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Summary

  1. Moneysupermarket.com is FTSE 250's biggest faller
  2. British Gas pays out £1.1m for missed appointments
  3. Sports Direct profits tumble but shares rise
  4. Summer childcare costs rise as supply shrinks
  5. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Good night

That's all for tonight from the Business Live page. Join us again from 06:00 tomorrow.

Benetton 'vying to buy Ducati'

A Ducati bike
Getty Images

Italy's Benetton family is vying with other bidders for control of the luxury motorcycle brand Ducati, which is being sold by Volkswagen, sources have told Reuters.

The Benetton family, which founded the eponymous fashion brand, has apparently made a preliminary offer of $1.2bn, one of the sources said.

US buyout fund Bain Capital and two Indian motorbike firms, Eicher Motors and Bajaj Auto, have also bid for Ducati, the sources said.

Sears shares rally on Amazon deal

Sears logo
Getty Images

Shares in US department store group Sear have jumped more than 10% after the ailing firm offloaded its Kenmore's appliance division to Amazon.

Sears has closed hundreds of stores in recent years amid a slowdown in the US retail landscape as more people shop online.

Under the deal, Amazon will integrate "smart" Kenmore appliances with its artificial intelligence programme Alexa.

Stocks end little changed on Wall Street

Stocks closed little changed on Wall Street as a deal between Sears and Amazon weighed on home improvement retailers while gains in Microsoft helped buoy the Nasdaq.

South Africa cuts key interest rate

Jacob Zuma, South African president
Getty Images
South African President, Jacob Zuma

South Africa's central bank has slashed its key interest rate for the first time in five years as the country battles recession.

The bank cut the cost of borrowing by 25 basis points to 6.75% while also cutting its growth forecast for 2017 from 1% to 0.5%.

Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago said that underlying demand in the economy was "extremely weak", raising concerns about inflation which stands at 5.4%, close to the bank's upper limit of 6%.

In the first quarter of 2017 South Africa's economy slipped into its first recession in eight years, as key industries struggled to sustain growth and unemployment increased.

Tobacco firms 'hinder efforts' to stop smoking in Africa

VW to pay extra $154m for emissions cheating

VW logo
Getty Images

Regulators have told Volkswagen to pay an additional $154m over its emissions scandal in the US.

The California Air Resources Board (Carb) said the settlement would cover air quality violations and the costs of Carb's investigation.

VW, which pleaded guilty earlier this year to cheating emissions tests on more than half a million cars in the US, has already paid $533m to the state of California and agreed to invest $800m in green infrastructure initiatives.

The total costs of the scandal for the carmaker stretch to $24bn in North America, including fines, penalties, consumer remediation and the cost of buying back vehicles.

Bank of America vice chair tapped for Uber role

Bank of America vice chairman Anne Finucane
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Uber is courting Bank of America vice chairman Anne Finucane for its new chief executive position, news portal Axios has reported.

Ms Finucane is a member of the bank's executive management committee, and leads several of its functions, including global marketing. She has been with BofA for around 22 years.

She is said to be intrigued by the role, made vacant in June by Travis Kalanick, but has not held any official talks with Uber yet.

Investors untroubled by Exxon fine

Philip Morris shares slide on weak results

Marlboro ciggarette packets
Getty Images

Shares in cigarette-maker Philip Morris have slipped as much as 2.8% after its quarterly profit missed expectations.

The firm, which owns Marlboro, said it expects full-year earnings per share to come in at between $4.78 and $4.93, down from the $4.84-4.99 it was forecasting three months ago.

Sales climbed 4% in the second quarter, largely due to demand for new tobacco technology products such as e-cigarettes, but actual cigarette shipments fell 7.5% - the firm's ninth consecutive quarter of decline.

US stocks tread water

US traders
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US stocks are broadly flat as earnings season continues and investors weigh fresh political controversy surrounding Donald Trump.

A short while ago the Dow Jones index was down 0.1%, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were both up 0.1%.

All three indexes dipped after Bloomberg reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into the business dealings of President Donald Trump as part of his probe into links with Russia.

EBay, Microsoft and Visa are some of the major names set to report on Thursday.

Bitcoin swings as civil war looms

Bitcoin
Getty Images

The value of the virtual currency Bitcoin has always been volatile.

Even so, there has been particular turbulence in recent days as fears of a "civil war" among its adherents first grew and then subsided, although they have not gone away altogether.

On Sunday, the value of one bitcoin dropped to about $1,863 (£1,430) before bouncing back to $2,402 on Wednesday, according to data from the news site CoinDesk - still some way off a June high of $3,019.

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Plans to turn Square Mile into 'cultural hub'

The Square Mile
Getty Images

London’s Square Mile could be turned into a cultural hub over the next decade under plans released today.

The City of London Corporation said it wants to create a “culture mile” to transform the area between Farringdon and Moorgate, which is better known for its preponderance of financial firms.

The revamp would include a new Museum of London at West Smithfield, a concert hall for the London Symphony Orchestra and a transformation of Beech Street, the tunnel that runs under the Barbican.

Catherine McGuinness of the City of London Corporation suggested the plans would attract more tourists to the area, which is busy during the week but deserted on weekends.

"What more important time is there than [now], in the face of Brexit, to send a really strong signal that London is and always will be an open and resolutely internationalist city," she said.

Dollar falls on Trump reports

US president Donald Trump
Getty Images

The US Dollar Index - which tracks the value of the dollar against a basket of foreign currencies - has hit an 11-month low after a series of news reports about the US president.

The DXY index fell by as much as 0.7% to $94.09.

The reports claimed the US special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia was examining transactions involving Mr Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates.

Rodents 'fall from ceiling' of Chipotle restaurant

Chipotle restaurant
Getty Images

More bad news for Chipotle.

Days after the firm shut one of its US restaurants over a food-poisoning scare, customers reported seeing rats "falling from the ceiling" at another.

Diners at the Dallas restaurant also said they saw rodents crawling around the floor and climbing up the wall.

Chipotle called it an "extremely isolated and rare incident".

"We immediately contacted professionals who identified a small structural gap in the building as the likely access point. We're having it repaired," a spokesperson said.

Shares in the company slipped almost 3% on Thursday. It follows a fall on up to 5% on Tuesday, after customers fell ill after eating at a branch in Virginia.

Doubt cast on Musk's hyperloop plan

Earlier, Elon Musk said he had been given "verbal" government approval to build an enormous hyperloop system along the US East Coast.

But as one Twitter user pointed out, such approval probably wouldn't cut it for a project this large.

For the uninitiated, the hyperloop is a futuristic transport system that promises to propel passengers at high speeds underground. It is still at test stage.

View more on twitter

ExxonMobil fined by US for Ukraine sanctions violations

ExxonMobil logo
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ExxonMobil must pay a $2m penalty for signing documents for oil and gas projects in Russia, despite US sanctions imposed after Russian forces seized Crimea in 2014.

Exxon signed documents in May 2014 with Igor Sechin, the president of Russian oil giant Rosneft and another, unnamed person, it said.

At the time, Exxon was led by Rex Tillerson, now US Secretary of State.

The US Treasury Department said Exxon showed "reckless disregard" for rules.

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FTSE 100 closes higher

UK-based trader
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The FTSE 100 gained almost 1% on Thursday, helped by the weakness of sterling and a dovish announcement on rates from the European Central Bank.

The biggest gainer was Ashtead Group, up 3.1%, followed by Provident Financial, up 3%, and retailer Next, which rose 2.8%.

The index gained 56.96 points, or 0.8%, to 7,487.87.

The pound slipped 0.4% against the dollar to $1.29750, despite stronger-than-expected retail sales figures for June.

A weaker pound amplifies the foreign earnings of firms on the index.

Meanwhile, the euro rallied on the ECB's decision to keep rates on hold and continue its bond-buying programme. It's up more than 1% against the dollar at $1.16370.

AlphaBay and Hansa dark web markets shut down

A dark web website
US Department of Justice

Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following a "landmark" international law enforcement investigation.

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.

According to Europol, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay.

Hansa was seized and covertly monitored for a month before being deactivated.

Read more

Jobs saved after Liberty acquisition

Steel giant Liberty House Group has acquired two businesses in a rescue deal, saving 550 workers' jobs.

The group bought Amtek Aluminium Castings and King Automotive Systems for an undisclosed sum from administrators PwC.

The firms manufacturer engine and vehicle components.

Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the Liberty House Group, said: "We are very pleased to use our resources and extensive experience in the automotive sector to rescue this enterprise and enable it to recover and reach its true potential."

Parents' tips for childcare costs in the summer holidays

BBC News UK

Kids on a ride
SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Keeping your children entertained during a long summer holiday is never easy, especially when you're on a tight budget.

According to the Family and Childcare Trust, the cost of holiday childcare has increased by 4% since 2016 to an average of £125 per week.

Here, readers share their advice for managing childcare costs in the summer downtime.

Musk thinks big with Hyperloop plan

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The hyperloop - an Elon Musk idea - could see passengers propelled in pods through low pressure tubes at near supersonic speeds.

While still only at test stage, the system could cut land-based journey times dramatically, say proponents.

Now Mr Musk - the billionaire entrepreneur behind Tesla - says he has been given "verbal" government approval to build a hyperloop on America's East Coast.

Deutsche Bank 'may face subpoena' in Trump investigation

Donald Trum, US president
Getty Images

Deutsche Bank may soon be issued with a subpoena to provide information in the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, the Guardian has reported.

Quoting a source familiar with the matter, the paper said the bank had already established informal contact with the team leading the federal investigation.

Deutsche’s financial relationship with Mr Trump - which goes back two decades - has faced months of scrutiny, with some questioning whether Russian entities may have provided financial guarantees for loans made to the president or his immediate family members.

Separately, the New York Times has reported that banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars of loans made to Mr Trump via Deutsche Bank.

Again quoting sources, the paper said regulators wanted to know whether the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks should Mr Trump not be able to repay his debts.

Regulators are also interested in the personal guarantees he made to obtain the loans, the paper said.

Counting the cost of school holidays

Citigroup unveils Brexit plans

Citi and HSBC offices in London
Getty Images

Citigroup says it may need to create 150 new jobs in the EU after Brexit.

The US bank also confirmed it would be making Frankfurt its new EU base, to minimise disruption when Britain leaves the bloc.

Jim Cowles, the bank's head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said its London office would remain its EMEA headquarters.

However, he said the bank would build up its private banking, treasury and trade and investment banking businesses in other key EU cities, including Amsterdam, Dublin, Luxembourg, Madrid and Paris.

Would using an eye scanner make mobile banking secure?

Man using iris-scanning tech on a mobile
Getty Images

From September TSB customers will be able to try out iris scanning technology to access their bank account if they have a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+.

Click to watch

Is Sports Direct the 'Selfridges of sport'?

No news is good news for euro

The euro rallied after the ECB announced it would keep rates on hold and maintain its stimulus programme. But why?

"The reason is because there is nothing new from today’s meeting, the ECB statement is virtually unchanged from last time and no news means no change in the euro’s trend, which for now is higher," says Kathleen Brooks, an analyst at CityIndex.

Hawkish comments from ECB chief Mario Draghi caused the currency to jump in June.

Ms Brooks added: "The key takeaway from today’s meeting is that a September taper announcement looks increasingly unlikely as the ECB said that a 'very substantial degree of accommodation is needed' to boost inflation, and that the ECB’s quantitative programme will run until the inflation rate picks up."

Profits fizz for Vimto

Vimto bottles
BBC

The maker of Vimto and Sunkist has reported a 6.8% rise in pre-tax profits, despite soaring input costs.

Nichols said its earnings were £12.7m for the six months to 30 June.

The group expects market conditions to "remain challenging" over the rest of 2017, but added it was confident of meeting expectations for the full-year.

It's shares gained 0.7% on Thursday in London.

Royal Mail sees off shareholder rebellion on pay

Royal Mail vans
Getty Images

Royal Mail has seen off a shareholder rebellion against its pay plans for top executives.

Investors holding 91.5% of its shares backed the remuneration report at the firm's latest AGM, while 8.5% went against.

It comes amid recent anger over chief executive Moya Greene's remuneration package, which has increased 23% to £1.9m. Ms Greene has also just also taken on the post of non-executive director at EasyJet, earning £60,000 for just nine days' work.

Meanwhile Royal Mail is looking to avert strike action as it pushes through controversial changes to its final salary pension scheme.

'A lot of uncertainty'

ECB president, Mario Draghi
ECB

Mr Draghi has concluded his press conference on a conspicuously vague note.

He says there aren't any "specific" developments that might prompt the ECB to change tack on interest rates and its stimulus programme.

Instead, the central bank will have to judge the economic climate as it evolves, and there is still much "uncertainty" about the eurozone's future.

Draghi 'dampening market speculation'

Euro symbol
Getty Images

ECB chief Mario Draghi is not giving much away during his press conference and refuses to set dates for possible changes to monetary policy.

Patrick O’Donnell of Aberdeen Asset Management says it's “a well-choreographed attempt... to make sure financial markets don’t get ahead of themselves after his more hawkish comments of late".

"He was at pains to stress that financial conditions are still supportive of higher inflation," Mr O'Donnell says.

"We probably won’t hear anything significant out of the ECB until September, which is plenty of time for investors to digest Mr Draghi’s caveat laden hawkishness."

Euro climbs

Euro vs dollar chart
BBC

The euro has climbed following the ECB's decision to keep rates on hold. It's up 0.4% against the dollar at $1.15650, and 0.7% against the pound at £0.89060.

Draghi: No discussion of changes until Autumn

Mr Draghi says that policy makers at the ECB were "unanimous" in setting no precise date to discuss changes to the current economic stimulus measures. He said discussions on that could take place in the Autumn.

Traders have been speculating when the governing council of the ECB would start talking about withdrawing their bond buying programme.

Inflation likely to be volatile

Mr Draghi expects the headline inflation rate to be "fairly volatile" in the coming months.

The ECB needs to be persistent, patient and prudent he tells journalists.

Draghi: Inflation remains subdued

Measures of inflation are yet to show "convincing signs" of an upward trend, Mr Draghi says.

Wage growth remains subdued he says and underlying inflation is only expected to rise gradually.

Draghi sees strengthening of euro-area economy

ECB President Mario Draghi
BBC

ECB President Mario Draghi has started his monetary policy press conference.

"The incoming information confirms the continued strengthening of the economic expansion in the euro area," he says.

Despacito banned in Malaysia

Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi
Universal Music

It may be the world's most-streamed song of all time... but it's banned in Malaysia. The government says Luis Fonsi's Despacito cannot be played on state radio or television because the lyrics are deemed obscene.

Malaysia's communications and telecommunications minister, Salleh Said Keruak, announced the ban, which he said applied "with immediate effect".

The song, also featuring reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee (left) and available in a remix featuring Justin Bieber, has been played 4.6 billion times across streaming services worldwide. The song, marketed by the Universal Music Group, is currently number one in the UK charts and has hit the top spot in 34 other countries.

ECB's Draghi 'playing for time'

Mario Draghi
Reuters

And now efforts begin to try to second-guess what the ECB's Mario Draghi will say in his news conference, due in just under half an hour:

Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, says: "Mr Draghi will try to play for time in today’s press conference and avoid saying anything too controversial. With [the euro-dollar rate] poised to break above 1.15, and yields threatening to extend their recent rise, markets likely will jump at even slight outliers in the president’s statement.

"We expect Mr Draghi to strike a confident tone on the economy and inflation, consistent with the Sintra speech. A repeat of the point that deflation risks have now dissipated, and a restatement of the comment that 'reflationary forces are now in play' are good bets.

"But we also think that Mr Draghi will emphasize that the ECB is not complacent, and that its upbeat outlook for the economy is conditional on accommodative monetary policy and the full implementation of the planned stimulus."

Eurozone rate rise 'would be unwise'

Reaction is coming in to that eurozone rate decision. Kerim Derhalli, chief executive of Invstr, says: "While the possibility of an unlikely interest rate hike is slowly growing, it's no surprise that Mario Draghi has opted to keep European Central Bank rates unchanged for now.

"Despite some evidence that monetary stimulus has been working, the fact that inflation in the eurozone slipped back to 1.3% in June suggests that a change now would be unwise.

"Draghi will have also been mindful of the market overreaction to his speech in Sintra, which saw a surge in bond yields and the euro."