more.

South Africa retail merger collapses

A Steinhoff store
Steinhoff

South African retail group Steinhoff and supermarket chain Shoprite have abandoned a $14bn deal to create Africa's biggest shop network.

The tie-up would have been the latest expansionary move by Steinhoff, which bought the UK's Poundland discount chain last year.

But the merger talks foundered after Shoprite shareholders complained they were getting a bad deal.

Steinhoff shares rose 7% in Johannesburg, while Shoprite jumped 6%.

Read more.

'Our customers have become our salesforce'

Jane Leckie, Firefly
BBC

Firefly, a business based in Northern Ireland, designs and manufactures learning aids for children with special needs.

Jane Leckie, sales and marketing director, says the company now sells its goods in 100 countries, largely through the word of mouth of parents who buy its products. 

"When we started we didn't have the money to market all over the world," she says. 

"The only reason we can is because of the [user] presence we have built in those countries."

The firm, which sells all its goods online, has achieved this by creating a social network for customers, Ms Leckie explains. 

"Parents buy our products, they review them on our site, they put up videos and pictures, and they are giving us their feedback on a daily basis," she says.  

May to 'speak privately' with Peugeot boss

Carlos Tavares
AFP

With thousands of workers at Vauxhall's two UK plants, Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to secure safeguards from potential acquirers, Peugeot-Citroen.

Mrs May's spokesman said the PM would have a "private conversation" this week with Carlos Tavares (pictured), the chief executive of the French carmaker. 

"There's been a request for a meeting and we will try to make that meeting happen, but I am not going to go into what the nature of that conversation will be," the spokesman told reporters. 

"What we have been clear on is our determination to see Britain's important automotive industry continue to flourish," he added. 

Cabin pressure?

luggage on airline carousel
Thinkstock

Have you recently taken a short-haul flight with hand luggage to ensure a quick get-away at the other end, only to be told your bag will go in the hold after all?

It's becoming increasingly common practice. And consumer rights organisation Which? says airlines often won't cough up compensation if valuables are lost or stolen. 

If you've had a bad experience - with lost or damaged items, or delays picking up your bags - let us know here at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk.