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Live Reporting

By Jill Treanor and Robert Plummer

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye!

    That's it from us for today. Be sure to join us again tomorrow at 06:00 for minute-by-minute coverage of all the day's business news, as it happens.

  2. FTSE 100 and 250 make strong gains

    London's leading shares had a healthy day, with the main indexes closing higher, mirroring gains seen across Europe.

    The FTSE 100 ended Wednesday's trading up 0.96% at 7,338.03, adding 70.08 points.

    The biggest riser on the index was the London Stock Exchange itself, up 6.2% on news that Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing had launched a takeover bid for it.

    The FTSE 250, seen as a better indicator of the UK's economic health, also rose strongly, closing 1.2% or 236.6 points higher at 19,975.46

  3. French firm liable after employee dies during sex on business trip

    Man and woman in hotel room

    French company TSO has been found liable for the death of an employee who had a cardiac arrest while having sex with a stranger on a business trip.

    A Paris court ruled that his death was an industrial accident and that the family was entitled to compensation.

    The firm had argued the man was not carrying out professional duties when he joined a guest in her hotel room.

    But under French law, an employer is responsible for any accident occurring during a business trip, judges said.

  4. 'No concrete results' from Italy's EU lobbying

    Giuseppe Conte

    Italy's Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, has been in Brussels lobbying the incoming President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

    He said beforehand that he wanted the EU's backing for "extraordinary measures" to boost growth in Italy's poorer south. He also wanted more time to cut his country's debt and meet EU fiscal targets, as well as more leeway on accepting migrants.

    Did he get anywhere? Not judging by the statement issued by an EU spokesperson: "They had a good exchange about the new political situation in Italy. And also about migration and economics. No concrete results."

  5. Deep clean firm goes bust with loss of 99 jobs

    Floor being cleaned

    A "deep clean" business based in Glasgow has gone into liquidation with the loss of 99 jobs.

    Macdet Hygiene Services was founded in 1988 and had contracts with a range of public and private clients.

    But a "downturn in work on a major contract" in the private sector led to the firm experiencing cash flow problems, according to provisional liquidator Campbell Dallas.

    It is not clear how many of the affected staff are based in Glasgow.

  6. Student visa rules change backed

    City of London as seen from the River Thames

    TheCityUK, which represents UK-based financial and related professional services, has backed the government's decision to allow international students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job.

    Its chief executive, Miles Celic, said: "This is the right move for the UK and its ambition to continue as a world-leading services trading nation. Higher education is a valuable source of talent for UK businesses, a key source of soft power and a prized British export.

    “The ability for international students to remain in the UK to work after graduating has long been recognised as a significant potential draw for them. It also allows the UK first access to some of the world’s best talent."

  7. China tariff move boosts Wall Street

    Wall Street stocks have edged higher in early trading after China said it was planning to exempt 16 types of US products from additional retaliatory tariffs.

    The Dow Jones is up 22 points or 0.08% at 26,931, while the broader-based S&P 500 has added four points or 0.15%, rising to 2,984. The tech-heavy Nasdaq is 26 points or 0.33% higher at 8,110.

  8. Sports Direct 'totally focused'

    Mike Ashley

    Sports Direct has issued a bullish statement after its AGM, at which a significant number of shareholders voted against Mike Ashley's re-election as director.

    A spokesperson for the firm said: "We remain totally focused on delivering our elevated proposition which, following the AGM, continues to be supported by the investor community.

    "We are already seeing some exciting milestones with the acquisition of Jack Wills, the opening of the new Flannels flagship store in London and plans for Frasers now in motion.

    "We are building a young and dynamic executive team to assist in this transition but making sure we retain the core values in the existing business that have allowed the business to prosper over the years.

    "Mike Ashley was re-elected at the AGM with over 90% of the vote and the audited accounts for the year ended 28 April 2019 were also approved by over 99% of shareholders."

  9. UK 'trade continuity' with six African nations

    The UK has signed an economic partnership agreement with the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique (SACU+M), which the government says will allow business to keep trading freely after Brexit.

    It allows businesses to continue to trade on preferential terms with South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Mozambique, to which the UK exports machinery and mechanical appliances worth £409m, some £335m of motor vehicles, and beverages including whisky worth £136m.

    Those figures are for 2018.

    Liz Truss, international trade secretary, said: "This is a major milestone as the UK prepares to become an independent trading nation once again, and we are helping businesses get ready to trade with the most exciting markets around the world."

    The UK imports fruit and nuts worth £547m and motor vehicles worth £409m from these nations, the government said.

  10. New Look 'must drive more traffic online'

    New Look storefront

    Pippa Stephens, retail analyst at GlobalData, has this to say about New Look's latest results:

    "Despite consumers’ shift to shopping online, New Look’s e-commerce sales have continued to decline, with group sales (excluding third-party e-commerce) falling £1.3m to £38.1m.

    "Although its digital channel outperformed versus total sales, New Look must drive more traffic on to its site through increased digital marketing and by offering more affordable and convenient delivery options.

    "Although the high prices of its fulfilment options will make its online channel more profitable, uncompetitive prices are off putting for shoppers, hindering conversion.

    "Its delivery saver scheme is priced at £19.99, double that of other value players like PrettyLittleThing and boohoo.com, so this should be lowered to become more competitive."

  11. Mike Ashley re-elected as Sports Direct chief executive

    Mike Ashley has easily succeeded in his bid for re-election as chief executive of Sports Direct. The company said he got 90.99% of all votes cast at its meeting with investors. However, Mr Ashley holds more than 62% of the shares of the firm, so has a controlling interest.

  12. Cathay Pacific's 'incredibly challenging' August

    plane

    Cathay Pacific - which became embroiled in controversy over its response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong - has announced passenger figures for August showing an 11% drop on the same time last year.

    Ronald Lam, chief customer and commercial officer, said: “August was an incredibly challenging month, both for Cathay Pacific and for Hong Kong.

    "Overall tourist arrivals into the city were nearly half of what they usually are in what is normally a strong summer holiday month, and this has significantly affected the performance of our airlines.

    "Our inbound Hong Kong traffic was down 38% while outbound was down 12% year-on-year, and we don’t anticipate September being any less difficult."

    Demand for premium class travel dropped even more significantly, the airline said, adding that it is now reducing its capacity growth. It now expects it be "slightly down" for the winter season (October 2019 to March 2020) when it had originally planned for 6% growth.

  13. Morse to lead review of the 'loan charge'

    calculator

    The Treasury has announced that Sir Amyas Morse will review the "loan charge" .

    Sajid Javid's department says the loan charge was introduced to tackle "contrived schemes" where a person’s income is paid as a loan which does not have to be repaid.

    But it has sparked huge controversy - for example, read this BBC story.

    The review will conclude by mid-November, the Treasury says, and look at whether the policy is an appropriate way of dealing with disguised remuneration loan schemes used by individuals who entered into these schemes

    Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: “Everyone should pay their fair share of tax. These disguised remuneration schemes are highly contrived attempts to avoid tax, but it is right to consider if the loan charge is the appropriate way of tackling them.

    “The government fully appreciates the concerns expressed by individuals, campaigners, and MPs who have raised concerns about the loan charge".

    HMRC had previously estimated around 50,000 people were in the schemes, which it has described since 2010 as "disguised remuneration".

  14. GM recalling vehicles in the US

    GM logo and a car

    General Motors is recalling 3.5 million vehicles in the US because of a braking issue that could increase the risk of a crash.

    The vehicles are Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500, 2500 and 3500 (models from 201 to 2018) as well Cadillac Escalade (2015 to 2017) and the Yukon and Chevy Suburban and Tahoe.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had started looking at the issue last year. following complaints.

  15. German economy 'heading for recession'

    Factory in Bielefeld

    Germany's economy is on the brink of sliding into a recession because of the US-China trade war and Brexit uncertainty, according to one of the country's most influential think tanks.

    The Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) said it expected the German economy to contract by 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the July-to-September period after a 0.1% contraction in the previous three months.

    The institute also cut its 2019 growth forecast for the German economy to 0.4% from 0.6%. It said it predicted growth of 1% in 2020, down from an earlier estimate of 1.6%.

  16. Not a high enough bid for LSE

    share price

    Back to Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com, who has been looking at that news of a bid for London Stock Exchange. As mentioned, the shares in the LSE leapt higher on the announcement but have now fallen back, as shown by the chart.

    "There's not a mammoth premium here and do you as a LSE shareholder now fancy ditching your LSE stock in favour of a Hong Kong listed share (just 41% of the new company to boot) which at any moment could be appropriated by Beijing should they so desire?

    "No thanks.

    "Secondly, LSE is all-in on the Refinitiv deal so why would they pull out now for such a gamble? It doesn't make sense.

    "I guess the question now is whether this approach forces others to join the party and spark a bidding war. Not everyone is so warm to the Refinitiv deal as the stock price adjustment suggests - a better premium from say a (US) rival could look appealing to shareholders."

  17. Market update

    LSE and union jack umbrella

    The FTSE 100 is up 63 points at 7,331 - and the biggest gainer is the London Stock Exchange, up 4% after that surprise takeover offer from Hong Kong. Its shares had leapt 15% when the bid was first announced.

    The FTSE 250 is up 255 points at 19,994 - that's 1.3%.

  18. 'Panto villain'

    Mike Ashley

    There are more tweets from the Press Association's Simon Neville who was the Sports Direct annual general meeting.

    He reports that the retailer's founder, Mike Ashley, has urged the assembled shareholders to ignore "fun" in the papers about him.

    “If you want me to paint me as the panto villain - carry on.”

    He says that he "begged" Debenhams not to pay the dividend.

    "If they hadn’t paid the dividend they’d still be there."

    Sports Direct's 30% stake in Debenhams was wiped out as part of an administration process.

    He is also asked “why are you obsessed with getting a Big Four auditor?” Grant Thornton has resigned but the company does not now have an auditor.

    “It’s a tick box exercise, people said I couldn’t get one, I want one now. It’s like having the biggest lawyers. It’s a little achievement as you go through life.”

    The meeting now over although the company is expected to announce the results of votes on resolutions at the meeting on the stock exchange later.

  19. Not the first time for LSE

    lse logo

    This is not the first time the London Stock Exchange has been involved in takeover action itself.

    "Given the long and ignoble history of bids for LSE, we think there is a very high bar to clear in order for this to succeed," says Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com.

    "Political considerations will be front and centre. The UK government may not wish to see such a vital symbol of UK financial services strength, and indeed a strategic asset, to be owned by foreigners; effectively it would hand it over to the Chinese through the Hong Kong back door.

    "For the time being, at least the EU also has a say in this. The US will also be eyeing this very, very closely indeed and not liking much at all."

    A potted history: two years ago, competition authorities in Brussels scuppered the LSE's attempts to tie up with Deutsche Boerse, after a year of talks.

    That was the third attempt by the two exchanges to merge after failed efforts in 2005 and 2000.

    Along the way, it has had bids from the US exchange Nasdaq, private equity firm Macquarie and Swedish stock exchange OM. It tried to buy Liffe, London's futures exchange, but bought the Italian stock exchange in 2007.

    It floated its shares on its own stock exchange in 2001, having demutualised after being owned by big financial firms.

    Before that, in 1986 the LSE was subject to the "Big Bang", which marked the end of fixed commissions and the introduction of new technology.