Morning business round-up: EU-US free-trade talks

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What's making the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

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The European Union and the US are to begin formal talks on a free-trade agreement, paving the way for the biggest trade deal in history.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made the joint announcement following President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

A deal would bring down trading barriers between the two biggest economies in the world.

EU-US trade is worth around 455bn euros (£393bn; $613bn) a year.

Dutch banking and insurance group ING has announced a further 2,400 job cuts as it prepares to split its banking and insurance operations.

It that 1,400 jobs would go from its retail banking business in the Netherlands, with a further 1,000 jobs going at ING Belgium.

ING hopes the move will eventually result in combined cost savings of 270m euros ($364m; £230m) a year.

It takes the total job cuts at the bank to 7,500 in the past 15 months.

The announcement came as ING reported a 21% rise in net profit for the fourth quarter to 1.43bn euros, thanks to gains from asset sales.

French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen has reported a net loss of 5bn euros ($6.7bn; £4.3bn) for 2012, compared with a 588m euro profit a year earlier.

The loss was mainly due to asset write-downs of 4.7bn euros which Peugeot took to reflect the worsening state of Europe's car market.

Last year, Peugeot announced a programme to cut its costs by 1bn euros in response to falling sales, including the closure of one factory.

The US has approved the sale of Canadian oil firm Nexen to China's state-owned CNOOC, clearing the way for the deal to be completed.

The deal had been backed by Canadian authorities but needed US approval as Nexen has operations in the country.

There have been concerns over China's access to key US assets, and regulators had previously blocked an attempt by CNOOC to buy a US-based firm.

The $15.1bn (£9.4bn) deal is China's largest foreign takeover.

In the UK, the governor of the Bank of England has said that the economy has "cause for optimism".

Sir Mervyn King, presenting the Bank's latest Quarterly Inflation Report, said a recovery was "in sight", but added that the outlook for inflation had worsened since November.

He now expects the inflation rate, currently 2.7%, to rise to at least 3% by the summer and to remain above the Bank's 2% target for two years.

The Bank's last report in November said that inflation would fall back towards its 2% target in the second half of this year.

In the latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service - the three lives of Ping Fu. Beginning life as an orphan, she became a Chinese political prisoner, then relaunched as a pioneer of the high-tech revolution. Today she is one of America's top business entrepreneurs and she tells us her story.

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BBC Business Live

  1.  
    08:30: Vinyl record
    Vinyl

    More than one million vinyl records have been sold in the UK so far this year - the first time the milestone has been achieved since 1996, reports the BBC's Dave Lee. The Official Chart Company says it will soon launch a weekly vinyl chart.

     
  2.  
    08:22: Markets update

    Here's how the main European markets are looking in early trading:

    • In London, the FTSE 100 is down 0.1% at 6,721
    • In Frankfurt, the Dax is up 0.25% at 9,940
    • In Paris, the Cac is down 0.2% at 4,373
     
  3.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Poundland shares up 3%. Company now valued at £800m."

     
  4.  
    08:12: East Coast sale BBC Radio 4

    "This was the best of the three bids," Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin tells the Today programme. He adds the Stagecoach/Virgin consortium known as ICR, is offering an increase in the premium that will be paid to the government. Asked if the consortium will paying more than the other bidders he replies "Oh yes". But he says services will also be improved - 23 more rail services will operate from Kings Cross. "We have seen a magnificent transformation on the railways in this country since privatisation."

     
  5.  
    08:05: Stagecoach shares

    Shares in Stagecoach are up more than 8% following the announcement that it won the East Coast rail franchise. Meanwhile, rivals FirstGroup are down 5.6%.

     
  6.  
    07:50: Poundland profits

    Discount retailer Poundland has reported a near 12% rise in pre-tax profits for the six months to the end of September - to £9.3m. The retail chain, which debuted on the London Stock Exchange in March, said its target was to open 60 new stores in the UK and Ireland next year. It added it was on track to open 10 stores in Spain by the end of 2016, with three already open.

     
  7.  
    07:46: East Coast sale
    Mick Cash

    The RMT trade union has come out all guns blazing. "It is a national disgrace and an act of utter betrayal that the government has confirmed that it is bulldozing ahead with the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite all the figures showing that the current public sector operator is handing over a billion pounds back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction," says general secretary Mick Cash.

     
  8.  
    07:28: Mulberry finally bags new creative director
    A woman walks past a video display in the shop window of a Mulberry store in central London

    Luxury handbag maker Mulberry has finally completed its search for a new creative director. It comes 18 months after Emma Hill, the woman who helped make Mulberry a household name, departed following a row with the firm's then chief executive Bruno Guillon over "creative differences". Mr Guillon left in March after Mulberry issued three profit warnings. The new creative director is Johnny Coca, currently head of design direction at Céline. He joins Mulberry in July 2015.

     
  9.  
    07:24: East Coast sale

    ICR, as the consortium is being dubbed, is not an even partnership between Stagecoach and Virgin. The former holds 90% of the capital.

     
  10.  
    07:16: East Coast sale

    Inter City Railways says: "The company will shortly begin talks with Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to agree its plans to run new direct services from London to Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Huddersfield".

     
  11.  
    07:12: East Coast sale

    "Over the next eight years Inter City Railways will pay the government around £3.3bn to operate the franchise."

     
  12.  
    07:10: East Coast sale

    Inter City Railways, as the Stagecoach/Virgin consortium is named, says the deal will bring 23 new services from London to key destinations, and 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak times by 2020.

     
  13.  
    07:00: East Coast sale

    A consortium made up of Stagecoach and Virgin has won the franchise to run the East Coast main line.

    East Coast
     
  14.  
    06:54: Rémy Cointreau
    Rémy Cointreau

    Cognac maker Rémy Cointreau reports a 15% drop in operating half-year profit, to €102m. The French group says it "remained adversely affected by evolving consumption patterns in China," by which it means that officials are having fewer Cognac-fuelled soirées.

     
  15.  
    06:50: Falling oil prices BBC Radio 4

    Speaking of balancing budgets, a number of analysts think Opec won't be able to reach an agreement on cutting oil production (which is needed to stop the supply surplus that is driving the oil price down) precisely because of a number of members have already done so - Iran has cut production by 1 million barrels a day as a result of international sanctions. Moreover, some members, such as Venezuela and Nigeria, simply can't afford to do so.

     
  16.  
    06:40: Tibetan tapestry
    Silk

    The latest entry in our Live Page series of artwork sold for exorbitant amounts is this 600-year-old Tibetan silk tapestry. It fetched $45m at an auction in Hong Kong - a record for art from the region. The good news is that the buyer will put the colourful thangka - which depicts the meditational deity Raktayamari, and was created during the Ming dynasty between 1402 and 1424 - on public display at a museum in Shanghai.

     
  17.  
    06:24: Falling oil prices
    Opec

    Here's an image that the delegates at Opec will be familiar with. It outlines the price per barrel of Brent crude oil that some states need to see in order to balance their budgets.

     
  18.  
    06:24: Falling oil price BBC Radio 4

    The main item on the agenda at the Opec meeting is the falling oil price, and what to do about it. BBC economics correspondent Andrew Walker says lower demand has pushed the price down, caused by a slowdown in industrial production in the eurozone and China. But US oil production - thanks to fracking - is also at its highest since 1986 and that is putting pressure on the price of Brent crude as well.

     
  19.  
    06:20: What is Opec?
    Opec

    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) is holding talks in Vienna later today, on how to address the 30% fall in crude oil prices since June. Our colleagues have put together a 60-second explainer that will tell you what the meeting is all about.

     
  20.  
    06:10: Thomas Cook Radio 5 live

    Anne Richards, chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Management, tells Wake Up to Money that Harriet Green's shock departure from Thomas Cook yesterday doesn't feel "pre-ordained", and as a large shareholder, her company will be asking for an explanation. Thomas Cook's share price slumped 17% following the news.

     
  21.  
    06:02: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning. We should also be getting details of who the East Coast Mainline is being sold to this morning too. According to the Mirror newspaper, the government has decided upon a French consortium which includes Kelios - ultimately owned by French state rail operator SNCF. Will bring you that announcement when it happens. As always get in touch via email at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on Twitter @bbcbusiness.

     
  22.  
    06:00: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    Good morning. A cross-party report is understood to have recommended giving the Scottish Parliament new powers to set income tax and control some welfare payments. The report was commissioned after David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg promised shortly before the independence referendum that Holyrood would be given new powers, if people voted to stay in the UK. Stay tuned for more details.

     

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