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Summary

  1. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk
  2. US stocks open slightly lower
  3. FTSE 100 up more than 1%
  4. Tesco facing largest ever equal pay claim
  5. Ofgem changes price cap tariff
  6. UK house prices fall for two months in a row

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

Good night

Thanks for tuning in to Business Live. We'll be back at 6am tomorrow.

New rail complaints app launched

Tesla's losses widen

Tesla car recharging
Getty Images

Tesla's losses widenend in the three months to the end of December.

The electric car maker lost $675.4m (£487m) up from $121.3m - making it its biggest ever quarterly loss.

Meanwhile revenue rose to $3.29bn - up from $2.28bn.

21st Century Fox profits more than double

21st Century Fox logo
Reuters

Profits at 21st Century Fox more than doubled to $1.83bn (£1.3bn) in the second quarter ending 31 December- boosted by a $1.34bn gain from the recent shake up of the US tax law.

Revenue increased by 4.6%to $8.04bn.

Wall Street shares end day lower

New York Stock Exchange exterior
Getty Images

On Wall Street all three key stock indexes were down at the close of play on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones closed down 19 points or 0.78% at 24,893.35.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq also fell, ending the day at 7,051.98, a fall of 64 points or 0.9%.

And the S&P 500 edged down to 2,681.62, a fall of 14 points or 0.5%

Firm prosecuted over auto-enrolment pension violations

The Pensions Regulator has successfully concluded its first criminal prosecution of an employer for failing to comply with the auto-enrolment regulations.

Bus company Stotts Tours were fined £27,000 at Brighton Magistrates Court, while boss Alan Stott has been ordered to pay a fine of £4,455. The total costs, including previous fines for non-compliance and the backdated pension contributions, amount to over £60,000.

A piggy bank
Getty Images
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Brazil approves Bayer-Monsanto deal

A combine harvester
Getty Images

Brazil's competition regulator has approved Bayer's proposed takeover of US seeds giant Monsanto, as long as certain conditions are met.

The Cade agency said it would permit the tie-up if Bayer agreed to an EU proposal to offload certain assets to chemicals giant BASF.

The merger, valued at $66bn when announced in September 2016, would create the world’s largest seeds and pesticides company.

However, the firms still need approval from jurisdictions including the EU and US where final rulings are still pending.

Weight Watchers targets teen market

Natalie Sherman

New York business reporter

Oprah Winfrey
Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey has a stake in Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers has said it will offer free memberships to teens ages 13 through 17 this summer, as part of a bigger drive to expand its reach.

The weight loss company said the offer would help it be "a powerful partner for families in establishing healthy habits". It is also eliminating artificial ingredients from its products.

The measures are part of a plan to attract more members and bring in more than $2bn in annual revenue by 2020 - news of which lifted shares 18% on Wednesday.

Weight Watchers, founded in 1963, has been in turnaround mode in recent years as it aims to reduce debt and reach new members. In 2015, Oprah Winfrey took a stake in the firm and agreed to promote its programme.

Weight Watchers also recently signed hip hop star DJ Khaled as an "ambassador" for the company.

Weight Watchers took in roughly $1bn in the first nine months of 2017. The company had about 1.3 million meeting members and 2 million online subscribers at the end of September.

Rabobank pleads guilty to processing illicit funds

Rabobank office
Rabobank

Dutch lender Rabobank has agreed to pay more than $360m and pleaded guilty in the US to processing illicit funds, as well as conspiring to obstruct an examination by a regulator.

According to the US Department of Justice, the bank admitted it allowed hundreds of millions of dollars in untraceable cash from Mexico and elsewhere to be deposited into branches in California.

Rabobank chose to “look the other way” when it learned of transactions indicative of international drug trafficking, organised crime and money laundering, acting Assistant US Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement.

Bank executives then tried to hide its anti-money laundering program deficiencies during a 2012 examination by the regulator, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the statement said.

border

John Campbell

BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

The figure comes from a government assessment looking at how each UK region will be affected post-Brexit.

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Snap shares leap on rising user numbers

Snapchat app
Snapchat

Shares in Snap - the parent of messaging app Snapchat - are up almost 50% after the firm posted its first user growth since going public in 2017.

The firm added 8.9 million users in the three months to the end of 2017. Revenue was up as well, reaching $287.5m (£207m) - a 72% year-on-year increase.

It follows a redesign of the app intended to help Snapchat compete with Instagram and Facebook.

Mixed picture for US stocks

After climbing earlier on, Wall Street markets have lost a little steam.

The Dow Jones is up half a per cent at 25,047.17 points, while the S&P 500 is flat at 2,697.42.

The Nasdaq is down 0.2% at 7,102.66 points.

Contingency plans 'in place' in event of another Carillion

House of Commons

Parliament

A short while a go, MPs on the Liason Committee asked whether there were contingency plans in place in the event another big contractor such as Carillion cannot fulfill vital government contracts.

John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary, would only be drawn as far as to say various government departments were responsible for drawing up such plans and currently there were between 10 and 100 in place.

He said civil servants were having “a normal dialogue” with firms so they could be alert to potential risks.

Harley Davidson issues recall

Harley Davidson bike
Getty Images

Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson is recalling nearly 175,000 bikes in the US over fears the brakes could fail.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that if brake fluid on the motorcycles was not replaced for a "prolonged period" beyond the recommended two-year schedule, deposits could form on internal components.

This could reduce braking ability and increase the risk of a crash.

The regulator began investigating the problem in 2016 after receiving complaints about sudden brake loss, and said the recall covers 31 models from 2008-2011.

EU migration chief hits out at ‘sick minds’ over Greece bribery probe

Dimitris Avramopoulos
AFP

The EU's migration chief has denounced a major corruption investigation in Greece as an "unprecedented plot".

Dimitris Avramopoulos is among 10 Greek politicians named by prosecutors in a probe involving the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Novartis is accused of paying top politicians bribes in exchange for price-fixing their medicines.

Prosecutors believe this could have cost the state billions during a painful financial crisis.

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DfT also assessed Carillion - Lidington

House of Commons

Parliament

Mr Liddington said The Department for Transport also assessed Carillion after its profit warning.

"They called in the other consortium members [for the HS2 contract] and said in the light of [the profit warning] are you still happy to do a joint-venture with them? They signed up to the joint and several liability contracts.”

He added that when Carillion did go bust the partners didn’t hesitate to step in and fulfil their commitments.

“In this situation it has worked,” he said

Carillion 'passed' viability tests after profit warning - Lidington

The Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP
Parliament TV

The Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, has been asked about how the government reacted to the profit warning from Carillion last July.

Shortly after the warning, the government awarded the construction giant a joint-venture contract to build HS2.

Mr Lidington said the government stepped up meetings with Carillion following the warning.

They also re-ran the financial checks necessary to ensure a supplier has the wherewithal to manage a contract.

"Carillion and the joint-venture they were part of still passed the tests," he said.

Dozens charged for Infraud cyber-crime site

HSBC and Paypal were among firms targeted...

Government 'could do more' to assess suppliers - Morse

House of Commons

Parliament

Bernard Jenkin MP
Parliament TV
Bernard Jenkin MP

The government spent about £250bn on outsourced contracts in 2016, Bernard Jenkin MP says. But how sure is it that those suppliers are financially viable?

Sir Amyas Morse tells MPs that under current rules, the government must ensure firms bidding for state contracts are credible. But he says they could do more.

"We need to have a frank discussion about what the risk is," he says, pointing out that banks and business shoulder a lot of the risk too.

"In [the case of Carillion] it's likely the government's intervention might cost around £300m - it's not a monstrous number but it's a serious number," he says.

Brexit impact assessments show North East hit hardest

Richard Moss

Political Editor, BBC Look North

Here's the full table from the government’s Brexit economic forecast showing projected lost growth, with the North East predicted to be the worst-hit part of the UK.

Outside the single market the region will be hit twice as hard as the UK as a whole, and around five times as hard as London.

Brexit impact predictions
Government

Treasury Committee sets deadline for FCA to publish RBS report

The Treasury Committee has set a deadline for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to publish its controversial report on RBS's Global Restructuring Group.

GRG has been accused of mistreating small business customers before and after the financial crisis. The FCA carried out a report on the matter but has only published a summary of it.

But yesterday, Labour MP Clive Lewis said he had read the report in full and that the watchdog was withholding important information from the public.

Nicky Morgan MP, chair of the Treasury Committee, has now called on Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, to publish the report or send a copy to the committee by 16 February 2018.

Mrs Morgan said:

“A version of the report is in the hands of third parties, it has been selectively reported by the media, and it may enter the public domain at any time. The FCA has lost control over the timing or content of further public disclosures from it.

“For these reasons, the Committee has requested that the FCA publish the final definitive version of the report, or send it to the Committee, by Friday 16 February.”

Brexit impact report figures leaked to BBC

MPs have been allowed to see the Brexit impact report leaked to BuzzFeed last month.

They were allowed to read them on a confidential basis, but the figures were quickly leaked to the BBC.

Political editor Laura Kuenssberg has shared figures showing the expected hit to economic growth in various regions, based on three possible post Brexit trade arrangements.

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Accounting practices in construction 'fuzzy'

House of Commons

Parliament

Accounting practices in the construction industry should also be reviewed, Sir Amyas Morse tells MPs.

They are often "fuzzy" and there's a tendency to "rob the later contracts to make performance look better", he says.

Accountancy firm KPMG will be investigated by the Financial Reporting Council over its handling of Carillion's accounts.

Construction firms addicted to government contracts - Morse

House of Commons

Parliament

Nicky Morgan MP
Parliament TV

Sir Amyas Morse says the construction sector needs to think “quite deeply” about the margins it makes and the risks it takes in the wake of Carillion.

Insolvencies are all too common in the industry, he tells Nicky Morgan MP (pictured).

Procurement rules that stop the government intervening in the publicly outsourced services market should also be reviewed, he says.

“You tend to get over-concentration and business models based on continued rapid growth. But what’s happened is government has stopped injecting more and more contracts into the system.

“For a number of years, many of these companies were addicted to achieving growth by winning more and more government contracts.”

Better financial viability tests of such companies are needed, he says.

MPs grill regulators on response to Carillion collapse

Sir Amyas Morse
Parliament TV

The Liason Committee of MPs is hearing evidence from regulators about their response to the Carillion collapse.

The first witness is Sir Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general, at spending watchdog the National Audit Office.

Some have questioned whether regulators did enough to prevent the construction firm's failure.

Stocks rebound 'as calm returns'

US traders
Getty Images

Equities are in recovery mode today after enduring a turbulent week, David Madden of CMC Markets UK says:

A combination of shorting covering and bargain hunting is helping [European] markets today. It has been a brutal week for investors, but some are keen to step in and take advantage of the fall in prices. There is still a sense we could be in for another leg lower, and for that reason some dealers are reluctant to get back into the market."

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 are higher on the day as US stocks continue their bounce back. The volatility index (VIX), or the fear index as it is referred to by traders has slumped, and investors are cautiously optimistic about the US equity market. The crash at the beginning of the week is starting to entice some buyers, but normal business has not resumed as some dealers are still nervous."

FTSE 100 closes higher

The FTSE 100 has closed up, having rebounded from Tuesday's fall. At the bell it was 1.94%, or 138.21 points, higher at 7,279.61.

Weight Watchers rallies on growth plan

A weight watchers meeting in New York in 2016
Getty Images
A weight watchers meeting in New York in 2016

There's money to be made in helping people lose weight - at least Weight Watchers seems to think so. The US company’s shares have jumped 15% after it raised its revenue target to more than $2bn by 2020. That's 50% higher than analyst expectations for the 2017 financial year.

The firm, which boasts star Oprah Winfrey as an ambassador, said it plans to boost sales through new members and higher retention.

Stock markets' wild ride

The FTSE 100 may be rebounding from Tuesday's fall - it's up 2.2% - but it's been on a wild ride this week, losing all of its gains for 2018. The same goes for the Dow Jones, as these BBC data charts show:

FTSE 100 chart
BBC
Dow Jones price chart
BBC

Key week for Toys R Us?

Mark Kleinman is the City Editor of Sky News. He tweets:

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Brexit talks

Brian Wheeler

Political reporter

A very quick guide to where things stand in the UK's negotiations with the EU.

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Nissan to meet PM amid Brexit concerns

Nissan car
Getty Images

Carmaker Nissan said it and other Japanese companies would meet Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond on Thursday to discuss their business in the UK.

Japanese firms have spent billions of dollars in Britain over recent decades, using it as a business-friendly base from which to trade across Europe.

But there are fears their exports could face tariffs of up to 10% and be subject to lengthy customs delays after Brexit.

"Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox will join representatives from other Japanese companies in meeting the Prime Minister and Chancellor on Thursday to discuss our operations and investments in the UK," Nissan said in a statement.

"We will not be disclosing details of the discussions."

Star Wars toy sales lose the force

The Last Jedi
Disney/ Lucasfilm

Hasbro sales have fallen due in part to weaker demand for Star Wars toys.

The US toy firm's revenue fell 2.1% in the fourth quarter to $1.6bn, lower than analysts expected.

Hasbro's partner brands segment, which include Star Wars, Frozen and Marvel merchandise, slumped by 21% in the fourth quarter.

The firm blamed bad timing as consumers were bombarded by products based on The Last Jedi, Thor and Justice League films.

In 2015, the firm enjoyed huge sales of Star Wars toys ahead of "The Force Awakens," the first "Star Wars" film in nearly a decade.

Trump comments on market volatility

The US president broken his silence about the sharp falls on US markets in recent days.

In a tweet he noted that the plunge on Wall Street - which rippled across the globe - started from relatively good news about increasing US wages, which added to fears that interest rates would rise sooner than expected.

The president has previously claimed that the large gains on US stock markets since his election were a sign his economic policies were working.

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FCA told to move faster on RBS report

The chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority Andrew Bailey is appearing before a panel of MPs.

He is being asked about an FCA report which examined the conduct of Royal Bank of Scotland and its Global Restructuring Group (GRG), which dealt with more than 12,000 companies between 2007 and 2012.

The report, which has not been made public in full, found that almost all of the viable companies transferred to GRG received "innapropriate treatement".

The BBC's Andrew Verity is watching the hearing.

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Profits jump at GSK

GSk logo
Getty Images

Net profits jumped 70% last year at GlaxoSmithKline thanks to bumper sales at the British drugs giant.

Profits after tax climbed to around £1.5bn while revenue rose 8% to £30.2bn.

The firm saw higher sales in each of its three main businesses, pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare.

It was also buoyed also by the weaker pound, which made its exports cheaper - although it sustained a fourth-quarter loss in part because of US tax reforms.

US stocks turn positive

After opening lower Wall Street markets are heading upwards, with the Dow Jones now up almost half a per cent. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 are also in positive territory.

US stocks open lower

The main US share indexes have opened lower on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 108.2 points, or 0.43%, to 24,804.57 points after gaining almost 2% yesterday.

The S&P 500 lost 8.22 points, or 0.3% to 2,686.92, while the Nasdaq dropped 22.22 points, or 0.31%, to 7,093.66.

Carlsberg profits hit by Russia alcohol campaign

Carlsberg bottle
Carlsberg

Profits at Carlsberg have dived more than 70% after a crackdown on alcohol abuse in Russia hit beer sales.

The Tuborg and Somersby Cider-maker saw annual net profits fall to 1.3 billion Danish krone (£155 million) last year, down from 4.5 billion krone as Russian beer sales fell 14%.

Russia is a key market for Carlsberg, but a nationwide cap on plastic beer bottles at 1.5 litres has taken its toll on performance.

The Copenhagen-based firm was also hit by 4.8 billion krone charge linked to its Russian Baltika brand.

Group revenues in 2017 slipped 1% to 61.8 billion krone, the firm said.