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Live Reporting

By Tom Espiner

All times stated are UK

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  1. Good night

    That wraps it up for the Business Live page tonight. Join us again from 06:00 for what promises to be a busy Thursday.

  2. 'Tech giants worth more than UK listed firms'

    The "seven sisters" of tech - Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Tencent, are now worth a staggering $3.6trn (£2.8trn) - "more than the combined value of all firms with a primary listing in Britain", the Economist says.

    However, their share prices have moved up faster than their earnings, it adds - "not quite bubble territory, but... getting close."

  3. Wall Street closes flat

    US stocks have closed flat as investors await the main bulk of former FBI director James Comey's testimony to Congress, the UK general election, and European Central Bank policy decisions on Thursday.

    Stocks got a nudge higher after a sneak peek at Mr Comey's testimony.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 37.46 points at 21,173.69, the S&P 500 closed up 3.81 points at 2,433.14, and the Nasdaq closed up 22.32 points at 6,297.38.

  4. Sir Philip Green empire hit by 79% fall in profits

    Profit before tax at Sir Philip Green's Taveta Investments fell by 79% last year in a tough retail environment, according to documents filed at Companies House.

    Taveta owns the Arcadia Group, which includes Burton, Dorthy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Top Shop and Top Man.

    Profi before tax fell to £36.8m in 2016 from £172.2m the year before.

  5. Uber exec 'obtained rape victim medical records'

    A senior Uber executive obtained the medical records of a woman who had been raped during an Uber taxi ride, according to tech publication Recode.

    The records were seen by Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick.

    Eric Alexander, who was president of business in the Asia Pacific, is no longer with the firm.

  6. Comey opening statement published

    Former FBI director James Comey's opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee has been published.

    US president Donald Trump asked for Mr Comey's loyalty, and requested he drop any investigation of former US national security advisor Michael Flynn "in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December," Mr Comey says.

  7. Qatar risks 'elevated' says S&P

    Some more on S&P lowering Qatar's credit rating to AA- from AA. The ratings agency says that while Qatar has the third largest gas reserves in the world, the move to cut diplomatic ties by states including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen could put pressure on Qatar's economic growth.

    "We understand these moves to be motivated by Qatar's apparently more conciliatory stance toward Iran amid allegations that Qatar is financing terrorist activity," says S&P.

    "We note that Qatari authorities vigorously deny these allegations, and that Qatar's exact policy response is uncertain at the moment."

    Qatar may have to use its sovereign wealth fund to prop up its banks in the event of any major outflow of funds, the ratings agency adds

  8. In pictures: Last day on the campaign trail

    Tim Farron and Ade Adeyemo, local candidate for Solihull, make breakfast for visiting journalists at Cafe Shirley, a German cafe in Solihull.
    Image caption: Tim Farron is focusing on various key target seats for the Liberal Democrats. Mr Farron and Ade Adeyemo, local candidate for Solihull, made breakfast for visiting journalists at Cafe Shirley, a German cafe in Solihull.

    Images of party leaders embarking on the final day of campaigning, before voters go to the polls.

    In pictures: Last day on the campaign trail

    Tim Farron and Ade Adeyemo, local candidate for Solihull, make breakfast for visiting journalists at Cafe Shirley, a German cafe in Solihull.

    Images of party leaders embarking on the final day of campaigning, before voters go to the polls.

    Read more
  9. S&P lowers Qatar credit rating


    Ratings agency S&P has lowered Qatar's long-term rating to AA- from AA after a number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut diplomatic ties, trade and transport links.

    "We believe this will exacerbate Qatar's external vulnerabilities and could put pressure on economic growth and fiscal metrics," S&P said.

  10. Reuters: 'Loophole allows Uber VAT avoidance'

    Uber logo

    A loophole in EU and UK tax law allows Uber to avoid paying value added tax (VAT) on the booking fees it charges drivers, according to news agency Reuters.

    The gap allows Uber to avoid paying about £1,000 per driver per year in tax, Reuters says.

    San Francisco-based Uber charges lower fares than rival ride hailing apps.

    In the UK, its competitors' fares include 20% VAT on booking fees, but Uber's fares do not.

    Uber is able to avoid VAT by exploiting a loophole in how the tax is collected for business-to-business sales across EU borders: it treats its 40,000 UK drivers as separate businesses, each too small to register for VAT.

    It confirmed to Reuters that it does not pay value added tax on the fees it charges to UK drivers - its main source of income in Britain.

  11. Not in the (shoe) zone

    Shoe Zone

    Shares in retailer Shoe Zone closed 4.27% lower on Wednesday.

    The chain saw half-year profits dive by 84% after the weak pound pushed up its buying costs and sales fell amid a store overhaul.

    The Leicester-based firm said pre-tax profits plunged to £309,000 in the six months to 1 April, from £1.9m a year earlier.

    Shoe Zone buys its stock from China in US dollars and has been hit hard by sterling's fall since the EU referendum.

    Sales also fell 2.3% to £72.9m as a restructure saw it close 12 outlets and open nine.

  12. FTSE down ahead of UK general election

    London Stock Exchange sign with shadow in front

    The FTSE 100 closed slightly lower on the last day of campaigning before the general election.

    At the end of Wednesday's trading, the FTSE 100 was down 0.62% or 46.33 points at 7,478.62.

    Banking stocks were among the top risers, with Lloyds Banking Group up 1.65% and RBS adding 1.35%.

    Analysts said that struggling Spanish bank Banco Popular's rescue by Santander had given the overall banking sector a boost.

    On the downside, pharmaceutical companies tumbled. Shire was the biggest faller on the 100-share index, dropping 3.2%.

  13. Harvard to sell New Zealand farms

    A cow in New Zealand
    Image caption: Are cows a way to make a lot of moo-ney?

    Want to make some money?

    Well, maybe we should have taken some tips from Harvard and invested in dairy farms in New Zealand.

    It is near a deal to sell some of those holdings to private equity giant KKR for more than $70m, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    The $36bn Harvard endowment fund is the world's richest and has impressively made profits for more than a decade.