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  1. MPs invite Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley to give evidence on BHS collapse
  2. Yields on UK government bonds fall amid weak global economy and uncertainty over US interest rate hike
  3. 'Very little substance to BHS acquisition vehicle' says MP
  4. Builder and mining stocks drag down FTSE 100

Live Reporting

By Karen Hoggan

All times stated are UK

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Thank you for being with us on the Business Live page today.

We'll be back tomorrow at 6am as usual.

Hope you can join us then. 

Airline to launch Ryanair Rooms

Marketing Week magazine tweets

Wall Street's three day winning streak ends

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Wall Street headed lower today after its three days of gains. The falls followed a 1% fall on the FTSE in London.  

As at the opening, banks and energy companies were New York's worst  performers.  

The Dow Jones ended the day at 17,985.19 - a fall of 0.11%.

The Nasdaq fell 0.32% to 4,958.62.

And S&P 500 closed at 2,115.48 - a drop of 0.17%.

Ever fancied adding bigger speakers to your smartphone?

BBC North America technoogy reporter tweets

Dave Lee is attending the launch of some new Lenovo smartphones at the Chinese company's Tech World conference in San Francisco. 

It seems there was quite a build up to one of the products - the Moto Z Force - which is one of two modular smartphones  which allow users to attach extra features - bigger speaker, for example. 

Check out the celebrity appearance, too ... 

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Sri Lanka to lift exchange controls

BBC World Service

Sri Lankan flag
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The Sri Lankan prime minister has announced plans to lift restrictions on foreign exchange flows by the end of the year to encourage investment, reports BBC World Service.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was addressing parliament as it debated a no-confidence motion against the Finance Minister. 

Under the current law - passed in the early 1950s - exporters must bring back their foreign earnings within a short space of time or face penalties. Analysts say the policy deters investors. 

Last week, Sri Lanka received the first tranche of a $1.5bn (£1bn) bailout from the International Monetary Fund.    

Coffee sales help push up Smucker's profits

Dunkin' Donuts coffee on shelf
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Smucker - the biggest coffee roaster in the US and well known for its jams - reported fourth quarter profits of $191m (£132m) following a loss in the same period last year.  

The company which also owns the Pillsbury and Dunkin' Donuts brands said the performance was down to strong sales in its coffee lines (including Dunkin' Donuts) and its newly acquired pet food business.

Sales of Smucker coffee products climbed 9% and pet food sales rose 3%. Smucker bought Big Hearth Pet Brands in 2015 for over $3bn.

Earlier on Thursday the company's shares hit a record level of $142.81.

Market update

US shares continue to trade lower:

  • the Dow Jones has dropped by 0.08% to 17,990.43
  • the Nasdaq has fallen by 0.32% to 4958.58
  • the S&P 500 is down 0.14% at 2,116.13

"There's just a little lack of confidence in the market,'' said Steve Quirk, executive vice president of trading for TD Ameritrade. 

"When you're sitting near 11 month highs and there is uncertainty, people are going to be cautious.'' 

Amazon's potential grocery market

Some fact and figures about Amazon shoppers to chew on: 

  • 37% of online grocery shoppers say they've purchased a food or grocery product from Amazon in the last month
  • Younger, working families based in London are the most likely to say they've done this
  • Health and beauty products, pet food, pet care products and confectionery predominate
  • 40% of shoppers who have previously bought groceries from Amazon say they would consider buying fresh food from the site

Source: food and grocery researchers, IGD

Flying cars?

Apparently Google co-founder Larry Page has been funding a company to research flying cars. 

In a whizzy-looking article, Bloomberg news reports that Zee.Aero, as the firm is called, employs 150 people and Mr Page has spent more than $100 million on the company.

Best detail? Page is know as GUS - short for the Guy Upstairs - because initially staff used the first floor, while he kept the second floor as "a man cave worthy of a multibillionaire: bedroom, bathroom, expensive paintings, a treadmill-like climbing wall, and one of SpaceX’s first rocket engines—a gift from his pal Musk".

For those of you nostalgic about the eurozone crisis...

Dong dinging?

The Danish utility and offshore wind farm operator Dong Energy listed on Denmark's stock exchange today, in Europe's largest initial public offering this year.

The company saw its shares jump nearly 10% on the first day of trading.

"I am pleased that there has been great interest in Dong Energy among private and professional investors," the Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said in a statement. 

"The state's proceeds of eight billion kroner will be used to reduce our national debt and will contribute to our being able to afford welfare in the future," he added. 

Tesla launches cheaper cars

Tesla logo on car

Electric carmaker Tesla Motors is to bring out two - slightly - lower priced versions of its Model S saloon.    

The current Model S starts around $76,000 (£52,500) and can go up to about $100,000 by the time it reaches the customer.  

The new rear-wheel drive Model S 60 will start at $66,000 while the all-wheel drive Model S 60D will start at $71,000.

Both will have a range of more than 200 miles.

The company points out that fuel savings and tax incentives bring the actual cost of owning the cars down. 

Let them eat cookies ...

Have I Got News For You tweets

BHS inquiry

It's not just Mike Ashley who has been invited by MPs - there's a whole host of other people they want to hear from, including:

 • Paul Sutton, who was an early bidder for BHS before Dominic Chappell entered the fray 

• Richard Caring, who had a stake in BHS, and is now a restaurants and clubs tycoon 

• Mike Sherwood, a senior executive at Goldman Sachs Europe

Anthony Gutman from Goldman Sachs, among others, has been recalled. He gave evidence last week, in which he said that former owner Mr Chappell’s proposal to buy BHS was “very light on detail” and included “no business plan”. 

Amazon enters the supermarket world

The online retailer Amazon - previously known as the place to get your cds and gadgets - is now offering a full fresh food delivery service in the UK - although initially just in London.

On its first day in action, the BBC's Lucy Hooker has being finding out what the customers make of it.

"The layout is really good, actually much easier than Ocado's. The pictures of the products are bigger," says one shopper.  

MPs call Mike Ashley over BHS

So the Sports Direct founder has agreed to give evidence in writing. He is not required to attend in person.

Shame - would surely have been an interesting hearing!

MPs ask Mike Ashley to give evidence on BHS

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has been asked to give evidence to MPs on the collapse of BHS.  

BHS's former owner Dominic Chappell told MPs on Wednesday that he had tried to arrange a rescue deal with Mr Ashley, but that Sir Philip Green had stopped it happening.

However, Sir Philip, who gives evidence next week, denies that was the case. Read more here

Boots boss steps down

Blurred figures passing a Boots store

The boss of the UK operations of Boots is to step down from his role, the company says. 

Simon Roberts, executive vice-president of Walgreens Boots Alliance and president of Boots, will leave the company in July, the company said.

Walgreens Boots Alliance said Mr Roberts had decided to "pursue new opportunities".  Read more here

It comes after it was claimed in April that managers at the firm had been claiming public money from the NHS by directing their pharmacists to give medicine-use reviews (MUR) to customers who did not need them.  

Test driving Amazon's online food delivery

BBC business correspondent tweets

FTSE ends day 1% lower

London Stock Exchange sign
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The FTSE 100 ended the day at 6,231.89 - that's a fall of 1.10%.

Sky was the biggest climber - up 2.85% on the news that it has agreed a package worth €876m (£685m) a year to show football from Germany's Bundesliga  

The two biggest fallers were mining companies Antofagasta - down 6.27% - and Glencore - down 5.32% amid falls in the price of commodities.

Sky was the biggest climber - up 2.85% on the news that it has agreed a package worth €876m (£685m) a year to show football from Germany's Bundesliga. 

MPs may call for Sir Philip Green to lose knighthood

Press Association

Sir Philip Green

A group of Conservative MPs is preparing to call on the honours committee to strip Sir Philip Green of his knighthood, should the billionaire refuse to pump hundreds of millions into BHS's pension fund, reports the Press Association.   

The backbench group is poised to write to the Honours Forfeiture Committee as Sir Philip prepares for an appearance in front of MPs next week when he'll be questioned about the collapse of the retailer, which left in its wake a £571m pension deficit. 

A senior Westminster source told PA: "If Sir Philip turns up next week and showers us with his wealth, throws £600m on the table and all the pensions are saved, then that's fine. 

"If not, there is such outrage that there will be open calls for his knighthood to be revoked, with a group of Tory backbenchers leading the charge." 

French minister calls for end to strikes

BBC World Service

Bins overflowing in Paris
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As the footie fans among you will no doubt be aware there's just one more sleep till the start of Euro 2016.

Well, as BBC World Service reports, the French cabinet minister, Segolene Royale, has called on unions to end the disruption caused by nationwide strikes. 

Another minister - Patrick Kanner, in charge of sports - has accused the CGT and Sud unions - which are battling controversial labour reforms - of guerrilla tactics. 

The leader of the CGT has admitted he wasn't sure that disrupting supporters would present the best image of the union. He also said the CGT hoped the tournament would be a truly popular festival.

Women 'gaining greater share of world's wealth'

Biscayne Lady Yacht in Miami
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More of of the world's wealth is now controlled by women, Time Money says.

Around $39.6tn (£27.4tn), or 30% of the world's wealth is now in the hands of women, compared with 25% five years ago.

Women are inheriting more from parents and spouses, getting more from divorce settlements, and running more successful businesses, the article says.

Uber 'will appeal' French fine

More on the story we brought you earlier that taxi company Uber has been fined £626,000 by a French court for running an illegal transport service with non-professional drivers.

Here's Uber's reaction ...

We stopped Uber Pop last summer and we are disappointed by this judgment. The European Commission has just published guidelines that support such services. Heetch, similar to uberPOP, faces almost identical charges. The judgment does not impact our service in France today - which now connects more than 12,000 professional drivers with 1.5 million passengers - but we will appeal.

Uber spokesperson

Cutting back?

The National, English language publication in Middle East tweets

Patently absurd? The rise of the patent troll ...

BBC technology correspondent tweets

A patent troll is someone who buys patents and then sues people.

Find out how they operate here.

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Wall Street opens down

Wall Street sign in front of Stars and Stripes
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Shares on Wall Street have opened lower today, following three consecutive days of gains. 

Banks were among the biggest fallers, as were energy companies which were driven down by lower oil prices.  Oil fell 1.5% as traders took profits. 

A short while ago the Dow Jones was down 0.36%, taking it to 17,939.89.

The Nasdaq had shed 0.36% to 4,956.55.

And the S&P 500 was at 2,109.93 - a fall of 0.43%. 

French court fines Uber

Advertisement poster for Uber on a Paris bus stop

A French court has fined Uber Technologies €800,000 (£626,000) for running an illegal transport service with non-professional drivers and slapped smaller fines on two of its executives in the first such criminal case in Europe, reports Reuters. 

The Uber POP service connected clients via a smartphone app with non-professional drivers using their own cars. 

Uber France suspended the service last year after the government banned it under pressure from licensed taxi drivers.

Uber POP has been declared illegal by courts in Italy, Spain and Germany. Appeals are pending in Belgium and the Netherlands. 

Why do falling gilt yields matter?

Sterling - notes and coins
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Today the yield on the benchmark 10 year gilt fell to a record low - see previous post - dropping below 1.25% for the first time and bottoming at 1.22% (so far).

So just why should we care? What happens when government bond yields slide?

A question for the experts at investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown ...

Well, for a start, they say, bond prices rise when the yields fall, which is good for anyone holding a bond fund.

But - it's less good for pensioners. Annuity rates tend to fall after dips in gilt yields, meaning less income for pensioners buying an annuity.  

Meanwhile, equities look more attractive by comparison because getting a 3.5% to 4% dividend yield looks increasingly appealing as gilt yields fall.

And - bad news for pension funds - pension liabilities increase and deficits tend to widen.  

While all eyes have been on the EU referendum campaign, gilt yields have been slipping, fast. The US Federal Reserve is backing away from interest rate rises following wavering employment data, and in Europe the central bank is pumping billions of euros into the bond market every month in the form of QE, both of which have served to drive yields down. The low yield on government bonds paints a pretty pessimistic picture of the global economy, and suggests we are set for an extended period of low or negative inflation, and weak economic performance.

Laith KhalafSenior Analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown:

Sky pays 80% more for German football rights

Bayern Munich win Bundesliga trophy

Sky has agreed a package worth €876m (£685m) a year to show football from Germany's Bundesliga. The broadcaster will pay 80% more than its previous broadcasting rights deal for the German club matches.

It will also have to share the Bundesliga rights for the first time, with Eurosport showing dozens of games. 

Other companies reported to have been interested in bidding for the Bundesliga rights included Deutsche Telekom, Amazon and media rights group Perform. 

Gilt yields hit record low

The yields from UK government bonds - gilts - have reached a new low. The return investors receive from a 10 year gilt dropped below 1.25% for the first time, and earlier today were all the way down at 1.22%.

The weak global economy, delays to US interest rate rises and continued quantitative easing in Europe have driven yields down, according to Hargreaves Lansdown. 

Sorrell earns more than Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has been named the highest earning athlete in the world by Forbes. But on earnings of $88m (£60m) he still comes in below WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell. 

Sir Martin's £70m pay deal received preliminary backing from shareholders yesterday, despite a third of WPP investors failing to back his 2015 pay package.  

In case you're wondering, the top five highest-earning sportsmen also included Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi, basketballer LeBron James and tennis player Roger Federer.  

UK housebuilder stocks drop

Builders constructing a house
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Three of the UK's biggest housebuilders have dropped in morning trading, contributing to falls on the FTSE 100 stock index.

Barratt Developments, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon fell 1.2%, 1.4% and 1.5% respectively.

It follows a report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors which predicted house prices would fall this year.

Online property website Zoopla is also down 1.7%.

Arcadia parent took £27.9m hit on BHS sale

Arcadia parent company Taveta Investments took a £27.9m loss on the sale of BHS for £1, according to documents filed with Companies House.

The £27,852,000 loss "arose due to the difference in the consideration received, the book value of the net assets at the date of sale and various other transactions agreed in the sale and purchase agreement," the Taveta annual report for the year ended 29 August 2015 said.

Taveta Investments is owned by Lady Tina Green, the wife of Sir Philip Green.

Singapore parents 'pay more' for education

Business Reporter Leisha Chi writes...

School children view art works during the opening of the newly restored National Gallery, formerly the City Hall and High Court building, in Singapore
Getty Images

Do Singaporean parents place their children's education above their own financial wellbeing?

The short answer is "Yes" according to a new survey by HSBC.

Parents in Singapore spend around $15,623 (£10,760) per year on their child’s education, which is more than twice the global average.

More than half of the 395 parents HSBC spoke to said they are willing to go into debt to fund children’s university education, and that it is more important than saving for retirement.

More than 6,200 parents across 15 countries were surveyed for the report.

Draghi: Eurozone 'risks lasting damage'

European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi
Getty Images

Slow eurozone productivity is risking permanent damage to its economic health, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has said.

"There are many understandable political reasons to delay structural reform, but there are few good economic ones. The cost of delay is simply too high," Mr Draghi said.

"We do not let inflation undershoot our objective for longer than is avoidable given the nature of the shocks we face. For others, it means devoting every effort to ensuring that output is returned to potential before subpar growth causes lasting damage."

Tencent 'discussing Supercell buy'

Chinese internet giant Tencent is discussing buying the majority stake that Japanese telecoms firm Softbank holds in Finnish mobile game maker Supercell, Bloomberg reports.

The deal may value Supercell at $9bn, the Bloomberg article said.

Supercell makes games including Clash of Clans, Boom Beach and Hay Day.

Soros: 'Brexit risks EU disintegration'

George Soros
Getty Images

Billionaire George Soros has told the Wall Street Journal that the EU could fall apart should the UK vote to leave on 23 June.

"If Britain leaves, it could unleash a general exodus, and the disintegration of the European Union will become practically unavoidable," Mr Soros told the WSJ.

'ECB has gone awry'

Euro notes

Deutsche Bank’s chief economist has renewed his criticism of the European Central Bank. Mistakes by central bankers can be "catastrophic" when they follow the economic dogma of the day, he writes. "Today the behaviour of the European Central Bank suggests that it too has gone awry."

Negative interest rates and seven years of quantitative easing are risking the long-term stability of the eurozone, and even contributing to the growth of extremist politics, he writes. 

"The longer the ECB persists with unconventional monetary policy, the greater the damage to the European project will be," he says.   

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