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  1. Retail sales fall 0.3% in January from December
  2. Marmite-owner Unilever rejects Kraft Heinz bid
  3. Unilever's shares soar following Kraft approach
  4. Business rates row intensifies
  5. Get in touch:

Live Reporting

By Daniel Thomas

All times stated are UK

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  1. Have a good weekend

    Thanks for joining us for another week of Business Live. Hope to see you again at 6am Monday for more business news, views and analysis. 

  2. Wall Street markets end higher after late push

    Wall Street trader

    After a sluggish day, US markets ended higher thanks to a late-afternoon push. 

    The Dow gained 0.02% to 20,624.05 and the S&P 500 was up 0.17% at 2,351.16.

    The Nasdaq climbed to its fourth record close of the week - up 0.41% at 5,838.58 points.

    Despite the positive finish, stocks seem to have lost some momentum in recent days, after weeks of rallying on stronger-than-expected reports on the economy.

    Lindsey Bell, an investment strategist at CFRA Research, warned that optimism about Donald Trump's economic policies could again give way to caution. 

    "People are focusing on only the good of what his campaign promises were," she said.

    "What makes me nervous is that it feels like the market is ignoring what could come on immigration, trade, healthcare - the negative implications that could come from a protectionist government."

  3. Should you take your phone to the US?

    Rory Cellan-Jones

    Technology correspondent

    Person holding iPhone

    "The next time you plan to cross a border, leave your phone at home."

    That is the rather startling advice in a blogpost that is being widely shared right now.

    Its author, Quincy Larson, is a software engineer, who has previously written about the importance of protecting personal data. He now fears that data could be at risk every time you cross a border.

    His concerns were sparked by the story of Sidd Bikkannavar, an American-born Nasa engineer, who flew home from a trip to Chile last month. On arrival in Houston, he was detained by the border police and, by his own account, put under great pressure to hand over the passcode to his smartphone, despite the fact that the device had been issued to him by Nasa.

    Read more.

  4. Wall Street shares flat

    US traders

    US stocks are still lacking direction, with all the main indexes broadly flat. 

    The Dow is currently 0.17% lower at 20,584.05 points, the S&P 500 is down 0.02% at 2,347.67, and the Nasdaq is up 0.26% at 5,830.08 points.

  5. RBS remedies not a done deal

    It's important to remember that the Treasury's proposals have not been confirmed yet. 

    It said: "The commissioner responsible for EU competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, plans to propose to the College of Commissioners in the coming weeks to open proceedings in order to gather evidence on the new plan.  

    "HM Treasury will carry out a market testing exercise in parallel. The opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation."

  6. Remedies 'could cost RBS £750m'


    The estimated upfront cost of the proposed package to RBS is expected to be in the region of £750m. 

    A Treasury spokesperson said: "RBS must deliver on its remaining state aid commitments and this new plan represents the most effective way of delivering the pro-competition objectives behind them.

    “This new plan provides a clear blueprint to increase competition in the UK’s business banking market, and would help RBS resolve one of its most significant legacy issues which has held back the sale of the taxpayers’ stake.”

  7. RBS - Treasury proposes remedies to help SMEs

    The HM Treasury said it had been in "constructive contact" with the European Commission in recent months and would now seek "formal amendment to RBS’s State aid commitments".

    Its alternative plan aims to "help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) access and benefit from greater choice in the banking services". 

    The proposed package of measures includes:

    • A fund, administered by an independent body, that eligible challenger banks can access to increase their business banking capabilities;
    • Funding for eligible challenger banks to help them incentivise SMEs to switch their accounts from RBS paid in the form of “dowries” to challenger banks to use to incentivise switching;
    • RBS granting business customers of eligible challenger banks access to its branch network for cash and cheque handling, to support the measures above; and
    • An independent fund to invest in fintech to support the business banking of the future.
  8. UK government proposes RBS drop sale of Williams & Glyn

    Williams & Glyn bank

    The UK has proposed that RBS abandons its sale of Williams & Glyn as part of an alternative plan to meet its EU State Aid obligations. 

    RBS, which is state owned, had been told to divest Williams & Glynn by 31 December 2017 to prevent it from having too dominant a position in the banking market.

    But it has struggled to find a buyer, with both Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks owner CYBG and Santander retracting tabled bids.

    Now the Treasury says has proposed a radical new plan that would see RBS fund and deliver a series of initiatives, "worth around £750 million, to boost competition in today’s UK business banking market".

  9. Kraft-Unilever 'an unwelcome bid' - Labour

    Opposition MPs are cranking up the pressure on ministers over Kraft's $143bn bid. Unilever is one of the UK's biggest companies, with 7,500 British workers, three major factories in the UK and some of the world's best-known household brands.

    Senior politicians from Labour and the Lib Dems suggested the US food giant might be targeting Unilever as a result of the fall in the value of sterling.

    Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour's shadow business secretary, said: "With sterling depreciating against the dollar and the euro since last summer, unwelcome takeover bids aimed at buying UK business assets could well increase." 

  10. Business department comments on Kraft's Unilever bid

    Unilever brands

    It's been a busy few days for Business Secretary Greg Clark, who has faced questions about the future of the Moorside nuclear power plant, and about a potential tie-up between GM's Vauxhall and French carmaker Peugeot-Citroen. 

    Now the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has another potential merger it might want to look at. Kraft's takeover bid for Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever would be one of the biggest corporate deals in history.  

    “This is clearly an important potential deal for a major company in the UK and its workforce," a BEIS spokesperson said.

    "We continue to monitor the situation closely.”

  11. Saudi stock exchange gets first female chief

    Saudi Arabia's stock exchange

    Saudi Arabia's stock exchange, "Tadawul", has appointed Sarah al-Suhaimi as its first female chair, breaking from a tradition of reserving top economic posts for men in the conservative kingdom.

    Al-Suhaimi will keep her current job at the helm of NCB Capital, the investment arm of Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank. 

    In 2014, she became the first woman to head an investment bank in Saudi Arabia. 

    Since Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced an ambitious plan to prepare his country for the post-oil era, several decisions seem to indicate that authorities will loosen restrictions on women working in order to boost labour-force participation among nationals.

  12. Government warns on transition to new pound coin

    New pound coin

    The public is being urged to spend hundreds of millions of £1 coins before they become worthless later this year.

    A new 12-sided pound coin will come into circulation in March, and by October the current round £1 coin will become obsolete.

    The Treasury believes around £433m of these round pound coins are in circulation.

    "We are calling on everybody - from conscientious children saving pocket money in piggy banks, to families who like to hold on to their coins for a rainy day - to be ready for this change,” David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury, told the FT. 

    “You have until autumn to spend your round pounds or exchange them for the edgy new version at your bank.”  

  13. Tui fined 48 times for breaching Abta's code of conduct

    By Jon Douglas Reporter, You & Yours

    TUI logo

    The UK's biggest tour operator has been repeatedly fined for failing to stick to the travel industry's own code of conduct.

    Tui, owner of Thomson and First Choice, was fined 48 times during 2015 and 2016 by the travel association Abta.

    The breaches included inaccurate advertising and sending holidaymakers to resorts where significant building work was being carried out.

    Tui said it was committed to resolving any issue a customer experiences.

    Read more. 

  14. Unilever pushes FTSE 100 higher

    UK traders

    The FTSE 100 closed higher after the pound fell against the dollar and Unilever shares jumped following a takeover bid. 

    The index gained 0.3%, or 22.04 points, to 7,299.96.

    Unilever was by far the best performer, gaining 12.6%, while bottler Coca Cola HBC and tobacco firm Imperial Brands climbed 2.71% and 2.47% respectively. 

    The pound fell 0.55% to $1.24210 after a weak set of retail sales figures, although it held up against the euro. 

    A weak pound boosts the FTSE 100, as many of its constituents make their profits in foreign currencies. 

  15. Man planned to 'blow up supermarkets to drive down share price'

    Target store

    A US man has been accused of plotting to blow up several Target supermarkets in a bid to drive down the firm's share price.

    According to an affidavit, Mark Charles Barnett offered to pay another man $10,000 to place at least 10 "improvised explosive bombs" disguised in food packaging in shops from New York to Florida. 

    The hope was the explosions would drive Target's shares lower, allowing Mr Barnett to snap up the stock at a huge discount, prosecutors allege. 

    If convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison.

  16. UK estate agents see bumper pay rises as property booms

    House for sale

    Britain's estate agents, so often maligned by the house-buying public, are enjoying another year of bumper pay rises, research suggests.

    On average, they have received increases of 7.2% over the past year, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

    That figure exactly matches the rise in house price in 2016, as measured by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

    However the industry body said the number was "an exaggeration".

    Read more.