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  1. Get in touch:
  2. Wall Street opens lower as Apple slides
  3. Bidding war threatens to break out for Shire
  4. Brent crude nears three-year high
  5. Debenhams sales and profits slide
  6. FTSE 100 closes higher

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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Thanks for tuning in to Business Live. We'll be back again at 6am tomorrow - hope to see you then!

German court rules ad-blockers are legal

Bild paper

Germany's Supreme Court has quashed a case brought by publisher Axel Springer seeking to ban a popular application that blocks online advertising.

The landmark ruling, which sets a precedent for the rest of the publishing industry, follows a three year legal battle between Adblock Plus and Axel Springer, which publishes Germany's best-selling daily Bild and owns dozens of online portals.

Downloaded hundreds of millions of times, Adblock Plus is one of the most popular ad-blocking programmes, aimed at preventing intrusive adverts from popping up on the screen and tracking a user's search history for commercial ends.

But websites dependent on advertising revenue to remain free-of-charge see the open source software as a scourge.

In its ruling, the court found that "the programme does not violate the law against unfair competition".

"It is an autonomous decision of internet user to use the programme," they added.

Amazon shares rise on Prime figures

Amazon logo on box

Shares in online retailer Amazon closed 2.1% higher in New York after it revealed it now has more than 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide.

For an annual subscription Amazon Prime members get various benefits, including free delivery of purchases.

Wall Street dragged lower by tech stocks

Wall Street traders
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All three key US share indexes fell on Thursday.

The Dow Jones closed at 24,664.89, a fall of 83 points or 0.34%.

The S&P 500 shed 14 points or 0.52% to end the day at 2,694.52.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq was at 7,238.06, 57 points or 0.78% lower.

Tech stocks were hit my warnings from the world's biggest contract chip maker - Taiwan Semiconductor, which supplies Apple - about soft demand for smartphones.

Apples shares fell by 2.83%.

"The broader tech weakness that you're seeing is out of weak guidance that's impacting Apple and the semiconductor space," said Michael Hans, chief investment officer at New York City-based Clarfeld Financial Advisors.

CaixaBank 'failed to prevent money laundering'

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Spanish authorities have pressed charges against CaixaBank, the nation's third largest lender, for breaching money laundering laws by turning a blind eye to dubious transfers by Chinese companies.

The prosecutor tasked with investigating suspected money laundering by China's state-owned ICBC bank, which has a partnership with CaixaBank, said the Spanish bank suffered from "serious malfunctions in its systems to prevent money laundering."

Spanish authorities wrote to CaixaBank to signal suspicious behaviour by nearly 200 clients between 2013 and 2015. The clients made large deposits in cash in branch offices, then transferred it to Hong Kong and China, totalling nearly 100 million euros.

CaixaBank has denied "any type of collaboration or participation in suspected money laundering crimes by Chinese citizens".

Deutsche Bank makes accidental €28bn transfer

Deutsche Bank logo
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It's not every day you accidentally transfer money to the wrong person, let alone send them €28bn.

But that is exactly what Deutsche Bank did when it made a payment to an exchange in Germany in the week before Easter, Bloomberg reports.

The German lender blamed an "operational error" for the payment to Deutsche Boerse Eurex, saying it had intended to transfer a much smaller sum.

In a statement, it said: “The error was identified within a matter of minutes, and then rectified. We have rigorously reviewed the reasons why this error occurred and taken steps to prevent its recurrence.”

Britain and US announce Brexit forum

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin talk before the G20 Finance ministers in October 2017.
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British Finance Minister Philip Hammond and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin talk before the G20 Finance ministers in October 2017.

Britain and the US will form a working group to promote financial stability and efficient markets as the UK leaves the European Union.

In a joint statement, the two countries said the Financial Regulatory Working Group would be a forum for the two treasury departments and staff at regulatory authorities to exchange views on the future relationship.

Both sides said the group would meet twice a year, with additional technical meetings and calls when needed.

Bank of England governor says people should prepare for a few interest rate rises
The Bank of England governor tells the BBC that an interest rate rise is “likely” this year, but any increases will be gradual and depend on how well Brexit negotiations progress.

Pound falls on Carney comments

Dollar, pound and euro
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The pound has touched its lowest level against the dollar in 10 days, after Mark Carney told the BBC that Brexit uncertainty could slow the pace of interest rate rises.

Sterling is currently trading at $1.4083 against the dollar, having fallen 0.8%. It's down 0.6% against the euro at 1.1407 euros.

The governor of the Bank of England said that an interest rate rise is "likely" this year, but any increases will be gradual as major decisions are taken on Brexit.

He also highlighted "mixed" economic data, including "softer retail sales" and a faster-than-expected fall in inflation in February.

Apple leads Wall Street lower

Apple symbol
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Fears over slowing demand for smartphones have hit shares in Apple and its suppliers, dragging Wall Street lower.

A short while ago the Dow Jones index was down by 0.6%, the S&P 500 by 0.9%, and the Nasdaq by 1%.

A warning from Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker and an Apple supplier, of weakening demand for handsets sent its shares down more than 5% in New York.

Other chipmakers also fell while Apple shares slipped 2.4%, with analysts telling Reuters that TSMC's warning was related to the iPhone maker.

KitKat could lose EU trademark protection

A KitKat

KitKat could lose EU trademark protection for its four-fingered chocolate bar after a recommendation from the European Court of Justice's top advisor.

Owner Nestle is currently appealing a lower court's decision to annul a trademark protecting the shape of the confectionery.

But Melchior Wathelet, Advocate General at the ECJ, said the action should be dismissed as the bar's shape wasn't distinctive enough in some EU countries.

The food giant specifically failed to show that the Kit Kat shape was well enough known in Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal, relying instead on market data from other countries, he said.

The Luxembourg-based ECJ often, but not always, follows the advice of the advocate general when making its final judgement.

Carney: Brexit uncertainty could delay interest rate rise

Kamal Ahmed

Economics editor

Mark Carney, BoE governor
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The Governor of the Bank of England has said that an interest rate rise is "likely" this year, but any increases will be gradual.

Mark Carney major decisions had to be taken on Brexit, including on the detail of the implementation period and the shape of a final deal.

There would also be a parliamentary vote on the future relationship between Britain and rest of the EU.

All those events would weigh on how fast interest rates rises would occur.

Read more

FTSE 100 closes higher

People outside LSE
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London's blue chip index has closed slightly higher as surging crude oil prices boosted commodity stocks and Shire's shares jumped as bid talk heated up.

The FTSE 100 ended 0.16%, or 11.58 points, higher at 7,328.92.

Shire gained 5.9% as after Botox-maker Allergan said it was considering a takeover offer for the rare diseases drug maker. Earlier on Thursday, Japan's Takeda said it was in talks with Shire after making a £43bn bid.

More broadly, the energy sector contributed most to the FTSE's gains with oil majors Shell and BP up by 1.9% and 1.4% respectively.

House of Fraser calls in KPMG to draw up turnaround plan

A House of Fraser store
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Department store chain House of Fraser has appointed turnaround specialists to advise it on a restructuring plan which could involve store closures and job losses.

The retailer has called in KPMG to examine all options, including an insolvency process called a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

House of Fraser has 59 stores, 6,000 staff and 11,500 concession staff.

In January it asked landlords to cut rents, after poor Christmas trading.

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Funding boost for fraud office

Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says it will get a 50% funding boost this year.

Core funding will rise to £52.7m rather than the £34.3m originally earmarked, but extra government funding for costly cases will be cut.

The SFO’s interim director Mark Thompson said: “This is a welcome consolidation of the SFO’s funding position which will enable us to manage our casework and our resources more efficiently.”

Artist Koons accused of 'inappropriate' business practices

Jeff Koons unveils his seated ballerina inflatable sculpture at the Rockefeller Centre, in New York City in May 2017
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Jeff Koons unveils his seated ballerina inflatable sculpture at the Rockefeller Centre, New York in May 2017

New York’s Gagosian Gallery and artist Jeff Koons are being been sued by a collector who accuses them of using "inappropriate and highly questionable" business practices, Bloomberg reports.

Collector Steven Tananbaum is taking action over the non-delivery of three Koons sculptures, claiming a "well-oiled machine" exploits collectors’ desire to own the artists’ works by using incoming money to pay debts.

He alleges the defendants take deposits and payments from collectors while continually delaying the delivery of purchased works by as much as a year.

"The archaic system, once all of the obfuscations are stripped away, exposes a garden-variety, interest-free fraudulent financial routine that hearkens the name Ponzi," the lawsuit alleges.

Koons and the Gagosian gallery did not respond to requests for comment.

Sterling perks up

Pound coins
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After touching post EU-referendum highs earlier this week, the pound slipped back on Wednesday. But it's perked up a bit today in spite of a lacklustre set of March retail sales figures.

It's up 0.1% against the dollar at $1.4218 and 0.24% higher against the euro at €1.1503.

'Re-nationalisation an option' for sanctions-hit Rusal

Oleg Deripaska, owner of Rusal
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Oleg Deripaska, owner of Rusal, was among seven oligarchs targeted by US sanctions

Russia has suggested it could temporarily re-nationalise the aluminium giant Rusal after the US placed sanctions on the firm and its owner.

The measures - imposed after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury - have forced customers and lenders to cut ties with Rusal, which makes about 7% of the world's aluminium.

The firm's share price has fallen by two-thirds since 6 April.

“There are various points in the expert community about how to help [sanctioned] companies and this is one of them,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked about the possibility of a re-nationalisation.

TalkTalk and Vodafone top complaints chart again

TalkTalk logo

TalkTalk has again been named the most complained-about broadband company in the UK, in the latest report from the telecoms regulator Ofcom.

For every 100,000 TalkTalk customers, about 31 made a complaint to Ofcom about the company's broadband services between October and December 2017.

Technical faults were the main reason for complaints, according to the report.

BT and Vodafone were the most complained-about mobile operators.

Read more

Wall Street opens lower as Apple slides

Apple logo
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Warnings of slower demand for mobile phones have hit Apple shares and a host of its suppliers, dragging Wall Street lower.

A short while ago the Dow Jones was down 0.4% at 24,638.16 points and the S&P 500 had lost 0.4% to 2,698.78.

The tech-rich Nasdaq was 0.6% lower at 7,254.80.

Apple has lost 1.9% after analysts warned that weak demand for the iPhone 8 could dent the company's third-quarter forecast.

Taiwan Semiconductor, also an Apple supplier, lowered its own full-year forecast due to softer demand for smartphones. Its shares slumped more than 5% in New York.

Luton Dart set to take off ... in 2021

Chris Johnston

Business reporter, BBC News

Luton Dart

Work has begun on a new £225m light railway linking London Luton Airport with the mainline station.

The new connection will cut journey times between the airport terminal and Luton Airport Parkway station to less than four minutes and avoid a 1.5 mile bus journey.

The shuttle will be capable of operating 24 hours a day with a service every four minutes at peak times.

Luton airport is owned by the town's borough council and is the UK's fifth busiest with almost 16 million passengers last year, up 9% on 2016.

The light railway, named Luton Dart (Direct Air-Rail Transit), is due to open in 2021.

Brent Crude's wild ride

Oil price chart

As this chart shows, oil prices are nearing a three-year high having past the $74-a-barrel mark.

However, that is still a long way off highs last seen in 2014 of over $110 a barrel.

A global supply glut, driven by rising US shale oil production, has depressed prices over the last four years, hammering oil-dependent economies such as Saudi Arabia.

Lagarde warns on Brexit 'cloud'

Christine Lagarde

BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed is at the IMF's Spring Meeting in Washington DC, where Christine Lagarde has been speaking:

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Why are oil prices climbing?

Oil worker
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Oil prices have surged to their highest level since May 2015 on reports that Saudi Arabia would be comfortable extending a deal to limit global supply.

News that US crude inventories have declined also helped push the price of Brent Crude above $74 a barrel.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and other major producers started to restrict output in 2017 to rein in oversupply that had depressed prices since 2014.

Opec and its partners will meet in Saudi Arabia on 20 April to review the pact as it nears its targets.

However, Reuters reported on Wednesday that top oil exporter Saudi Arabia would be happy for crude to reach $80 or even $100 a barrel - a sign that Riyadh will not seek changes to the deal.

US government 'vulnerable to Chinese espionage'

Security breach graphic
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The US government has historically been a bit more wary of Chinese technology than the UK. For example, the UK has a testing facility for Huawei technology, which is used in BT's infrastructure - but the US rejected using Huawei tech out of hand.

Now a congressionally commissioned report says the US government is dangerously vulnerable to Chinese espionage or cyberattack because of its dependence on electronics and software made in China.

The report, covered by the Washington Post, says much of the $90bn spent on government IT equipment annually goes to Chinese firms.

Shire in talks with Takeda

More on that mega-pharma deal. Shire confirms it has opened talks with Takeda to determine if the Japanese company could be convinced to raise its offer.

Shares in Shire rose 4% to £39.15 and are up from about £31 a share a month ago amid takeover speculation.

In late March Takeda said it was considering making an offer for Shire.

The Japanese firm said it was interested in a takeover to strengthen its cancer, stomach and brain drug portfolio.

The hotel RBS sold to... RBS

BreakingShire rejects £43bn offer

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Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical says it is in talks with Shire after making a bid worth £46.50 a share that was rejected by the London-listed rare diseases drug maker.

Reuters first reported that Takeda had made the cash-and-stock takeover offer, valuing Shire at almost £43bn.

Watch: Young workers seek 'life-life balance'

BBC Radio 5 livehas been speaking to Social Chain, where the average age of employees is 25.

The digital marketing company staff say they talk about a "life-life" balance, rather than a work life balance.

Employees at a social media company in Manchester have an average age of 25.

China pushes for more Qualcomm concessions for NXP deal

Qualcomm logo
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US chipmaker Qualcomm will have to do more to complete its proposed takeover of Dutch firm NXP Semiconductors, China's commerce ministry has said.

Qualcomm had submitted a remedy plan to resolve competition issues, but an initial investigation found these to be insufficient, said ministry spokesman Gao Feng.

"This deal will have significant influence in the industry and might have a negative impact on competition," he said. "Qualcomm's plan could not easily solve the problems relating to market competition."

How does ruby chocolate taste?

Jonathan Josephs

BBC business producer

House of Fraser 'hires KPMG'

House of Fraser
Getty Images

Sky News reports that House of Fraser has drafted in KPMG to look at ways the department store chain could accelerate its restructure.

Earlier this year, House of Fraser said that it was seeking a rent reduction from landlords on some of its stores.

It emerges on the same day that Debenhams reported a near 85% fall in pre-tax profits for the first half of its financial year. It blamed severe weather in the final week of trading for a slow down in sales.

However, new data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that department stores were the only group of retailers to enjoy sales growth in March as the wider sector saw trade slide by 1.2% last month.

Legal threat over Virgin Trains East Coast rail franchise

Virgin Trains East Coast

The transport secretary is being threatened with legal action if firms running East Coast mainline trains are allowed to bid for future contracts.

Stagecoach and Virgin were told they could exit the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise three years early after reporting losses.

Renationalisation group Bring Back British Rail wants "action to stop this happening again".

Chris Grayling's office said there was "no basis for legal action".

Read the full story here.

Wynn adds three women to board

Shire leads FTSE risers on offer speculation

Speculation that Takeda Pharmaceuticals is set to make an indicative offer for Shire sent shares in the drug-maker to the top of the FTSE 100 risers, up 5% at £39.46.

Standard Life Aberdeen continues to lead the fallers, down 3.97% at 365.8p.

The FTSE 100 is trading up 4.84 points up 7,322.18.

The FTSE 250 is up 83.96 points at 20,095.97.

PPI boosts financial services complaints

Arnie Schwarzenegger featured in an FCA campaign to encourage PPI claims

Complaints about payment protection insurance (PPI) drove a 13% increase in the number of complaints made to financial services firms in the second half of 2017, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

People made 3.76 million complaints in the second half of 2017, an increase of 427,032 on the first half of the year.

Complaints about PPI rose by 40% to 1.55 million, the highest level of complaints about PPI for more than four years, the FCA added.

It has set a deadline of 29 August, 2019 for the final PPI claims to be made.

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