The Business: Monday March 24 2014

Company news, markets and financial talking points, available from 8am Monday to Friday

OSBORNE ‘HANDS BANKS SECRET TAX CUT’

Has George Osborne handed big banks a secret tax cut? Under his proposed changes to the bank levy, the chancellor has paved the way for some top lenders to pay hundreds of millions of pounds less in tax. HSBC and Barclays could see their levy charges fall by a joint total of more than £300m if Osborne pushes on with his plan to switch to a band-based system under which the tax of an individual bank is capped at an upper limit, says the Daily Telegraph

IS 99P DOWNLOAD ON WAY OUT?

The 99p music download may soon be a thing of the past. Multinational companies may be forced to add VAT to all UK downloads from next January, in response to George Osborne’s “international efforts to develop tough, new global tax rules”. From next year, download services will be subject to VAT in the country where the consumer is located. This could drive up the cost of music tracks from 99p to £1.19.

CRIMEA CRISIS HITS LONDON HOTELS

British hotels and shops have suffered a 17% fall in income from Russian visitors since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine. The finding, from tax-free shopping specialists Global Blue, means the Russians slip from the third-biggest spending nation in the country to fourth place. They have been replaced in third by Nigerian nationals. The trend, if it continues, will have a considerable impact on some luxury stores and hotels in London.

HEZZA TAKES HAYMARKET HELM

Michael Heseltine has taken full control of Haymarket, the publishing house he co-founded 50 years ago, reports the Financial Times. The 81-year-old former Tory minister is betting on a recovery in the fortunes of the group, as it restructures to move its flagship consumer titles online and to grow internationally. It made a pre-tax loss of £7.6m in the 18 months to June 2013, according to accounts expected to be filed at Companies House this week.

QUOTE OF THE DAY… PHILIP GREEN ENTERS SUPERMARKET WAR

“We know what we’re getting into - the most competitive food landscape for some time. There’s no point opening up and getting torn apart because we haven’t got competitive prices.” Sir Philip Green, announcing that BHS’s move into food will feature significant price cuts.

NEW CALL FOR ENERGY INDUSTRY PROBE

The Federation of Small Businesses and the consumer group Which? are asking regulators to launch an investigation into the “broken” energy market, reports the BBC. In a joint letter to the Office of Fair Trading, the two groups claim that nine out of 10 consumers believe the energy industry needs to be probed. “It is now time for radical changes that deliver an effective, competitive market that works for everyone, before the scale of this crisis worsens,” they wrote.

THE NUMBERS... AT 0730 GMT


FTSE-100: up +0.23 to 6557.17
Dow Jones: down -0.17 to 16302.77
Dax: up +0.50 to 9342.94
Cac-40: up +0.17 to 4335.28
Nikkei: up +1.77 to 1447.30
Hang Seng: up +1.80 to 21823.47
US dollar: buys €0.72470 and £0.60650
Sterling: buys $1.64870 and €1.9490
Oil: $107.12 up +0.6