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  1. Get in touch:
  2. Pound dips after UK names Article 50 date
  3. FTSE 100 closes at fresh record high
  4. New Indian phone giant created by Vodafone deal
  5. Lord Myners warns over 'garage sale' of UK firms

Live Reporting

By Dan Macadam

All times stated are UK

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Thanks for tuning in to Business Live. We'll be back at 6am sharp tomorrow.   

Indyref and oil: Going with the flow

Douglas Fraser

Scotland business & economy editor

Oil rig

Oil can't be the only fuel for Scotland's economic case for independence. 

Although there's plenty more oil out there in Scottish waters, experts believe it's much less than estimated in the 2014 debate

Plus there's a big bill looming from the decommissioning of old rigs.

Read more of Douglas Fraser's blog here.

Trump meets Gates

Bill Gates

When Donald Trump released his budget plans last week, one of the most high-profile critics of its swingeing budget cuts to foreign aid was Bill Gates.

In an article , the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist said the cuts would make the US "less safe".

Earlier today, Gates - who has again topped the Forbes rich list, the 18th time in the last 23 years - met with the US president to discuss health and education programmes.

He didn't speak to reporters afterwards, but the White House said the two spoke about their "shared commitment to finding and stopping disease outbreaks around the world".

UK firms face 'Olympic' challenge

Mo Farah wins 5,000m at Rio Olympics
All Sport

How to make UK companies - and their employees - more productive is one of the most pressing policy issues today, says Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane.

There's no quick fix, he says, but businesses could learn from sport on the importance of marginal gains in the quest to improve.  

One suggestion he has is a mentoring scheme between the most and least productive firms. 

"As Olympic athletes have shown, marginal improvements accumulated over time can deliver world-beating performance," he concludes in a speech at the London School of Economics. 

"Applying those marginal gains to the population of UK companies could significantly improve UK living standards, even if those are harder to measure than gold medals."

As you were...

Trader at New York Stock Exchange

US stock markets have finished little changed after a day of light trading.

The Dow Jones index closed almost flat at 20,905.86 points, as did the tech-heavy Nasdaq at 5,901.53 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 was down 0.2% to 2,373.47 points.

Among those that did ease back were banking stocks - after bond yields fell, which can hurt bank profits by pushing interest rates on loans lower. 

Wells Fargo lost 1.8%, Bank of America dropped 1.7% and Goldman Sachs fell 0.7%.

Pound could suffer from 'hostile' talks - UBS

Europa building in Brussels

With the prime minister triggering Brexit talks next week, analysts at Swiss bank UBS have said how those negotiations unfold will be crucial for the markets.

"Constructive, collaborative negotiations could lead to a recovery of the pound closer to its long-term fair value," they say. That's $1.36 over the next 12 months, according to their estimates. 

But they also warn: "The pound could suffer some weakness if negotiations are more hostile." The lowest level they see it reaching is about $1.18 - and that would seriously under-value the pound, they say.

The pound fell 0.3% against the dollar to about $1.2360 today as news of the Brexit date emerged.

How the other half live...

BBC Radio 4's Money Box presenter Paul Lewis tweets:

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Smells good to me

Maison Francis Kurkdjian perfume
Maison Francis Kurkdjian

French luxury goods giant LVMH is buying a majority stake in French independent perfume house Maison Francis Kurkdjian as it expands in fast-growing niche luxury fragrances. 

The firm was founded in 2009 by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian and its CEO Marc Chaya. Both will continue in their roles and remain shareholders. 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian has estimated annual sales of between 15 and 20 million euros for its perfumes that cost up to 1,200 euros for 70 millilitres.  

You spin me round

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters at the Live 8 concert in 2005
Getty Images
Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters perform at the Live 8 concert in 2005

This will gladden the hearts of some dad rock fans we suspect: Pink Floyd are releasing a single that has not been heard since it was recorded in 1966. 

The 14-minute 57-second (count 'em) version of Interstellar Overdrive will be launched on April 15 to coincide with Record Store Day 2017. The instrumental track will be available on 12 inch, 180-gram black vinyl and come with a fold-out poster and a postcard image of the band taken as they recorded their debut single, Arnold Layne, in 1967. 

Originally recorded at the Thomson studio in Hemel Hempstead, a shorter version of the track appears on the first Pink Floyd album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. 

Productivity puzzle

If you want more from Andy Haldane, economics editor Kamal Ahmed has tweeted a link to the text of his speech.

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Luck of the LTIP

Times property correspondent Tom Knowles tweets that Persimmon executive Nigel Greenaway will pocket about £12m courtesy of its long-term incentive plan.

He retired last year after spending three decades at the housebuilder.

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Ultra-low rates helped save jobs - Haldane

Andy Haldane (centre left)
Bank of England

Ultra-low UK interest rates since the financial crisis have probably taken a modest toll on productivity, but were a price worth paying to avoid heavy job losses, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane will say. 

Keeping rates at historic lows has kept alive some heavily indebted, unproductive "zombie" companies, Mr Haldane (centre left) is due to say in a speech.

But raising rates by a large amount "comes at a hefty employment cost".

If the Bank had held rates at 4.25%, rather than cutting them to 0.25%, then 10% more companies could have gone bankrupt and 1.5 million people could have lost their jobs, he will say.

"Should monetary policymakers have sacrificed 1 ½ million jobs for the sake of an extra 1 or 2% of productivity? Hand on heart, I can tell you this one would not knowingly have done so."

'Quiet day on the markets'

London Stock Exchange

As reported earlier, the FTSE 100 closed at a new record high - but it hardly shot the lights out. The UK's main share index rose less than 5 points to finish at 7,429.81.

"It’s been a pretty quiet day on the markets," says Laith Khalaf, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. 

The slight fall in the pound - which dropped 0.4% to $1.2346 - gave the FTSE a little boost. 

But he adds: "When you’ve got such a slim movement it’s hard to attribute it to an over-riding theme."

Uber boss 'has no plans to quit'

Travis Kalanick

Uber's co-founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick has no plans to resign, a spokesperson for the company has told the BBC.

Earlier this month, Mr Kalanick announced Uber was looking for a chief operating officer (COO) after he admitted he needed "leadership help" in the wake of being filmed arguing with a driver over falling rates. 

Two separate, well-placed sources at the company had told the BBC that Mr Kalanick could possibly step down as chief executive soon after the new COO was in place - but that has now been denied by the company.  

It comes as Uber president Jeff Jones announced he's leaving the company after less than six months.  

Listen: Battle for digital India

BBC World Service

Vodafone is merging its Indian unit with local mobile phone company, Idea Cellular, to create the largest telecoms operator in India.

The BBC's Rahul Tandon has been out on the streets of Kolkata to gauge how people use their mobiles in India's cut-throat telecoms market.

This is the end...?

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Jeroen Dijsselbloem
Getty Images

Jeroen Dijsselbloem's role as head of the eurozone finance ministers is in doubt following last week's Dutch elections.

"My party lost the elections and the chances of us being part of the next coalition government are extremely slim. So, let's be realistic, my term as minister of finance will most likely come to an end. I don't know when that is," he said.

"My [Eurogroup] term now ends in January 2018. Whether there is a gap between the end of the caretaker period and January, I don't know. What should happen at that moment is not for me to say." 

In case you're wondering, Mr Dijsselbloem is in the Dutch Labour Party, which came seventh in last week's election.

Trump slips down Forbes rich list

Donald Trump
Getty Images

Donald Trump has slipped down Forbes' annual list of the world's richest people.

The US president fell 220 spots to 544 and must now make do with $3.5bn, according to the magazine's rich list.

Forbes said the $1bn fall in his wealth was due to the sluggish Manhattan property market.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates again topped the list - in a year when the number of billionaires worldwide rose 13% to 2,043.

Are we headed for a bond market bloodbath?

Simon Jack

BBC Business Editor

Bank of England

Shares are at record highs but investors are selling off bonds.

"The greatest bull market in history is over," says BBC Business editor Simon Jack. "Last week's rise in US interest rates confirms the reversal of a 30-year trend" for bonds - IOUs issued by governments, banks and companies to raise money.

"It's important to recognise that every few months for the last five years someone has said they think it's all over. Every few months they have been wrong and borrowing costs have headed down again.

"But there are reasons to think that this recent fall in bond prices means it is over now.

"Folks are selling bonds and buying shares," he says.

"So what? - all perfectly normal and part of cyclical nature of economies? Perhaps not.

"Such has been the magnitude of the bond buying binge, there are real concerns that its reversal will not be orderly."

Read more of Simon's blog here.

Pound fall 'helps FTSE'

FTSE 100

So what helped the FTSE 100 close at another record high?

Connor Campbell, an analyst at Spreadex, thinks the fall in sterling "helped to nudge" the share index into making a gain.

The FTSE 100 is largely made up of firms with business outside the UK. When sterling falls, those companies' profits are worth more when converted back into pounds.  

The pound hit three-week highs this morning, but dropped after the date for the start of the Brexit process was set for 29 March.

"The news was hardly a surprise – however the reminder that the UK is facing years of difficult and likely hostile trade negotiations seemed to suppress investors’ appetite for the currency," Mr Campbell said.

BreakingFTSE closes at fresh record

The UK's flagship share index has closed at a record high for the third day in a row.

A late surge saw the FTSE 100 finish nearly 5 points higher at 7,429.81, having spent most of the day in negative territory.  

US billionaire Rockefeller dies

David Rockefeller
Getty Images

David Rockefeller, the billionaire patriarch of one of the most famous American families, has died, a spokesman has confirmed.

The 101 year-old was the son of John D Rockefeller Jr, who developed New York's Rockefeller Center, and was the last living grandson of oil tycoon John D Rockefeller.

He reportedly gave away nearly $2bn in his lifetime and was the former head of US bank Chase Manhattan Corp.

Merseyrail talks break down

Merseyrail train

Talks between Merseyrail and the RMT union, aimed at resolving a row about driver-only trains, have broken down.

And they've wasted no time in pointing the finger at each other.

The train operator - which operates across Merseyside - said it was "bitterly disappointed" by the outcome and questioned why the union had agreed to the talks at all.

However, RMT said the blame "lies firmly and squarely with Merseyrail who appear to have no interest whatsoever in discussing the core issues".

Osborne role 'being considered'

Ben Gummer
Parliament Live

George Osborne's editorship of the London Evening Standard is "currently being considered" by an independent committee, the government has said. 

Ben Gummer (pictured), the paymaster general - whose responsibilities include government transparency - says it's for the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) to judge the suitability of Mr Osborne's appointment.

He also points out Prime Minister Theresa May revised the ministerial code when she took office, making it clear that former ministers should run appointments past ACOBA.

MPs debate Osborne editor job

George Osborne
Parliament Live

The appointment of former chancellor George Osborne as editor of the London Evening Standard caught most people by surprise on Friday - including MPs, it seems.

They're currently debating an urgent question on the rights and wrongs of the move.

Mr Osborne defended the appointment, but also said it was good when parliament engages in "robust debate". He also joked that it's "missed the deadline" for today's Evening Standard.

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, who called the debate, is less amused.

He says Mr Osborne's new job is a "matter of great concern" and has the potential to "deeply undermine public trust" in parliament.

Pound drop 'a kneejerk reaction'

Pound and euro currencies

The dip in the pound after confirmation that the prime minister would trigger Article 50 next Wednesday was "just a knee-jerk reaction", according to one analyst.

Despite that, the key figure to watch for the pound over the next few days will be $1.2350, says Kathleen Brooks at City Index.

If sterling can stay above that level, it shows the pound can survive what the market sees as "bad news", she says. 

The pound is currently trading just above it at $1.2371 - although that's down 0.2% on the day.

She says other risks for the currency include: retail sales data on Thursday, which could show if rising prices are hitting shoppers; and the response to Article 50 from the EU's negotiating team in the next few weeks.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

The UK's most secretive intelligence agency has appointed a new boss. Jeremy Fleming, a career MI5 officer, has been appointed as the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

He takes over at a difficult time for the communications intelligence agency.

The Trump administration floated the idea last week that GCHQ was asked to wiretap Donald Trump, before later distancing itself from the claim.

A few minutes ago, the director of the NSA (the US counterpart to GCHQ) said the British wire-tapping claims were "nonsense" during a hearing in Washington .

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Google's crisis of confidence

Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

Matt Brittin
Getty Images

Matt Brittin's appearance at a London advertising conference could not have been better timed - for the watching journalists at least.

Google's European boss took to the stage at Advertising Week Europe just as the storm over  adverts appearing next to extremist videos on YouTube  hit new heights.

As Google is effectively the world's most lucrative ad business, losing the trust of its customers is a serious matter. So Mr Brittin started by saying sorry: "We apologise when anything like that happens, we don't want it to happen and we take responsibility."

There are two difficult issues for Google here: spotting videos that are illegal and should be removed from YouTube; and determining which are legal but not suitable to carry advertising.

Read more of Rory's blog here .  

Sorrell calls for ad 'blacklist'

The World at One

BBC Radio 4

Martin Sorrell
Getty Images

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP - the world's largest advertising agency - says Google's apology for ads appearing next to extremist content on YouTube is a first step towards fixing the problem.

However, he tells BBC Radio 4's The World at One that Google needs to be more transparent about its methods for placing ads on sites.

Sir Martin says that media buyers could control the places where the advertising appears by creating a "whitelist" of appropriate sites - and a "blacklist" of those deemed to be less desirable.

UK markets pause for breath

Getty Images

The FTSE 100 is currently flat at 7,423 points - having set new closing records two days running at the end of last week. 

The currency markets also seem becalmed. Earlier on, the pound edged lower on news that Prime Minister Theresa May would trigger the Brexit process next week.

It's since made back some of that lost ground - against the dollar at least. Sterling is currently trading at $1.2396 - where it started the day - but is still down 0.2% against the euro at 1.1523 euros.

Wall Street off to an edgy start

New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images

Shares in Google-owner Alphabet were among the losers in what's been an uncertain first hour of trading on Wall Street. The firm has been hit by an advertiser boycott in the UK.

Energy stocks also dropped on the back of further falls in the oil price. 

However, the wider US stock indexes have edged back into positive territory in the last few minutes. 

The Dow Jones is up 28 points at 20,943. 

The broad-based S&P 500 is less than 1 point higher at 2,378.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq is 11 points higher at 5,912.

Analyst downgrades Google stock

Google office in California
Getty Images

The decision of large UK advertisers to pull their business from Google's ad platforms may hit the firm's growth, according to one analyst.

Brian Wieser, an analyst at research company Pivotal, downgraded his target share price for Google owner Alphabet from $970 to $950 following the advertiser boycott. 

Alphabet shares are down 0.6% to $867.13 on Wall Street so far today.  

"Alphabet's Google is facing a serious issue in the UK with brand safety issues, which has global repercussions," Wieser wrote in an analyst note on Monday.  

So which brands have removed adverts so far? The list includes: the UK government; M&S; The Guardian; McDonald's UK; L'Oreal; Audi; HSBC; RBS; Lloyds; as well as UK clients of ad firm Havas, including the BBC, O2, Domino's, the Royal Mail.

Watch: Google Europe boss says sorry

Matt Brittin, head of Google in Europe, Middle East and Africa, has promised to take action after advertising appeared next to extremist content on its video streaming site YouTube.

A range of big corporate advertisers - including McDonald's UK, L'Oreal and most recently M&S - have removed ads from Google platforms after the issue emerged.

A meeting of the minds?

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump
Getty Images

A gathering of G7 leaders in May will be a good opportunity to address differences with US President Donald Trump on areas such as trade, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Following her recent meeting with Mr Trump in Washington DC, Mrs Merkel said on Monday: "Of course, the views are different and this will not change through one meeting

"But the president said clearly during our talks that he is against isolationism and for free trade, but fair trade. And now we need to spell out what this means for each of our countries. I think the G7 is a good opportunity but I can't say whether we would be able to solve all problems." 

UBS to stand trial in France over tax claims

Getty Images

Swiss investment bank UBS will go on trial in France over claims it helped wealthy clients avoid tax. 

Reuters reports that French magistrates have ordered that UBS stand trial for aggravated tax fraud and money laundering as well as illegally offering related services.

UBS said: "We will now have the possibility to respond in detail in a court of law.

"UBS has made clear that the bank disagrees with the allegations, assumptions and legal interpretations being made."

Star may dim for Heineken in Hungary

Heineken logo
Getty Images

Heineken may be soon prohibited from using its red star logo in Hungary.

Reuters reports that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government claims it has a "moral obligation" to ban the commercial use of symbols of totalitarian rule such as Nazism and Communism. These include the swastika, the hammer and sickle, and the red star. 

The beer maker has been using the star logo since 1883, changing it to red in the 1930s.  

But, if the bill passes in Hungary, it could face fines of £5.5m and possibly jail time.  

Lloyds appoints outsider to review HBOS payouts

          Left to right: Michael Bancroft, David Mills and Lynden Scourfield enjoyed luxury holidays from the scam
Thames Valley Police
Left to right: Michael Bancroft, David Mills and Lynden Scourfield enjoyed luxury holidays from the scam

Lloyds Banking Group has appointed Professor Russel Griggs OBE to investigate whether it should compensate customers who suffered at the hands of former HBOS staff in Reading .

A number of people, including former HBOS manager Lynden Scourfield, were jailed for a £245m loans scandal involving bribery, fraud and prostitution. 

A numbers of people lost their businesses and, in some cases, their home because of the scam. 

Lloyds said Professor Griggs will "agree the scope, methodology and individual case outcomes of the review" to ensure a fair outcome.

Tusk is ready to go

The President of the European Council tweets

Reality bites the currency market

Pound dollar

The pound dipped on news that Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 next week. Around 12:30GMT it was trading at $.1.2378, down 0.2%, having been higher earlier in the session.

"It’s fascinating that the pound sunk quite so quickly as we knew the end of March was the preferred date. Quite what has changed is hard to say except a hard dose of grim reality," said Neil Wilson from ETX Capital.

"We’re now in for a long period of volatility for the pound and UK assets as the government embarks on protracted and hugely challenging Brexit negotiations." he said.