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Summary

  1. Vauxhall owner 'not shutting plants'
  2. Jaguar Landrover boss 'worried' over Brexit
  3. German industrial orders fall
  4. UK non-food sales fall says BRC
  5. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Karen Hoggan

All times stated are UK

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Good night

Thanks for tuning in to Business Live. We'll be back with more business news from 6am tomorrow. 

Wall Street closes lower

US trader
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US markets fell today after a weak performance by pharmaceutical and banking stocks.

The Dow Jones lost 0.14% to 20,924.76, the S&P shed 0.29% to 2,368.39, and the Nasdaq was 0.26% lower at 5,833.93.

Pharma stocks slipped after President Donald Trump tweeted that he was planning to increase competition in the industry and bring down prices.  

Several hospital operators also fell sharply after Republicans announced a proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Uber to hire chief operating officer

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
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Uber has said it will hire a chief operating officer, just weeks after embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick said he needed "leadership help". 

In a blog, Mr Kalanick said: "This morning I told the Uber team that we're actively looking for a COO: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey."

It comes weeks after Mr Kalanick promised to "fundamentally change and grow up", following a video that showed him arguing with an Uber driver over fares.

Uber is also investigating allegations of sexual harassment at the company.

Ikea sells off 25 retail parks for €900m

Ikea store
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Ikea has agreed to sell 25 of its retail parks in eight European countries (not including the UK) to the asset manager Pradera for €900m. 

The furniture-maker said the parks - each of which is located beside an Ikea store - did not “fit the vision” of creating “inspiring and family-friendly meeting places”. 

But it said it would retain another 25 retail parks across Europe, let to tenants such as Decathlon and Leroy Merlin. 

Uber looking for 'co-driver'

Travis Kalanick
gett

Uber is looking for someone to head up the ride-hailing firm alongside chief executive Travis Kalanick.

"This morning I told the Uber team that we’re actively looking for a chief operating officer: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey," chief executive officer Mr Kalanick posted earlier on Tuesday .

A week ago Mr Kalanick apologised to staff after a video emerged of him swearing at one of the company's drivers.

The outburst came after Fawzi Kamel, who was driving the chief executive, complained his income was falling and blamed Uber's fare structure. 

"The criticism we've received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up," Mr Kalancik said in an email. 

"This is the first time I've been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it," he added.

Blue 'wine' falls foul of European law

BBC World Service

The Spanish company Gik has developed a blue wine and struck deals to sell it around the world. But the firm has been told by the authorities in Spain that under European law, wine must be red, white or rose, not blue. 

It's caused something of a headache for Gik, as one of its founders, Taig McCarthy, toldthe BBC's Rob Young.  

A Spanish company marketing blue wine has had to rethink its approach.

VW compensation drive by consumer watchdogs

VW badge
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EU consumer organisations are planning to take joint action in an effort to win compensation for Volkswagen drivers who bought emissions-cheating diesel cars, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

The Dutch consumer authority will prepared "joint enforcement action" against the car manufacturer, according to spokesman for Europe's Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova. 

"Commissioner Jourova encouraged the authorities to use all means at their disposal to protect European consumers," spokesman Christian Wigand said.

He added that "concrete results from this process" were expected by the end of the month.

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Commerce secretary puts 'world on notice'

Wilbur Ross
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More on the news that the Chinese telecoms giant ZTE Corp has agreed to pay penalties totalling more than $1bn for flouting sanctions on Iran.

The US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, didn't pull his punches at a news conference in Washington.

ZTE has admitted liability and agreed, subject to approval of the court, to an unprecedented $1.190bn total combined criminal and civil penalty paid to the departments of Commerce, Justice and Treasury. With this action we are putting the world on notice: improper trade gains are over with. Those who flout our economic sanctions, export control laws and any other trade regimes will not go unpunished. They will suffer the harshest of consequences.

Wilbur RossUS commerce secretary

Apple could lose spot as world's most valuable firm

Tim Cook, Apple CEO
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Apple may lose its position as the world's most valuable publicly traded company, research suggests.

Oil giant Saudi Aramco is expected to have a market capitalisation of $1tn to $1.5tn when it lists its shares next year, a survey of investors by EFG Hermes found.

This would be up to twice the value of Apple’s current market cap of about $734bn.

US slaps fine on Chinese telecoms firm

BBC World Service

ZTE sign
Getty Images

The US has fined the Chinese telecoms maker ZTE more than $1bn (£820m) for selling banned American-made equipment to Iran, reports BBC World Service.

The Chinese company pleaded guilty to violating US export rules aimed at preventing some countries from acquiring sensitive technology. 

The US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, said businesses that flouted economic sanctions would not go unpunished. 

ZTE shipped millions of dollars' worth of hardware and software to Iran from some of the best-known US technology firms. 

$300m of the fine will be suspended. 

Pensions Committee also focuses on Vauxhall

Frank Field
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It's been a busy day for Work and Pensions Committee chair Frank Field.

He's also written to the Pensions Regulator, the Chair of the Vauxhall pension scheme trustees and the PSA Group Management Board President "seeking clarifications about the implications of the sale of Vauxhall to Peugeot".  

The Vauxhall pension fund is £840m in deficit. 

In the letter to PSA president Carlos Tavares , Mr Field asked, among other things, for clarification about what responsibilities PSA and GM will have for GM UK's pension schemes.

He also asked what assurances Mr Tavares had given to the pension scheme trustees and the Pensions Regulator about that commitment. 

MPs scrutinise BHS pension scheme deal

Sir Philip Green
PA

MPs on the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee have begun to scrutinise the BHS pension settlement announced last week between Sir Philip Green and the Pensions Regulator.

Under the deal Sir Philip agreed a £363m cash settlement with the Pensions Regulator to plug the gap in the BHS pension scheme. 

Now the Committee chairman Frank Field has written a letter to the Pensions Regulator  asking for more detail on the terms of the out-of-court settlement, and the full impact it will have on the BHS pensioners.

Snap shares slide still further

Snap signs in NYSE
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It's another rocky day for shares in Snap, the owner of messaging app Snapchat.

On Monday they closed down by 12% taking them below the price at which they started trading last week in New York. So far today they're down by another 11%.

The stock soared by 44% on Thursday after making its Wall Street debut, valuing the $28bn, after it raised $3.4bn in the richest US technology company listing since Facebook in 2012

Shares in Shap went even higher on Friday.

However, analysts have given mixed views on the future of Snap, debating whether it can emulate the success of Facebook.

Aggreko shares hit by profit warning

Aggreko power units
Aggreko

Scotland-based temporary power company Aggreko has seen its shares close 12.95% lower after warning of a dip in profit this year.

The energy firm reported a 24% drop in pre-tax profits for 2016 to £172m - much of that explained by the weak oil drilling and refining markets in the United States.

The figures also lacked the boost Aggreko gets regularly from supplying power to the Olympics and Winter Olympics. Comparisons with 2015 looked poorer because that year included temporary powering for the European Games.

The company pulled out of bidding for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games, complaining that the bidding process was running too late and was disorganised.

Read more here

Ghosn: 'Constantly making investment decisions'

More from Carlos Ghosn at the Geneva Motor Show and BBC business editor Simon Jack asked him if Nissan's investment in Sunderland was contingent on any Brexit deal that the UK negotiates.

Not in the short term he insists.

"The investment is made, we are now committed, but as a car maker we renew our product every six years so you constantly have decisions on investments," he said. 

"So we're not talking about short term. Short term we feel good about what we are doing. 

"But what I'm saying is after the conditions of Brexit have been defined all industries are going to evaluate the new status and in function of this evaluation they're going to decide to continue to invest or to stop or reduce their investments to the UK," he added. 

FTSE 100 led lower by Paddy Power Betfair

London Stock Exchange sign
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FTSE 100  has closed lower. It's at 7,338.99, a fall of 11 points or 0.15%.

Paddy Power Betfair was down by 5.2%, making it the biggest loser.

The decline followed the release of results which revealed it made a loss last year, due to the merger between Paddy Power and Betfair. 

Nissan boss: 'Wait and see'

Carlos Ghosn
BBC

Renault-Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn has been talking to BBC business editor Simon Jack at the Geneva Motor Show. 

Simon asked him how solid the guarantee was that Nissan would increase investment in the company's Sunderland plant.  

"How solid is a guarantee it will be difficult to tell you before Brexit happens because Brexit for the moment  - we don't know what it is.

"I don't know, you don't know what are the Brexit rules because they have not been negotiated and we don't know when they are going to happen, one year, two years, three years, down the road. 

In the meantime, he added, Nissan's best policy was to believe the commitment made by the UK government when it said it would preserve the competitiveness of UK industry.

"There's no reason to doubt that. We've been in the UK  for so many years, we have dealt with many governments and governments in the UK have a tradition to honour their commitment, so we believe it and that we feel good about it.

"This being said we have to wait until Brexit has been negotiated and we see the conditions of the new status before giving you a final opinion about how good it's going to be doing business in the UK when you have a European plant based on the UK territory," he added.

Food for thought

BBC business presenter tweets

Hacked off?

BBC technology correspondent tweets

Microsoft 'investigating' email issue

And here's Microsoft's - brief - statement about the problems some people are having with their email.

We are aware of reports that some users are having difficulty signing in to some services. We are investigating this issue.

Microsoft spokesperson

Global reports of Microsoft faults

Microsoft logo
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More on our earlier post that there are problems with Microsoft email.

In fact there are multiple reports from around the world that various Microsoft services are suffering faults.

The firm said it was looking into them.

Outlook users, including those with Hotmail addresses, are reporting issues on social media and sites including  Down Detector  - with some saying their services are now returning.

On the  Xbox Live platform  there is a message saying that Microsoft is aware of sign-in issues and is "working to resolve" them.

MP calls for Bank's deputy governor to resign

Charlotte Hogg
Bank of England

More on the letter of apology sent by Charlotte Hogg, the Bank of England's newly appointed deputy governor (See post at 11:47am).

Ms Hogg is facing calls to resign after she breached the Bank's guidelines by failing to declare that her brother worked for Barclays.

In a letter to the Treasury Select Committee, Ms Hogg apologised for not formally disclosing that her brother was Barclays' group strategy director, which could conflict with her work on the Prudential Regulation Committee.    

Now Treasury Select Committee member John Mann has called for her to resign. 

"It is simply incredible that such a senior person at the Bank of England has behaved in this manner," Mr Mann said. 

"Last week Charlotte Hogg proudly told this committee that she actually wrote the Bank's code of conduct which she has now admitted to repeatedly breaking. 

"Not only has she compromised her current position and the Bank of England itself but, more importantly, she has failed under the key principles of the Nolan standards in public life and she has no excuse for doing so. 

"This is simply a question about standards in public life and in this regard she has failed and must resign," he added. 

Wall Street edges down at open

Wall Street sign
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Wall Street has kicked off the day's trading - and all three key indexes have edged down. 

The  Dow Jones  is at 20,910.82, a fall of 44 points or 0.2%.

The  S&P 500  is at 2,368.55, that's down 7 points or 0.3%.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq  is at 5,835.67, that's 14 points or 0.2% lower. 

The US Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates next week. 

Pound under pressure?

The pound is again finding few friends on the currency markets today, marking fresh one-month lows against the euro and US dollar under €1.1525 and $1.22 this morning. Precise influences are hard to pinpoint but the pound’s progress is likely being kept in check amid lingering concerns the UK the economy is losing steam just as Brexit negotiations seem set to commence shortly. The euro itself has found some support after euro zone economic growth for the fourth quarter of 2016 was confirmed at 0.4%.

Chris Saint Senior analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown

Weighing up the government's budget

A 'cracking' pre-Budget video spelling out how much the government spends and on what. 

View more on twitter

Fast food Asian nations?

BBC World Service

What can fast food tell us about the changing global economy? This week Karishma Vaswani, the BBC's Asia Business correspondent, is taking a closer look at the history and the future of McDonald's in Asia. 

For many the company is a symbol of globalisation and food. To globalise though, the company has had to localise, and with that comes challenges.

From Beijing, to Hong Kong, to Delhi, The Food Chain programme explores the changing tastes of Asia, and what the future might be for a market many multi-national companies have set their sights on. It asks if the business model of franchising is still an effective way to export a food business. 

And as countries modernise is it getting harder for a global brand to compete with local rivals?

What fast food can tell us about the changing global economy.

Netflix 'working on content with alternative endings'

Problems with Microsoft email

Microsoft is being bombarded with complaints about its outlook email service.

Here's their standard answer, with a link to their help desk.

View more on twitter

Psychopathic traits can be useful in business

Ruthlessness, fearlessness, self-confidence and mental toughness - all part of the subset of "psychopathic" personality traits and, according to research psychologist Kevin Dutton of Oxford University, all important for successful business leadership.

Airbus has a big idea

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This is a bit nuts. Airbus and Italdesign have teamed up on what they call POP.UP.

Apparently it's a "trailblazing modular ground and air passenger concept vehicle system".

I think the key word there is "concept".

Budget 2017: BBC editors make their predictions

Budget 2017: BBC editors make their predictions

As the UK heads towards Brexit, government finances look in unexpectedly good shape. But does that give the chancellor room for tax cuts or spending increases?

The BBC's business editor Simon Jack, economics editor Kamal Ahmed, and political editor Laura Kuenssberg give their views.

Pound continues losing run against dollar

Pound dollar
BBC

The pound continues its recent losing streak against the dollar. It is down another 0.4% at $1.2192. The pound is now in its eight straight losing session, but is still some way from its low for the year of $1.2068.

Some analysts think the pound could fall further, triggered by the start of the UK's exit talks from the European Union.

"Market tension is starting to pick up again. The politics should be a catalyst, particularly if the negotiations start off on the wrong note," said Deutsche Bank strategist Oliver Harvey.

"People have talked about a bounce back in sterling [since October], but really it has been a story of massive underperformance. It is the only major currency down against the dollar this year." 

Schaeuble says EU 27 must 'stick together'

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble
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The 27 EU member states that will remain after Brexit must stick together in upcoming negotiations, Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said.

When negotiations finish, it should be clear that being on the inside has more advantages than being on the outside of the EU, he said.

"Now it's important that we in the EU27 stick together," he said.

Other EU countries should not be tempted to follow Britain out by thinking they could have the benefits of EU membership without meeting its obligations, he added.

Brazil's economy shrinks by 3.6% in 2016

Daniel Gallas

BBC South America business correspondent

Man on bike
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Brazil’s economy contracted for the second consecutive year, marking one of the longest and deepest recessions in over a quarter of a century.

The economy shrank by 3.6% in 2016, with 0.9% contraction in the last three months of the year. In 2015, the economy had contracted by 3.8%. GDP per capita fell by 4.4% in 2016.

BMW head throws doubt on UK electric Mini

Simon Jack

BBC Business Editor

Ian Robertson
Getty Images

The head of BMW sales and marketing has thrown further doubt over whether BMW will build an electric version of the mini in the UK.

Speaking to the BBC at the Geneva Motor Show, Ian Robertson said,

“Somewhere around the middle to the third quarter of this year we will decide where to build the electric mini and we have said all along that we would like to see the UK have tariff-free access to the single market. Its not the only consideration but it is a consideration."

Hogg apologies for conduct breach

Charlotte Hogg
Getty Images

Charlotte Hogg, the Bank of England's newly appointed deputy governor for markets and banking, has admitted breaching the Bank's guidelines after she failed to declare that her brother worked for Barclays.

She apologised to the Treasury select committee after telling them last week she had declared conflicts of interest to the Bank.

"As Barclays Bank is regulated by the PRA, under the Bank's internal code of conduct and personal relationships policy, I should have formally declared my brother's role when I first joined the Bank. I did not do so and I take full responsibility for this oversight."

She will now write to the Monetary Policy Committee, the Financial Policy Committee and the Prudential Regulation Committee setting out her brother's role. He is director of group strategy at Barclays.

Eon dual-fuel prices to rise 8.8% in April

Eon has said it is to increase its standard variable dual fuel prices by an average 8.8% from Wednesday 26 April.

Standard electricity prices will increase by an average of 13.8%, and standard gas prices will increase by an average of 3.8% .

Eon chief executive Tony Cocker said costs for programmes such as the Renewables Obligation (RO) and Electricity Market Reform (EMR) had increased.