19 hours ago
Although opinion polls shows momentum behind the independence campaign, the UK government is doing no contingency planning for the likelihood of Scotland going alone, sources tell me.
Mortgage applicants will face tougher questions about their lifestyle from lenders, under new rules that come into force on Saturday.
Four of the biggest technology firms - Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe - settle a class action case alleging they conspired to hold down salaries.
Internet retailer Amazon reports a 32% jump in profit to $108m in the first quarter, but investors worry over increasing expenses.
William Hill says it will close 109 shops this year, putting 430 jobs at risk, as a result of the government's decision to increase duty on fixed-odds betting machines.
tweets: "Russia suffers its first ratings downgrade in five years. Just one notch above "junk" status. Money pouring out of the country and investment stifled"
Europe's major markets are lower this morning. In London the FTSE 100 is down 0.28, the Dax in Frankfurt is 0.74% lower and the Cac 40 os down 0.33%. The biggest loser on the FTSE is Tullow Oil, down 3% after one of its exploratory wells, off the coast Mauritania, found no oil and is being abandoned.
Trading in Alstom shares have been suspended by French market regulators. On Thursday shares surged after a report said that General Electric was preparing a takeover bid for the maker of TGV high-speed trains.
RBS says that 77 people earn more than £1m a year at the bank, that's down from 95 in 2012. By comparison it also says that Barclays has 481 staff that earn more than £1m. At RBS "code staff", which are those who take or manage risk on behalf of the bank, earn on average £624m.
Baidu, which operates China's most popular internet search engine, has reported a 24% jump in quarterly profit to 2.5bn yuan ($408m; £242m). Sales soared by almost 60%. The company has been spending heavily to promote its products on mobile devices. As a result expenses jumped by 137% from the same period in 2013.
BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed is on the Today programme. "It looks like RBS directors will be paid a third less than competitors and we will see if this affects the way the bank operates," he says. RBS, like other banks in the UK and Europe, wanted to raise the cap on bonuses. But when it approached UKFI, which holds the government's stake in the bank, it was turned down. The bank is also stopping annual bonuses for top executives.
On Today, Andrew Sentence, former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, raises concerns over rising house prices: "We are getting near the point where we should be seeing a gradual rise in interest rates," he says. He's worried if the policy of rising interest rates is left too late "then homeowners will struggle".
More news from RBS this morning. It is scrapping annual bonuses for its chief executive and chief financial officer from 2014. They will still receive "long-term incentive rewards", entirely in shares and linked to performance criteria, but these will be given over a period of five years. The bank says the move is an effort to reward "long-term performance".
WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell is on Today. He quotes some interesting figures on digital advertising. His company spends $75bn a year on it for their clients. Ads on Google account for $2.5bn of that. But Facebook is growing fast, he thinks adverts placed on Facebook could grow by 50% this year, to perhaps as much as $700m.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has given up on an attempt to get a 2:1 pay ratio voted through at its next AGM, which would have meant it could pay employees 200% of their salary as a bonus. In a statement in the company's annual report, the RBS board says it expected UK Financial Investments, which owns RBS shares on behalf of the Treasury, to block the decision, so they will try and pass a 1:1 ratio instead.
Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, is on Today, explaining his agency's new rules for lenders. He expects some "outlandish" questions to be be asked while banks get used to the new system. "Every bank is designing their own system" and "it might take time to settle down", he says. "The point is to lend what people can afford to repay."
MPs are proposing new measures to deal with ticket touts. Sharon Hodgeson, MP, says there is "industrial scale touting". "Huge quantities of tickets are harvested and then sold on secondary platforms," she says. Oliver Wheeler from the online ticket exchange Viagogo says the government should not intervene in a "voluntary transaction between two parties".
According to the Moscow Times, Russian president Vladimir Putin told an audience on Thursday the internet is a "special project" by the CIA. He also claimed the country's most popular search engine, Yandex, was under Western influence.
William Hill will close 109 shops this year. It blames the government's increase in the Machine Games Duty to 25%. As a result of the closures 420 staff are at risk of redundancy. William Hill says it will make "every effort" to redeploy the staff affected.
The pharmaceuticals market has been a hive of activity this week. GSK and Novartis swapped assets, and there are rumoured mergers, including a Pfizer buyout of AstraZeneca. Jo Walton, pharmaceuticals analyst at Credit Suisse, tells Wake Up to Money drug companies are facing pressure on prices, as governments try and buy more cheaply, and they are having trouble developing new products. The "easiest thing to do is to take capacity out," she says.
Labour leader Ed Miliband will unveil plans to tackle the "epidemic" of zero-hours contracts in a speech in Scotland later. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna tells Today there has been a "rising tide of insecurity". He says that very often people are employed on zero hours contracts without even realising it.
The Friday boss on Today is Thea Green, founder of Nails Inc. The nail bar chain turns over £22m a year. The average spend is around £35 and women refer to it as "their little bit of luxury", which is why the business was not particularly hurt by the downturn, Ms Green says. She thinks of Nails Inc as a fashion company. This year's nail colour is floral, she tells Simon Jack.
The Gherkin is in a bit of a pickle (credit to Mickey Clarke). The London skyscraper, designed by Lord Norman Foster's company, has been forced into administration. That's because the strength of the Swiss franc left the building's owners unable to pay debts secured against the building (which were loaned in that currency).
More from Peter Hill. He says mortgage lenders will want information on three areas: Committed expenditure, like other loan repayments. Basic expenditure - utility bills etc. The final area is more "grey". It is "basic quality of living expenditure" which could include broadband expenses. He does not think gym membership would fall into that. Only 2% are expected to fail the test - in good times.
Peter Hill, chief executive of Leeds Building Society, is back. On Today, he says: "If a customer is reasonably well prepared, the mortgage interview should take less than two hours". Lenders are also expected to assess if a borrower could still afford mortgage payments if interest rates were to rise. But lenders are unlikely to test if borrowers can afford rates as high as 7%, as some have reported.
Last night, Starbucks posted a loss of pre-tax loss of £20m in the UK. "No they didn't, of course," says Mr Urquhart Stewart on Wake Up to Money. "What they've actually been doing is funnelling revenues offshore back through the Netherlands again". The good news, he says, is that there are a lot of other places to get your coffee these days.
More from Boston Consulting Group's Hal Sirkin: "Low cost countries are not always low cost. Western countries are becoming much more competitive," he says. Mexico and the US are "rising stars". The UK, Netherlands, India, Indonesia are holding steady. But Sweden, Belgium and France are becoming less competitive. "Brazil is actually one of the highest cost countries on the list," he says.
The UK is the cheapest western European country for manufacturing - overtaking Spain. That's according to new research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It looked at energy costs, wages, currency fluctuations and productivity among the 25 leading exporting nations. On World Business Report, BCG's Hal Sirkin says Mexico has lower manufacturing costs than China.
Wake Up to Money discusses yesterday's Barclays AGM. The bank withstood a shareholder revolt on the size of its bonus pool, but the outcry from investors is "not very good news" for the company, says market commentator, Justin Urquhart Stewart. "The shock was that you had the likes of Standard Life saying we're not going along with this," he says. "At some point they [Barclays] are going to want to come back to the markets, and they'll need these shareholders to support them."
Tougher rules for potential mortgage borrowers come into force tomorrow. The Mortgage Market Review is designed to protect consumers from the kind of reckless mortgage lending that would leave them unable to make repayments. On Wake Up to Money, chief executive at Leeds Building Society, Peter Hill, says the rules will help ensure people borrow affordably, and that they can endure "a few bumps in the road".
Mortgage lenders will be obliged to ask tougher questions about applicants for mortgages from Saturday. More on that coming up, on the Business Live page.
Good morning. We'll have results from several carmakers later, but meanwhile, stay with us. You can contact us throughout the morning by tweeting @BBCBusiness or emailing email@example.com
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Last Updated at 04:24 ET
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