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Summary

  1. Brent Crude rises 1%
  2. Pound holds gains
  3. Debenhams plans closures
  4. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Dearbail Jordan

All times stated are UK

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  1. 'Tired' Debenhams needs 'radical overhaul'

    "Debenhams needs a fairly radical overhaul in order to be relevant to consumers and to drive sales," say analysts at stockbrokers Peel Hunt.

    "Currently the stores look tired, as does much of the offer. New chief executive Sergio Bucher will talk passionately about change and delivery, but few will take the leap of faith ahead of clear evidence of performance.   

    "The [new] strategy is based around the heading of “Social Shopping”. There’s nothing here to create a surprise and indeed, there is no miracle solution. Management needs to make Debenhams more relevant to consumers in order to generate sales growth."

  2. Fever-Tree toasts growth

    Tim Warrillow (left) and Charles Rolls (right)

    Trebles all round for tonic maker Fever-Tree. It's become the most valuable UK-listed soft drinks firm after overtaking Britvic, the owner of Robinsons squash.

    Shares in Fever-Tree - founded by Tim Warrillow (left) and Charles Rolls (right) - edged higher after positive comments from analysts at Berenberg.

    It is now valued at £1.81bn, whereas Britvic's valuation fell to £1.74bn after its shares dropped slightly, according to Google Finance. 

  3. Virgin Money to bid for Co-Op Bank?

    Sticking with ethically-minded banks, what about bids for the Co-Operative Bank? 

    The chief executive of Virgin Money - seen as one of the most likely bidders - was asked this morning on BBC 5 live if it would make an offer.

    Jayne-Anne Gadhia said it's been five years since Virgin Money's last deal - when it bought Northern Rock - but that it "always looks at all sorts of opportunities". 

    Her wording caught 5 live reporter Colletta Smith's attention too.

    View more on twitter
  4. Macquarie 'can be good owner' of Green Bank

    Offshore wind farm

    Australia's Macquarie Group can be a good owner of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) if it meets all its promises, according to the bank's chairman.

    Opposition parties and environmental campaigners have queried the government's decision to sell the bank, which funds environmentally friendly projects, to Macquarie for £2.3bn.   

    Among its commitments, Macquarie plans to invest more in environmental projects each year than GIB has previously and will report transparently on the bank's green impact.

    "We look forward to seeing these commitments from Macquarie delivered, in full, in the months and years ahead," says Lord Smith, chair of the GIB.

  5. Stocks rebound after jitters

    Trader screens

    Asian and European stock markets have mostly risen after sell-offs earlier this week.

    Hong Kong's Hang Seng index added 1% and South Korea's Kospi rose 0.5%. Tokyo's Nikkei missed out on the rally, finishing flat.

    In Europe, France's Cac index is 1% higher in morning trade and Germany's Dax is up 0.2%. The UK's FTSE 100 is lagging the main markets, falling 0.2%.

    Stocks have been under pressure this week amid concerns about France's presidential election, the health of the US economy and geopolitical tensions in Syria and North Korea. 

  6. Watch: 'Labour won't be ruled by elites'

    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out an anti-establishment message in his first major speech in the snap election.

    View more on twitter
  7. M&S identifies six stores for closure

    M&S logo

    Marks and Spencer has identified six stores that are to be closed under a reorganisation announced last November. They are:

    Monks Cross (near York), Portsmouth, Slough, Warrington, Wokingham, Worksop.

  8. Oil prices rebound after slump

    The price of crude oil has recovered some of Wednesday's losses. North Sea Brent Crude is up 1% at $53.40 per barrel.

    Wednesday's drop followed a report from the US Energy Information Administration, which indicated a surge in US stockpiles of petrol and a rise in US crude oil production.

    Worried about overproduction, last November members of Opec and other oil producing nations agreed to cut production for the first six months of this year.

    Oman's oil minister said that a significant number of countries would like to see that cut extended beyond June.

  9. Green Investment Bank to be sold to Macquarie

    Galloper Wind Farm

    The Green Investment Bank is being sold to Australia's Macquarie Group for £2.3bn, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

    The government said the Bank had been a "real success story" having supported almost 100 infrastructure projects since its creation in 2012.

    Macquarie has pledged to maintain the green objectives of the bank. Independent trustees will hold a 5% stake in the firm to oversea that pledge.

    Current projects include the Galloper windfarm, a £1.5bn scheme off the coast of Suffolk.

  10. Mortgage market 'in neutral gear'

    For sale signs

    Total mortgage lending reached £21.4bn in March, that's down 19% on March 2016, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

    That fall had been expected, as last year borrowers were rushing to beat an increase in stamp duty on second homes and buy-to-let properties.

    "Mortgage lending appears to be in neutral gear," said CML senior economist Mohammad Jamei.

    "There has been a shift towards first-time buyer and remortgage customers, away from home movers and buy-to-let landlords," he said.

    The CML does not expect any impact from the General Election.

  11. 'Tough for spreads'

    Video content

    Video caption: Why margarine is toast

    Houshold goods giant Unilever is planning to sell its margarine business, including Flora and Stork. 

    But its first-quarter results this morning show some of the difficulties with that business. Although spreads made about 800 million euros in sales, Unilever's growth would have been 0.5% higher if the unit wasn't included.

    "Whether spreads can be sold, or ends up being demerged is not yet clear, but trading is tough for the division and achieving a high price for the business will be a challenge," says Steve Clayton, a fund manager at Hargreaves Lansdown.

    "Margarine is yesterday’s product", he adds. For more on why we're not eating as much margarine, see the video above.

  12. Debenhams plans are 'about growth'

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    Debenhams announced a turnaround strategy this morning that could see the closure of up to 10 stores and 11 warehouses. 

    But the retailer's chairman, Sir Ian Cheshire, has said "this is a strategy about growth" not job losses.

    The plans - which focus on improving the "social" side of shopping - should see more jobs put into the business, he tells Today. The plans will also take 2,000 workers out from the the back of the store and put them on the shop floor. 

    Debenhams is consulting on shutting its Northamptonshire distribution centre but a spokesperson said the site's 200 workers would be redeployed.   

  13. Debenhams shares fall

    Debenhams store

    The department store chain is one of the heaviest fallers so far on the London Stock Exchange.

    Debenhams' shares have dropped more than 3% after new chief executive Sergio Bucher announced a turnaround plan and a fall in first-half profits. 

    Go-Ahead Group, which runs the strike-hit Southern rail line, is up 5% after it said the service had "stabilised".

    Unilever is 1% higher after beating first-quarter sales forecasts.

  14. FTSE edges higher

    The FTSE 100 has been under pressure this week - erasing its gains for the year as the pound has risen to six-month highs. 

    In the first few minutes of trading, though, it's risen 11 points, or 0.2%, to 7,126.

    Many of the firms on the FTSE 100 make their profits abroad. If sterling rises, those profits aren't worth as much when converted back into pounds.

  15. Pound back above $1.28

    Pound coins

    Sterling is trading above $1.28 - up 0.4% against the dollar in early trading after dropping a bit overnight. 

    But one analyst is unconvinced it'll break through $1.29 - as it did when Theresa May called for a snap election on Tuesday.

    The pound is "looking trapped" in the range it's traded in since Mrs May outlined her Brexit strategy in early October, says ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson. 

    Sterling is still down 13% against the dollar since the June referendum.

  16. Keeping it cool

    Model makes a Magnum ice cream

    Higher sales of its Magnum and Ben & Jerry's ice creams helped Unilever beat sales forecasts for the first quarter.

    The household goods giant reported underlying sales growth of 2.9% - beating analysts estimates of 2% - in its first results since seeing off a takeover bid from US rival Kraft Heinz. 

    The company said ice cream sales were helped by new chocolate-coated Magnum pints in a tub. Sales of its home care goods, including Comfort fabric conditioner, also grew strongly.