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  1. Get in touch:
  2. LSE chairman wins shareholder backing
  3. Toys R Us UK jobs under threat
  4. Steinhoff shakes up board
  5. FTSE 100 steady at midday

Live Reporting

By Mary-Ann Russon

All times stated are UK

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All good things must come to an end, and that's it from us for tonight.

But don't fear - we'll be back bright and early at 06:00 on Wednesday with all the latest business news. Do join us then.

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Wall Street closes slightly lower

Wall Street at Christmas
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US shares ended slightly lower as the US House of Representatives approved a long-anticipated tax cut bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has ended the day down 0.15% or 37.5 points to 24,754.75. The top loser was Goldman Saches, down 1.25% to $256.78.

The broader S&P 500 meanwhile closed lower, falling 0.32% or 8.7 points to 2,681.47. The top faller was PPL Corp, down 4.6% to $32.42 on news that the Farmers National Bank decreased its stake in the firm by 17%.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended down 0.44% or 30.9 points to 6,963.85, dragged down by Novavax Inc, down 17% to $1.24 after a Wall Street analyst downgraded its stock from Buy to Neutral.

Mystery donors contribute £4.5m of stand redevelopment costs

Pension funds 'at the front of the queue'

Toys R Us store in London
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Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, has told BBC 5 Live Drive that pension funds should be at the front of the queue ahead of other creditors when companies go into administration.

In addition, there is something the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) can do to protect Toys R Us UK employees.

“Where it looks as though monies have been moved around to the advantage of individuals or to companies abroad where the present workforce and the pension fund has been disadvantaged," said Mr Field.

"...then we need to have the Pension Protection Fund to have new powers so that it can claw back where possible monies which have been, in what the man and woman in the street would have thought, is a misappropriation of company funds."

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Disney's President Donald Trump robot gets mocked

Tax bill 'great' for small and medium-sized businesses

Tax cuts and jobs act documents
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Brian Perry, portfolio manager at Hennessy Funds in Novato, California, says that the Republicans' tax cut plan will be positive for smaller businesses.

"Looking at companies in our portfolio, [the tax bill] will be great for domestic small- and mid-cap companies paying a 30%, 35% effective tax rate," he said.

"A lot of them do not have the ability to move profits offshore... I'll wait and see how much, but I can see another 5% rise [in the market] in the next few months as the tax bill kicks in."

No certainty on economic growth

According to Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago, it was expected that the Republicans' tax reform bill would make it past the House of Representatives.

"It's pretty much along party lines," he said.

"It's going to take time to see how the general population reacts to it. The expectation is companies are going to bring back a lot of dollars back to the United States and put it into plant and equipment. It very well may go into stock buybacks and dividend increases.

"There's no certainty we're going to get the promised economic gain everybody's been talking about."

House approves biggest tax overhaul in 30 years

US House of Representatives
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The US House of Representatives has approved the biggest tax overhaul plan in 30 years.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 227 to 203. Businesses will see permanent steep tax cuts, while some individuals and families will receive temporary cuts.

Middle income households would see an average tax cut of $900 next year, while the wealthiest 1% of Americans would see an average cut of $51,000, according to the nonpartisan think tank Tax Policy Center.

The Republicans say that the new legislation will boost economic growth - the move will add $1.5 trillion to national debt.

The bill also repeals a section of the Obamacare health system, and allows for oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Saudi Arabia 2018 budget 'a success'

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Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman says that the 2018 budget will have the largest state spending in the kingdom's history.

He says this is evidence of success despite low oil prices, and that improving living standards for Saudi citizens was a government priority, according to comments on the state news agency SPA.

Universal and YouTube strike a deal


YouTube has agreed to pay more to Universal in exchange for its copyrights, in a new long term licensing agreement.

The deal has taken over two years to agree and means Universal artists will get more money when their songs are played on the site.

Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal, said the deal would provide “growing compensation from YouTube’s ad-supported and paid-subscription tiers, while also furthering YouTube’s commitment to manage music rights on its platform.”

Earlier this year, Universal secured a deal to give it exclusive licensing rights to much of the late musician Prince's private archive.

One of the world's oldest erotic novels pulled from auction

120 Days of Sodom original scrolls

The French government has pulled one of the world's earliest and most sordid erotic novels from auction, declaring that it is a national treasure.

"120 Days of Sodom" was written by the Marquis De Sade in 1785 while he was imprisoned in the Bastilee on 33 pieces of scroll. De Sade was a nobleman, politician, philosopher and writer best known for his libertine sexuality.

The book, considered to be his most obscene work, had attracted interest from foreign buyers and had been expected to fetch between €4-6m at auction, according to French auctioneers Aguttes.

By declaring the book a "national treasure", the French state has 30 months to raise funds to purchase the book, or it will be put back on sale.

Crypto Company trading suspended in US

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Trading in the shares of Crypto Company has been suspended until 3 January.

The small US firm has seens its shares rise more than 2,700% this month after signing a deal to buy a crypto currency data platform.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said it was concerned about the "accuracy and adequacy of information" available to investors.

It said there were also questions concerning "potentially manipulative transactions" in the company's stock in November.

Crypto Company says it provides a "portfolio of digital assets, technologies, and consulting services to the blockchain and crypto currency markets."

Emissions fix approved for Audi diesel vehicles

An Audi dealer
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US regulators have approved an emissions fix for 24,000 Audi 3-litre passengers cars, including all 2014 to 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 diesel vehicles.

The fix requires Volkswagen to remove defeat device software that reduced emission control effectiveness and replacing certain hardware components.

To date, approval for fixes has been granted to over 75% of 3-litre diesel automobiles, according to the car manufacturer.

When is the best time to look for a job?

Facebook and Microsoft disabled cyber threats from North Korea

Tom Bossert at White House briefing
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A senior White House official says that Facebook and Microsoft recently acted to disable a number of potential North Korean cyber threats.

"Facebook took down accounts and stopped the operational execution of ongoing cyber attacks and Microsoft acted to patch existing attacks, not just the WannaCry attack initially," White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said on Tuesday.

He added that the US government had clear evidence that North Korea was responsible for the attack, though he did not give details.

Steinhoff shares tank

Poundland shop

German-listed shares in Steinhoff, the South African owner of Poundland fell by over 20.5% after it revealed that lenders are starting to withdraw or suspend credit following allegations of accounting irregularities.

In a presentation prepared for a crunch meeting with lenders, the company said that given the ongoing forensic review, it was not possible to give further details regarding the "magnitude of the accounting irregularities that are under scrutiny".

"The recent announcements have had a destabilising effect on the group that will need to be addressed in order to preserve value for all stakeholders," the company said in its presentation.

"Continuing support from the group's creditors and other stakeholders will be required to maintain stability and to provide the required time to address the current issues and preserve value for all stakeholders."

London ends slightly ahead

London Stock Exchange
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The FTSE 100 has closed up 0.09% or 7.1 points at 7,544.09, still supported by a weaker pound.

The index was led by Shire Plc, up 3.7% to £39.15, despite the fact that its experimental drug for children with Hunter syndrome failed to meet late-stage clinical trial goals.

The biggest loser was international private healthcare provider Mediclinic International, down 4.9% to 578p.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 ended up 0.43% or 86.1 points to 20,341.51.

Cybersecurity firm Sophos Group led the winners, up 5.2% to 569p after announcing a positive earnings update. Top of the losers was UDG Healthcare Plc, down 5.9% to 842p.

Banks late with data 'revolution'

Five of the nine banks ordered to be ready for a banking "revolution" by mid-January will miss the deadline.

The banks have been given extra time to be fully set up for Open Banking, a system allowing customers to use their payment history to get better deals.

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TCI not backing down

London Stock Exchange
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Unhappy shareholder TCI Fund Management is not backing down, despite the fact that London Stock Exchange chairman Donald Brydon won the backing of 79% of shareholders.

"21% of voting shareholders elected to remove Donald Brydon as a Director of the London Stock Exchange Group," Sir Christopher Hohn wrote in a letter.

"Additionally, many of the large shareholders who voted against the resolution have informed us that they had asked the board to commence work on the chairman's succession plan immediately.

"The vote constitutes a serious rebuke of the board by shareholders....a chairman of a major FTSE 100 company is expected to command the overwhelming support of shareholders.

"This is no longer the case with LSEG and it is therefore imperative that a search begins immediately for a new chairman as there is no justification for waiting until 2019."

What happens if Toys R Us goes out of business?

So what happens if Toys R Us goes out of business in the UK?

According to a report submitted to the High Court of Justice, British taxpayers will lose £12,417,660 if the troubled toy store chain goes out of business.

That figure is made up of: £7,959,681 to local authorities in tax; £2,187,644 to local authorities which own their properties, and £2,270,335 to the HMRC.

Toys R Us' biggest creditor is Hasbro - it owes the toymaker £8.5m, followed by Lego, which is owed £3.6m.

UK government queries Toys R Us executive pay-outs

Toys R Us
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The Work & Pensions Committee says it has asked Toys R Us's UK managing director Steve Knights to explain why there have been massive increases in pay-outs made to the former UK head of the company Roger McLaughlan.

It has been reported in the media that payments to Mr McLaughlan increased from £356,000 in 2014 to £1m in 2015, and then to £1.3m in 2016.

The pay-outs were made over the last two years, during a period of substantial operating losses leading up to the current proposals to close 26 stores in the UK.

Ryanair hints will extend union recognition

Ryanair aeroplane

Ryanair has hinted it will recognise cabin crew unions for the first time. Meetings will be held in "due course".

The airline is meeting a pilots' union for the first time in its 32-year history on Tuesday.

A statement said: "As Ryanair's statement of Friday December 15 made clear, Ryanair is moving to recognise unions, starting this week with meetings with Irish, German and Portuguese pilot unions.

It went on to say: "It will lead on in the new year to meetings with other EU pilot unions and cabin crew unions in due course as well."

Wall Street down on open

Wall Street at Christmas
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US shares fell at open on Tuesday, despite rising hopes that the US Congress will vote in favour of the Republicans' proposed tax overhaul plans.

The Dow Jones is down 0.16% or 40.6 points to 24,751.65, weighed down by Microsoft, which has fallen 0.6% to $85.86.

The S&P 500 is down 0.11% or 2.8 points to 2,687.32. The biggest loser was PPL Corp, down 3% to $32.95 on news that the Farmers National Bank decreased its stake in the firm by 17%.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq has fallen 0.27% or 18.8 points to 6,976.00, dragged down by Novavax Inc, down 17% to $1.24 after a Wall Street analyst downgraded its stock from Buy to Neutral.

Send a text to end your mobile contract

Lady holding a mobile phone
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Mobile phone users will soon be able to switch providers by sending a text to the operator they want to leave, the telecoms regulator has confirmed.

Ofcom said the change meant customers could avoid a long call to their operator when they want to switch.

In turn, they will be sent switching codes to pass on to their new provider.

Stability welcome

London Stock Exchange
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Commenting on the result of the LSE's general meeting, chairman Donald Brydon said: "The board would like to thank shareholders for their support today.

"The board and I welcome the stability that this gives the group.

"The recruitment process for a new CEO is under way and we will update our shareholders in due course," he said, referring to the search for a replace for a replacement for former chief executive Xavier Rolet, who stepped down last month.

BreakingLSE chairman wins vote

The chairman of the London Stock Exchange, Donald Brydon, has won the backing of the majority of shareholders. An extraordinary general meeting held earlier on Tuesday resulted in the backing of 79% of shareholders.

Hedge fund, TCI Fund Management, a 5% shareholder in LSE, had pressed to get rid of Mr Brydon amid unhappiness over the departure of Xavier Rolet, the group's former chief executive, who left last month, a year earlier than planned.

BreakingPPF to vote against Toys R Us restructuring plan

Toys R Us
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The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) has announced that it intends to vote against Toys R Us' proposed company voluntary agreement (CVA).

"Since the company lodged the CVA proposals we have spent significant time and effort, with the help of PwC, assessing the current and future financial position of the company to ensure the pension scheme would not be weakened by the CVA, leading to an even bigger claim on the PPF and its levy payers further down the line," said Malcolm Weir, PPF's director of restructuring and insolvency.

“Given the position of the company, we strongly believe seeking assurances for the pension scheme is reasonable given the deficit in the scheme and questions about the overall position of the company.

“We remain in dialogue with the company and their advisors and we are able to amend our vote if suitable assurances provided.”

Good Afternoon

Man looks at smartphone on tube train
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Thanks to Dearbail and Rebecca for this morning's live coverage of all things business.

Mary-Ann Russon with you until 21:30 for the rest of the day's news and views from Britain and beyond.

Got a point of view? Tweet me at @concertina226 and @BBCBusiness

US current account deficit falls

The US current account deficit shrank by more than expected, official figures show. The Commerce Department said the current account deficit, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, dropped 19% in the third quarter to $100bn. That was the lowest level since the third quarter of 2014.

LSE 'brought opprobrium' says shareholder

The meeting on the future of the chairman of the London Stock Exchange heard the board accused on Tuesday of "bringing opprobium" on the 300-year old exchange.

Activist shareholder TCI brought a resolution to the extraordinary general meeting calling for LSE chairman Donald Brydon to be fired over his handling of the departure of former chief executive, Xavier Rolet, who left in November, a year earlier than planned. "This is a very sorry affair, which has brough considerable opprobium on the company," Aubrey Franklin, a small shareholder for over 20 years who backed the resolution, told the meeting. The TCI resolution is expected to be defeated after major shareholders indicated they would vote against it. The result will be published later on Tuesday.

Port Talbot pension transfers under scrutiny

Port Talbot
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The regulator the Financial Conduct Authority has been investigating 17 companies after Tata employees said they got bad advice about moving from the British Steel Pension Scheme.

Some firms have been accused of preying on pensioners, some of whom have substantial pension pots. Advisers can earn thousands in commission for bringing new clients to investment firms.

Darren Reynolds, the director of Active Wealth (UK) Ltd, and Clive Howells, managing director of another firm, Celtic Wealth Management, who failed to attend last week's hearing on the British Steel Pension, have now been written to by the Work and Pensions Committee.

Mobiles dominate free time

The Office for National Statistics wonders whether smartphones and the like are making youngsters less sociable?

Business Live would suggest asking a teenager but fears it would only get a sullen grunt in reply.

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Yemen crisis spikes Vimto sales


Bad news for fans of Vimto in the Middle East.

Nichols, which makes the purple cordial, says: "The recent escalation of hostilities in Yemen has resulted in the supply route to our Yemeni customer being blockaded.

"Therefore, at this time we are unable to send any further Vimto concentrate shipments that were planned for December 2017."

It says it now expects adjusted pre-tax profit for the year to be in line with 2016.

Basic bank account numbers rise


The number of people with basic, fee-free bank accounts is rising.

The UK Treasury says more than 900,000 new bank accounts were opened between July 2016 and June 2017, and for the second year running Nationwide and Lloyds Banking Group opened the most.

Passing the mantle

Frankie Goes to Hollywood
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Music producer Trevor Horn has paid tribute to Jill Sinclair, who was instrumental in the success of ZTT, the record label behind Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and publisher Perfect Songs which, along with Stiff Records, has been sold to Universal.

"Jill started Perfect Songs and ZTT in the 80’s and I’m extremely proud of what she achieved," he said of his late wife.

He added: "I’d like to thank all the writers and the artists on ZTT, Perfect and Stiff.

"It was a great experience and I enjoyed working with each one of you (most of the time)."

Uber drivers 'forced to work exhausting hours'

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Uber is a danger to public safety because it forces drivers to work exhausting hours just to make ends meet, a union has told a court.

The GMB union has mounted legal efforts to become a participant in the taxi-hailing firm's appeal against a decision not to renew its licence in London.

A spokesperson for Uber said: "Drivers spend an average of 30 hours a week logged into our app.

"However, this is not the same as the number of hours spent driving since drivers can log in while on a break or doing other things.

"We take the issue of tired driving seriously, which is why we regularly remind drivers to take rest breaks and will shortly be introducing hours limits in our app.”

Test your Bank knowledge

You don't have to be a total egghead to do well in the Bank of England's annual Christmas quiz...but it helps.

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Former Steinhoff business partner files lawsuits

As Steinhoff investors meet to try and thrash out a deal with the South African company's bankers, it is facing legal action from a former business partner, according to Bloomberg.

It reports that Andreas Seifert has filed lawsuits against Steinhoff, owner of Poundland, Bensons and Harveys, in Germany, the Netherlands and his homeland of Austria.

For full details on the scandal surrounding Steinhoff, click here.

Text-to-switch plan confirmed

Kevin Peachey

Personal finance reporter

Mobile phone in hand

Regulator Ofcom has confirmed a plan to allow mobile phone users to switch operators by sending a text to the provider they want to leave.

Ofcom said customers could avoid an awkward and long call to their operator and instead send a text. In turn, they will be sent switching codes to pass on to their new provider.

The new system will come into force in May 2019.

The regulator's previously preferred option - a more simple one-stage process - was dropped earlier this year.

Ofcom said that the new system allowed customers to haggle with their existing provider for a cheaper price should they wish to.