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Summary

  1. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk
  2. Sky Shares leap 20% on Comcast takeover approach
  3. Provident Financial shares jump 72%
  4. Greggs profits slip, but record store openings planned
  5. Fed's Powell says US economy strengthening

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

That's it from us tonight - do join us again early tomorrow. We'll be here from 6am with all the latest business news including the fate of retailers Toys R Us and electronics chain Maplin who are both at risk of falling into administration.

Amazon to buy doorbell firm

Ring doorbell
Ring

Amazon.com is set to buy doorbell start-up Ring for more than $1bn.

California-based Ring's products include security cameras and video doorbells and could offer a way for Amazon to deliver parcels directly into homes securely.

"Ring's home security products and services have delighted customers since day one. We're excited to work with this talented team and help them in their mission to keep homes safe and secure," an Amazon spokesperson said.

Wall Street reverses direction

Wall Street stocks have ended the day lower, reversing strong gains over the past two sessions after bullish testimony from new Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell on the US economic outlook revived worries about higher interest rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.2% to finish at 25,410.03. The S&P 500 dropped 1.3% to end the day at 2,744.28, while the Nasdaq lost 1.2% to 7,330.35.

Train travel trends

BBC transport correspondent at the speech by Network Rail's chief

Diesels: 'Don't penalise drivers unfairly'

Diesel pump filling up car
Mark Renders

The UK trade body, the SMMT, has responded to news that German cities will be allowed to ban older diesels.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, says: “The automotive industry recognises the air quality challenge and wants to help all cities meet their targets. However, this must be done without unfairly penalising or banning those who have invested in diesel in good faith.

"SMMT supports a consistent approach that incentivises uptake of the latest, cleanest vehicles, whatever their fuel type. This includes new low emission Euro 6 diesels which will not face any bans, restrictions or access charges under the UK government’s air quality plans.”

Toys R Us D-Day approaches...

... and the BBC's Scotland business editor says the prognosis is not positive

Maplin sale talks continue

Maplin shop front
Maplin

Retailer Maplin is reportedly struggling to secure a rescue deal. Sky News, which first disclosed that the electronics chain was in talks with potential investors, says negotiations are proceeding slowly.

The retailer, which has more than 200 stores and 2,500 staff, said at the start of last week that it hoped to find a buyer "within days".

It is thought that the front runner to buy Maplin is Edinburgh Woollen Mill, whose brands include Austin Reed, Jaeger, Jane Norman and Peacocks.

Brexit change to farming subsidies 'tragedy', says MP

The Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron says changes to agricultural subsidies after Brexit proposed by the Defra secretary Michael Gove could be a "tragedy" for hill farming in areas like Cumbria.

Mr Gove is consulting on plans to get rid of the current system where farmers are paid a subsidy based on the area of land they work, and instead reward only environmental work, flood protection, and other "public benefits".

Mr Farron said: "The Government’s plans look likely to lead to a slow attrition of family farming in places like Cumbria."

Tim Farron
BBC

Many, if not most, hill farms in Cumbria would be non-viable without these payments."

Tim Farron

US e-passports 'not being verified'

Picture of passport
Getty Images

US border control agents have not been using the right software to verify e-passports for more than a decade, two US senators claim.

Oregon senator Ron Wyden and Missouri senator Claire McCaskill have asked US customs officials to start properly authenticating e-passports.

If data on smart chips cannot be checked, it is not possible to tell if it has been tampered with, they say.

Anti-forgery measures in e-passports have never been implemented.

The US was one of the first countries in the world to adopt e-passports, and travellers from countries on the visa-waiver listare now required to enter the country using e-passports, which speed up the time needed to process individuals in border control.

However, the senators say that US Customs and Border Protection has never used the anti-forgery and anti-tamper security measures it required to be built into e-passport smart chips because it doesn't have the right software.

NI farming 'could fall behind rest of UK'

cows in a field
BBC

Environmentalists and a farming union are concerned the lack of an executive could jeopardise farming.

cows in a field

NI farming 'could fall behind rest of UK'

Environmentalists and a farming union are concerned the lack of an executive could jeopardise farming.

Read more

Raffles gets new investors

Raffles Singapore
AccorHotels

AccorHotels is selling a 55% stake in the subsidiary that owns its hotels to a group of international investors including the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Singapore for €4.4bn.

The deal will give the French firm, which includes the Pullman, Raffles (owner of the famous Raffles Singapore above), Novotel and Mercure brands, resources to expand while it will continue to manage the properties under long-term contracts.

Accor separated AccorInvest into a separate legal entity last year in order to bring in new investors.

According to Accor's statement the new investors include the Public Investment Fund and GIC, which are the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Singapore respectively.

Brexit prompts Credit Suisse to move 250 London jobs

The Swiss lender employs around 5,500 staff in London in total
Getty Images

Credit Suisse plans to move about 250 banker jobs out of London under its first phase of Brexit planning, according to reports.

Employees in areas such as trading and mergers and acquisitions were likely to be relocated to Frankfurt or Madrid, Bloomberg reported.

The Swiss bank employs about 5,500 staff in London.

A spokesman said Credit Suisse "continued to investigate its options".

Sterling losses continue

The pound has extended losses against the dollar as comments from new Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell were taken as a sign that a series of US interest rate hikes were on the horizon.

Sterling was trading as low as 1.385 versus the American currency in afternoon trading, before recovering slightly to trade lower by around half a per cent at 1.389.

That compared with the pound's standing against the euro, trading higher by around 0.2% at 1.135.

Sterling's reaction followed Mr Powell's comments at a congressional hearing which analysts took as a sign that three rate hikes were still on the table.

Levi gets the laser treatment

row of Levi jeans
Devaki Knowles

Levi Strauss is turning to robots to get the worn out, faded look so loved by buyers of its blue jeans.

Fraying, fading and creating holes in the jeans is done by hand - finishers beat and brush the garments with sand paper.

But this labour-intensive work is going to be done by an army of robots using lasers.

A laser can finish a pair of jeans in 90 seconds, compared with up to 20 minutes for hand-finishing, the company says.

Mobile moon landing

Mobile giants Vodafone and Nokia have laid out plans to launch a 4G mobile network on the Moon in 2019.

The network will be used by lunar rovers to stream data back to a base station.

Watch our video here.

Fed comments cause market wobble

Jerome Powell
AFP

Remarks by new Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell have cast a cloud over Wall Street.

The three main share indexes have fallen in choppy trading, while US bond yields rose after he said the economy was strengthening and that inflation would rise.

Following his comments, traders of US short-term interest rate futures began pricing in a higher chance of a fourth rate hike this year.

The benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields rose to a session high of 2.914%.

"Pretty much the market is going to be fluttering back and forth in both directions based on things he says today, so it doesn't surprise me too much," said Randy Frederick, a vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. "It's his first speech and the market is already in a higher volatility phase."

In his remarks to a congressional committee, Mr Powell hinted that the central bank would stick to its current path of gradual rate hikes despite the added stimulus of tax cuts and government spending.

His testimony comes at a sensitive time for the market, which has swayed wildly in recent weeks on inflation fears.

UK's dried fruit supplies dry up

Bunches of dried fruit on tree
Getty Images

The UK has been hit by a global shortage of raisins, sultanas and currants.

Britain - the world's biggest importer of dried fruit - has seen the price of raisins and sultanas rise by 42% since September, leading suppliers have said.

They blame falling numbers of raisins in California for pushing up prices.

Bakeries say increases are unlikely to affect the cost of hot cross buns - but an industry analyst warned this year's Christmas puddings could be hit. Read full story here.

Powell comments push up Treasury yields

US Treasury yields climbed to session highs on Tuesday as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy has strengthened since December and inflation will rise, raising bets the Fed might raise rates four times in 2018.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields were 2.914%, up 5.5 basis points from late on Monday, while the two-year yield was up 4 basis points at 2.270%.

Sterling slips on Fed comments

Pound coins
Getty Images

Sterling fell on Tuesday, reversing earlier gains, after Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell's comments that the central bank would stick to gradual rate rises boosted the dollar.

With expectations of a May rate rise by the Bank of England mostly priced into financial markets, the dollar's fortunes have been the dominant driver in recent sterling price action.

"Everything is taking a bit of a breather today with the strength in the dollar," said Jeremy Cook, Head of FX Strategy at WorldFirst. "Sterling has spent a lot of time above $1.40... It is being supported by the (interest) rate considerations but as soon as we get above $1.40 it tends to get sold."

Boeing and Trump agree Air Force One deal

Air Force One
Reuters

US President Donald Trump has reached an agreement with Boeing to provide two Air Force One planes for $3.9bn, the White House says.

"President Trump has reached an informal deal with Boeing on a fixed-price contract for the new Air Force One Program," Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Reuters.

He claimed the contract will save taxpayers more than $1.4bn. Mr Trump had said Boeing's costs to build replacements for Air Force One aircraft - one of the most visible symbols of the US. presidency - are too high and urged the federal government in a tweet to "Cancel order!"

The Boeing 747-8s are designed to be an airborne White House able to fly in worst-case security scenarios, such as nuclear war, and are modified with military avionics, advanced communications and a self-defence system.

Comcast shares fall after Sky offer

Sky newsroom
Sky

Comcast shares fell 5.1% after its announcement of a £22bn offer for Sky, outbidding Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox.

Fox shares lost 1.3%. Disney, which had been in line to become the ultimate owner of the Sky assets through a deal with Fox, shed 2.3% amid the prospects of a bidding war.

Elsewhere on Wall Street, Macy's department store chain surged 12.5% after reporting that fourth-quarter profits nearly tripled following a strong holiday shopping season that contributed to a 1.3% rise in comparable store sales.

Other retailers were also strong, with Kohl's gaining 3.2% and Target and Gap adding 1.2%.

Wall Street down slightly

Wall Street's main indexes opened slightly lower on Tuesday after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell hinted the central bank would stick to its current path of gradual rate hikes.

The Dow Jones fell 14.86 points to 25,694.4 points. The S&P 500 lost 1.38 points to 2,778.2, and the Nasdaq dropped 7.17 points to 7,414.3.

Welsh MP battles bank closures

Ben Lake
ParliamentTV

Legal changes to ensure bank closures do not stop people accessing basic financial services are being suggested by a Plaid Cymru MP.

Ben Lake said his proposed bill would make it harder to close branches and allow banks to share premises.

The Ceredigion MP said closures were currently leaving rural communities in a "financial black hole".

In December, RBS said it was closing 20 NatWest branches in Wales as more people were banking online.

Full story here

Toys R Us facing collapse if no rescuer found

Watch: The UK arm of Toys R Us could go into administration shortly, with the loss of over 3,000 staff, unless a rescuer comes in to inject millions of pounds of emergency cash into the business.

Toys R Us facing collapse if no rescuer found

German diesel decision: What happens next?

Theo Leggett

BBC Business News Reporter

German woman wearing anti-diesel mask
EPA

The likelihood now is that the German government will rush to introduce some sort of national policy, to ensure at least some level of consistency across the country.

There may also be a move to retro-fit older cars with modern emissions control technology - potentially a very costly process.

New diesel cars won't be affected, but that's not really the point. Consumers are already moving away from the technology - and the prospect of city bans will only accelerate that process.

So diesel's decline is likely to gather momentum.

That's a problem for the industry, because while diesels produce high levels of nitrogen dioxide - a major urban pollutant - they emit relatively low levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

So moves to control one environmental problem may end up undermining efforts to combat another - unless we all start driving electric cars very soon.

Walt Disney to pump €2bn into Disneyland Paris

Entrance to Disneyland Paris
Getty Images

Walt Disney says it will invest €2bn its French theme park Disneyland Paris, which it took full control of last year, reports Reuters.

Chief executive Robert Iger announced the spending plan after meeting President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

The development will include three new areas based on Marvel's superheroes, including Spider-Man and the Hulk, Disney's animated film Frozen and Star Wars.

The roll-out will begin in 2021.

London cabby helped convince Comcast boss to bid for Sky

London cabs
PA

In a phone call to reporters reported by Reuters, Brian Roberts, chief executive of Comcast, revealed that a chance conversation with a London cab driver helped him to decide to bid for Sky.

He said that last November, he was discussing Sky with a colleague.

“I suggested that we jump in a taxi and go to one of the malls and get a demo of Sky in one of their shops,” he said.

“The cab driver was incredibly knowledgeable about the difference between Virgin and Sky in every feature. We were learning a lot there.

“It was another reminder for me how impressive Sky is, and how lucky we would be at Comcast to be able to combine together," he added.

Debt charity warns credit card rules won't stop persistent debt

Credit cards
PA

The FCA's credit card rule changes announced today have been met with a guarded welcome by debt charity Step Change.

Peter Tutton, head of policy, warned: "The FCA has not yet taken adequate steps for the flow of new borrowers who may be heading towards persistent debt.

He said there's a need to break the cycle of firms allowing customers to build up expensive long-term debt on what is meant to be a short-term borrowing facility.

“The new rules do not address the continuing risk that firms will allow new profitable customers to rack up expensive debt for a long period - only to inflict unattractive compulsory action on them further down the line," he said.

But a trade body representing the credit card industry gave the new rules a thumbs up.

Richard Koch, director of cards at UK Finance, said: “These rules will reduce the cost of borrowing by encouraging individuals to pay back their card balances quicker, where they can afford to do so."

Why legal US cannabis businesses can’t use banks

BBC Newsbeat

Watch: Cannabis is legal in nearly two-thirds of American states, but many legal marijuana businesses are forced to operate without a bank account.

California became the largest state in the US to legalise recreational cannabis use on 1 January 2018, but because at a national level it's still illegal any bank that handles cannabis money can be charged with money laundering.

Why legal US cannabis businesses can’t use banks

Self-proclaimed bitcoin 'founder' sued for stolen bitcoin

Craig Wright
BBC

Australian technology entrepreneur Craig Wright is being sued by the family of a dead former business partner, according to a report on Business Insider.

Wright once claimed to have been behind the creation of bitcoin.

He has been accused of carrying out an illegal scheme to transfer ownership of at least $5bn-worth of cryptocurrency from the estate of his dead business partner Dave Kleiman, who was also rumoured to have been involved in the early stages of bitcoin.

The lawsuit was filed on 14 February in a US federal court in the southern district of Florida by Ira Kleiman - Dave Kleiman's brother and the representative of his estate, the report says.

Where does Sky fit in?

In case you were wondering where broadcaster Sky sits in the Murdoch empire as a whole, here's a nifty little chart which puts it into context.

Chart of Rupert Murdoch-owned businesses
BBC

Sky reacts to Comcast approach

Sky logo
Getty Images

Sky has put out a brief response to Comcast's takeover approach - advising shareholders to do nothing.

In a stock exchange announcement it said: "The Independent Committee of Sky notes today's announcement from Comcast regarding a possible all cash offer for Sky at £12.50 per share.

"The Independent Directors of Sky are mindful of their fiduciary duties and their obligations under the UK Takeover Code.

"Since no firm offer has been made at this point, shareholders are advised to take no action.

It said a further announcement would be made "when appropriate".

Persimmon sending 'wall of cash to shareholders'

Persimmon sign
Getty Images

Housebuilder Persimmon is doing so well "it’s sending a wall of cash back to shareholders", said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Pre-tax profits climbed 25% last year with the announcement prompting shares to climb 13% this morning.

Khalal commented: "Persimmon is selling more houses at higher prices, and quite simply that spells increased profits for the company.

"The housebuilder is doing so well it’s sending a wall of cash back to shareholders in the form of special dividends, with £2.35 per share being paid in the next five months alone.

"No surprise then to see the market roar its approval in early morning trading."

FTSE 100 falls back

Interday FTSE 100 graphic Tuesday 27 Februaryts
BBC

The FTSE 100 - which had edged up at the start of Tuesday's trading - subsequently slipped back - and is now about 0.2% lower.

The fall comes despite big gains for Sky - which is about 20% up on the day and an 8% rise for builder Persimmon, which posted strong profit growth.

Connor Campbell at Spreadex said "That took the UK index back away from 7300, its latest failed attempt at substantially breaking beyond that key level. It didn’t even have the excuse of a charged up sterling, with the pound flat against the dollar the wrong side of $1.40 and down 0.1% against the euro."

What the diesel decision means

BBC World Service

German road
Getty Images

In a landmark ruling, a federal court in Germany has decided that cities can ban some diesel cars in order to tackle air pollution.

Environmental groups had brought the case against two German cities - Stuttgart and Dusseldorf - but it will apply nationwide.

The German government and its powerful car industry have always opposed the introduction of such bans.

About 70 German municipalities still have levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide higher than the maximum stipulated by the European Union.

The ruling could have implications on the resale value of older diesel vehicles, and whether they need to be refitted with updated technology.

German cities can ban older diesel cars

BBC World Service

One of Germany's highest courts has ruled that cities can ban some diesel cars from their roads in order to reduce air pollution.

Provident Financial shares soar

Bloomberg TV correspondent tweets