Global business

Hutchison Whampoa, Li Ka-shing's holding company in Hong Kong, agreed to buy O2, a British mobile-phone network owned by Telefónica of Spain, in a deal valued at $15.3 billion. Hutchison wants to combine O2 with Three, its existing wireless network in Britain, which would give it around 40 percent of the British market. With BT in the process of buying EE, the number of big operators in that market is shrinking, a potential concern for regulators.

Hennes & Mauritz, a fashion retailer based in Sweden, reported another healthy quarterly profit, of $449 million. But it warned that the strong dollar "will affect our sourcing costs going forward."

More evidence emerged that the recovery in the eurozone may at last be gathering pace. A closely watched index of private-sector activity in the currency bloc compiled by Markit, a data-research firm, rose to its highest level in almost four years. The weaker euro has been a boon to exporters, especially in Germany, but job creation and the growth of new orders were strong throughout much of the eurozone in the survey.

Britain's annual inflation rate fell to zero in February. In contrast to other countries that are doing their utmost to battle a precipitous drop in consumer prices, mostly the result of falling oil prices, George Osborne, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, was remarkably relaxed, pointing to the benefits to households from "good" low inflation, compared with "bad" deflation.

American regulators rejected the "living wills" of subsidiaries owned by three foreign banks. HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, two British banks, and BNP Paribas, a French one, were told to resubmit their plans about how they would unwind if faced with bankruptcy, after they were found to contain "shortcomings", including "unrealistic" assumptions about customer behavior. The three join 11 other banks who were told to rewrite their living wills in August last year.

Schlumberger, the world's biggest oilfield-services company, agreed to plead guilty and pay $233 million in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department for violating sanctions by providing drilling equipment to Sudan and Iran between 2004 and 2010. The penalty comes at a bad time for the firm, which has had to retrench as the global oil glut reduces the demand for its services.

Supercell, the Finnish mobile-gaming firm that brought "Boom Beach" to the world, said that sales tripled to $1.7 billion last year, and profit doubled to $557 million. Supercell has developed only three games (the other two are "Clash of Clans and "Hay Day") that are free to play but which entice users to pay for additional features. They regularly top the charts for downloaded apps on Apple and Android devices.

Amazon complained to a Senate committee about the slow process for approving tests on commercial drone flights in America, describing it as inadequate, especially compared with other countries. It said a waiver it had been granted was already obsolete, as it applies to a drone it is no longer testing.

Political economy

Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, announced that he would extend a campaign of airstrikes against ISIL from Iraq into Syria. He said the campaign would go on for another year, beyond October's election in which security is expected to be a theme.

In the latest sign of a thaw with the West, Cuba hosted a visit by the European Union's foreign minister, Federica Mogherini. On the agenda were trade, democracy and investment, all currently in short supply on the island.

Ten people were killed in Mexico when gangsters ambushed a police convoy outside the city of Guadalajara. At least 10 vehicles took part in the attack, in which five policemen, two bystanders and three suspected mobsters died.

Singapore observed a weeklong period of mourning after the death of its former leader, Lee Kuan Yew. Tens of thousands of people queued to see his body lying in state at the city-state's parliament.

The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea met in Seoul for their first trilateral talks at such a level in three years. Ties have been strained because of a territorial dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea and objections in both China and South Korea to Japan's stance on its occupation of the two countries during the second world war.