The Business: Thursday May 1 2014

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

CHANNEL FIVE ‘SOLD FOR £450M’

Richard Desmond is poised to finalise the sale of Channel 5 to the owner of MTV for up to £450 million, says The Times. The historic deal, the price of which falls far below the ambitious £700m target set by Desmond, will be the first time that an American broadcaster has bought one Britain’s five free-to-air channels. The agreement is expected to be announced by Viacom in New York over the next 24 hours.

OSBORNE URGED TO ACT ON TAX BURDEN

Tory MPs will press George Osborne to act on behalf of middle-income earners after official figures showed those paying 40p and 45p rate will shoulder the bulk of Britain’s tax burden next year. New figures from HMRC show middle earners will contribute 67% of Britain’s total tax bill by 2014/15, despite being outnumbered by lower paid workers at a rate of one to five. Tory MPs are warning Osborne that people in the 40p bracket “don’t consider themselves even remotely privileged or rich”.

MORRISONS IN NEW PRICE CUT BID

Morrisons is cutting prices on thousands of products to try and win back customers, reports the BBC. The struggling supermarket says prices on everyday essentials will now be 17% cheaper, on average. The big four UK supermarkets are facing twin pressures of the rise discounters, such as Aldi and Lidl, and the growth of online shopping. After posting poor annual results in March, Morrisons is committing a billion pounds to lowering prices.

GAME OF THRONES BOOSTS TIME WARNER PROFITS

The success of the Game of Thrones series has boosted profits at Time Warner. Along with The Lego Movie, Game of Thrones has nearly doubled profits for the first three months of 2014. The media giant, which owns the television network HBO, reported a net income of $1.3bn (£770m) for the first quarter of 2014, compared with $754m (£447m) last year. The premiere of the latest Game of Thrones season drew the most HBO viewers since the end of The Sopranos in 2007.

QUOTE OF THE DAY… BIG NOT BETTER FOR ASTRAZENECA

“Big is not necessarily best in pharma. It is highly questionable whether big consolidations have led to greater success in getting new medicines to market.” AstraZeneca chairman Leif Johansson launches the firm’s defence against Pfizer’s £60bn approach.

NOKIA BOSS PAYOFF SOARS HIGHER

The former boss of Nokia received a larger-than-expected pay-off as the firm completed the sale of its handset business to Microsoft. Stephen Elop trousered 24.2m euros ($33.5m; £20m) – some 30% more than the initial figure. A considerable part of the payment was awarded in Nokia shares, which have risen since the sale was agreed. The payoff has prompted anger, as Nokia’s business declined under the leadership of Elop.

THE NUMBERS... AT 0745 GMT


FTSE-100: up +0.15 to 6780.03
Dow Jones: up +0.28 to 16580.84
Dax: up +0.20 to 9603.23
Cac-40: down -0.23 to 4487.39
Nikkei: up +1.15 to 14468.02
Hang Seng: down -1.42 to 22133.97
US dollar: buys €0.72000 and £0.59210
Sterling: buys $1.68880 and €1.21610
Oil: $108.24 down -0.7