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Summary

  1. Pound soars against euro
  2. Li Ka-shing to buy O2
  3. Npower cuts gas prices

Live Reporting

By Howard Mustoe

All times stated are UK

Howard Mustoe

Business reporter

That's the end of another marathon business live page. Join us on Monday from 06:00. Sunday sees Greece's election, so there'll be lots of market reaction to report. Join us then.

Via Twitter

Simon Gompertz

Personal finance correspondent, BBC News

tweets: Euro fall - some £ tourist rates have climbed over 1.30 euros. Make sure you don't lose out

Mobile market share

bbc
BBC

Time for a quick graphic to show the UK mobile phone operators' market if O2 and Three combine.

Market update

The

FTSE 100 Index recorded its biggest weekly gain in three years as telecoms shares gained. The index rose 0.5% to 6,832.83. The
German Dax closed up 2.1% to 10,649.58 and the
Cac in France rose 1.9% to 4,640.69.

  • Associated British Foods rose 3.2% to 3,080 pence after encouraging ONS sales data
  • BT rose 2.4% and
    Vodafone was up 0.5% after Hutchison Whampoa, the owner of Britain's Three Mobile network, agreed to buy O2.

Congo oil

Mountain gorillas
Getty Images

Prince Emmanuel de Merode, a director of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is in Davos highlighting the campaign to protect the world heritage park from oil drilling. He expressed his fears of illegal exploration to the BBC's Russell Padmore. "If a company comes in with the intent of extracting resources illegally it becomes a very serious issue. There's enormous commitment on behalf of the Congolese authorities to protect that site," he said. Pictured: the mountain gorillas the park is famous for.

Via Twitter

Simon Gompertz

Personal finance correspondent, BBC News

tweets: Poor families with children have lost more than £1,200 a year under the Coalition, says IFS
http://bit.ly/1zCDeCi

Labour market row

Cable
PA

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned the Conservatives that he will block legislation making it easier for firms to hire and fire staff. Chancellor George Osborne told business leaders at Davos he wants further reforms, including in the labour market,

the Times reported. "The British labour market is already among the most flexible in the world. Changes that increase insecurity are exactly what the economy doesn't need," said Mr Cable.

Via Twitter

Mark Broad

Economics reporter, BBC News

pic
BBC

tweets: Just done an interview with dept chief exec of Goldman Sachs in a room with this sign on the door. Ummm #davos2015

Via Email

Saudi-UK trade stats

Rob Young

Business presenter, 5 live

In light of Saudia Arabia's new king, 5 live presenter Rob Young has been unearthing Saudi Arabia-UK trade stats. Here's some of them:

  • The UK exported £3.6bn worth of goods to Saudi Arabia last year. That makes it the 18th biggest market for Britain.
  • 3% of the oil the UK uses comes from Saudi Arabia - mainly crude oil and aviation fuel.
  • The FCO says between 20,000 and 30,000 Brits live and work in Saudi Arabia.

Cuadrilla fracking bid

"These additional measures will reduce the night time noise levels at the nearest residential property to no higher than 39dB [decibels] (less than the sound of a refrigerator humming from 2m)," Cuadrilla says, for its Preston New Road application. For Roseacre Wood, noise will be 40dB for the nearest house. Cuadrilla cite a guide

from the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland for what various decibel measures mean. 30dB is what you'd experience in an average bedroom at night, it says.

Cuadrilla fracking bid

Fracking equipment
PA

Frackers Cuadrilla say they will reduce noise levels and reroute traffic as part of their planning application in Lancashire. "Lessening any potential impact of our proposed operations on local residents is important to us," they say. The planning officer previously recommended rejecting the plan due to noise concerns.

Fake bank

Chinese police have arrested five people in connection with a fake bank that used bogus offices to allegedly cheat depositors out of $32m. More than 200 customers were fooled by the scam based in the city of Nanjing, according to a statement from local police. Uniformed staff and a machine that gave out tickets to regulate queuing were part of the elaborate fraud.

Market update

Stocks on Wall Street opened lower after big gains yesterday following Mario Draghi's "big bazooka" bond buying spree. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.05%, and the
S&P 500 slipped 0.1%. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite was up 0.1%.

BAE contract

tanks
Ministry of defence

The Ministry of Defence has given BAE Systems

a five-year £50m contract to help look after armoured tracked vehicles - tanks and the like. They will also do some design for the MoD and offer "safety advice".

Cyber security

Andrew Gracie, a director at the Bank of England, is

giving a speech about defending against cyber attacks after the one against Sony and
reports of ones against South Korean nuclear power stations. For him, "financial stability" is the main thing, he says. The Bank questioned the largest UK and foreign banks in London and found "overall the responses did not reveal any immediate critical shortcomings in the cyber resilience of the firms involved." Phew!

Via Email

Mobile phone merger

Mark Skilton

Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School

LI
AFP

This is a big gamble for Li Ka-Shing as mobile operators are under attack from tech giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft as the digital world continues to converge. Owning the infrastructure is no longer a sure way to make money... These tech giants are developing apps and services that are directly attacking revenue streams that mobile operators have.

Retailers performance

House of Fraser, Next and Debenhams' sales will benefit from rising incomes and lower energy prices, according to ratings agency Moody's, in a report today. For supermarkets, things are less rosy, however. "The outlook for UK food retailers Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons is less sanguine, however, as the combined market share of discounters Aldi and Lidl increased to 8.3%, from 7.1% a year ago," according to David Beadle, a Moody's Vice President.

Hedge fund boss jailed

Mr Peterson was found guilty on eight counts of fraud, forgery, false accounting and fraudulent trading and was cleared on seven other charges after a 12-week trial. The fraud cost investors $536m (£358m). He was a bit of a charmer,

Bloomberg reports.

Hedge fund boss jailed

Magnus Peterson
Reuters

Magnus Peterson, the boss of collapsed UK hedge fund Weavering, was sentenced to 13 years in jail after being found guilty of fraud by a London court this week,

Reuters reported, citing a spokeswoman for the Serious Fraud Office.

Via Email

Npower price cut

Frederik Dahlmann

Assistant Professor of Global Energy at Warwick Business School

As with British Gas, E.On and Scottish Power, Npower has cited falling wholesale prices as the main reason [to cut prices]. The exact motivation behind these price cuts, however, remains somewhat opaque... The threat of government mandated "price freezes" by opposition leader Ed Miliband in the run up to the general election as well as competitive and reputational pressures may have provided much greater motivations to act..."

Italian presidency

Visco
Reuters

Italian central bank chief Ignazio Visco wouldn't rule out a bid for the Italian presidency succeeding Giorgio Napolitano who resigned last week, Reuters reports. Asked about the job, Mr Visco said in English: "Would you allow me not to answer at all to this question. It is a question which should not be put unless you really want to talk with a coffee and some nice conversation."

Airport operator sale

Vigo airport
Aena

The world's biggest operator of airports (including Luton airport) Spain's AENA will be selling shares on the stock market. The government plans to sell 28% stake in the firm on the stock market and will sell another 21% to "core" investors. The sale was supposed to happen back in November, but had to be postponed because there had not been a public tender for an auditor for the company.

Car production at 7 year high

The Vauxhall production line at Ellesmere Port
PA

UK car production rose to its highest level since 2007 last year, up 1.2% to 1.528 million cars, the

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has said. The growth was driven by strong domestic demand, as exports fell slightly, something SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes blamed on a weaker than expected recovery in the euro zone and elsewhere.

Via Email

Computer coding

Joe Miller

BBC Business Reporter, Davos

From Davos: "Just met with Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, a three-year old website which has taught 25 million people around the globe how to code. He says the UK has one of the best track records for implementing computer science studies in schools."

Via Email

Fuel bills

Citizens Advice Bureau

"Energy firms are engaging in a phony price war. Token energy price cuts to standard tariffs do not reflect the big savings that energy firms can pass on to households. Npower customers could save as much as £240 by switching to their cheapest available tariff... It should not be only the savviest consumers who benefit from the four year low in wholesale energy costs."

Sterling jumps against euro

sterling v euro chart
BBC

More reaction to the ECB's bond buying programme. The pound is up 1.5% against the euro today to €1.34 while the US dollar is up 1.74% at €0.895

Via Twitter

John Moylan

Industry correspondent, BBC News

@ofgem says gap between av variable tariffs & cheapest fixed tariffs is so wide most consumers would be better off on a fixed deal

Via Email

Emily Young

BBC Business Reporter, Davos

"Just met the man who coined and patented the phrase Wellness. The boss of Italy's Technogym says people need to move more. You don't go for a drive in order to use up the petrol in car - people should be the same, he says. Eat because you've been moving - don't move because you've been eating, he adds."

General Electric results

GE sign
Getty Images

General Electric has reported a fourth quarter net profit of $5.15bn, a healthy rise on the same quarter in the previous year, when it made $3.21bn. Profits were better than Wall Street experts had been expecting. While sales at its oil and gas unit slumped, jet engine and turbine sales were strong.

Beijing to shut 300 firms

Tiananmen Square in Beijing January 15, 2015
Reuters

Chinese authorities plan to close 300 companies in Beijing this year to help reduce air pollution. That's according to the Xinhua news agency. Last year almost 400 firms were closed. Last week pollution

soared to hazardous level in Beijing, reaching 20 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Via Email

Oil price outlook

Julian Jessop

Head of Commodities Research, Capital Economics

"The death of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has prompted speculation of a shift in the Kingdom's oil policy away from protecting market share towards defending prices. We don't believe it makes much difference who is nominally in charge of the country. Crucially, the fundamentals of supply and demand suggest that prices are set to recover anyway."

'America's new aristocracy'

The Economist magazine
BBC

"Today's rich [Americans] increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away ... It is far more useful than wealth and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains," says the lead story in

this week's Economist Magazine. "Far more than in previous generations, clever, successful men marry clever, successful women," it says.

Markets moving

Euro dollar
BBC

The markets have been adjusting to the hefty round of stimulus announced by the European Central Bank on Thursday.

The euro has fallen by more than 1% against the dollar today, trading at $1.1235. Yields on Spanish 10-year bonds hit a record low of 1.3%. On German 10-year bonds the yield also hit a record low of 0.368%.

Greece euro exit

BBC World News

Professor John Milios, chief economic advisor to the left wing Syriza party, which has widened its lead in opinion polls ahead of this weekend's election in Greece, tells World Business Report; there are "hundreds of thousands of households in the country that cannot sustain themselves." He says Greece must be allowed to restructure its debt for the benefit of the Greek economy and EU as a whole. "Now the debt functions as a recession trap," he adds.

Eurozone economic activity grows

Graph showing eurozone business activity
Markit

Business activity in the eurozone lifted to a five-month high in January, the closely watched

Markit Composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) has said. Markit's index rose to 52.2 points, up from 51.4 in December. Markit chief economic Chris Williamson said the latest PMI figures marked "a positive start to 2015 ... but the rate of expansion remains worryingly weak."

Via Email

O2/Three mobile phone merger

Alan Wardle, Business Livepage reader

"If this merger goes ahead, should the new company be called Ozone? That's the chemical name for O3. Sorry."

Jimmy Choo sales

Jimmy Choo shoes
Jimmy Choo

Luxury shoe maker Jimmy Choo

has reported a 12% rise in net revenue £299m on a constant currency basis for the 12 months to the end of December. It also reported like-for-like sales grew 5.7%. New store openings in China and business growth in Japan helped push up revenues, the firm said.

Virtual reality wars

Microsoft HoloLens
AP

The FT's Technology Editor Richard Waters says that Microsoft's HoloLens has launched "artificial reality wars". Priced at $1,000

the headset has been under secret development for five years, he says. The big tech firms are all jostling for a position in the market. Facebook has Oculus, Sony has project Morpheus and Google had a go with Glass.

Retail sales

Boxing day sales
PA

The volume of retail sales grew 4.3% in December 2014 compared with December 2013 according to the Office for National Statistics. Average store prices fell by 2.2% in December compared with the previous year. The biggest contributor to falling prices was lower prices at petrol stations, the ONS said.

Via Twitter

Gas prices

John Moylan

Industry correspondent, BBC News

npower's CEO Paul Massara: "If there are further falls in wholesale prices, we will keep these under review to see if we can cut further"