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Summary

  1. Inflation falls to 2.5%
  2. Pound slips against the dollar
  3. FTSE 100 closes higher
  4. Hammerson climbs after it withdraws Intu bid
  5. De La Rue shares slump as it drops passport appeal
  6. Dignity shares jump by a fifth
  7. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

Good night

That's it from us. We'll be back at 6am sharp tomorrow.

Saudi cinemas re-open after four decades

Saudi women watching a film
AFP

After nearly 40 years Saudi Arabians can go out to the movies again for the first time starting this evening.

The first film on the big screen will be Disney's Black Panther showing a superhero fighting for his kingdom. And it'll be shown in a hastily retrofitted symphony concert hall.

Perhaps Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is hoping some of the glamour will reflect back on him as he battles to reform the Saudi kingdom.

But it'll be some weeks before its clear what impression the film has made on ordinary Saudis.

For the first few weeks its VIPs only in the movie theatres, by invitation only.

Wall Street treads water

New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images

This were pretty flat at the close of play on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones ended the day slightly down at 24,748.07, a fall of 38 points or 0.16%, dragged lower by IBM, whose sales dropped by 7.6% after a profits outlook that disappointed analysts.

The S&P 500 was at 2,709.21, that's up 3 points or 0.10%.

And the tech-heavy Nasdaq was at 7,295.24, a rise of 14 points or 0.19%.

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Metro Bank faces shareholder revolt over payments to chairman's wife

A Metro Bank outlet
Getty Images

Metro Bank is facing growing shareholder criticism over payments made by the lender to a firm run by its chairman’s wife.

Glass Lewis has joined asset manager Royal London in urging investors to oppose chairman Vernon Hill's re-election at next week's annual general meeting.

Both firms have questioned payments of £4.6m made in fees to InterArch, an architecture firm owned by Mr Hill’s wife Shirley Hill. The firm provides Metro Bank with design, branding, marketing and advertising services.

"We question the need for the company to engage in business relationships with its directors and their close relations," Glass Lewis said in its report.

"We view such relationships as potentially creating conflicts for directors, as they may be forced to weigh their own interests in relation to shareholder interests when making board decisions.”

If more than 50pc of shareholders vote against Mr Hill’s reappointment he would be forced to resign because the vote is binding.

Wall Street stocks still mixed

US stocks are treading water as strong gains for energy companies are offset by weakness in technology and financial firms.

The S&P 500 has gained 0.3% to 2,714.76 points while the Dow Jones is flat at 24,785.14.

The tech rich Nasdaq has inched up 0.4% to 7,311.34 points.

Time Warner chief defends merger with AT&T

Time Warner chief executive Jeff Bewkes
Reuters

Time Warner's chief executive Jeff Bewkes has told a US court that Time Warner's proposed merger with US telecoms giant AT&T is necessary to help them compete for advertising with internet titans like Google and Facebook.

He said Time Warner was not able to advertise as effectively as tech firms because it did not possess the detailed information about customer preferences that pay-TV and internet firms have.

Through the merger, AT&T would be able to take data from its 141 million wireless subscribers and 25 million video subscribers, and marry it with Time Warner’s programming to enable advertisers to target TV ads.

The US government is suing to block the $85bn deal, arguing it would allow AT&T to push up subscription costs for its many satellite and online channels.

Oil giant Total moves further into household energy

Total boss Patrick Pouyanne
Getty Images
Total boss Patrick Pouyanne

French oil giant Total has moved further into the household energy sector with a £1.2bn deal to buy a utility.

Total plans to buy a controlling stake in Direct Energie before making an offer for the rest of the company.

The French firm, which already supplies natural gas and electricity to 1.5 million customers, will now take on Direct Energie’s 2.6 million clients.

It follows Shell’s 2017 move into electricity supply, which it views as a fast growth market, through the acquisition of First Utility in the UK.

Amazon offers new feature for international shoppers

Amazon logo
Getty Images

Amazon has announced a new feature within its shopping app to cater to international customers buying US goods.

International shipping is already an option on many orders from Amazon’s US website but the new services are aimed at easing the process.

The feature will display pricing, shipping costs and import duty estimates, with Amazon managing courier services and customs clearance.

The e-commerce is initially targeting Brazil, China, Germany and Spanish-speaking markets with the feature.

GM replaces Cadillac boss

A Cadillac
Getty Images

General Motors has abruptly replaced the head of its flagging Cadillac brand.

Johan de Nysschen will be replaced immediately by Steve Carlisle, who had most recently served as managing director of GM’s Canadian operations.

It comes ahead of the launch of a new sport utility vehicle that GM hopes will revive Cadillac's fortunes.

Once the top-selling luxury vehicle brand in the United States, Cadillac sales trailed last year, despite Mr De Nysschen's efforts to boost the brand.

China imposes anti-dumping duty on US sorghum

A sorghum field Elm Flat, Texas
Getty Images
The top three sorghum producing states in the US are Kansas, Texas and Colorado

In case you missed it earlier, China has announced a hefty anti-dumping move against US sorghum imports, as a multi-billion dollar tit-for-tat trade spat between the two nations continues.

China said US importers would have to pay a temporary 178.6% deposit on the value of their imports from Wednesday.

China initiated its investigation into US sorghum imports in February.

US growers were "deeply disappointed" with the findings and are considering legal action in response.

Sorghum is a grain used primarily to feed livestock, but it is also used to create ethanol, or drinking alcohol.

Read more...

Iceland's Bitcoin heist suspect 'flees on PM's plane'

Bitcoin tokens
Getty Images

A man suspected of masterminding the theft of 600 computers that were being used to mine virtual currencies has escaped custody in Iceland, police say.

Sindri Thor Stefansson escaped the low-security prison through a window and fled to Sweden on a passenger plane that was also carrying Iceland's prime minister, local media report.

The ticket had another man's name and he was identified through CCTV video.

The stolen computers, which are still missing, are worth $2m (£1.45m).

Mr Stefansson was among 11 people arrested in February suspected of involvement in the case, dubbed by local media as the "Big Bitcoin Heist".

Read more

Musk’s words 'strike a chord'

Earlier, we asked you what you thought of Elon Musk's alleged plan to allow Tesla employees to cut phone calls short and walk out of bad meetings to boost productivity.

Neil Rogerson of Manchester says he likes the idea.

"Elon Musk’s words do strike a chord. It does send out a huge message to your colleagues if you have the confidence to walk out of a meeting.

"You will have to be strong in your own beliefs and principals but if you can justify your decision/behaviour to management and it isn’t a weekly occurrence then the short term pain could make for a long term gain."

FTSE 100 closes higher

A trader
Getty Images

London's blue chip index has closed higher after ONS data showed a surprise fall in inflation in March.

The FTSE 100 gained 91.29 points, or 1.26%, to 7,317.34.

Mediclinic International was the best performer, rising 9.15% after it published strong annual results.

Commodities firms also gained as fears over US-Russia tensions pushed metal prices to levels not seen since December 2014.

Russia is a major producer of nickel and aluminium and some believe US sanctions could hit global supply.

Glencore was up 7.65%, Anglo American gained 6.15% and BHP Billiton was 5.5% higher.

Gemalto officially awarded blue passport contract

Blue and burgundy passports, side by side
EPA

Gemalto has been officially awarded the contract to make the new UK passport.

It comes after current supplier De La Rue said it would no longer contest the decision to hire the Franco-Dutch firm.

The HM Passport Office said the contract was worth approximately £260m and would deliver significant savings to the taxpayer.

Under the 11.5 year deal, Gemalto will add approximately 70 jobs to its existing British workforce.

The burgundy passport, in use since 1988, will revert to its original blue and gold colour from October 2019.

M&S marketing boss quits

M&S logo
Getty Images

Marks & Spencer has said its marketing chief is stepping down a month after it sacked its food boss.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne has stepped down from the board and will leave the company at the end of May.

M&S is restructuring its head office as it tries to revive its financial fortunes and cut costs.

It ousted food boss Andy Adcock in March after a fall in sales in that division. It has also put more than 1,300 jobs under threat this year in a series of cuts across its stores and distribution network.

Cambridge Analytica 'was planning cryptocurrency'

Cambridge Analytica's former chief executive officer Alexander Nix
Cambridge Analytica's former chief executive officer Alexander Nix
Cambridge Analytica's former chief executive officer Alexander Nix

Cambridge Analytica was planning to raise money by issuing a new digital currency before its recent Facebook data scandal, sources have told Reuters.

The British data analytics consultancy had approached a firm that advises companies on how to structure an initial coin offering - an increasingly popular way of raising funds online.

The firm was looking to raise as much as $30m, one of the sources said.

Cambridge Analytica declined to comment on the claims but did say it had been looking at using blockchain, the tech that underpins digital currencies.

The aim, it said (somewhat ironically perhaps), was to help people secure their personal online data.

Are AI fairytales the future?

Father and daughter
Getty Images

It was recently reported that the meditation app Calm had published a "new" fairytale by the Brothers Grimm.

However, The Princess and the Fox was written not by the brothers, who died over 150 years ago, but by humans using an artificial intelligence (AI) tool.

It's the first fairy tale written by an AI, claims Calm, and is the result of a collaboration with Botnik Studios - a community of writers, artists and developers. Calm says the technique could be referred to as "literary cloning".

Botnik employees used a predictive-text program to generate words and phrases that might be found in the original Grimm fairytales. Human writers then pieced together sentences to form "the rough shape of a story", according to Jamie Brew, chief executive of Botnik.

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Oil prices at highest level since November 2014

Oil workers
Getty Images

Brent Crude oil has hit $73.30 a barrel, its highest level since November 2014.

It comes after prices jumped more than $1 on a reported decline in US crude inventories.

According to Reuters, sources also signalled that top exporter Saudi Arabia wants to see the crude price in a range of $80 to $100 a barrel.