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Summary

  1. FTSE 100 ends 0.6% higher
  2. Theresa May defends energy bill cap plan
  3. John Lewis takes £36m hit to profits over pay errors
  4. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Karen Hoggan

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Good evening

That's all from today's Business Live team. 

Do join us again in the morning to keep up with all the latest news.

Disney profits up 11%

Emma Watson in front of Beauty and the Beast display
Getty Images
Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast has has added an extra sparkle to Disney results

Walt Disney has reported an 11.4% rise in quarterly profit.

The updated version of "Beauty and the Beast", starring Emma "Hermione" Watson, and the continued popularity of the Disney theme parks boosted revenues by 2.8%, the company said after trading closed on Wall Street. 

Three cheers for the widow Clicquot

Mme Clicquot painting
Veuve Clicquot

Not being great champagne connoisseurs here at the Business Live Page, we hadn't previously put much thought into where the Veuve Clicquot brand name came from.

Of course 'veuve' is French for 'widow'. But did you know that the widow Clicquot was only 27 when she took over her deceased husband's wine interests in 1804?

She promptly renamed the brand after herself, and set about supplying the royal courts of Europe, Napoleonic wars notwithstanding.

And she was apparently "proud and stubborn". Well you'd have to be, wouldn't you?

Wall Street chills

In the absence of any big stories to move the markets...US investors found they had nothing new to worry about for now. 

So they took a breather and the Dow Jones closed the day just 0.17% lower at 20,975.

The S&P 500 ended 0.1% lower at 2,396.

The Nasdaq was 0.3% higher at 6,120.

 

Champagne toast for Whitbread boss

Alison Brittain holding award
Veuve Clicquot

Alison Brittain has just been named Veuve Clicquot's Business Woman 2017.

The prestigious award recognises a leading woman in British business and in the past has gone to names as varied as Prue Leith, Anita Roddick and Marjorie Scardino.

Ms Brittain made the leap last year from a well-established career in banking to become head of Whitbread that owns Costa Coffee, Premier Inns and Brewer's Fayre amongst other hospitality brands.

Expect she'll be foregoing the coffee for a glass of something more bubbly this evening.

Apple of the market's eye

Apple is set to close the day's trading with what looks like a modest rise of 0.5%.

But that small rise gives the tech giant a market cap above $800bn for the first time. 

Democratic senators ask regulators to probe Carl Icahn

Carl Icahn
Getty Images

Eight Democratic Senators have asked US regulators to launch an investigation into billionaire Carl Icahn's activities in the US biofuels blending credit market, according to Reuters. 

The senators said activist investor Mr Icahn may have violated trading laws since becoming an adviser to President Donald Trump. 

"We are writing to request that your agencies investigate whether Carl Icahn violated insider trading laws, anti-market manipulation laws, or any other relevant laws based on his recent actions in the market for renewable fuel credits," the senators said in a letter to the heads of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The regulators don't have to act on the request.

Reuters said it had seen a copy of the letter which was signed by Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and five others. 

Reuters said it hadn't managed to reach Mr Icahn for comment.

Tomorrow's business on Today

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Here's a sneak preview of what's coming up on the Today programme business slot on Wednesday - tune in at 6:15am. 

View more on twitter

No Trump decision on Paris climate deal till after G7

BBC World Service

Donald Trump walking
Getty Images

President Trump won't decide whether the US should remain in the Paris agreement on greenhouse gas emissions until after he returns from a G7 summit at the end of the month, reports BBC World Service. 

Mr Trump criticised the deal while on the campaign trail last year and had been due to meet his climate advisers on Tuesday.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, said that China would protect the Paris agreement while Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama said the world's biggest emitters, China and the US, should lead the way in the fight against climate change. 

Negotiations on how the Paris agreement could be put into practice are continuing in the German city of Bonn.

Amazon cuts free shipping threshold

Amazon logo on package
Getty Images

Online retail giant Amazon has cut the threshold for free shipping to $25 from $35 to attract new customers, reports Reuters

Amazon already offers free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members. 

The move comes as the world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart, has been stepping up its online business.

Wal-Mart started its own membership programme called ShippingPass last year, which offered free two-day shipping for $49 a year. However, in January the company replaced that with free two-day shipping on orders of $35 or more. 

Jack Ma 'plans to bring one million US firms to Alibaba'

Donald Trump and Jack Ma
Gett

Alibaba boss Jack Ma wants to bring one million US businesses onto the giant e-commerce platform as part of a plan agreed with US president Donald Trump, the FT reports.

"China has 300m middle class [shoppers]. We need good stuff from outside China," Mr Ma said.

Lib Dems respond to energy price cap proposals

The World at One

BBC Radio 4

Sticking with the energy cap proposals, the Lib Dems gave this response ... 

Hand adjusting oven knob
Getty Images

I think voters are going to be astonished that the Conservatives are copying Ed Miliband and Labour's policy of the last election. Because just two years ago, Conservative MPs were queueing up to attack it. Michael Fallon, the current Defence Secretary, who was energy minister then: he called it dangerous, he said it would kill investment, hurt consumers. And very interestingly, in the cabinet, two years ago, Mrs May didn't support this policy and she opposed Ed Miliband's price cap.

Ed DaveyFormer Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary

Labour: Conservatives 'stole' energy price cap idea

BBC One

Knobs on oven
Pinkbadger

But Labour is not happy at the Conservatives' energy price cap proposals ...

Well, it's not a Tory policy. It's scandalous that they've stolen a Labour policy. But what we're saying is that they've haven't provided any detail and they've not gone far enough.

Rebecca Long-BaileyLabour's shadow energy secretary

Why cap energy prices?

BBC Radio 5 live

Returning to Theresa May's proposals to cap energy prices, a former Conservative minister explains the thinking behind the idea ... 

Electricity pylon
Getty Images

If you are a long-term customer of a company - doesn't matter if it's an airline or a coffee shop - they will know that you are one of their best customers and they will try and give you air miles or a free coffee every now and again or whatever it might be. And it's only industries like energy where they say no, these are our best customers, our loyal customers, the ones who've stuck with us for years and years and years, and instead of treating them really well, we're going to treat them really badly, we're going to rip them off because we know we can.

John PenroseFormer Conservative minister

Chicken nugget tweet breaks Twitter record

BBC World Service

Carter Wilkerson eating a chicken nugget
Carter Wilkerson/Twitter

A Twitter message from an American teenager asking a fast food chain for a year's supply of chicken nuggets has become the most re-tweeted message ever, reports BBC World Service.

A month ago, Carter Wilkerson, from Reno, Nevada posted a tweet asking Wendy's a burger chain, how many re-tweets he would need for a year's supply of the chicken snacks. 

They said 18 million. Mr Wilkerson then posted a screen shot of his message with the message 'help me please. A man needs his nuggs'. 

The message rapidly went viral and has now reached nearly3.5 million retweets - breaking the previous record set by the American talk show host Ellen de Generes and raising $100,000 for charity in the process. 

What does Brexit mean?

Union Jack in front of Big Ben
Getty Images

Are you American who just doesn't understand what Brexit is all about? Well, never fear, help is at hand.

The New York Times is organising six-day guided tours called “Brexit means Brexit” for people interested in examining the "historic implications of a historic vote”.

According to the Guardian newspaper politicians, journalists and historians will explain the backgound to Brexit.  

“After a typical pub lunch and a pint at a local pub frequented by members of parliament, join the queue to attend one of the debates in either the House of Commons or House of Lords,” the marketing literature says.

The cost? A snip at $5,995 (£4,650) per person.

350 jobs to go when Walkers crisp factory closes

Walkers factory
Google

More than 350 jobs in County Durham will be axed when Walkers crisp factory closes, the owner has confirmed.

PepsiCo said in March it was consulting about plans to close the Peterlee factory to help it make "productivity and efficiency savings" in the UK.

A spokeswoman confirmed earlier that production would be moved to the company's other UK sites by December.

She said 355 workers had been given notice earlier and all those affected would be offered support. Read more here

Ethical employers 'exposed'

John Lewis plastic shopping bags
Oli Scarff

A bit of reaction to the news John Lewis has taken a £36m hit to profits to cover potential back payments to staff after breaching National Minimum Wage rules.

The retailer said the issue related to the use of pay averaging, which spreads workers' pay evenly over the year.

It said employees were paid the correct amount over the course of the year.

However, those on hourly rates had sometimes seen pay dip below the minimum wage when they worked extra hours, technically breaking the rules.

Ethically-focused employers like John Lewis are exposed to this area of technical non-compliance because of 'pay averaging' where staff are paid the same amount each month even if the hours they've worked vary. Given that this practice aims to provide more certainty and financial stability for workers, it is ironic that it may inadvertently result in the retailer paying less than the minimum wage for the actual hours worked in a given month. It is possible that this could be the case even in circumstances where, strictly speaking, the worker will eventually have received all the money they are entitled to albeit not in each pay reference period.

Anna FletcherDirector at law firm, Gowling WLG

FTSE 100's biggest winners

On the FTSE 100 commodities stocks were among the biggest climbers.  

Mining giant Glencore ended the day 2.3% ahead, following the news that it had started the sale process for its Tahmoor coking coal mine. It plans to stop mining there next year. 

BHP Billiton finished 2.2% higher. 

Rolls Royce Holdings was the biggest riser. Earlier it said it had partnered with Turkish industrial group Kale Group to build engines for Turkey's new domestically-built fighter jet. 

Biggest losers on FTSE 100

Tech company Micro Focus was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, shedding 5.48% after it said sales were down at the software business' it's buying form Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 

Energy companies Centrica and SSE were also among the worst-performers, after Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to cap energy prices if she was re-elected in June.

British Gas owner Centrica was down 2%, while SSE was down 1.95%.

London share indexes higher at close

London Stock Exchange sign
Getty Images

The FTSE 100 has closed up by 41 points or 0.6% at 7,342.21.

The FTSE 250 ended the day at 19,816.95, a rise of 87 points or 0.4%.

Dove bottles ridiculed

Dove bottles
Unilever

Dove's range of body-shaped bottles, released as part of their "Real Beauty" campaign, have been ridiculed online.

The body washes are designed to reflect the "one of a kind" body shapes of their consumers.

"Each bottle evokes the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their very own limited edition," Dove said in a statement.

But people on social media have described the range as a "ridiculous idea". Read more here

IMF says Africa growth to tick up

Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa should recover slightly to 2.6% this year after a more than two-decade low in 2016 as commodity exporters faced lower prices, the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

The slight rebound will be driven by a recovery in oil production in Nigeria, higher public spending ahead of elections in Angola, and the fading of drought effects in South Africa, the IMF said in its regional economic outlook.

However, resource-rich Nigeria, Angola and Central Africa's six-nation CEMAC bloc are still struggling to deal with the losses caused by low oil prices, the IMF said.

"The overall weak outlook partly reflects insufficient policy adjustment," said Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of the IMF's African Department, adding that this was holding back investment.

Australian bankers attack tax

Jonathan Josephs

BBC business producer

The Australian Bankers' Association has slammed the tax on bank profits that the Federal Government unveiled in its budget as “a direct attack on jobs and growth”. They warned that it “could have unintended consequences” and that “it is naïve and misguided and has already sent the wrong signals to global financial markets about the strength and stability of our banking sector”.

The government estimates it will raise AUS $6.2bn over four years (about £3.5bn) from the “major bank levy” on banks with liabilities of at least AUS $100bn. 

In effect that means five banks will have to pay the new tax on their profits; they are Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, ANZ Banking Group, National Australia Bank and Macquarie Group. 

Shares in all five banks closed Tuesday’s trading on the Australian Stock Exchange down, with the falls of between 1.98% and 3.85%.

Energy cap 'could reduce switching'

Gas ring
Getty Images

More reaction now to the Conservatives' proposal to cap energy bills ...

Hannah Maundrell, editor in Chief of money.co.uk, says it's not "necessarily the answer", and, in fact, could result in customers "paying more in the long run".

An energy cap could lull people into a false sense of security and actually reduce switching; not to mention knock out incentives for energy companies to compete with cheaper prices. The key is getting the 17 million households on standard tariffs switching. Scrapping standard variable tariffs altogether is one option they should look at instead as compulsory renewals could help to drive up switching rates - like car insurance.

ScottishPower: 'Abolish Standard Variable Tariffs'

Part of ScottishPower bill
PA

We agree that the Competition and Markets Authority did not go far enough to protect energy consumers. But though the Conservatives have asked the right question, they have found the wrong answer. ScottishPower has been campaigning to abolish unfair Standard Variable Tariffs (SVT) altogether. Getting rid of SVTs would end the status quo in the market, increase competition and save much more than just £100 for hard working families. Rather than addressing the symptom of price pressure in the energy market, the next government should tackle the root cause of the problem and boost competition by abolishing the Standard Variable Tariff.

Keith AndersonChief corporate officer, ScottishPower

Sterling performance

Pound, dollar and euro notes
Getty Images

Let's get a quick update on what's happening to sterling so far on Tuesday ...

The pound has been ticking higher against the euro today to bring the 1.19 euro level back into sight, whilst managing to stay above $1.29 versus the US dollar throughout the morning. Domestic influences to push the pound significantly in either direction have been thin on the ground. Overnight the British Retail Consortium reported a far stronger than expected rise in retail sales in April, although this year’s later timing of the Easter bank holidays suggests the 5.6% increase in like-for-like sales is overstating the true health of the UK consumer.

Chris SaintSenior analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown Currency Service

S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record intraday highs

Wall Street sign
get

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes hit record intraday highs for the second day in a row on Tuesday 

The S&P 500 is at 2,401.27, a rise of 2 points or 0.08%.

Since Donald Trump's election victory in November the S&P 500 has risen by nearly 14%. 

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was at 6,121.27, up 19 points or 0.30%.

Meanwhile, the the Dow Jones was at 21,024.02, that's 12 points or 0.06% higher. 

Micro Focus investors 'running for cover'?

More on the story that shares in Micro Soft have taken a battering today (see previous post).

Micro Focus collapsed 11% as it reported a 10% drop in earnings at HPE Software in the last quarter. It comes after an 8% drop in the preceding quarter and is sending investors running for cover who are maybe thinking the $8.8bn acquisition of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s software business was not so clever after all.

Neil WilsonSenior market analyst, ETX Capital

Micro Focus shares take a dive

Micro Focus sign outside offices
Reuters

Shares in Berkshire-based tech company Micro Focus International took a dive on Tuesday after the firm said sales were down at the software business it's buying from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 

Sales at HPE Software, which Micro Focus is buying for $8bn (£6.6bn), fell 10% in the quarter to April. 

Micro Focus stock fell over 9% before recovering some ground to trade 5.5% lower.  

Kevin Loosemore, Micro Focus chairman, said the decline was "disappointing", but added it wasn't "unusual given the level of change being undertaken".

Nice try

Shirley Ballas
BBC

Strangled PR angle of the day goes to... (sorry, not giving them a plug).

Barely had the world digested news that the BBC had chosen a female head judge - Shirley Ballas - to replace Strictly Come Dancing's Len Goodman than a quick-fire PR is in contact.

Her employment lawyer-client wants to comment on how "it places a spotlight on the need for businesses to do more in making sure women are on boards and in influential positions".

Ten-out-ten for effort.

John Lewis in £36m wage error

John Lewis store, Oxford Street
John Lewis

The group that runs John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets has set aside £36m to deal with potentially having broken minimum wage rules.

It's in negotiations with HMRC, but stressed the group's hourly rates of pay have never been below the minimum wage 

Instead it said the mistake came from averaging pay out over a year to ensure workers are paid a consistent amount each month.

Centrica and SSE pare losses

FTSE 100
BBC

Investors seem to be a little less worried about the impact of a price cap on British Gas-owner Centrica and SSE.

The firms, which are the only Big Six energy suppliers listed on the FTSE 100, have seen their shares recover slightly. Centrica is down 1.5%, compared with a fall of 4% at the start of trading; while SSE has pared its losses from about 3% to 0.8%.

The FTSE 100 is up 0.7% at 7,352 points, as mining stocks push higher on the back of rising copper prices.

Engineering giant Rolls-Royce is also one of the biggest winners - rising 2.3% - after striking a deal to help build the engines for Turkish fighter jets.

Energy cap: 'part of a rebranding'

Simon Jack

BBC Business Editor

Theresa May
PA

Theresa May has decided that an energy cap fits her political purpose and has confirmed she will wear it into this election campaign.

It's a striking departure for a Conservative Party that branded Ed Miliband's attempt to intervene in the energy markets in 2013 a "dangerous idea".

Nevertheless, it's a new direction for her party and I'm told senior ministers were split over its wisdom.

It is the most significant policy to date in Theresa May's attempt to rebrand the Conservatives as the party of the worker and consumer rather than big business and its bosses.

Read Simon's blog in full.

Stanley Gibbons stamps its authority

Indian stamps featuring Gandhi
Stanley Gibbons

Stanley Gibbons, the stamp and collectibles trader, has had a rough time recently. Poor trading and debt has led to a near-halving of the share price since the start of last year.

And new management is pretty clear where the blame lies. 

Announcing news of a disposal, the firm says: "Whilst the current board believes that the strategic decisions of the previous board caused undeniable damage to the company, the demonstrable strengths of the underlying businesses, and the people within them, are becoming ever more clear.  

"Today's transaction is testament to the restructuring that has already been effected over the last 12 months."