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Live Reporting

By Mary-Ann Russon

All times stated are UK

  1. UBS reassures over dividend

    ubs logo

    Sergio Ermotti, chief executive of Swiss bank UBS, has been talking about the €3.7bn (£3.2bn) fine imposed by a French court this week.

    "There is no intention to deviate from our proposed 2018 dividend of 0.70 Swiss francs ($0.6994) per share."

    "In respect to the outlook for our capital returns beyond the financial year 2018, we remain committed to our policy," he told analysts.

    A court in Paris found that the bank had illegally helped French clients hide billions of euros from French tax authorities between 2004 and 2012. But UBS has said it contested any criminal wrongdoing and would appeal against the verdict.

  2. Good afternoon

    The Queen and artist Harry Parker

    Thanks Jill for this morning's live coverage of all things business.

    Mary-Ann Russon with you until 21:30 for the rest of the day's news and views.

    Today the Queen attended a service to celebrate the centenary of the granting by King George V, of the prefix 'Royal' to the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, at The Guards' Chapel, Wellington Barracks.

    Artist, soldier and author Harry Parker is pictured explaining an exhibition of his work to the Queen.

    Got a point of view? You can tweet me at @concertina226 and @BBCBusiness.

  3. Kraft Heinz plunge 'takes $3.4bn from Buffett stake'

    Warren Buffett

    Shares in US food giant Kraft Heinz have taken a tumble in pre-market trading, mainly after a multi-billion dollar write-down.

    This is set to knock $3.4bn off the value of the 7.66% Kraft Heinz stake owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway when markets open, according to investor publication The Street.

  4. Venezuela's rival Live Aids

    A man sells souvenirs made of Venezuelan Bolivars on a roadside.
    Image caption: A man sells souvenirs made of Venezuelan Bolivars on a roadside.

    Richard Branson appears to be going ahead with a Live Aid-inspired concert in Venezuela today.

    The British billionaire says he wants to raise money to "help bring an end to the needless suffering of millions".

    It's despite the Venezuelan government blocking western aid to the country, going as far as to close its border with Brazil.

    President Nicolas Maduro is, meanwhile, planning a competing "Hands Off Venezuela” concert just 300 metres away.

    Venezuela is locked in a political and economic crisis, with the IMF predicting an inflation rate of 10,000,000% for 2019.

    Earlier Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters released a video telling Mr Branson to "back off".

    Mr Rogers said the concert "has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people," adding: "It has to do with Richard Branson".

  5. Kraft plunge in pre-market

    salad cream

    Shares in Kraft Heinz are down 20% ahead of the formal opening of the US market.

    They are trading around $38 and the most heavily traded stock pre-market.

    This follows its announcement - mentioned earlier - after the market closed on Thursday that it had received a subpoena from the US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, about its accounting policies.

    The company - which tried to buy Unilever in 2017- also reduced the value of some its brands.

    It also warned it expected the company "to take step backwards in 2019".

  6. FTSE edging higher

    City trader

    UK shares have been heading slowly higher during the morning.

    The FTSE 100, which has been boosted by the performance of mining shares, is up 42.24 points at 7,209.63.

    The mid-cap FTSE 250 index is 79.08 points higher at 19,315.96.

  7. Nice surprise

    Publisher Pearson, which reported a loss of £2.5bn in 2016, has today said profits for 2018 were £590m.

    Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the group had been left in "tough spot" by the trend to cheaper study materials and the move to digital.

    "That means sales have been flat lining, so it’s come as a nice surprise to hear it expects performance to improve from here. Pearson has historically relied too heavily on cost savings to keep itself going - it should be applauded for squeezing out such savings, but at some point the juice has to run out and sales growth needs to takeover."

  8. 'Disappointing' for CYBG

    branch

    As reported earlier, CYBG, which owns Clydesdale, Yorkshire and Virgin Money, did not receive any of the funds being distributed from a £775m fund intended to boost competition in the small business (SME) banking sector.

    Analysts at UBS see this as "disappointing".

    "We had expected CYBG to receive at least £60m of the fund given its strong presence in the SME market," the analysts said.

    It could push up costs at the bank. "This would imply an increase in CYBG's investment spend if the firm wants to maintain the same level of improvement in product quality, digitalisation and services as it originally planned to - in our view posing a downside risk to the long-term cost reduction story".

    CYBG's shares are down 5%.

  9. Barclays board change

    gerry grimstone

    Sir Gerry Grimstone, who has been on the board of Barclays since 2016, is stepping down at the end of the month.

    His departure is announced as Nigel Higgins prepares to take over from John McFarlane as chairman.

    Sir Gerry said: "After 20 years sitting on the boards of a number of listed companies, and having recently stepped down from the chairmanship of Standard Life Aberdeen, it is an appropriate moment for a change."

  10. Pound update

    chart

    A look at sterling.

    It is down 0.2% against the dollar but still above $1.30.

    According to Reuters the pound is on track to break a three-week losing streak by ending the week higher.

  11. Bank to create jobs

    phone

    Starling Bank, which has been awarded £100m from a fund intended to boost competition in the banking sector, intends to create 398 jobs.

    Anne Boden, Starling’s founder and chief executive, said: "This is the opportunity to bring new technology and a new approach to the sector.”

    The funding is from a £775m created by Royal Bank of Scotland because it was rescued by taxpayers during the 2008 crisis.

  12. Take no action says Provident Financial

    money coins

    Provident Financial has responded to the £1.3bn bid by NSF.

    "The board's considered response to the offer will be announced in due course. In the meantime, shareholders are strongly advised to take no action in respect of the NSF offer," the door step lender says.

  13. Unions seek meeting with new Dairy Crest owner

    Quote Message: Unite is cautiously optimistic that Saputo is seeking to develop Dairy Crest’s operation in the UK over the long-term. Unite is now seeking an urgent meeting with the senior management at Saputo to receive detailed information about the company’s plans and secure assurances about employment levels and a commitment to maintaining an existing plants. from Sue Pollard Unite national officer for the food industry
    Sue PollardUnite national officer for the food industry
  14. 'Pleased'

    glaxologo

    GlaxoSmithKline has issued a statement to the stock market after the Serious Fraud Office's announcement, saying it is "pleased that the SFO have closed their investigation and concluded that no further action is required".

  15. More from the SFO

    The SFO has announced it is closing investigations into Rolls-Royce and GlaxosmithKline.

    Lisa Osofsky, director of the Serious Fraud Office said: “After an extensive and careful examination I have concluded that there is either insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction or it is not in the public interest to bring a prosecution in these cases.

    “In the Rolls-Royce case, the SFO investigation led to the company taking responsibility for corrupt conduct spanning three decades, seven jurisdictions and three businesses, for which it paid a fine of £497.25m."

  16. BreakingSFO announces cases closing

    The director of the Serious Fraud Office has announced the closure of the Rolls-Royce and GlaxoSmithKline cases.

  17. CBI: Weak investment intentions

    shop sale sign

    The CBI Distributive Trades Survey of 100 firms showed that retail sales volumes remained unchanged for the second successive month in February.

    “Retail investment plans have taken a hit this quarter, falling to their weakest since 2012. Until politicians can agree a deal that commands a majority in parliament, is acceptable to the EU and protects our economy, business despair will deepen. A deal must be negotiated, and no-deal averted," said Anna Leach, the CBI's head of economic intelligence.

    But expectations are improving.

    "Sales volumes are expected to pick up sharply in the year to March, with growth expectations at the highest since October 2015," she said.

  18. Saudi prince visits China

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to meet China's President Xi Jinping today as both countries look to boost economic ties.

    It's the latest stop for the Saudi prince on his Asia tour, during which he has promised $20bn (£15.6bn) in investment to Pakistan.

    Executives from Aramco are part of the delegation which arrived yesterday.

    "China is a great place to invest with a huge market and an improving environment," Saudi energy and industry minister Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih told Xinhua news agency.

  19. Flybe vote in March

    logo

    Back to Flybe which has confirmed its assets and operations are now owned by the Connect Airways consortium.

    Flybe Group itself has not changed hands. It is now a shell company, and the £2.8m paid by the consortium is not expected to go to shareholders and be used for “transactional, residual and rundown costs”.

    Shareholders will get to vote on Connect’s 1p a share offer on 4 March.