Patisserie Valerie, the café chain that crashed into administration last week, looks increasingly likely to be sold off in chunks, with its unreliable accounts deterring even those bidders that specialise in distressed companies. (The Financial Times £)

Will Mike Ashley’s appetite for takeovers ever wane? This is the question in the City after the 54-year-old billionaire was this week heard to be eyeing an offer for troubled Patisserie Valerie and online furniture group Sofa. (The Daily Mail)

The executive chairman and chief executive of Patisserie Holdings did not disclose a possible conflict of interest to investors arising from their ownership of a shop of its collapsed café chain (The Times £). Patisserie Valerie executives Luke Johnson and Paul May are facing fresh questions after failing to disclose they were also landlords to the stricken bakery chain (The Telegraph).

Asda has lost a key battle in its fight against an equal pay claim by thousands of shopworkers — mostly women — who want to be paid the same as warehouse workers —mostly men (The Times £). Asda has lost a high-profile court ruling in an equal pay case brought by thousands of mostly female retail staff in its supermarkets who claim they should be paid the same as higher paid, mostly male, workers at its distribution centres (The Financial Times £). Asda has lost the latest round of a long-running legal battle with its staff over equal pay (The Telegraph). Asda shopworkers have won a significant victory in the latest round of a long-running legal battle over equal pay, which could result in supermarkets facing an estimated £8bn payout (The Guardian). Asda has lost a challenge at the Court of Appeal in the latest round of a long-running dispute with its staff over equal pay (Sky News).

Unilever has hired extra warehouses to stockpile Magnum ice creams and deodorants on both sides of the Channel amid growing fears a no-deal Brexit will disrupt the Anglo-Dutch company’s supply chain (The Telegraph). Unilever is stockpiling Magnum ice-cream in the UK to ensure supplies do not run low if there is a no-deal Brexit (The Guardian). Unilever has said it is stockpiling Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and Magnum bars ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union (The BBC).

Unilever’s new chief executive Alan Jope faces an uphill battle to deliver on his promise to accelerate growth this year, as economic woes in Latin America and higher commodity costs remain a drag (The Financial Times £). Less than a month into his role as chief executive of Unilever, Alan Jope has warned that sales this year could be hit by higher commodity costs, currency fluctuations and challenging markets (The Times £). Unilever’s new chief Alan Jope yesterday announced during Unilver’s disappointing quarterly results that the company remained focused on growth as well as sustainability (The Daily Mail). Unilever’s new boss kicked off his tenure on a gloomy note today, warning that market conditions in 2019 are likely to remain ‘challenging’ (The Daily Mail).

Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits maker, will buy back an extra £660m of shares from investors after it refreshed its global drinks cabinet to focus on faster-growth tequila and gin brands (The Financial Times £). The drinks giant behind Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky and Guinness stout is to return a further £660 million to shareholders via a share buyback programme on the back of forecast-beating half-year results (The Times £).

The gin craze in Britain and Europe, together with surging demand for premium whisky in China, India and across the world, allowed Diageo to shoot out the lights in 2018 (The Daily Mail). The multinational drinks giant claims its new “White Walker” whisky, a version of Johnnie Walker that is designed to be served directly from the freezer, has been a hit with young consumers. (The Telegraph)

Amazon signalled that it would be ramping investment back up in 2019, even as its stellar revenue growth slows, sending its shares lower (The Financial Times £). Amazon posted another record profit last night as it beat Wall Street’s fourth-quarter forecasts but gave investors cause for concern with a disappointing outlook (The Times £). Amazon has forecast lower-than-expected sales for the first three months of the year sparking investor fears over slowing growth (The BBC).

The market gloom that accompanied Thursday’s results looks overblown, writes The FT’s Lex column. “Slower revenue growth is fine so long as Amazon can keep growing margins. Everything in this set of results suggests that it can.” (The Financial Times £)

MPs are to launch a new inquiry into the heavily criticised business rates system amid warnings that a further 100,000 shops will close this year (The Telegraph). MPs are increasing pressure on the government to consider scrapping the system of business rates that many retailers blame for the decline of the UK high street (The Financial Times £).

The cost of cherry tomatoes could increase by more than 10% if there is a no deal Brexit, say growers in southern Spain. (The BBC)

RPC Group is at the centre of a £3.3 billion takeover battle after Berry Global, its American peer, said that it was poised to challenge its former owner Apollo Global Management and make a rival bid. (The Times £)