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Summary

  1. FTSE falters amid stock market jitters
  2. Co-op reports first annual loss since 2013
  3. BP cuts boss Bob Dudley's pay
  4. Flora and Stork put up for sale by Unilever
  5. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Dearbail Jordan

All times stated are UK

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Good night

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Thank you for joining us on Business Live.

We will be back at 6.00am sharp on Friday to bring you all the breaking business and economic news throughout the day.

Fancy a break?

Times property correspondent Tom Knowles tweets:

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Wall Street closes up as US and China meet

Wall Street sign
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The three key US share indexes all finished slightly higher on Thursday, but still down on trading earlier in the day, amid some uncertainty about President Donald Trump's two-day meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. 

The  Dow Jones  was at 20,662.95, that's a rise of 15 points or 0.07%.

The  S&P 500  was at 2,357.49, up 5 points or 0.19%. 

And the tech-heavy  Nasdaq  was 14 points or 0.25% higher at 5,878.95. 

Strike brings Buenos Aires to a halt

BBC World Service

Departure board with cancelled notices
Getty Images

The start of a 24-hour general strike in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires has shut down public transport as demonstrators blocked city streets, reports BBC World Service.

Unions and officials say participation is high as workers protest against job cuts and the economic policies of the Conservative President, Mauricio Macri. 

Demonstrators scuffled with police as President Macri hosted an economic forum in the city for Latin American leaders. Nearly a third of Argentines are living in poverty and inflation is in double digits. 

Twitter squawks back

Twitter logo on smartphone
REuters

Twitter has filed a lawsuit  saying it's received a demand from US officials for records that could unveil the user behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump.

Twitter is challenging the demand in court. 

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco, where Twitter is based.  

Ford floats car cot

Ford cot
Ford

Ford has built a pilot product designed for harrassed petrol-head parents: a cot, which at the moment is a one-off, supposed to mimic the action of a car in putting a baby to sleep.

Rather than parents having to go on an actual car journey, the cot simulates "the motion, engine noise, and even the street lighting of those night‑time drives," Ford says in a statement.

The Live page has mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, there's a good reason that sleep deprivation is used as a torture, and desperate parents do get to a stage where they will do almost anything to get their bundle of joy to sleep at night, just for a couple of hours.

On the other hand, would you really want a honking great car simulator in your, or your child's, bedroom just so they nod off?

And what happens when they grow out of it? Would you have to get them a bed that does the same thing?

A stellar week for terrible adverts

Pepsi, Nivea, the Co-op - what were they thinking?

However, it looks like they are in good (or bad) company when it comes to adverts that seriously missed the mark...

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Lyft fundraising values firm at $7.5bn

Lyft
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Lyft, the rival to ride-sharing service Uber, has raised $500m from investors.

This apparently values the five year-old business - which is yet to make a profit - at $7.5bn.

China's President touches down in Florida

China's president Xi Jinping has arrived in the US for a two-day meeting with President Donald Trump .

The summit is being closely watched by global stock markets, which looking for any hint about how trade between the US and China will progress.

Mr Trump has previously made a number of controversial statements about China , trade with the US and its currency. 

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Microsoft raises the stakes in console wars

Cohn backs big bank break-up

Gary Cohn
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Gary Cohn, White House economic adviser and former Goldman Sachs banker, supports bringing back an updated version of the US Glass-Steagall Act, according to Bloomberg.

In a private meeting with lawmakers, Senator Elizabeth Warren asked the director of the US National Economic Council about Glass-Steagall, to which he responded favorably.

Glass-Steagall was introduced after the Great Depression of the 1930s and separated investment banks from retail banks. A return would require America's banks to undergo a major restructure.

US President Donald Trump has ordered a review into the Dodd-Frank Act which was introduced seven years ago following the financial crisis of 2008.

A White House spokesperson confirmed Mr Cohn's comments to Reuters and said he was "simply discussing the President's previously stated position" in favor of a "21st century Glass-Steagall." 

Reliance Jio told to withdraw free services

India's telecom regulator is attempting to level the playing field between operators by ordering Reliance Jio to stop offering free voice and data to customers.

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Laura Ashley boss in £64m divorce ruling

Khoo Kay Peng
PA
Khoo Kay Peng

The chairman of Laura Ashley Holdings must give his 70-year-old former wife £64m, a divorce court judge has ruled. 

Former beauty queen Pauline Chai wanted about £100m from Khoo Kay Peng following the breakdown of their 42-year marriage, but Khoo Kay Peng, 78, argued she should get about £9m. 

Mr Justice Bodey had analysed evidence at a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London and announced his decision on Thursday. 

Pauline Chai
PA
Pauline Chai

Ms Chai, who lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, had said she should get a half share of assets worth at least £205m.

Mr Justice Bodey ruled that she should get a £64m package made up of cash and property.

Ms Chai and Dr Khoo - who both come from Malaysia, married in 1970 and have five children - have spent more than £6m between them on lawyers since splitting, judges have heard. 

Euan Blair: more to apprenticeships than factories

BBC Radio 4

Euan Blair, the son of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, discusses the significance of the apprenticeship levy. 

The son of Tony Blair says the new apprenticeship levy will change the way education works

US markets trade higher

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is trading ahead, up 36.27 points at 20,684.42, as US President Donald Trump sets off to begin a two-day meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. 

Mr Trump will host the Chinese leader at his private club in Mar-a-Lago in a summit which the US president predicted, via Twitter, would be "a very difficult one".

The S&P 500 is up 4.65 points at 2,357.60.

The Nasdaq has added 7.24 points at 5,871.72.

To register, or list?That is the question...

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Big Sean
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Rapper Big Sean at a Spotify event in Los Angeles in February

Spotify is "seriously considering" registering its shares directly on a stock market instead of an initial public offering (IPO), the Wall Street Journal is reporting

The move, in which the music streaming company would simply register its shares on a public exchange and let them trade freely, would not raise any new funds.

Direct listings are relatively rare for major companies because they mean complying with quarterly reporting rules without bringing in fresh capital. 

However, the move would give the Swedish firm's existing investors and employees the chance to cash in their shares. 

Spotify, which declined to comment on the Journal's report, is aiming for a valuation of more than $10bn (£8bn).

No faking

Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweets:

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Facebook is launching an educational tool as part of measures it is taking to counter fake news.

For three days, an ad will appear at the top of users' news feeds linking to advice on "how to spot fake news" and report it.

But experts questioned whether the measure would have any real impact.

Read more here.

UK and EU will seek to lower tensions over Brexit

Gibraltar
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Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk have agreed to reduce tensions as Brexit talks progress.

In other words, keeping the lid on the Gibraltar issue .

The two met today and a spokesperson for Mrs May said: "The PM also made clear that on the subject of Gibraltar, the UK's position had not changed: the UK would seek the best possible deal for Gibraltar as the UK exits the EU and there would be no negotiation on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people."

An EU official told Reuters: "They agreed to stay in regular contact throughout the Brexit process to keep a constructive approach and seek to lower tensions that may arise, also when talks on some issues like Gibraltar inevitably will become difficult."

Trump specialists need apply

Donald Trump
Getty Images

Do you know about betting? Do you think Donald Trump is "colourful"?

Then does Paddy Power have the job for you.

The bookmaker is searching for a "head of Trump betting".

The job description says: "We want to make American politics great again. Because, let’s face it, there’s no chance Trump will."

It adds: "The BAU (business as usual) elements of the role will be odds compilation, in-play trading and sending round the most bats**t Trump quotes for the whole company to laugh at."

The successful candidate should have:

-"Substantial experience with fake tan."

-"Be more liberal towards exclamation marks and capital letters than minorities."

-"Better understanding of global politics than Donald Trump. Which won’t exclude many."

Time to tickle up the CV then?

FTSE 100 ends lower

easyjet
Getty Images

London's FTSE 100 finished Thursday the same way it began - shedding points.

The leading index of blue chip stocks closed 24.70 points lower at 7,306.98. 

Easyjet, the airline, was the top riser on the FTSE 100. It gained 4% to £10.58 after reporting passenger numbers grew by 10.6% in March.

Conversely, education specialist Pearson tumbled 6.7% to 636.5p after going ex-dividend and following a downgrade by broker Exane BNP Paribas. 

The FTSE 250 ended 46.07 points up at 19,115.40.

Has the shareholder spring sprung?

BP
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BP may have avoided a shareholder showdown but that doesn't mean other companies are off the hook.

Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, says: "Investors have been getting uppity about executive pay for a long time, and for good reason – the average remuneration for FTSE 100 bosses is miles ahead of staff, and performance in many cases.

He asks if other businesses will follow suit? 

"This will certainly embolden shareholders and we now have the risk of a repeat of the 2012 Shareholder Spring if other companies don’t match BP’s example. 

"Pay has to be linked to long-term performance and chief executives should not rewarded for failure. Investors deserve better.”

Failure is the new black

No company likes to be reminded of products that didn't take-off.

But there's a special place in Sweden that just doesn't care. 

Welcome to the Museum of Failure. 

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US stock markets wake-up

US stock market trader
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US stock markets have shrugged off an early trading malaise and are now on the rise.

The Dow Jones industrial average is up 31.55 points at 20,679.70

The S&P 500 has edged up 2.14 points to 2355.09.

The Nasdaq has risen 8.58 points to 5,873.06.

Markets are watching for any tidbits emerging from Donald Trump's two day meeting with China's President Xi Jinping which begins on Thursday.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare says: "Any sense that the summit is proceeding in a very amicable way could give way to a relief rally in the next few sessions."

But he adds: "Conversely, less amicable-sounding communications could spark the opposite."

Coca-Cola to phase out Life brand

What a week it's been for fizzy drink makers.

First Pepsi released an excruciatingly inappropriate advert starring model Kendall Jenner which, among thousands of outraged tweets, drew this response from Martin Luther King Jr's daughter Bernice King:

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And now Coca-Cola has quietly announced plans to phase out Coke Life - the one in the green can - in the UK by June.

The Drum reports Coca-Cola UK is concentrating on pushing its Zero Sugar drink through a major sampling drive this year.

However, it means that Coca-Cola Life will no longer be sold in the UK by the middle of the year. 

Launched in 2014, Coca-Cola Life which is partially sweetened by stevia, accounts for just 1% of the company's sales.  

Talk is not cheap

Chris Johnston

Business reporter

Sterling
Getty Images

The fate of talks with the the European Union decide whether sterling sinks as low as $1.10 in the next 12 months, a Reuters poll of foreign exchange strategists finds.

If the negotiations turn fractious, sterling will fall to $1.17, according to the median view, but if they go smoothly it could hit $1.30. That would still be below where the currency was trading at ahead of the 23 June referendum, though.

"Sterling is not very closely linked to interest rate expectations - it's really whether there is a soft or a hard Brexit driving sterling, and that is going to continue for a year or so," says Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Behind the curve

The Office for National Statistics has been criticised in the past for the quality of its data. So much so that Sir Charlie Bean, former deputy governor of the Bank of England, conducted a review into the statistical agency .

So this, following a query by another former Bank of England member Andrew Sentance, should go down like a lead balloon.

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What May and Tusk didn't discuss

Theresa May and Donald Tusk
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It was all smiles between Prime Minister Theresa May and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, in there first face-to-face meeting since the UK triggered Article 50. 

Surprisingly, one of the most contentious issues connected to Brexit didn't come in conversation.

Asked if Gibraltar had been discussed at the talks, Mr Tusk replied: "No."

Wonder how Lord Howard will feel about that.

Play nicely

US markets subdued ahead of US-China talks

China and US flags
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US markets made a cautious start to trading on Thursday ahead of President Donald Trump's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The Dow Jones industrial average opened down 6.5 points at 20,641.65.

The S&P 500 shed just 0.30 points at 2,352 while the Nasdaq added 5.1 points at 5,868.92.

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial, said: "The Trump Xi meeting is in focus and we don't expect any material changes, other than tough talk and a good talking point for tomorrow's newspaper headlines."

BP applauded for cutting boss's pay

BP chief executive Bob Dudley
Getty Images
BP chief executive Bob Dudley

The plaudits keep on coming for BP and its decision to cut chief executive Bob Dudley's pay .

This time Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager at Royal London Asset Management, which holds 0.74% of BP's shares, says: "It is rare for a company to consult with us on proposals for reducing pay, setting an example for other companies holding binding votes this year.

She adds: “We applaud the BP remuneration committee for being proactive in responding to the shareholder revolt last year and see this as a milestone in the engagement between companies and shareholders.

"In particular, the committee applied discretion to override the formulaic outcome of the pay policy, which is a welcome step in the right direction.”

US jobless benefit claims tumble

US unemployment
Getty Images

New claims for US unemployment benefits have tumbled by the largest amount for two years, according to new figures.

Applications declined by 25,000 to 234,000 for the week ended 1 April, according to the US Labor Department.

It is the biggest fall since April 2015 and claims for jobless benefits have now been under the 300,000 mark for 109 consecutive weeks.

On Friday, non-farm jobs data will be released which is expected to show that US companies added around 185,000 jobs in March, down from 245,000 in February.

Lotte Group chief to be questioned

Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-Bin
Getty Images
Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-Bin faces more questions

South Korean prosecutors have summoned the head of the Lotte Group for questioning on Friday as part of an investigation into one of the country's biggest corruption cases.

The influence-peddling scandal led to the impeachment and arrest of South Korean president Park Geun-hye.

Several of South Korea's biggest conglomerates including Samsung, Hyundai and Lotte have become embroiled in the probe.

Tens of millions of dollars were allegedly given to foundations controlled by Ms Park's friend Choi Soon-sil, in return for business favours.

Superpower summit

Xi Jinping and Donald Trump
Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold his first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump today.

There are plenty of nerves in the markets about how talks between the world's two most powerful leaders will go. The top issues they're likely to discuss include:

  • North Korea
  • Trade policies
  • Taiwan and the "One China" policy
  • South China Sea territorial dispute
  • Human rights

Reaping the dividends

The fall in the FTSE 100 - down 0.3% - is better news than it sounds, says Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. 

"It’s being driven by a series of major dividend payers, including Lloyds and Aviva, going ex-dividend, implying that cash will soon be winging its way to investors’ accounts," he says.

A quick look at the top 5 losers shows the list is dominated by firms whose shares have gone ex-dividend today:

Top 5 winners and losers on the FTSE 100
BBC

Gender pay data - fireworks or damp squib?

Fireworks in London
Getty Images

UK gender pay gap regulations come into force today. Employers with 250 or more staff will have to publish gender pay gap information. 

Crowley Woodford, employment partner at law firm Ashurst, says:

"The expectation is for fireworks when employers publish the differences between what they pay men and women. However, many employers are hoping that this will go the way of Norway, where after some initial surprise, it soon became old news."

Libor trader 'just doing his job'

Ryan Reich
Reuters

Ryan Reich, one of two former Barclays traders cleared of conspiring to rig the Libor rate, said he's "relieved and delighted" to have been acquitted.

"I am saddened that it has taken so long to expose the case against me, a junior trader just doing my job over a decade ago, as being totally without foundation," Mr Reich said.  

"This trial was the first time that any jury has actually been asked to consider whether as a matter of fact any trader deliberately broke the rules or caused false Libors to be submitted. 

"They rapidly rejected the SFO’s case," the 35 year-old American said. 

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) hasn't commented on the specifics of the ruling. 

Libor - the London interbank offered rate - plays a key role in the global financial system by setting a benchmark for rates on about financial contracts and loans worldwide.

BP boss pay 'will better reflect market conditions'

Business lobbying group the Institute of Directors has welcomed BP boss Bob Dudley's pay package being cut from £15.5m to a mere £9.3m.

"...Bob Dudley’s pay will better reflect market conditions," said IoD head of corporate governance Olive Parry.

"It is not just the responsibility of shareholders, however. Boards themselves must take the initiative and ensure that pay for CEOs is linked explicitly with the long term performance of the company."

Just imagine having to scrape by on £9.3m per year.

FTSE falters

FTSE 100 chart
BBC

The UK's benchmark share index has pared some of its losses but is still down for the day. Shortly after midday, the FTSE 100 was down 29 points, or 0.4%, to 7,302. 

It's seen the biggest fall among major European indexes, with Germany's Dax down 0.2% and France's Cac 0.2% higher.

Global stock markets have been jittery amid nerves about the US central bank's asset-buying programme and President Donald Trump's upcoming meeting with China's president. 

The FTSE has also been driven lower by firms whose shares are no longer carrying the right to their latest dividend for the buyer, including publisher Pearson and Lloyds Banking Group.

Libor case 'a seven-year ordeal'

Stelios Contogoulas
Getty Images

The lawyer for Stelios Contogoulas, who was acquitted today of rigging a key interest rate, says the ruling has vindicated the former Barclays trader.

Mr Contogoulas (pictured) is "grateful to the jury for reaching a verdict of not guilty after what has been a trying ordeal for the past 7 years," said his lawyer, Roland Ellis of Bivonas Law. 

"He has consistently maintained his innocence of any crime and is gratified that today’s verdict has vindicated him. 

"He has paid a heavy price as a result of facing these allegations losing both his career and his reputation," Mr Ellis said. 

Mr Ellis also questioned the Serious Fraud Office's decision to seek a re-trial after a jury failed to reach a verdict last year. 

Dudley's future pay also cut

Bob Dudley
Getty Images

BP has also lowered the future incentives that chief executive Bob Dudley can receive, in a sign that the company is looking to head off another pay revolt. 

This year's shareholder vote on BP's pay policy is binding - unlike last year when shareholders protested against Mr Dudley's 2015 pay package.

The UK oil firm said that from 2017, maximum chief executive longer-term incentives will be reduced from seven times salary to a maximum of five times salary.

Mr Dudley's total pay will be capped at $15.77m (£12.6m), the company said.