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  1. Get in touch:
  2. Tesco to pay £129m in SFO deal
  3. FTSE 100 bounces back
  4. Schroders questions Tesco's Booker takeover
  5. MPs examine rights of agency workers and the gig economy

Live Reporting

By Bill Wilson

All times stated are UK

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Good night

Good night from the Business Live Page. Enjoy your evening and join us again for more action tomorrow.  

Consumer data lifts Wall Street

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US shares recorded healthy gains on Tuesday, with financial and energy shares surging. 

It came after data showed American consumer confidence at a more than 16-year high. 

The benchmark Dow jumped 150 points, or 0.7%, to 20,701. The wider Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 17 points, or 0.7%, to 2,358.

And the tech-based Nasdaq increased 34 points, or 0.6%, to 5,875. 

Mexican conglomerate to buy US freight company

Florida East Coast Railway train
Florida East Coast Railway

Mining firm Grupo Mexico has agreed to buy the Florida East Coast Railway freight company for $2.1bn despite cooling trade ties between Mexico and the US.

The firm - one of the world's largest copper producers - is a leading player in Mexican freight, and has benefited from the huge volume of trade that passes between countries. 

However, it appears unfazed Donald Trump's threats to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and place border taxes on certain Mexican products.

In a statement to the Mexican stock exchange, Grupo Mexico said the   Florida East Coast Railway was "a unique and irreplaceable asset with 565 miles of track that offers rail services along Florida's east coast".

The purchase is subject to government approval. 

French presidential candidates pitch to business

Frontrunners in France's presidential election have talked economics with business leaders. Sophie Fay is business editor at the French weekly magazine Nouvel Observateur, and watched the candidates make their pitches. Hear her takeaways on World Business Report: 

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GM rebuffs Einhorn's idea for shares split

GM cars
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David Einhorn's hedge fund Greenlight Capital has called on carmaking giant GM to split its common stock into two classes.

He is also calling for four new directors to be appointed by GM.

But GM rebutted the proposals, and said that after considering Einhorn's ideas for seven months, it had decided that it would create "unacceptable risks and is not in the best interests of shareholders".

'Energy bills outstrip inflation by 10%'

The Sun tweets...

Estonia sees increase in 'e-Residency' applications from UK

          Kaspar Korjus, managing director of the e-Residency programme

Estonia says it has seen a surge in UK tech entrepreneurs apply for its "e-Residency" visa programme ahead of Brexit.

Launched in 2015, the scheme allows anyone running an online business to become an official resident of Estonia without having to move there. 

E-residents can access government services to set up a company, open a bank account in Estonia, and access the EU's single market. 

The Estonian government says there had been 231 applications from the UK before last summer's Brexit vote, but that number has risen to 988. 

"The UK may have chosen to leave the EU, but its entrepreneurs can still choose to remain inside the EU’s business environment,” said Kaspar Korjus, managing director of the e-Residency programme. 

In total the programme has received about 15,000 applications from around the world.  

According to Statistics Estonia, in 2016 the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country grew by 1.6% compared with 2015.  

Uber reveals workforce diversity numbers

Person using Uber app

Ride-hailing firm Uber has published figures showing the diversity of its workforce.

The firm said it was "no secret that we’re late to release these numbers". 

And it thanked its "employees for their tenacity in arguing the case for greater transparency - because what you don’t measure, you can’t improve",

The firm said it is committing $3m over the next three years to support organisations working to bring more women and underrepresented groups into technology.

It also said that at present 36.1% of its global employees are women, with 15.4% of its global technical staff women.

And currently 8.8% of its US staff are black, and 5.6% are Hispanic.

Earlier in the day the firm also said it was to pull put of Denmark.

Yellen: Banks must act to overcome unemployment

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen has said American banks must do more to promote economic development in low-income areas where high unemployment has persisted.

She said banks are needed not just to provide home mortgages in low and moderate-income areas, but also to support educational opportunities and boost small business development.

Her remarks came in a speech in Washington to the annual conference of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. 

Thieves used wheelbarrow to steal £3.6m coin

As we reported yesterday, thieves stole a 100kg gold coin worth as much as £3.58m from a Berlin museum on Monday.

Today, police revealed the suspects used a wheelbarrow to carry the coin, which is embossed with the head of Queen Elizabeth II.

The "Big Maple Leaf" coin was on loan to the Bode Museum's coin collection.

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US markets climb

US traders
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All the major stock indices are climbing this afternoon in the US.

Short while ago the Dow Jones was up 0.62% at 20678.13 points, with banks JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs gaining 1.6% and 1.37% respectively. 

The S&P 500 also gained 0.62%, to 2356.05, while the Nasdaq climbed 0.43% to 5,865.50.

Probe into find at Coca Cola factory

Scotland referendum decision sends pound lower

Pound versus dollar chart

A short while ago the Scottish parliament backed Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second referendum - and it appears to have hit the pound. 

Having already slipped ahead of the triggering of Article 50 tomorrow, sterling is now 0.6% lower against the dollar, at $1.24870.

It's also lower against the euro - down 0.3% at 1.15230 euros. 

Dublin 'best for bankers after Brexit'

Dublin, the Liffy
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British bankers looking to relocate within the EU after Brexit should head for Dublin, according to the removals company Movinga .

The firm ranked 10 EU cities for their suitability, based on factors such as rental costs, the top rate of tax, proximity to London, and even the number of Burberry stores. 

Amsterdam and Valletta in Malta came second and third, with usual suspects Frankfurt and Paris ranking lower.

Movinga also picked the best cities for start-ups looking to relocate, based on factors such capital availability, availability of co-working spaces, and shared rental costs. Amsterdam came top followed by Warsaw and Budapest.  

McCafferty unsure over raising borrowing costs

Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ian McCafferty has said he does not know it he would vote to increase borrowing costs at the next MPC meeting in May.

"The straight answer to that... is I don't know," he said in response to a question from a listener during a call-in on the London-based LBC radio station. 

'Scotland's other drink'

Irn Bru-maker AG Barr releases financial results....

Amazon launches pickup store in Seattle

The Wall Street Journal tweets...

FTSE 100 closes higher

The benchmark London index has closed higher after the pound slipped ahead of the triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday. 

The FTSE 100 gained 49.92 points, or 0.68%, to 7,343.42 as the pound shed 0.33% against the dollar to $1.25170.

Among the best performers was  Wolseley , up 5.37% after the plumbing firm reported a big rise in profits. 

Bank  Standard Chartered  gained 3.98% while publisher  Pearson  was up 3.63%.

US consumer confidence 'hits 16-year-high'

US shoppers
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Investors may be in doubt about Donald Trump's plans for the US economy, but consumers seem to be  feeling confident .

According to a survey by the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the economy rose in March to its highest level since December 2000, thanks to optimism about jobs growth and business conditions.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index registered 125.6, beating economists' expectations.  

"Consumers' assessment of current business and labour market conditions improved considerably," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. 

"Consumers also expressed much greater optimism regarding the short-term outlook for business, jobs and personal income prospects."

Capital cities sign deal

UK-EU trade figures, a day before Article 50 is triggered

The ONS tweets....

Moss Bros profits jump

Moss Bros
Moss Bros

Earlier today clothing outfitter Moss Bros said it was preparing for a tough year, as the collapse of sterling adds to "significant" cost pressures.

The suit retailer said the national living wage increase and the apprenticeship levy, as well as the "combined effects of a devalued pound", would take their toll on the retail sector, which already faced "one of the most highly competitive" trading environments in recent history last year. 

Moss Bros said its trading performance was in line with expectations and that early reaction to its spring and summer range has been "positive". 

The retailer reported pre-tax profits a fifth higher at £7.1m for the year to 28 January on a 5.7% rise in revenue to £127.9m. Same-store sales jumped 5.3% to £131.5m.

Wall Street now slightly ahead

After beginning the day slightly down, Wall Street has moved equally tepidly in the other direction.

The benchmark Dow was up 38 points, or 0.2%, to 20,589 points, while the wider Standard & Poor's 500 index added 3 points, or 0.2%, to 2,345. And the Nasdaq composite index gained 4 points, or 0.1%, to 5,844. 

Dow Jones

Samsung US move

Samsung sign
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Samsung will not sell any refurbished Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in the United States.

On Monday the South Korean company said it would sell refurbished versions of the Note 7, which were permanently withdrawn from sale globally last year due to fire-prone batteries, in some markets.

Samsung appears to have thought better of the decision for American customers at least, telling Reuters it "will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note 7 devices for rent or sale in the US".   

Ford announces investment in Michigan plants

Ford vehicles
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Ford says it is investing $1.2bn (£957m) in three Michigan facilities, including an engine plant where it plans to add 130 jobs. 

It will spend $850m on its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, $150m at its Romeo Engine Plant, and $200m to build a data centre at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant.  

The investments at the Michigan and Romeo plants were previously negotiated as part of the 2015 Ford-United Auto Workers union contract.  

President Donald Trump backed Ford's move in a tweet on Tuesday. 

In January the carmaker scrapped plans to build a $1.6bn car factory in Mexico after criticism from the president. 

US home prices rise faster than expected

Sale Pending sign
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US single-family home prices jumped in January from a year earlier, at the fastest pace since July 2014.

The Standard & Poor's CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased by 5.7%.

A tight supply of houses for sale had spurred house bidding wars in many cities.   

Wall Street opens slightly down

At open on Tuesday the benchmark Dow Jones industrial average was down 16.24 points, or 0.08%, at 20,534.74, the wider S&P 500 was down 1.8 points, or 0.07%, at 2,339.79 and the tech-based Nasdaq was down 2.92 points, or 0.05%, at 5,837.45. 

'Hedge fund backs Rossoneri football deal'

The Wall Street Journal tweets...

Call out to older workers...

Does the UK jobs market work for you?

Tesco 'committed' to Booker deal

Londis store
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Booker operates more than 1,500 Londis stores under franchise agreements

Supermarket giant Tesco has hit back at criticism of its planned £3.7bn ($4.7bn) takeover of wholesaler Booker.

Tesco's third and fourth largest investors - Schroders and Artisan Partners - who together hold 9% of its equity, say the retailer is overpaying for Booker, and that the deal is an unwanted distraction.  

"We're absolutely, completely committed to the deal," Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said on Tuesday.

"Since we made the announcement I've met tens of shareholders, here and in North America, and I'm really pleased with the response that we've got."

He said Tesco was in the early stages of taking over Booker, with the deal still to be formally considered by competition authorities.

It that does not prove to be a stumbling block, the deal would then need to be approved by 50% of Tesco shareholders.

Weetabix sale looms

Post cereal brands
Post Holdings

The Telegraph is reporting that Weetabix is set to be bought by an American cereal maker as soon as this week.

The UK’s second-biggest cereal brand was sold to China’s Bright Food five years ago for £1.2bn, but it has failed to catch consumers' taste buds.

New York-listed Post Holdings, which makes cereals including Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toasters, is said to be the front runner after other bidders dropped out of an action, according to the Telegraph.

FTSE flounders

AA van
The AA

Both the FTSE 100 and the 250 are treading water in afternoon trading.   

One winner is the AA, up almost 5%, which Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Nicholas Hyett says reflects good news from its roadside assistance division. 

"The group has managed to reverse long-standing trends by reporting growth in member numbers. With retention rates on the rise too, these results mark an important milestone in its turnaround plan. There is still plenty of work to be done, however," he says.

Meanwhile, the decision by private equity firm JC Flowers to sell a 10% stake in OneSavings has sent shares in the bank down 6.4%. 

Flowers remains a 40%-plus shareholder, however, so there could be further sales to come, Hyett adds.

Tencent takes Tesla stake

Elon Musk
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Tesla shares are set to open higher in New York after Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings revealed a 5% stake in the electric car maker that cost it about $1.8bn (£1.4bn). 

Tencent, best known for its WeChat mobile app, has been investing in a number of sectors, including gaming, entertainment, cloud computing and online financing. 

It is now the fifth-largest shareholder in Tesla. Chief executive Elon Musk (pictured) has a stake of just over a fifth.

Tesla shares have risen more than 18% in the past 12 months.

Ericsson books $1.7bn costs

Ericsson flag
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Sweden's Ericsson will book up to $1.7bn in writedowns and restructuring costs in the first quarter as it battles to turn its ailing business around. 

The telecoms giant faces a slowdown in its main markets and mounting competition from mobile providers Huawei and Nokia. Its sales slipped 11% in 2016.  

"Restoring profitability is key and we will start by focusing the portfolio to fewer areas and securing effectiveness and efficiency in operations," the firm said.

Ericsson shares fell 4.6% on Tuesday before regaining ground. They have lost a quarter of their value in the last 12 months.

Square eyes

Jack Dorsey brings Square payments to UK

Square, the payments processing service, is coming to the UK.

It will compete against iZettle, SumUp and more elaborate till systems.

The man behind the product - Twitter chief Jack Dorsey - explains why the expansion comes more than eight years after Square's US debut.

Tesco: The DPA way

Simon Jack

BBC Business Editor

A Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) is a fairly new way of punishing a company for criminal behaviour without the collateral damage of a conviction. For example, sanctions or reputational damage that could put the company out of business and destroy the jobs and investments of innocent people.

This potential DPA with Tesco Stores Limited does not address whether liability of any sort attaches to Tesco plc or any employee or agent of Tesco plc or Tesco Stores Ltd. DPAs may be fairly new, but they are instruments the SFO is warming to.

Just last month it announced a DPA with Rolls-Royce which saw the company pay a UK fine of £500m. In that case, the judge agreed that a criminal conviction for the company could disbar it from securing contracts - particularly in the US - which in turn could threaten the jobs of thousands of UK workers. 

A DPA also avoids lengthy and costly trials and puts the offending company on probation to ensure full co-operation in the future.

Read Simon's full analysis here.

Jumping the gun?

It appears that Ford is set to unveil more investment and jobs later today. Who says so? The US president. It's not clear, though, whether this is fresh news or based on Ford's previous announcements.

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Trade unions 'will have to adapt'

Business committee

Select Committee


Labour MP Peter Kyle

Labour MP Peter Kyle says agency staff are "one of the most disempowered groups" in the UK and raises his "frustrations" with the situation of agency staff in the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook.

Steve Turner says trade unions must "adapt" and find ways to "best represent" people in the changing economy. 

The Assistant General Secretary of Unite tells the committee he is "in dialogue with Mike Ashley" and quips that he is "hopeful" of being able to sit in this committee alongside Mr Ashley to discuss about what an "exemplary employer" he has become. 

Sports Direct agency Transline have 'revamped' contracts

Business committee

Select Committee


Jennifer Hardy

Transline's Jennifer Hardy, the employment agency which staffs Sports Direct's warehouse in Shirebrook, tells MP Michelle Donelan that their "contracts have been revamped".

Ms Hardy says these new contracts "make it easier for workers to understand what they are getting into". 

In September 2016, the Business Committee called on Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley to end the company's ties with Transline, who are used to supply workers to its warehouse in Derbyshire.