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Summary

  1. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk
  2. Disney boosts 21st Century Fox offer to $71bn
  3. 32Red hit with £2m fine over problem gambling

Live Reporting

By Tom Espiner

All times stated are UK

Good night

That's all for tonight from the Business Live page. Please join us again tomorrow from 06:00.

CO₂ shortfall could have 'huge effect' on food production

More on the CO₂ shortfall from the British Poultry Council ...

It is worrying that failures in the gas sector can have such a potentially huge effect on British food production. The BPC will be working closely with Defra, BEIS, retailers, and gas suppliers to implement contingency plans and mitigate any major impact on sustainable supply of food.

Richard GriffithsChief executive, British Poultry Council

Poultry industry wants priority for CO₂

Raw whole chicken
PA

Trade magazine The Grocer reported earlier on stark warnings from the British Poultry Council (BPC) that up to 60% of poultry processing plants could be knocked out "within days" as a result of the CO₂ shortage.

CO₂ is used to stun and ultimately suffocate poultry in many slaughterhouses.

The Grocer said nine of the UK's largest poultry plants were facing a critical shortage of the gas, which could lead very quickly to a halt in slaughtering and a knock-on effect on animal welfare as birds are left longer on the farms.

Now we've had this statement from the British Poultry Council.

With the supply of CO₂ tightened across Europe, the British Poultry Council is calling on Government and major gas producers to prioritise supplies to slaughterhouses and keep the food chain moving. We are assessing what the possible impact on food supply might be, and BPC members are working hard to minimise the effect.

Richard GriffithsChief executive, British Poultry Council

Nasdaq closes at record high

Wall Street trader
Getty Images

The Nasdaq hit a record on Wednesday as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet touched all-time highs, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average struggled to shrug off concerns over a rapid escalation in the US-China trade tensions.

The Nasdaq ended the day at 7,781.52, a rise of 55.93 points or 0.72%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 24,657.80, a fall of 42.41 points or 0.17%.

And the S&P 500 gained 4.73 points or 0.17 to 2,767.32

Peak crypto craziness?

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweets:

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70 years of vinyl

Vinyl records
Getty Images

Vinyl records have been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, with sales booming as fans rediscover the format.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the release of the first long-playing record in the US in 1948.

Mendelssohn's Concerto in E minor, performed by violinist Nathan Milstein with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, was the first vinyl LP.

"The fact that the long playing record came into existence was a huge step for music sound recording and for the listener," AndyLinehan, curator of popular music in the British Library sound archive, said.

"Previously you could only get three minutes or so onto one side of a record and now because you had a narrower groove and a slower speed, you could get up to 20 minutes, which meant you could get a whole classical piece on one side of a record... you could get a whole package of songs together on one record."

Blue chip stock

Kim Gittleson

New York business correspondent

Lloyds Bank to cut 450 jobs

Lloyds bank logo
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Lloyds Banking Group is to cut 450 jobs, affecting mainly back office roles.

The lender said the cuts will help it "adapt and evolve to support changes in customer behaviour".

Musk's Boring Company to build airport link in Chicago

Elon musk
Getty Images

Chicago has selected Elon Musk’s Boring Company to build a $1bn high-speed underground rail system that will whisk people from Chicago’s central Loop district to O’Hare International Airport at 150 miles per hour (240 km per hour), the billionaire entrepreneur and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have said.

Starbucks' shares down after China and US growth concerns

Starbucks shares fell more than 8% after a disappointing sales forecast from the US coffee chain prompted Wall Street analysts to question the sustainability of its growth at home and in its next biggest market, China.

Instagram now allows 60 minute videos

American and United airlines ask not to be used for child separation

A crying child at the US border
Getty Images

American Airlines and United Airlines have asked the federal government to refrain from using their flights to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families.

"The family separation process that has been widely publicised is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines - we bring families together, not apart," American Airlines said in a statement.

United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz in a statement called the Trump administration's zero tolerance illegal immigration policy that has led to family separations "in deep conflict with our company's values."

"We have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children on United aircraft who have been separated from their parents," Mr Munoz said.

Which countries consume the most cannabis?

Canada marijuana stocks higher

Marijuana leaf
Getty Images

Canadian marijuana stocks are higher after the country became the first major economy to legalise its recreational use.

Canada's Senate voted 52-29 on Tuesday in favour of a revised bill from the elected House of Commons, paving the way for a fully legal cannabis market within eight-to-12 weeks following a final sign-off from the country's governor general in the next few days.

"The legislation... marks a wholesale shift in how our country approaches cannabis," said Jody Wilson-Raybould, minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. "It leaves behind a failed model of prohibition, a model that has made organised crime rich and left our young people vulnerable."

IMF approves Argentina fund

"IMF never again": There is widespread suspicion in Argentina about a new deal
Reuters
"IMF never again": There is widespread suspicion in Argentina about a new deal

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) board of directors has approved a $50bn financing arrangement for Argentina.

The deal was agreed earlier this month, subject to IMF board approval.

Former Anglo boss sentenced to six years in jail

David Drumm
Getty Images

Former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm has been sentenced to six years in jail.

He was sentenced on Wednesday at the Dublin Criminal Court.

The ex-banker was found guilty earlier in June of authorising a €7.2bn (£5.4bn) conspiracy to defraud and of false accounting.

Drumm had pleaded not guilty to conspiring to dishonestly make Anglo's balance sheet look better between March and September 2008.

Read more here.

Coca Cola 'working on CO2 issues'

Coke bottling plant
Getty Images

A shortage of carbon dioxide in the UK has left carbonated drinks producers "desperate" for fizz.

Drinks giant Coca-Cola European says it is "currently responding to an industry-wide issue that is impacting the supply of C02 in the UK and across Europe."

"There has been no disruption to supply to date and we are continuing to fulfil orders to our customers," a spokeswoman says.

"We are working closely with our suppliers, partners and customers on a number of solutions as the situation develops."

Poundworld 'closing down' sales to begin

Poundworld
Getty Images

Poundworld is to begin "closing down" sales, although that does not mean the shops will definitely close, it has told employees.

Administrators are struggling to find a buyer for the discount retailer.

Wetherspoons 'likely to be affected by gas shortage'

Tim Martin
Getty Images

Hard as it is to believe, pub chain Wetherspoons says it is likely to be affected by a shortage of gas.

The carbon dioxide shortage is not causing any issues yet, but it probably will, a spokesperson said.

"As of today we have no issues. That is likely to change in the coming days, and it’s not likely to get any better.

"There might be some products we don’t have available and if it affects Wetherspoons then it will affect everyone else.”

Amstel and John Smith's stock gets depleted

Lager
Getty Images

A shortage of the gas that puts the fizz in fizzy drinks is affecting stocks of Amstel and John Smiths, the BBC understands.

Heineken, which owns the brands, says: "We’ve been informed by our CO2 supplier that they are facing a major issue with supply availability in the UK.

"Like many other businesses in the food and drinks industry, we are affected by this shortage.

"We continue to work hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible within our European supply base and are working with customers to minimise disruption to their business."

'I was propositioned'

Ross: 'Anti-social' behaviour driving up steel prices

This photo taken on June 8, 2018 shows a worker inspecting steel cable at a steel factory in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province
AFP/Getty

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is getting grilled by senators in Washington over controversial US tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee said the measures are driving up costs for families and businesses, while alienating longstanding allies like Canada.

Mr Ross predicted that new supply in the US would reduce prices by the end of the year.

He said "speculative activity" - not the tariffs - are to blame for the price hikes.

"There's no reason for tariffs to increase the price of steel by far more than the percentage of the tariff and yet that's what has been happening," he said.

"That's clearly not the result of the tariff. It's clearly the result of anti-social behaviour by participants in the industry."

Mr Ross said his department will investigate for signs of illegitimate profiteering.

Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, for one was dubious about the explanation that tariffs were not the source of the price rise.

"That's just not true," he said.

Prescott and Conran restaurants go into administration

A London-based hospitality venture by Peter Prescott and Sir Terence and Lady Conran has gone into administration.

Its the latest of a string of restaurant chains and retailers to fold in the capital.

Two restaurants and a pub have closed, administrators from Duff & Phelps said.

"Prescott and Conran’s portfolio included Parabola in Kensington, Lutyens on Fleet Street and the Albion in Clerkenwell, all of which have now been closed."

Stephen Clancy of Duff & Phelps said: "Over the past few months the group has been undertaking an operational review looking to enhance profitability and exit underperforming businesses. As part of that process some restaurants had already been closed."

Libor: Judge criticises FCA for failing to chase UBS management

UBS logo
Getty Images

A tribunal has recommended that regulator the FCA lift a ban on former UBS junior trader Arif Hussein who was accused by the regulator of manipulating Libor.

Judge Timothy Herrington criticised the FCA for failing to pursue senior managers at UBS over Libor rigging.

"We have no responsibility for deciding what cases the Authority chooses to make the subject of enforcement proceedings. At many points in the process Ms George [Mr Arif's lawyer] questioned why none of the senior managers had been brought to account.

"Mr Strong [for the FCA] made one observation in that regard which we found troubling. He said '…as regards more senior people, one has to remember in relation to UBS that not everybody is in the jurisdiction and when one looks at the Final Notice, the documentation that is referred to as fingering senior people is not extensive. As is the way of these things, the senior people somehow manage to keep their fingerprints off the relevant documents sometimes.'

"We have no knowledge as to what investigations may have taken place and which have not been made public. However, it is hoped that the observation referred to above is not a true reflection of the Authority’s attitude to pursuing senior management either in this jurisdiction or elsewhere when it is necessary to do so," the judge said.

Siemens boss: 'UK needs Brexit clarity'

Sandcastle
Getty Images

The UK needs to urgently give clarity on how trade with the European Union will work after Brexit, the boss of Siemens UK has said.

The UK should remain in the customs union unless there is a proper alternative, Juergen Maier said

Britain is due to leave the EU on 29 March 29, but little is clear about how trade will flow as Prime Minister Theresa May, who is grappling with a rebellion in her party, is still trying to strike a deal with the bloc.

"My biggest worry about Brexit is that I don't know what we are planning for," Mr Maier said.

"We need to put something in place quickly that works and if that is not possible, and until that point, then we have to just default to staying in the customs union," he added.

The UK has ruled out staying in the EU customs union, which puts together 28 EU members in a duty-free area where there is a common import tariff for non-EU goods.

British Airways cancels 'incorrectly' cheap tickets

A British Airways aeroplane coming in to land near Heathrow
Getty Images

Passengers who bought cheap British Airways flights say they are angry after their tickets were cancelled because the prices were wrong.

The airline said it had sent incorrect fares to a number of travel agents for flights to Tel Aviv and Dubai.

Ash Dubbay, from London, says he had booked a return flight to Tel Aviv for £195 but now has to pay about £1,000.

BA has apologised and offered full refunds and a £100 voucher. The company refused to say how many were affected.

UK clears Daily Mirror owner to buy Express titles

Daily Mirror, Daily Star and Daily Express newspapers
PA

The British government has cleared Daily Mirror publisher Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror) to take over rival tabloids the Daily Express for £127m.

Media Secretary Matt Hancock said he accepted regulators' opinions that the deal did "not give rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition".

The deal also did not raise concerns about limiting free expression of opinions and the range of views available in British newspapers as a whole.

'Disastrous' copyright bill vote approved

People looking at a computer
Getty Images

A committee of MEPs has voted to accept major changes to European copyright law, which experts say could change the nature of the internet.

They voted to approve the controversial Article 13, which critics warn could put an end to memes, remixes and other user-generated content.

Article 11, requiring online platforms to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content, was also approved.

One organisation opposed to the changes called it a "dark day".

It will now go to the wider European Parliament to vote on in July.

BreakingDisney boosts offer to acquire 21st Century Fox

Mickey Mouse and Robert Iger at the New York Stock Exchange
Getty Images

Disney says it has signed an amended agreement boosting its offer to acquire 21st Century Fox.

The offer will now be for $71bn (£53.8bn) in cash and stock, at $38 per share.

Disney and Comcast have been involved in a bidding war to wint Fox's movie and television studio assets.

Last week, Comcast said it had offered to pay an all-cash offer of $65bn, whereas Disney had previously offered an all-stock bid of $52.4bn.

Disney's chairman and chief exeutive Robert Iger said: “At a time of dynamic change in the entertainment industry, the combination of Disney’s and Fox’s unparalleled collection of businesses and franchises will allow us to create more appealing high-quality content, expand our direct-to-consumer offerings and international presence, and deliver more personalised and compelling entertainment experiences to meet growing consumer demand around the world.”

BT fined for five million spam emails

Spam email folder
Getty Images

BT has been fined £77,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office, after it sent nearly five million nuisance emails to customers.

The investigation found that the telecoms company did not have customers' consent for such direct marketing.

The 4.9 million emails, sent between December 2015 and November 2015, promoted three charities.

BT said it was "disappointed" by the ICO's decision to impose a fine.

Ford and VW in talks about developing range of vans

Ford unveiled its new Ranger 2019 pick-up truck earlier this year
Getty Images

Ford and Volkswagen are in early talks about jointly developing a range of commercial vehicles.

The two car giants said they were "exploring a strategic alliance" aimed at strengthening both companies' competitiveness without giving details.

However, the cooperation would not involve any share swaps or cross-ownership deals.

Ford's biggest-selling commercial vehicles are the Transit van and the F-series pick-up truck.

Towns with two supermarkets

How many towns across the country only have a Sainsbury's and Asda and would potentially be most affected by the merger?

Mr Coupe says that it is hard to say but such figures will be submitted to the Competition and Markets Authority.

And that pretty much wraps up the hearing.

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Who does Sainsbury's compete with?

Once again MPs question Mr Coupe over the market share figure that Sainsbury's and Asda will account for after their merger.

The MPs have been using the figure of 30%, but Mr Coupe says the figure is 25%.

Mr Coupe says the MPs' figure does not include M&S, B&M and Boots, which he considers to be competitors.

What happens to milk suppliers to Sainsbury's

Cows
Reuters

Milk suppliers to Sainbury's have around two years under their current contract. Negotiations over a new contract will begin a year before the end of that deal.

It's a deal that has won Sainsbury's some good publicity as it gives farmers a guaranteed price.

Would that be the model under an Asda/Sainsbury's merger.

"Potentially yes," said Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury's Brand.

BreakingEU tariffs to hit US products on Friday

Retaliatory tariffs by the European Union against the US will come into effect on Friday, according the European Commission.

Duties of 25% will be applied to a range of US goods including bourbon and motorbikes.

How big will Sainsbury's/Asda be?

Chairman Neil Parish asks Sainsbury's Mike Coupe what share of the grocery market Asda and Sainsbury's will have combined.

Mr Coupe says the figure is 25%.

Mr Parish says his figures suggest 30%.

Mr Coupe says Sainsbury's use a broader definition of the market.

'Why is your pension fund in deficit?'

MP Angela Smith
Parliament TV

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe says that Sainsbury's current pension deficit is £257m.

If this is the case, then would Asda want to go ahead with the merger? MPs have asked.

Mr Coupe says that the two pension funds will be kept separate, and the Sainsbury's pension fund will be backed by a "new entity".

Angela Smith wants to know whether employees' salaries and benefits can be preserved, since the word on the street is that Walmart is considering exiting the British groceries market.

Mr Coupe is confident that Walmart is dedicated to the UK market.

Making cereal prices cheaper

Weetabix
BBC

Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe is explaining what the supermarkets mean by "aligning prices".

He says that, for example, the American cereal company Post charges 20p to the pound for the cereal Weetabix to Sainsbury's, but Asda buys Weetabix for a different price, and the merger means that the two supermarkets can get one uniform price.

MPs argued that pressuring companies like Post for a discount could affect the brand's supply chain, however Mr Coupe said that the price of wheat is standard across the world, and is not set by Post or any supermarket, so asking for a better price would be fair.

Because of this exchange, committee chairman Neil Parish now wants Sainsbury's and Asda to promise that they will only put the squeeze on international brands, as opposed to local farmers.

It's all about pensions

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe
Parliament TV

It's now time for Sainsbury's executives to face the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe keeps insisting this merger is needed to help its pensions fund.

He says a tough and changing retail environment and competition from "global scale" discounters like Lidl and Aldi has made it necessary.

Employment issues

Asda and Sainsbury's logos
Getty Images

MPs have grilled Asda about whether it and Sainsbury's will cut jobs as part of the merger.

"We will keep both head offices - Asda will absolutely stay in Yorkshire," Asda boss Roger Burnley replied.

"We strongly want both brands to be present and operating in all sites."

Asda said it is also working on new contracts with Sainsbury's, because each supermarket chain has a different set of terms and conditions, and for example, Asda has more night shifts in its workforce than Sainsbury's typically does.