The Business: Friday August 1 2014

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

MILLONS DRAGGED INTO STAMP DUTY TRAP

The number of British households being forced to pay higher rates of stamp duty has more than doubled in the past decade, according to new figures in the Daily Telegraph. The boom in property prices means that a quarter of homebuyers are paying stamp duty of 3% or more, up from just one in 10 in 2003. Meanwhile, it is revealed that families paid a total of £3.4 billion in inheritance taxes last year, the most since the onset of the financial crisis.

MESSI ‘USED UK FIRMS TO EVADE TAX’

Argentine football star Lionel Messi used UK shell corporations to evade tax worth more than £3 million, Spanish prosecutors have alleged. Along with his father, Jorge, the Barcelona forward is facing a tax fraud trial in Spain over claims that he used a network of overseas companies, including two in the UK, to avoid paying income tax on his image rights between 2007 and 2009. Messi has previously said that he and his father “have always fulfilled our tax obligations.”

DARK DAY FOR US MARKETS

US shares have dived after weak corporate results, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average seeing all of 2014’s gains erased in a single dark day on American markets. The Dow Jones fell 317.06 points to 16,563.30 and the S&P 500 dropped 39.40 to a seven-week low of 1,930.67. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq sank 93.13 to 4,369.77. The imminent end of the Federal Reserve's economic stimulus, weak eurozone data and the Argentine debt default were among the factors blamed for the slump.

DEFAULTING ARGENTINA THREATENS THE US

Argentina has threatened to take the US to The Hague after defaulting on its debts for a second time, reports the Daily Telegraph. In a furious attack, Argentina accuses America of gross incompetence for allowing two small hedge funds to push the Argentine state into default, despite the chaos it caused for other creditors and the damage to ordinary people. It is the second debt default in 12 years by Argentina.

CENTRICA: UK SHOULD REMAIN IN EU

The UK should remain part of the EU, says the boss of British Gas’s owner. Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, told Sky News that it would be "great pity" if a referendum on EU membership resulted in the UK's departure. He also said that a ‘yes’ vote in the Scottish referendum would have limited impact on his firm. "Scottish Gas is an important retailer and we have a lot of customers, but most of our production is in English waters,” he said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY… IS LONDON CAPITAL OF DIRTY MONEY?

“Property is a key risk area for the UK. From Abacha to Marcos and the Gaddafis, corrupt leaders have used shell companies and trusts to hide their identities and safeguard stolen fortunes, often in property.” Robert Barrington, executive director of Transparency International UK, on concerns that London has become a centre for dirty money.

THE NUMBERS... AT 0745 BST


FTSE-100: down -0.64 to 6730.11
Dow Jones: down -1.88 to 16563.30
Dax: down -1.94 to 9407.48
Cac-40: down -1.53 to 4246.14
Nikkei: down -0.54 to 15536.63
Hang Seng: down -0.58 to 24612.06
US dollar: buys €0.74690 and £0.59250
Sterling: buys $1.68790 and €1.26090
Oil: $105.84 down -0.6