10 April 2014 Last updated at 05:46

Business Live: Thursday 10 April 2014

    06:00: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    Morning. Lots of domestic business news around, with the Co-op reforms in crisis, G4S taken off the naughty step, and Marks & Spencer results due later on - still an important landmark for the British high street. But first, we'll focus on China, where exports and imports have fallen sharply. Do stay with us.

    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Expect plenty of Co-op as we hope to find out why Lord Myners left the board. Talk to us - we're on bizlive@bbc.co.uk and @bbcbusiness. Until 1pm.

    CO-OP CRISIS 06:07: Radio 5 live

    Another day - another crisis at the Co-op. The man asked to review the troubled business - the former City minister Lord Myners - has left the Group's board. Jim Lee, a former secretary of the Scottish Co-operative party, tells Wake up to Money: "It seems as though he does not enjoy the support of the vast majority of elected members."


    More news on the extent of China's economic slowdown - exports and imports fell sharply in March. Exports were down 6.6% compared to the previous year, while imports dropped by 11.3%. This is the second straight month of falling exports for China.

    CO-OP CRISIS 06:13: Radio 5 live

    Wake Up to Money's guest on the Co-op, Jim Lee, sits on the mutual's Glasgow and Lanarkshire area committee. He tells the programme: "We need a plan B and we don't have a plan B".

    TAMIFLU SPEND 06:16:

    Researchers say the government may have wasted hundreds of millions of pounds stockpiling the anti-viral drug, Tamiflu. The healthcare research network - The Cochrane Collaboration - says the drug only shortened flu symptoms by half a day and didn't reduce hospital admissions or complications.

    UK HOUSING 06:21:

    Housing bubble or no? The issue polarises commentators. Figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggest sales have climbed to their highest levels in six years. The group raised concerns that not enough houses are coming on to the market, which is pushing up prices.

    CO-OP CRISIS 06:25: Radio 4

    "They have business margins that would be the envy of some of the grocery chains," Peter Hahn of Cass Business School tells us on Today. He's talking about the regional Co-ops, whose opposition to Lord Myners' suggested reforms presumably precipitated his departure. They were effectively being asked to abolish themselves by giving up their place on the national board.

    CO-OP CRISIS 06:27: Radio 4

    "Trouble is a hard word to define," says Mr Hahn, but after "all these years of poor management, maybe Co-op Group is just not manageable in its current form". But some of the regional Co-ops are very well run, "so maybe [the Group] needs to be split into smaller more manageable units".

    CO-OP CRISIS 06:28: Radio 5 live
    Lord Myners

    Why did Lord Myners leave the Co-op board? Jim Lee on Wake Up to Money says it is utterly unclear: "It could be that as a member of the board he's looked at it and thought he was about to be removed. Maybe he decided to jump before he was pushed. If he is doing it of his own volition I cannot for the life of me work out why he is doing it".

    CO-OP CRISIS 06:36: Radio 5 live

    Co-op Glasgow area committee member Jim Lee says the "Plan B" (which they don't actually have right now) could be to "to start thinking about breaking the group up into smaller businesses. Perhaps we should form some sort of federal structure. That's what happens in other countries."

    WALMART INDIA 06:44:

    Walmart is going ahead with its plans to build another 50 wholesale stores in India within the next five years. That's despite possible policy changes that could arise should a new government win the election. Today could mark a turning point in those elections, as voters go to the polls in more than 14 states across the country.


    The oil giant BP holds its annual general meeting in London today. We can attest it is a lively event. Boss Bob Dudley will be under pressure over the company's 20% stake in Russia's Rosneft - could Putin seize it? Investors will want to know just how exposed the company is if events in Ukraine unravel.

    STUDENT LOANS 06:57:

    A study compiled by the well-regarded Institute of Fiscal Studies says 75% of graduates won't have to pay off their student debts in full, as they won't have earned enough before they're cancelled after 30 years. That will help those on low salaries, but the higher paid will ultimately pay more.

    UK HOUSING 07:03: Radio 4

    UK house prices are sky high and will keep rising, says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. John Humphrys asks the chief economist at RICS why this is so. "There has been a massive improvement in credit conditions," says Simon Rubinsohn, but he doesn't think it's a "debt-fuelled boom".

    UK HOUSING 07:08: Radio 4

    Prof Becky Tunstall, the director of the Centre for Housing Policy at York University, tells Today house prices are going up due to "lack of supply". This is due partly to people not putting their houses on the market, but also because we have not been "building enough houses... for at least 20 years," she says.

    MARKS AND SPENCER 07:10: Breaking News
    The sign for a branch of Marks ^ Spencer on January 7, 2014

    Marks and Spencer's trading statement emerges. Boss Mark Bolland says: "We are encouraged by womenswear, which is showing clear signs of improvement and performed ahead of clothing". Sales of clothing rose 0.6% but total sales in the UK slipped 0.2%.

    CO-OP CRISIS 07:16: Radio 4

    "Members of the Co-op called for the cavalry and then decided they didn't really like the look of them," our new business editor, Kamal Ahmed, tells John Humphrys on Today. Lord Myners' suggestion of one overall board didn't resonate well with the independent regional Co-ops, he says.

    BRITISH GAS FINE 07:20: Breaking News

    Ofgem has fined British Gas for blocking businesses from switching energy providers. The regulator said the company failed to give some businesses notice that their contract was due to end. The fine totals £5.6m.

    CO-OP CRISIS 07:27: Radio 4

    Labour and Co-op MP Meg Hillier is talking to the Today programme. She says the way Lord Myners went about his review was a "missed opportunity", because at the Co-op, "things are done with members, not to them". She also says boss Euan Sutherland's departure forced the Myners review to go too fast.

    WH SMITH RESULTS 07:38: Breaking News
    WH Smith storefront

    Stationers WH Smith report six month profits up 3% at £69m - despite a 6% fall in sales. It is shrinking its high street business. But its profit margin is up 1.9%.

    WHATEVER NEXT? 07:45:

    Next's chief executive Lord Wolfson has given his £4m bonus to his staff. The company is doing well - so he hasn't been shamed into this. Gosh.

    MOTHERCARE 07:55:

    Mother and baby retailer Mothercare has published a trading update. Its worldwide network sales were down 2.5% in the past quarter, but up 0.5% over the past year. However sales in the UK are down 7.5% over the past 52 weeks.

    MARKS AND SPENCER 08:02: Via Email Jane, from Stoke-on-Trent

    emails the Live page: "There's no mystery behind poor clothes sales at M&S. I go in frequently with a need to buy what used to be the store "staples": underwear, school uniform etc. I never manage to give them my money as they NEVER have any range of sizes available to purchase! I end up going to NEXT to buy kids clothes... The quality is better too." Take note, Mr Bolland.

    MARKS AND SPENCER 08:07: Radio 5 live

    M&S's boss is hailing the results, saying clothing sales in the last three months of last year were the "best for three years". But Richard Hunter from Hargreaves Lansdown reserves judgement: "The profit margin on food has been nudged up, but on clothing it has had to be nudged down... it still has some way to go."


    If you go down to Fenwick store in London's Bond St this evening, you're in for a big surprise. Manning the tills and packing the bags will be none other than the likes of Kelly Brook, Sheila Hancock, Kara Tointon and Julian Fellowes. You may even hear Christopher Biggins on the tannoy. It's all for charity, by the way.

    Carrefour store

    Europe's biggest retailer, Carrefour, said recent sales rose 3.7%. Sales in its French heartland slowed to 0.7% after rising 1.4% in the fourth quarter.

    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "And a question for @marksandspencer - is it a coincidence that you've started listing clothing as a separate item just as it's gone up?!"


    Investors are happy with the little they've got from Marks and Spencer by way of growth. The shares are up 2% at 465p.

    GREEK BOND RUSH 08:40:

    Investors are rushing back to Athens. The order book for Greece's new five-year bonds stands at a whopping 17.8 billion euros, Reuters reports. That's likely to be many, many times over the amount the country expected to raise - it has not yet revealed precisely how much it is after.


    Slow start again for the share markets - it's been almost two weeks of sluggish trading but they are making their way higher inch by inch. The FTSE 100 is up 0.61% at 6676.15. In Frankfurt, the Dax is up 0.65% at 9568.42 and in Paris, the Cac 40 is up 0.43% at 4461.91.

    STUDENT LOANS 08:48: BBC Breakfast

    Graduates under the new system owe £40,000 on average but most would never repay that, Paul Lewis from Moneybox tells BBC Breakfast. "I wouldn't like to say it doesn't work. It's like a graduate tax. You'll pay it throughout your adult life just as you have bigger expenses."

    Via Twitter John Moylan Industry correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: "Big day for 1300 workers at UK Coal's 2 deep mine pits - written Ministerial statement this morn expected to confirm closure by Autumn 2015"


    Interesting analysis on the often vaunted BRICS countries hits our inbox. Risk managemers Aon (them of the Manchester United shirts), says it has downgraded Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa due to political and structural risks.

    09:09: Via Email Simon Atkinson, editor of India Business Report

    writes from Kochin, Kerala: "It's voting day here - and for people we're speaking to at polling stations, one big issue is the lack of local jobs. The biggest source of money in this region is sent home by people - predominantly men - working in places like the UAE, Qatar, Saudi and Kuwait."

    MOTHERCARE 09:25:
    Mothercare logo

    Mothercare's chairman, Alan Parker, is upbeat despite the mediocre figures. "In the UK we have continued to close loss-making stores and focus on a lean retail operation," he says. "We remain profitable at Group level". The market is in rah-rah mode. The shares are up a whopping 14%.

    BBC BLASTED 09:33:

    "The BBC's Digital Media Initiative was a complete failure," says the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge in a damning report out today. "Licence fee payers paid nearly £100m for this supposedly essential system but got virtually nothing in return."

    BRITISH GAS 09:38:

    British Gas says it is sorry for preventing businesses from switching supplier - behaviour for which it was fined by Ofgem. Stephen Beynon, Managing Director of British Gas Business, said: "We're sorry these errors occurred and have worked swiftly to change our computer systems and processes, putting controls in place to stop this happening again."

    UK COAL Via Twitter Mark Broad Economics reporter, BBC News

    tweets: "Government confirms it intends to give £10m loan to UK Coal to allow managed closure of Kellingley and Thoresby pits by Autumn 2015."

    FRENCH PRICES 09:51:

    French inflation eased slightly last month, to reach the lowest level since October. It's at 0.7%. Industrial production rose marginally, although the manufacturing sector, (excluding energy output) fared slightly better at 0.3%.

    UK COAL 09:58:
    Kellingley Colliery

    The government says there is no case for it to invest to try to keep two of the last three UK coal sites open. It has agreed to give £10m in loans, matched by another £10m from the private sector, to support the "managed closure" of the mines at Kellingley in North Yorkshire and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire. They employ 1,300 people and will close by autumn 2015.


    A Swiss team will attempt the first non-stop solar powered flight around the world. The Solar Impulse has a 72 metre wingspan to accommodate its 18,000 solar cells. A previous version of the plane completed a flight across the US. The BBC takes a guided tour of the plane and speaks to one of its pilots.

    GREEK BONDS 10:18:

    Greece's return to the world's borrowing markets is proving popular, to say the least. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told Reuters there was "great interest" in the new five-year bond issue. "We have, if I'm not mistaken, a six-fold coverage." The country can choose to accept more bids than originally aimed for if the interest rate is attractive.

    MISSED OPPORTUNITIES Via Twitter Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    tweets: "Failure to match talent to opportunities is costing UK business £930m per annum + wasting £230m in recruitment costs, finds PwC/LinkedIn research"

    UK COAL Via Twitter John Moylan Industry correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: "Business Department stressing UK Coal plan is agreement "in principle... conditional on negotiation of final terms"... so not a done deal"

    VW RECORD SALES 10:36:

    Another day another announcement of record car sales from a German automaker. This time it's Volkswagen's Czech unit Skoda. It said it sold a record 247,200 cars in the first quarter of 2014, up 12.1% on last year. Audi and BMW also announced record sales this week.

    GREEK BONDS Via Twitter Katie Martin, Europe markets editor, Wall Street Journal

    tweets: "Me: 'So did you buy Greece?' Investor: 'Hahahha. No way.'"

    CUSSONS 10:51:
    Kate Moss

    A confident trading statement from cosmetics firm Cussons, makers of many bathroom shelf stalwarts like Imperial Leather soap, and Carex. It singles out tanning aid San Tropez for praise, saying that with Kate Moss as "brand ambassador", demand continues to grow.

    UK HOUSING Via Twitter Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter, BBC News

    tweets: "First-time buyers - is buying now affordable? Homeowners - considering a move? Concerns that 'no' is answer to both"


    Leading European shares are now lower after a modestly higher open. The FTSE 100 is down 0.18% at 6623.73. In Frankfurt, the Dax is down 0.49% at 9459.71 and in Paris, the Cac 40 is also (rather spookily) down 0.49% at 4420.83. Reasons for the slip include a big sale of futures (a bet on future share prices) and disappointing industrial output figures from Italy and France.

    CO-OP CRISIS 11:26: Radio 4

    The Co-op Bank confirms it will release its annual results at 07:00 tomorrow. We'll be watching. Earlier, the secretary general of Co-operatives UK, the trade association for co-operatives, told the Today programme: "Change [for the whole group] is essential... Seven million owners will be represented at the annual general meeting and that's where we need a credible timeline and credible action programme going forward."

    TRAVEL & TOURISM 11:31:
    Railway picture Wales

    More people are visiting the UK, says the Office for National Statistics. Between December and February, the number of visitors to these shores rose by 5% compared with a year earlier. UK residents are also going abroad more - up 3% over the past twelve months - and the money they spent overseas increased by 5%.


    More on the reasons for the flip around for M&S shares. It happened after the company's call with investment analysts. Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy Conlumino, said M&S needed to rebuild the market share it has lost over the past 10 years: "In a market that remains crowded and competitive, and with a business model that still needs some refinement, this will be a tall order."

    Stock prices in Shanghai

    China is making a significant step to open its financial system to the world. In about six months, investors in Shanghai and Hong Kong will be allowed to trade shares in each other's stock exchanges. It's a pilot programme, and there will be limits on how much can be traded, but still.

    UK INTEREST RATES 12:01: Breaking News

    The Bank of England left interest rates unchanged at 0.5% and left the scale of its quantitative easing (QE) programme to boost the money supply unchanged at £375bn.


    The Financial Conduct Authority says it finds many consumers are paying too much for overdrafts. The watchdog will now investigate how providers set and monitor overdraft limits.

    GREEK BONDS 12:16:

    Greece confirms it sold 3 billion euros ($4.15bn) worth of five-year bonds. The interest rate was lower than hoped at 4.95%.

    CO-OP CRISIS 12:19: BBC News Channel

    Tony Greenham from the New Economics Foundation has come in to BBC Towers to talk about the Co-op. He says "the movement accepts there is need for reform", but to "conclude from a failure of governance at the Co-op Bank that the Co-operative itself is failing, is completely false".

    GREEK BONDS 12:23: Via Email

    The folks from Forex.com have sent us some timely reminders about the state of Greece's economy. The unemployment rate is a whopping 27.5%, the country is mired in deflation, retail sales have not been in positive territory since 2010 and S&P's sovereign credit rating for Greece is B-, six steps below investment grade (junk, in other words).

    CO-OP CRISIS 12:28: Via Blog Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    blogs: "I am told that recent board changes at the Co-op Group have tipped the focus of power towards what might be called "the traditionalists" - those who want to see democratic powers retained."

    CHINA TOWN 12:34:
    Old picture of Manchester's attractions

    Manchester is getting a thwacking boost from Chinese visitors. Global Blue, which processes the vast majority of tax-free claims from overseas tourists, tells Business Live Chinese shoppers now represent 50% of total international spend in the city, with growth of 29% last year. It's due to its high-end shops, football teams and the number of Chinese students choosing its universities.

    WIND FARMS 12:38:

    Plans to restrict wind farms to seas around Britain will need much larger subsidies from consumers, experts say. Newspaper reports suggest that the Conservative Party will include a pledge to limit onshore turbines in next year's election manifesto.


    This says it all on interest rates: "None of the 61 economists polled by Reuters before the decision had expected a change, and most think a rise in interest rates is still around a year away."

    LISTEN AGAIN 12:47: World Service

    Business Daily comes to you from Delhi, where elections are seen by many as a potential turning point for the country. An economic slowdown has brought hardship for some people there. Others are angry about what is seen as a rising tide of corruption.


    This just in. Jaguar Land Rover sold 124,776 vehicles in the first quarter of 2014 - up 8%. Further good news from the car industry.

    BANK VAULTS 12:57:
    Maths exam, Bank of England, 1906

    A bit of fun to end a busy day of news: A Bank of England applicants test from the turn of last century. Tweet us your score @bbcbusiness.

    12:59: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Hmmm. That was a busy news morning. Chewy stuff. Back tomorrow with whatever Friday serves us.

    12:59: Joe Miller Business Reporter

    One thing we're promised we'll get is Co-op Bank results. At long last. Join us tomorrow from 06:00


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