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  1. Get in touch:
  2. FTSE 100 closes flat
  3. Trump officially nominates Malpass for World Bank
  4. UK crackdown online hotel booking sites
  5. Toyota warns of 25% slump in full-year profits
  6. Daimler annual profits tumble by a third
  7. Ocado shares slide on warehouse fire
  8. Snap shares soar on Wall Street

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten

All times stated are UK

  1. Good Night

    That's all from today's Business Live.

    Thank you for joining us.

    We'll be back tomorrow from 06:00 with all the latest news and analysis from the world of business.

  2. IMF warning on Italy dismissed as not credible

    Luigi Di Maio
    Image caption: Luigi Di Maio attacked the IMF report

    Economic policies implemented by the populist government in Rome make Italy vulnerable to a crisis of market confidence, with the poorest likely to suffer the most, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

    "The authorities' policies could leave Italy vulnerable to a renewed loss of market confidence," an IMF annual report on the country says.

    "Italy could then be forced into a notable fiscal contraction, pushing a weakening economy into a recession. The burden would fall disproportionately on the vulnerable."

    On January 31, official data showed that the Italian economy, the eurozone's third largest, contracted in the fourth quarter of 2018, which meant the country was in a technical recession.

    But Italy's deputy prime minister and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio quickly rejected the report, saying the IMF "has starved people for decades" and lacked the credibility to attack policies.

  3. What's good for the father may not be for the son

    With David Malpass looking set to take over at the World Bank after getting Donald Trump's seal of approval, there are a few people who no doubt will be thinking about their futures. Mr Malpass is a staunch critic of the organisation he is about to join.

    And one man who may be looking for a job soon is his son, Robert. World Bank rules mean that close relatives of the chief are not allowed to be simultaneously employed at the institution.

    The Financial Times reports that Robert has been working at a division of the bank for eight months, joining shortly after graduating from Cornell University.

  4. Wall Street closes lower

    Traders at New York Stock Exchange

    At the close of trade all three key US indexes were down on the day.

    Despite an earlier rally, they failed to recover all lost ground (see earlier post).

    The Dow Jones was at 25,390.23, a fall of 21.29 points or 0.084%.

    The S&P 500 was at 2,732.01, down 5.69 points or 0.21%.

    And the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 26.8 points or 0.36% to finish at 7,375.28.

  5. Franco-German fighter plan takes off

    Rafale jet
    Image caption: Frances wants to replace its Rafale fighter

    France and Germany have announced a €65m (£57m) contract financed equally by both countries as the first act of the joint programme to design a next-generation fighter jet.

    Dassault Aviation and Airbus will build the system which is expected to be operational from 2040 with a view to replacing over time Dassault's Rafale and Germany's Eurofighters.

    "This contract is entrusted to Airbus and Dassault who are the prime contractors of this ambitious system," French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said in a speech alongside her German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen. "This contract is the very first brick of a stupendous building."

    Although the contract means work can officially begin, the value is a fraction of what will be a multi-billion-euro project.

  6. Wall Street recovery falters

    Still from football video game

    US stocks have edged lower as video game makers reported disappointing revenue forecasts and investors awaited developments on US-China trade relations.

    The three main indexes had started to recover from losses earlier, but ran out of steam.

    The benchmark S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were weighed by declines in shares of Electronic Arts, which tumbled 12.3% after the video game maker forecast full-year revenue below Wall Street estimates.

    The sharp drop pulled down shares of rival video game publisher Activision Blizzard, which fell 10.9%. Shares of industry peer Take-Two Interactive Software also dropped sharply, 14.5%, after the company's similarly underwhelming forecast.

    The slump in videogame stocks contributed to a 1.7% fall in the S&P 500 communication services sector, the largest drop among the S&P's major sectors.

    With about 30 minutes until the close, the Dow Jones was down 0.11% to 25,382.6 points, the S&P 500 had lost 0.32% to 2,729, and the Nasdaq dropped 0.46% to 7,368.

  7. Heathrow keeps top spot as busiest airport


    Some European airlines may be feeling the squeeze, but it's not for lack of passengers.

    The number of people using European airports set a record last year, the Airports Council International Europe (ACI) says.

    The total number of passengers at European airports reached 2.34 billion according to the group, which represents more than 500 airports in 45 countries.

    The number of passengers grew by 6.1% in 2018, although that rise was slower than the 8.5% increase seen in 2017 from the year before.

    Europe's five biggest airports added 16.5 million passengers, but faced "capacity limitations, intensifying hub competition and hub by-pass developments as well as airline strikes," the ACI said.

    London Heathrow was again the top airport in Europe with 80.12 million passengers, followed by Paris-Charles de Gaulle with 72.22 million and Amsterdam-Schiphol with 71.05 million. Frankfurt, which was number four with 69.51 million passengers, posted the highest growth among the so-called "majors" with a rise of 7.8%.

  8. 'Trump bump' boosts the NYT

    New York Times building

    Shares in the New York Times group continue to rise after the media company posted profits and revenues that beat analysts' forecasts.

    The stock price is now up 11.4% at $29.98, a year's high.

    During the last three months of 2018, the 167-year-old company added another 265,000 digital subscribers, the biggest quarterly jump since the months after the 2016 elections.

    The paper and website have been enjoying a "Trump bump" after two years of attacks by the US president.

    The Times' success comes against the backdrop of digital media companies such as Vice and BuzzFeed deciding to cut jobs to rein in costs.

  9. Who is David Malpass?

    David Malpass

    The US president's nominee to lead the World Bank is a Trump loyalist who was a senior economic adviser during his 2016 election campaign.

    David Malpass, 62, has been a strong critic the World Bank, along with other institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, for being "intrusive" and "entrenched".

    After senior roles in the US Treasury during the Reagan and George HW Bush administrations, Mr Malpass became chief economist at Bear Sterns bank.

    He was there for 15 years before the bank's near collapse in the 2008 banking crisis.

    Mr Malpass left Bear Stearns three months later.

    Read more here.

  10. Malpass gets Trump's vote

    David Malpass is a US Treasury official and Trump loyalist. He is also a critic of multilateral institutions who has vowed to pursue "pro-growth" reforms at the World Bank.

    The US, the lender's largest shareholder with 16% of its voting power, has traditionally chosen the bank's president, but departing president Jim Yong Kim faced challengers from Colombia and Nigeria in 2012.

  11. BreakingIt's official - Malpass is Trump's World Bank nominee

    President Donald Trump officially nominates David Malpass as his candidate to take over the World Bank.

  12. RBS: Labour takes softer tone line on nationalisation

    RBS cash machines

    The Labour Party says it would halt the privatisation of Royal Bank of Scotland if it came to power but would not seek to exert day-to-day control, the opposition party's shadow banking minister has told Reuters.

    RBS remains 62% owned by British taxpayers after a £45bn bailout in the 2008 financial crisis, despite the Conservative government conducting two share sales.

    On Wednesday, RBS shareholders approved a plan that could see the bank spend up to £1.5bn of its own money to buy back shares from the government, possibly speeding up privatisation.

    "If RBS is now paying dividends, and the price of the shares is under what was paid, we cannot see the rationale for selling more shares," said Labour's Jonathan Reynolds.

    The Labour Party once had a policy to nationalise or break up RBS, but Mr Reynolds appeared to take a softer tone. He said those two options have not been ruled out totally, but the extent of state involvement would depend on RBS' willingness to increase lending to Britain's regions and small businesses.

    "We don't have a policy of day-to-day control of RBS," he said. "But there is clearly unmet demand in lending and a problem with financial inclusion."

  13. Huawei denies links with Chinese intelligence services

    Huawei symbol

    More on Huawei's letter promising to address UK security concerns...

    The company tells the Commons Science and Technology Committee that it denies claims it could be compelled to assist Chinese national intelligence work using information gathered from the UK.

    "Huawei has never and will never use UK-based hardware, software or information gathered in the UK or anywhere else globally, to assist other countries in gathering intelligence. We would not do this in any country," writes executive Ryan Ding.

    "Were Huawei ever to engage in malicious behaviour, it would not go unnoticed - and it would certainly destroy our business. For us, it is a matter of security or nothing; there is no third option. We choose to ensure security."

    Mr Ding also defended the company's reputation in the face of several UK allies restricting the use of Huawei equipment in crucial communications infrastructure.

    He said that while some countries - including New Zealand, Australia and the US - had "indeed taken measures to restrict Huawei business activities", some of the restrictions had been "exaggerated or even misinterpreted by the media".

  14. Huawei 'to spend £1.5bn to address security concerns'

    Huawei logo

    Chinese technology giant Huawei has said security issues raised in a UK parliamentary report could take between three and five years to resolve.

    In a letter to Norman Lamb, chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the firm pledged to spend £1.5bn over five years to address security issues flagged last year.

    However, the Chinese company warned the process could take up to five years to see "tangible results".

    "Modern communications networks are complex systems that keep evolving in new and innovative ways. Enhancing our software engineering capabilities is like replacing components on a high-speed train in motion," Huawei's carrier business group president, Ryan Ding, said in the letter.

    "It is a complicated and involved process and will take at least three to five years to see tangible results. We hope the UK Government can understand this."

    The letter was in response to concerns raised by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre in its annual report, a body that includes Huawei, UK operators and UK government officials.

    The report warned that "areas of concern" in Huawei's security infrastructure meant it could give only "limited assurance" that Huawei's involvement in UK telecommunications infrastructure did not pose a national security threat.

  15. RBS plan 'abhorrent'

    RBS logo

    Not everyone at Royal Bank of Scotland's investor meeting in Edinburgh to approve its buy-back plan was happy.

    One shareholder called it "abhorrent", arguing that RBS should be holding back any spare cash to pay compensation for potentially huge legal settlements.

    He also accused the bank of "running scared" from a potential general election and resultant Labour government, which would seek to nationalise the bank.

    But chairman Howard Davies said: "This is something that the board has carefully considered. The bank has a sufficiently strong capital position. They (Labour) will have to speak for themselves."

  16. RBS plan could speed up privatisation

    RBS bank front

    Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders have approved a proposal that allows the lender to buy back up to £1.5bn worth of shares from the government, as it looks to deploy excess capital and speed up its privatisation.

    A total of 98.7% of investors approved the plan on Wednesday at a general meeting in Edinburgh. The Government, which still owns 62% of RBS, did not vote.

    The lender's special resolution sought permission to make off-market share purchases from the Treasury through a "directed buy-back" scheme.

    The plan still needs Treasury approval.

    Under the scheme, which will need to be approved by the Treasury and the Bank of England, RBS will be able to buy back up to 4.99% of the government's stake in any one year.

  17. BMW re-issues Brexit statement after Greg Clark comment

    Mini production line

    Business secretary Greg Clark caused a stir this morning when he claimed BMW could move Mini production from the UK to the Netherlands if there is a no-deal Brexit.

    That's prompted BMW to re-issued a statement sent out last year when reports of such a move first emerged.

    BMW says: "No decisions are taken yet, but in an extreme, no-deal Brexit, a new look at which models are produced where would make sense.

    "BMW Group has invested over £2bn in its UK manufacturing facilities since 2000 and is committed to the UK as a production base."

  18. FTSE flat

    The FTSE 100 ended almost flat on a lacklustre day of trading. The index ended 0.06% lower at 7,173 points.

    The main faller was online retailer Ocado, down 6.3% after a fire at a distribution centre raised questions over its growth plans for this year.

    Housebuilder Barratt Developments closed 2.8% as investors cheered its latest profit figures.

    The FTSE 250 finished up 0.4% at 19,073.