Sterling hits seven-year high

Prospects of an earlier-than-expected rises in interest rates gets plenty of coverage today with the pound soaring to a seven-year high and the threat of deflation looming. The Bank of England is expected to signal in its Inflation Report today that prices in two years’ time will be rising more quickly than was forecast in November, which would suggest that rates should rise sooner than previously thought. (The Times £) (The Daily Mail)

The strength of sterling claimed another victim as cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco saw its revenue fall 2% to 1.48bn in the three months to December. (The Financial Times £)

PepsiCo announced plans in its latest earnings statement to return up to $9bn to shareholders this year via dividends and share buybacks. It came despite the soft drinks giant reporting a 25 per cent drop in fourth-quarter profits. (The Financial Times £)

Heineken also gave cheer to investors as it announced a dividend boost on the back of strong trading. It reported a 3.3% increase in 2014 revenues to €21.2bn on an underlying basis, helped by the World Cup, with operating profits up 7.8% to €3.36bn. (The Times £)

The much maligned misty veg innovation has followed Dalton Philips at the door at Morrisons. The misting machines have come under fierce criticism from analysts and former bosses as a sign the retailer had lost touch with its core northern customer base. Morrisons will now remove the machines from the 300 stores where they were installed in the coming weeks. (The Telegraph)

The Times casts a cynical eye over Reckitt Benckiser’s ‘supercharge’ cost efficiency drive. As part of the cost-cutting programme – aimed at saving £150m a year – CEO Rakesh Kapoor pledged to fly economy class on flights of under six hours. The paper notes this comes from a man whose annual pay in 2013 was almost £6.7m. (The Times £)

Co-operative Bank is to cut its shrinking branch network further, with 57 more to close and more employees expected to lose their jobs, according to The Times (£).

The National Marine Aquarium has stoked the ire of animal rights charity Peta for serving fish and chips in its café. A letter sent to the attraction by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was written on behalf of “all the fish in the sea”. It compared the selling of seafood at an aquarium to serving “monkey nuggets at a zoo”. (The Times £)