28 February 2014 Last updated at 06:00

Business Live: Energy refunds urged plus headlines

    06.00: Edwin Lane Business reporter, BBC News

    Good morning all. We're looking ahead to a second estimate of US GDP, plus full year results from International Airlines Group - British Airways and Iberia to you and me. Get in touch on bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or on Twitter @BBCBusiness.

    0600: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Morning from me too. We're covering a host of news before the US wakes up. Coming up - energy companies under fire again from Ofgem, gamblers will be offered the chance to set limits on the time and money they spend and the Chinese currency looks set to record its biggest ever one-day fall.

    ENERGY FIRMS 06:10:
    Gas ring

    Energy firms will be told to hand back £400m in closed accounts to customers, the BBC understands. The money has accumulated in unused customer accounts over the last six years. Ofgem is expected to make an announcement this morning.

    US ECONOMY 06:16: Radio 5 live

    The US will give its second estimate of GDP growth later. Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in New York, tells Wake Up to Money the economic picture is looking pretty rosy. "Americans are feeling a lot more confident," he says. "We really do have an economic recovery here, it's happening, it's real."

    GAMBLING 06:21:
    A gambling machine

    Gamblers will be able to set limits on their spending. A new code of conduct for the industry comes into force today. Fixed-odds betting terminals in bookmakers currently allow players to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds. There are 33,000 of these machines across England and Wales.

    US ECONOMY 06:22: Radio 5 live

    It's really, really cold in New York, Carl Weinberg adds: -12C going on -20C apparently. He says the bad weather can have a dragging effect on growth, stopping people going to work or spending as much money.

    UKRAINE AUSTERITY? 06:29: BBC World News

    The International Monetary Fund will be on its way to Ukraine in the coming days, World Business Report says, raising the prospect of austerity measures to ensure crucial IMF loans. Tim Ash, head of emerging markets at Standard Bank, says Ukraine will need to reduce its budget deficit and reform energy subsidies.

    US ECONOMY 06:35: Radio 4

    That bad weather in the US is also on the mind of Pippa Malgrem, a former adviser to President George W Bush and Simon Jack's guest on the Today programme. She tells him GDP will almost certainly be revised lower because of it but "It is going to be a blip. Underlying it, [growth] is still positive and manufacturing is doing well".


    International Airlines Group will publish its full year results shortly - that's the company formed by the merger of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia. It saw a return to profit last year, and is trying to turn around Iberia, which has been struggling.

    EU DEBATE 06:47: Radio 4

    From the US to the EU: The German chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the UK coincided with another business leaders' debate on the merits of membership. In the pro corner: Roland Rudd, chairman of Business for new Europe. He tells the Today programme it is not clear what that means: "What is the vision of 'out'?" he asks.

    EU DEBATE 06:55: Radio 4

    Speaking in favour of leaving the EU, Luke Johnson, founder of Pizza Express, says: "I think it would be interesting if she [Angela Merkel] admitted the EU as a political construct was built on German guilt, which is a wasting asset."

    OFGEM 07:05:

    Ofgem has just released its statement telling energy firms to hand back £400m from closed accounts to customers, as we reported earlier. The money has accumulated in unused customer accounts over the last six years.

    HOUSEBUILDERS 07:09: Radio 5 live
    Barratt Development housing and Help to Buy sign

    We've never been far from a housing story in recent weeks as a string of housebuilders have unveiled healthy profits. Rebecca Evans from Construction News tells Wake Up to Money Help to Buy has helped, and property firms may well introduce their own similar programmes when the government scheme comes to an end in 2015.


    International Airlines Group (IAG) - BA's parent - reports a pre-tax profit of 527m euros (£432m) for 2013. That's a big improvement on a loss of 613m euros in 2012. "British Airways continued its solid revenue performance," said boss Willie Walsh. "Iberia has made huge progress on cost control as its restructuring takes shape."

    OFGEM Via Twitter John Moylan Industry correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: "Richard Lloyd of Which? "it's shocking that some of the biggest energy companies are sitting on millions of pounds ..of consumers' cash."


    William Hill's full year results are just out. Timely, with the new guidelines on gambling machine limits in the news. It made a profit of £278m in 2013, down a bit on 2012. Chief executive Ralph Topping said: "Gambling remains a source of political debate. We have taken firm steps in the last year to further improve responsible gambling outcomes in our shops."

    OFGEM Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Energy companies say they try to get money back to customers - and are owed many times more by people leaving unpaid debts #OFGEM"

    OFGEM 07:30: Radio 4

    Oh dear on energy. Sarah Harrison from Ofgem tells Evan Davis on the Today programme: "I don't think this is over." She says the watchdog is at an early stage in its investigations. "That's why we've taken the unusual step of coming out today to tell firms this is the right thing to do for your customers."

    AIRLINES RESULTS 07:37: Radio 4

    The boss of IAG, parent company of BA and Iberia, Willie Walsh, has been telling the Today programme that if you analyse the figures you can see the synergies from the tie-up between the two airlines is paying off.


    China's yuan has seen its biggest ever drop. It fell almost 1% against the dollar to 6.18. Not a newsworthy move for other major currencies which float freely. But the currency's level is tightly controlled by the authorities so its scope for movement is limited. China is trying to wrong-foot speculators who bet it will inevitably go higher. That generally works, doesn't it?

    GAMBLING 07:51: Radio 5 live

    The gambling code will allow players to set a cap on the amount of time or money spent on betting terminals. Peter Craske, from the Association of British Bookmakers, tells 5 live the code is unique: "This is the first time in the world that the industry's introduced measures like this."

    OFGEM 07:55: Radio 5 live

    "[Energy companies] really need to up their game in how they communicate with customers," says Philip Cullum from Ofgem on 5 live. But he says customers also need to do more to make sure they don't get caught out when they move house.

    SERCO 08:07:
    Rupert Soames

    Troubled UK outsourcer Serco has named its new chief executive this morning. It's Rupert Soames, who is currently the boss of power equipment company Aggreko. He is also the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. Perhaps some strong leadership is in order at Serco, which was involved in an overcharging scandal and has issued profit warnings in recent months.

    AIRLINES RESULTS 08:15: BBC Breakfast
    Willie Walsh

    Few interviews with business leaders take place these days without a question on Scottish independence. IAG boss, Willie Walsh told BBC Breakfast: "If anything, it [Scottish independence] will be slightly positive since we believe it will abolish air passenger duty."

    OFGEM Via Twitter John Moylan Industry correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: #Npower on @ofgem criticism - "On average per year, over £80 million of money is owed to us - and we owe about £2.5 million."

    OFGEM 08:24: Radio 5 live

    Angela Knight, chief executive of Energy UK, responds to Ofgem: "We want to give the money back, of course we do... thousands of letters are sent out, people are telephoned, but if you don't have contact details, how do you find them?"


    In early share dealings barely a stock appears to be moving. The FTSE 100 has risen 0.02% from yesterday's close and stands at 6,809. There's a bit more movement on Frankfurt's Dax index, it's up 0.2%, and Paris's Cac 40 is also up 0.2%.

    SERCO 08:41:

    The move of Rupert Soames from Aggreko to Serco has had an impact on the shares of both companies. Serco is up 10% while Aggreko is down 4% in the first half hour of trading.

    ENERGY BILLS 08:48:

    Good Energy, one of the UK's smaller energy suppliers outside the "big six", has chosen not perhaps the best day to announce a price rise. It is increasing its typical dual fuel bill by 2.2% from the beginning of April.

    BANKS Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Problems with NatWest and RBS mobile banking apps this morning. And shares down another 2.1%. It never rains...#RBS"

    Bankia cash-point

    Err, there isn't any. In February, consumer prices didn't change. In January prices were 0.3% higher. There are fears that a deflationary spiral may be developing in the weaker eurozone economies. Falling prices suggest very low levels of consumer confidence.

    PUNCH TAVERNS Via Twitter Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    tweets: "Punch Taverns heading for the brink, with threat of breaking debt covenants unless it gets a refinance deal."

    MAKING MONEY 09:14: Radio 5 live

    If someone gave you a tenner and said you had 24 hours to turn it into a profit - what would you do? 5 live hears from the winners of a competition, Aldford Junior School in Chester, who won by turning that tenner into £1,514.08. How? They ran an art sale. Their advice? "Work as a team and never give up."

    QANTAS 09:28:
    Qantas planes

    The news that Australian airline Qantas is planning to cut 5,000 jobs over the next three years has understandably provoked concern from unions. "There's still a lot of uncertainty and a real lack of clarity about where at least 2,000 of those jobs will be cut from," says a pilots' union representative.

    GAMBLING 09:35: Radio 4

    There are doubts that the new code limiting gamblers' time and money on machines will help. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin tells the Today programme: "If you allow someone to set optional limits... there's nothing to stop them carrying on after they've reached their limit."

    OFGEM 09:43:

    Another of the "big six" on why it has customers' money: "Where we know bank details or a forwarding address, we'll return the money automatically when an account is closed... However, the reality is that the bad debt we have had to write off in recent years is about four times the amount of credit that couldn't be returned."

    UKRAINE AUSTERITY 09:54: World Service

    Ukraine's newly appointed economy minister, Pavlo Sheremeta, has been speaking to the World Service. He says austerity measures are "shock therapy" but reform is needed. He says fighting corruption is a priority. "Economic growth or development can be achieved without the victory over corruption." More here.

    BITCOIN 10:03:

    There are reports from the Wall Street Journal and Japanese media that the troubled Bitcoin exchange, MtGox, has filed for bankruptcy in Tokyo.


    The eurozone's unemployment rate was steady in January, according to official figures. There are just over 19 million unemployed in the eurozone, 12% of the workforce.


    A Friday feast of figures from the eurozone. We learn the latest official estimate of inflation across the 18 countries that use the euro. That's stable, too, at 0.8% for February.


    European stock markets have fallen after seeing rises in early trading. The FTSE 100 is down 0.2%, which publisher Pearson (which owns the Financial Times) the biggest faller - down 7%. Frankfurt's Dax index is flickering between positive and negative, while Paris's Cac 40 is down 0.3%.


    Singapore is a wealthy country with a GDP per head of $51,000 (£30,600). It outranks Germany. Yet 400,000 people living there (out of about 5.4 million) are left with under $5 a day after paying for the basics. The BBC's Sharanjiit Leyl has been hearing how they cope.

    Protests in Athens

    Behind the EU jobless figures are the jobless themselves. In Greece the government is meeting EU and IMF creditors to finalise another 11,500 public sector job cuts. Teachers and other civil servants are again on the streets to protest against austerity.

    STAMPS 11:18:

    Royal Mail, privatised last year, is putting up its prices. The price of a first class stamp will rise by 2p to 62p on 31 March. The price of a second class stamp will rise by 3p to 53p.


    Sweden and Denmark have both revealed GDP figures for the fourth quarter, and they're poles apart. While Denmark's GDP was 0.6% above a year earlier, Sweden's rose by 3.1% - almost three times forecasts. Denmark, says Capital Economics, may be "deleveraging". The country has very high levels of household debt.

    BITCOIN 11:35:

    Our technology colleagues have coverage of the MtGox bitcoin bankruptcy in Tokyo. At the court hearing, the company said it had outstanding debts of about 6.5bn yen (£38m).

    STAMPS 11:46:

    The Royal Mail says it has "thought carefully about the impact on our customers" before raising the cost of stamps for the first time in two years. It says current data suggests people don't use the post too much anyway, spending an average of just 60p a week on stamps, so any rise won't hit household budgets much.

    BITCOIN 11:54:
    Mark Karpeles

    The chairman of MtGox, French-born Mark Karpeles, has appeared at a press conference in Tokyo. He had not been seen for several days. According to AFP he admitted that bitcoins have been "lost" because of "weaknesses in the system", and did a lot of deep bowing. Lawyers suggest bitcoins worth $285m have gone.

    LISTEN AGAIN 12:08: Radio 5 live

    The US economy was the main topic on the minds of Wake Up to Money's Adam and Mickey this morning. The recent freezing weather is expected to put a temporary crimp in the pace of growth. And we also learned something about Mickey's cocktail preferences... You can listen again via the podcast.

    MINIMUM WAGE 12:18:

    The government has named and shamed five employers who fail to pay their workers the national minimum wage. They range from a hairdressers in Middlesbrough and an electricians in Macclesfield. They are the first to be named under stricter rules launched in October. Offenders also face financial penalties.

    INDIA ECONOMY 12:19:
    Indian farmers

    Indian growth figures have just been released. The economy grew by 4.7% between October and December 2013 - the fifth consecutive month that GDP has been below 5% - and slightly worse than many analysts had been expecting.

    MINIMUM WAGE 12:29:

    The TUC hopes the government's naming and shaming approach to employers not paying the minimum wage will make others think twice. General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This should provide a strong disincentive to other rogue companies contemplating breaking the law."

    Cyprus demo

    International efforts to bail out Cyprus are in doubt after its parliament rejected a key part of the plan. As part of the 10bn euro (£8.25bn; $13.7bn) deal with the EU and International Monetary Fund, lawmakers have until 5 March to pass a bill allowing state firms to be privatised. But on Thursday, they threw it out, jeopardising the next tranche of cash.


    Detecting a pulse on European stock markets remains difficult as lunchtime arrives. In sleepy trading the FTSE 100 is down 0.2%, with publisher Pearson (which owns the Financial Times) the biggest faller - down 7%. Frankfurt's Dax index is flickering between positive and negative, while Paris's Cac 40 is down 0.5%.

    US ECONOMY 12:52: Radio 4

    The latest estimate of US GDP for the fourth quarter of last year is due out in less than an hour. They are expected to be revised down because of the bad weather. Former adviser to President George W Bush, Pippa Malgrem, told Radio 4 earlier the economy was in pretty good health - to the extent that some Chinese companies - like Foxconn - have set up manufacturing there.

    CHINA CURRENCY 12:55: Via Blog Linda Yueh Chief business correspondent

    The curious case of the falling yuan. The BBC's chief international business correspondent Linda Yueh blogs on the reasons behind its record one-day fall.


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