Wall Street, coronavirus, currencies in focus

Stocks in Asia Pacific were set to trade lower at the Thursday open following an overnight plunge stateside that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 700 points.

Futures pointed to a lower open for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 22,245 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 22,210. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 22,534.32.

Shares in Australia were also set to decline, with the SPI futures contract at 5,837, as compared to the S&P/ASX 200’s last close at 5,965.70.

Markets in China and Hong Kong are closed on Thursday for a holiday.

Investor reaction to overnight moves on Wall Street will be watched on Thursday. The Dow fell 710.16 points, or 2.7%, to close at 25,445.94. The S&P 500 finished its trading day 2.6% lower at 3,050.33 while the Nasdaq Composite slid 2.2% to close at 9,909.17. It

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Outsourcers Mitie and Interserve in advanced merger talks | Business News

Two of Britain’s biggest government outsourcers are locked in talks about a merger of their support services arms that would create a business employing more than 80,000 people in the UK.

Sky News can exclusively reveal that Mitie is in advanced discussions to buy Interserve’s facilities management arm for more than £250m.

A deal could be announced as soon as Thursday, when Mitie is scheduled to announce its full-year results.

Shares in Mitie closed down just under 1% on Wednesday

City sources said Mitie was expected to launch a £200m rights issue to help fund the deal and strengthen the balance sheet of the combined group.

They cautioned, however, that a deal had yet to be formally signed and could still fall apart.

If confirmed, the combination of Mitie and Interserve’s support services businesses would create the largest such operation in Britain, with over £3.5bn of revenue.

A deal

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Bayer settles Roundup cancer claim cases for up to $10.9bn | Business News

Bayer AG has agreed to pay up to $10.9bn (£8.7bn) to settle thousands of lawsuits over the weedkiller Roundup.

The lawsuits allege that Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate caused cancer, although the German drugs and pesticides maker has always insisted it is safe.

The resolution comes after more than a year of talks and means that about 125,000 claims have been dealt with, the company said.

Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann said: “The Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end.

“It resolves most current claims and puts in place a clear mechanism to manage risks of potential future litigation.

“It is financially reasonable when viewed against the significant financial risks of continued, multi-year litigation and the related impacts to our reputation and to our business.”

Bayer will pay between $8.8bn (£7bn) and $9.6bn (£7.6bn) to resolve

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Brussels signals compromise possible in ‘level playing field’ talks

Brussels has said it is willing to hammer out a compromise with Britain on the sensitive issue of “level playing field” rules for business, in a sign of how positions are shifting ahead of intensive EU-UK future-relationship talks, which start next week.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said his team was willing to work with Britain on a “credible and operational” framework for so-called level playing field commitments. These aim to ensure close alignment between the two sides’ state-aid, environmental and employment regulations. 

However, he insisted the EU would not allow anything to jeopardise the integrity of the single market. “We are ready on this point, as well as on the fishing issue, governance, and some other issues where we are divergent, we are ready to work on landing zones respecting the mandate of the EU,” said Mr Barnier in a webcast organised by the European Policy Centre

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