Morning business round-up: Nestle finds horsemeat in meals

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What's making the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

The horsemeat scandal remains in the headlines, with Nestle, the world's biggest food company, now removing beef pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain after tests revealed traces of horse DNA.

The Swiss-based firm has halted deliveries of products containing meat from a German supplier.

Nestle is the latest in a string of major food producers to find traces of horsemeat in beef meals.

A spokesman for the company said the levels of horse DNA found were very low, but above 1%.

French food and drink company Danone has said it will cut 900 jobs after weakness in southern European economies hit sales.

The owner of Activia yogurt and Evian bottled water reported sales of 20.1bn euros ($26.8bn; £17.3bn) in 2012, up 5.4% from a year earlier.

But sales in Europe fell 3% following a "severe deterioration" in consumer demand.

The firm plans to cut about 900 management and administrative positions across 26 European countries.

Swiss drugs company Novartis has agreed with its departing chairman, Daniel Vasella, to scrap a scheme that could have paid him 72m Swiss francs ($78m; £50m) over the next six years.

The announcement followed a campaign by some of the company's shareholders and criticism from Swiss politicians.

Novartis had said the payment was to persuade Mr Vasella - who is due to step down on Friday - not to work for its competitors or pass on any information to them.

Mr Vasella said: "I have understood that many people in Switzerland find the amount of the compensation linked to the non-compete agreement unreasonably high, despite the fact I had announced my intention to make the net amount available for philanthropic activities.

"That is why I have recommended to the board that I forgo all payments linked to the non-compete agreement."

On Monday, Bridgestone reported a net profit of 171.6bn yen ($1.8bn; £1.2bn) in the year to 31 December 2012, compared with 103bn yen a year earlier.

Its profits have been helped in part by the production boost at Japan's leading carmakers as they continue to recover from the 2011 natural disasters.

At the same time a recovery in demand from the US car market has also helped boost sales of Japanese carmakers, driving up demand for car parts.

New Zealand says it will put all tobacco products into plain packaging, following the landmark move by Australia last year.

A review had shown it would help reduce the appeal of smoking and better publicise health risks, Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia said.

The government will introduce laws later this year, but wait for the outcome of legal cases in Australia before enforcing them.

G20 leaders last week called for a crackdown on tax avoidance by major companies, which is said to be worth tens of billions of dollars a year.

On the latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurria, tells us reform is long overdue and describes what it might look like.

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