Gerhard Schröder Putin Russia Germany Nord Stream gas energy crisis Crimea Ukraine – Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Germany must strike a deal with Putin to avoid an energy crisis this winter and Ukraine should give up its claim to Crimea, Gerhard Schröder has said.
The former German Chancellor said his country could avert a gas crunch by restarting work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia.
The $11bn (£9bn) project, which would double Russian gas supplies to Germany, was completed last year but the approval process was halted at the outbreak of the war in February.
Mr Schröder, former chair of Rosneft and head of the shareholder committee at Nord Stream, also said Ukraine should abandon its claim to Crimea and negotiate with Putin.
He told Stern magazine it would be a “big mistake” to dismiss possible concessions by Ukraine as a “dictated peace”.
He said problems could be resolved through a compromise for the Donbas region based on a Swiss canton model, as well as “armed neutrality” for Ukraine as an alternative to Nato membership.
In response, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described Schröder derisively as a “voice of the Russian royal court”.
Mr Podolyak tweeted: “If Moscow wants dialogue, the ball is in its court. First — a cease-fire and withdrawal of troops, then — constructive (dialogue).”
It’s time to close the blog, thank you for following! Before you set off for the evening, have a look at the latest stories from our reporters:
Ben & Jerry’s says board pay frozen by Unilever in Israel row
Ben & Jerry’s says Unilever froze compensation for the ice-cream brand’s independent board in retaliation after it sued its corporate parent in a dispute over sales in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The move was a “pressure tactic” before a mediation process that failed last week, according to a statement from Ben & Jerry’s independent board. The parties will now proceed to a temporary injunction hearing in federal court in New York.
Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever last month to block a deal to sell the the ice-cream brand’s Israel arm to a local businessman saying it would conflict with the company’s “core values.” The legal action follows a controversy last year when Ben & Jerry’s said it would halt sales in Jewish West Bank settlements, citing human rights concerns.
FTSE 100 closes in the green
The FTSE 100 has closed higher as Avast led the gainers after it won regulatory approval for NortonLifeLock’s acquisition deal (see post at 10:10am).
The blue-chip index added 0.5pc to 7,445.
“The UK market is a defensive market, so it will tend to outperform in a year like 2022 when there are a lot of uncertainties,” said Thomas Moore, senior investment director at abrdn.
“People will still pay for their energy, heating bills; they will buy cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey. Inflation and interest rates could be a problem for the UK economy, but it is unlikely to be a problem for UK stock market.”
M&S stops selling disposable barbecues to prevent fire risk
Former SFO prosecutor ‘unfairly’ fired over row with US official demands job back
A former top prosecutor at the Serious Fraud Office who was fired over claims he called an American counterpart a “c—” is demanding his job back after his dismissal was ruled unfair. Matt Oliver reports:
Tom Martin, who previously led complex corruption cases, was sacked by the British agency in 2018 following claims he insulted a US official while socialising in a pub.
His claim of unfair dismissal was upheld by an employment tribunal and the SFO’s attempt to overturn the ruling was defeated last month.
However, in a break from the vast majority of such cases, Mr Martin is now seeking reinstatement rather than compensation alone.
In a statement, he told the Daily Telegraph: “I am delighted with the outcome of the appeal, which fully upheld that my dismissal was unfair.
“The SFO’s decisions in dismissing me on a basis that has proven to be both factually and legally wrong and a breach of contract have left me with no choice but to bring these proceedings to clear my name and protect my career.”
New York Times to push for subscription bundles
The New York Times plans to more aggressively sell bundles of its subscription products to drive revenue and offset pressure from advertisers who are cutting spending in a weakening economy.
On an earnings call today, chiefMeredith Kopit Levien said the paper will “lean more heavily” into selling readers on more than one subscription, including news, games, cooking, Wirecutter and the Athletic, a sports website the Times bought earlier this year.
The group posted its highest number of new starts to its “all digital access bundle” in the second quarter. Levien said bundle subscribers pay more over time and are less likely to cancel.
The bundling strategy is also aimed at helping the Times keep growing even when the news cycle slows. The publication added 180,000 digital-only subscribers in the second quarter, reaching a total of 9.2m subscribers. It expressed confidence in reaching its goal of 15m subscribers by 2027.
That’s all from me today – thanks for following! Handing over now to Giulia Bottaro.
Shell hands staff 8pc bonus after record profits
Shell will hand staff a one-off 8pc bonus after the energy giant reported record profits after cashing in on the recent surge in prices.
Most staff at the FTSE 100 company, which employs around 82,000 people worldwide, will be eligible for the pay boost.
Only those at executive vice president level or higher will be excluded from the taxable payout.
Shell said the award reflects the company’s current financial success but has no link to the rising cost of living challenges.
A Shell spokesman said:
In recognition of the contribution our people have made to Shell’s strong operational performance against a recent challenging backdrop, our executive committee has decided to make a Special Recognition Award of 8pc of salary to all eligible staff across the world.
The award enables those employees to share in our current operational and financial success – it is not a response to inflation or cost-of-living challenges.
Ukraine brushes of Schröder’s war comments
Ukraine has said that any negotiated peace settlement with Moscow would be contingent on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops as it brushed off comments by Gerhard Schröder.
The former German Chancellor, who is a friend of Putin, said he met the Kremlin leader in Moscow last week, that Russia wanted a “negotiated solution” to the war and that there was even the possibility of slowly reaching a cease-fire.
In a response this afternoon, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described Schröderderisively as a “voice of the Russian royal court”.
He wrote: “If Moscow wants dialogue, the ball is in its court. First — a cease-fire and withdrawal of troops, then — constructive (dialogue).”
Treasury backs £3bn export finance package for Ukraine
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi is backing a new £3bn export finance aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s military defence against Russia and funding its reconstruction.
The Chancellor has told international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan that he supports a request for credit facilities provided by UK Export Finance (UKEF).
In a letter seen by Sky News, Mr Zahawi said he considered it “essential that we continue supporting the government of Ukraine in any way we can and demonstrating our faith in the future of Ukraine”.
The UKEF credit facilities comprise up to £2.3bn for the financing of military contracts identified by the Ukrainian government, with the remaining £700m earmarked for reconstruction projects.
British Airways poised to suspend sale of long-haul flights from Heathrow
British Airways long-haul cancel – Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency
British Airways is poised to pause sales of long-haul flights to destinations such as New York as the airline battles disruption at Heathrow, writes Matt Oliver
The carrier has already suspended ticket sales for short-haul flights from the country’s biggest airport for at least a week in response to a cap on daily passenger numbers.
But a spokesman confirmed that BA cannot rule out disruption to long-haul routes out of Heathrow either while the cap remains in place.
It could push prices higher and mean travellers trying to book last-minute journeys to further-afield destinations such as New York, Singapore or Dubai may be unable to find seats.
And budget rival Ryanair on Wednesday suggested it was well-positioned to capitalise on the turmoil.
Read Matt’s full story here
Wall Street opens higher ahead of services data
Wall Street’s main indices opened higher after two days of declines as focused shifted to services activity data due later today.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones both opened 0.4pc higher, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.7pc.
Opec to approve tiny oil output rise in blow to Biden
Opec is set to raise oil output by a miniscule 100,000 barrels per day in what analysts described as an insult to Joe Biden.
The US President made a trip to Saudi Arabia last month to persuade the Opec leader to pump more to help the US and global economy.
The increase, equivalent to 86 seconds of global oil demand, comes after weeks of speculation that the trip – as well as Washington’s clearance of missile defence system sales to Riyadh and the UAE – would bring in more oil.
An Opec document seen by Reuters showed the group was set to raise output by 100,000 bpd from September and two sources said it has been effectively rubber-stamped at a meeting.
Firefighters tackle blaze at Russian retailer’s warehouse
Russian Ozon retailer fire – HANDOUT/Russian Emergencies Ministry/AFP
A fire broke out at a warehouse outside Moscow owned by Russian e-commerce giant Ozon.
Emergency services in the country said more than 80 people were working to tackle the blaze and two helicopters had been deployed.
Russia’s RIA news agency cited emergency services as saying that 11 people have been reported injured in the fire, which the emergencies ministry said in a statement had spread to an area of 35,000 square metres.
Pictures taken by a Reuters photographer at the scene showed a large plume of dark smoke billowing from the roof of the warehouse.
Debris from Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket rains down on farm
Elon Musk Space X – Brad Tucker/Cover Images
Rocket debris believed to be from Elon Musk’s SpaceX has rained down on a sheep farm in rural Australia, piercing the landscape with chunks of jagged metal.
Matthew Field reports:
Lumps of rocket were found embedded in farmland by local farmer Mick Miners of Jindabyne, New South Wales.
Locals reported hearing a loud bang across the Snowy Mountains area of the region, before the pieces of wreckage were found, Australia’s ABC reported.
Australian space experts said they believed the rocket parts came from a discarded crew capsule used by SpaceX’s 2020 crewed Dragon mission to the International Space Station.
The capsule was jettisoned into space after completing its mission and was supposed to ultimately splash down into the ocean.
Brad Tucker, a space expert at Australian National University, told local radio station 2GB: “SpaceX has this capsule that takes humans into space but there is a bottom part… so when the astronauts come back, they leave the bottom part in space before the capsule lands.
Read Matt’s full story here
Bottlenecks dent German car sales
Germany VW car sales – Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
German car sales fell again in July as the industry battled persistent bottlenecks for key components.
Just under 206,000 cars were registered in Germany in July, 12.9pc less than in the same month last year, according to the federal transport authority.
New car sales had already fallen by 18.1pc in June and 10.2pc in May.
Car manufacturers have had to deal with supply issues for months, with shortages of key components leading to intermittent production stops and a slump in sales.
In particular, a shortage of semiconductors, used in the vehicles’ electronic systems, has slowed the industry down.
Parliament shuts down TikTok account on security concerns
Parliament has shut down its TikTok account less than a week after it was set up.
The move comes after MPs sanctioned by China raised concerns about data security, Politico reports.
Nus Ghani, Tom Tugendhat and Ian Duncan Smith all wrote to the Speaker last week. The account has now been locked and its content deleted.
US futures rise as Pelosi completes Taiwan visit
US futures have pushed higher as some of the investor anxiety over US-China tensions eased.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi completed a visit to Taiwan that has provoked an angry response from China, with markets calmer compared with the wave of anxiety that washed across assets ahead of her arrival. The yen and a dollar gauge were little changed.
Futures tracking the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq all gained 0.4pc.
Turkish inflation nears 80pc
Turkish inflation soared to nearly 80pc last month, with skyrocketing food, housing and energy prices hitting consumers hard.
The Turkish Statistical Institute said consumer prices rose by 79.6pc from a year earlier, up about one percentage point from June.
Economists have blamed the huge rise in inflation on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unorthodox belief that high borrowing costs lead to inflation despite established economic theory.
They also say inflation could be even higher than official figures.
Turkey’s central bank has slashed interest rates by five percentage points since September to 14pc, sending the lira into sharp decline.
That contrasts with efforts by central banks around the world to raise interest rates to tackle price rises.
BMW warns on chip shortages and Ukraine disruption
BMW chip shortage – BMW of North America
BMW has warned that car deliveries will be lower this year than last as a shortage of microchips, Covid lockdowns in China and disruption from the war in Ukraine hammer the industry.
Louis Ashworth reports:
The German carmaker cut its delivery outlook and said business conditions are likely to “remain difficult” during the second half of the year, blaming the war in Ukraine and supply chain disruptions.
Oliver Zipse, its chief executive, said: “We see an increasing economic headwind coming up in addition to the ongoing supply shortages.”
BMW’s net profit fell to €3bn during the second quarter amid supply bottlenecks and delays caused by lockdowns in China. It shipped just over 563,000 units between April and June, down 19.8pc from the same period in 2021.
“The ongoing supply bottlenecks, particularly for semiconductors, the war in Ukraine and interruptions in supply chains have led to a decline in deliveries in the Automotive segment in the first half of the year,” said BMW.
The company said some of the shortfall in sales was being offset by price increases. With production limited, BMW has focused its resources on higher-end vehicles, which have better profit margins. The Munich-based company said this “high-quality product mix” was helping to stem falling profits.
Gas prices swing as traders seek clarity over Russian supplies
Natural gas prices fluctuated after two days of gains as Russian supplies remain low but stable, with traders looking for more clarity over Moscow’s next move.
Benchmark European prices swung between gains and losses, though they’re still trading near their highest since the early days of the war in March.
Prices surged after Russia curbed flows through the key Nord Stream pipeline to around 20pc of transaction.
Moscow has blamed technical issues, but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz today reiterated that there were no delays on Germany’s side and laid the blame with the Kremlin.
Pound edges higher ahead of BoE decision
Sterling edged higher against a broadly weaker dollar this morning as investors remain focused on tomorrow’s Bank of England meeting.
Money markets are currently pricing in a greater than 90pc chance of a big 50 basis-point rate hike as the Bank attempts to cool inflation from a four-decade high of 9.4pc.
But analysts said the pound was largely being driven by risk sentiment and external factors ahead of the policy meeting.
The pound rose 0.1pc against the dollar to $1.21735. Against the euro it slipped 0.1pc to 83.65p.
Rolls-Royce gets go-ahead for £1.5bn ITP Aero sale
Rolls-Royce ITP Aero £1.5bn – JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
In more deal news this morning, Rolls-Royce has been given the green light by the Spanish government to sell its ITP Aero business for €1.8bn (£1.5bn).
The engineering giant will hand over the Spanish business – which builds aircraft engines and turbines – to a consortium of investors led by private equity firm Bain Capital.
The sale completes the company’s plan to raise at least £2bn and help rebuild its balance sheet, Rolls-Royce said.
The consortium acquiring ITP Aero, which has its headquarters in the Basque region, also includes Sapa and JB Capital.
Last year, Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East called the sale a “significant milestone” in its cash-boosting disposal programme.
Avast surges on £6bn takeover approval
Shares in Avast have soared to a record high after the competition watchdog waved through its £6bn takeover by Norton LifeLock.
The cybersecurity firm surged 42pc to the top of the FTSE 100. That’s its biggest jump ever.
Workers to suffer record wage squeeze as Britain plunges into recession
Britain is plunging into recession as the surging cost of living inflicts a long-term pay cut on struggling workers and wipes out the savings of more than two million families, one of Britain’s leading forecasters has warned.
Tim Wallace has more:
Soaring bills will force millions of people to use their savings or turn to borrowing to pay for the basics as inflation climbs to 11pc, according to the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (Niesr).
Around 5.3m households will have no savings at all by 2024, one in every five, and twice the current level. Another 1.7m will be left with less than two months of income in the bank, making them vulnerable to any financial surprises.
For 1.2m families, food and energy bills alone will exceed their disposable incomes, even before any other spending.
Real personal disposable incomes are predicted to fall by 2.5pc this year owing to a combination of higher costs and Rishi Sunak’s tax raids, marking the sharpest annual drop since records began in 1948.
Read Tim’s full story here
Hiscox to provide insurance for Ukraine grain corridor
Hiscox has revealed it’s part of a planned insurance consortium providing cover for ships taking grain out of Ukraine.
Trade body the Lloyd’s Market Association last month said a consortium could be formed to provide cover for grain shipments.
Aki Hussain, Hiscox chief executive, said the consortium hadn’t yet been finalised but said the company had committed its support.
It came as the Lloyd’s of London insurer plunged to a pre-tax loss of $107m (£88m) in the first half due to a steep decline in the value of its investment portfolio.
The company said losses from Ukraine and Russia were $48m net of reinsurance – a slight increase from a $40m estimate made in May.
Tinder boss quits
Tinder CEO – Stephen McCarthy
The chief executive of Tinder has quit a fortnight after launching a “trust and safety” drive to bring more women onto the dating app, writes Gareth Corfield.
Renate Nyborg was the company’s fifth boss since 2012. A May 2022 profile of Nyborg described her as a “stable, drama-free leader”. She was appointed to the top seat last September.
In a BBC interview in late July Ms Nyborg, 36, who met her husband on Tinder, said she was launching a drive to improve women’s safety on the app by providing better abuse reporting tools.
“Today we’re announcing the departure of Tinder CEO Renate Nyborg, and I have made some changes to the management team and structure that I am confident will help deliver Tinder’s full potential,” Match Group chief executive Bernard Kim said in a letter to shareholders.
Taylor Wimpey gains on ‘strong’ housing demand
Taylor Wimpey is one of the FTSE’s top risers this morning after it hailed “strong” demand for housing despite soaring build cost inflation and rising interest rates.
The housebuilder posted a 16.3pc rise in pre-tax profits to £334.5m for the first half of the year as completions came in slightly ahead of expectations.
As a result, it raised its expectations for full-year profits to the top end of consensus. Shares rose 2.5pc.
Taylor Wimpey also announced a cost-of-living payment of up to £1,000 to help staff with soaring fuel costs.
The group said it will make the payment to all employees on salaries of up to £70,000, meaning that around 90pc of its workforce are eligible.
EDF to cut nuclear output as French energy crisis deepens
EDF nuclear French output – LOU BENOIST / AFP
EDF has said it’s likely to make further cuts to its nuclear reactor output in a move that will exacerbate the country’s energy crisis.
The French company said that power stations on the Rhone and Garonne rivers will produce less electricity in the coming days, though there’ll be a minimum level of output to keep the grid stable.
It comes amid a heatwave sweeping Europe, which is limiting the company’s ability to cool its plants.
Under French rules, EDF must reduce or halt nuclear output when river temperatures reach certain thresholds to ensure the water used to cool the plants won’t harm the environment when put back into the waterways.
EDF, which is on the brink of nationalisation, has estimated that its nuclear output this year will be the lowest in three decades.
FTSE risers and fallers
The FTSE 100 has started the day on the back foot as investors remain cautious over interest rate rises ahead of tomorrow’s Bank of England meeting.
The blue-chip index lost 0.3pc in its third day of losses after strong gains in July.
Shares in cybersecurity firm Avast soared 42pc after the competition watchdog provisionally cleared its £6bn takeover by rival NortonLifeLock.
Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey gained 3.5pc after raising profit guidance to the top end of expectations amid “strong” housing demand even as interest rates rise.
The domestically-focused FTSE 250 edged up marginally. Hiscox tumbled more than 8pc after the insurer posted a pre-tax loss of $107.
Just Eat orders fall as pandemic boom fades
Just Eat Takeaway Katy Perry
Just Eat Takeaway has reported a drop in orders for the first half of the year as a pandemic-fuelled boom in demand faded.
Total orders fell 7pc in the first half of 2022 due to the lifting of lockdowns and fewer people ordering food to their homes.
However, revenue in the UK and Ireland rose 13pc amid a push to improve profits from individual food sales.
Just Eat forked out €414m (£346m) on marketing in the first six months of 2022 – a 40pc increase on last year – following a deal with US-based Grubhub and launching a costly advertising campaign with Katy Perry.
It also wrote down the value of US-based Grubhub by €3bn amid plunging stock market valuations and rising interest rates.
Jitse Groen, Just Eat’s chief executive, said:
After a period of exceptional growth, Just Eat Takeaway.com is now two times larger than it was pre-pandemic.
Whilst this growth required significant investment, we have continued to focus on executing our strategy to build and operate highly profitable food delivery businesses.
Avast gets green light for £6bn NortonLifeLock merger
The competition watchdog has provisionally given the green light for British cybersecurity firm Avast’s £6bn merger with NortonLifeLock.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it does not believe the tie-up raises competition concerns following an in-depth investigation.
While concerns were raised in its initial probe, the CMA said more detailed analysis found the merging businesses face “significant competition” from McAfee and a range of smaller rivals.
The watchdog has set a deadline of August 24 for responses to its provisional decision, with a final report due by September 8.
Kirstin Baker, chair of the CMA inquiry group, said:
Millions of people across the UK rely on cyber safety services to keep them safe online.
After gathering further information from the companies involved and other industry players, we are currently satisfied that this deal won’t worsen the options available to consumers.
As such, we have provisionally concluded that the deal can go ahead.
FTSE 100 slips at the open
The FTSE 100 has lost ground at the open following a slide on Wall Street sparked by renewed US-China tensions.
The blue-chip index slipped 0.3pc to 7,390 points.
Bain banned from UK contracts over ‘grave misconduct’ in South Africa
Management consultancy Bain & Co has been banned from British government contracts for three years because of its “grave professional misconduct” in a major corruption scandal in South Africa.
Cabinet Office minister Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Boston-based company he was not convinced it had taken its role in the scandal “sufficiently seriously” and branded its integrity “questionable”, the Financial Times reports.
The ban relates to Bain’s involvement in the so-called state capture scandal in South Africa, which relates to widespread corruption under former president Jacob Zuma.
The UK is the first western country to impose penalties on Bain, but the US is under pressure to follow suit.
Bain said it was “surprised and disappointed” at the decision and said it would consider options for a review.
It added: “In the meantime, we will continue to work with the Cabinet Office to ensure that we do what is required to restore our standing with the UK government.”
Meta bosses ditch Silicon Valley
Sir Nick Clegg’s decision to partly relocate to London is the latest in a string of departure’s from the Facebook group’s California headquarters.
Chief marketing officer Alex Schultz made the move earlier this year, while Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is set to shift to the company’s King’s Cross base.
Other bosses to abandon Silicon Valle are Guy Rosen, chief information security officer, who is now based in Israel, and Naomi Gleit, head of product, who is in New York.
Javier Olivan, head of growth, is dividing his time between California and Spain, according to the FT.
Mr Zuckerberg himself divides his time between California and his home in Hawaii, where he spent a lot of time early in the pandemic.
Read more on this story: Instagram chief relocates to London as Meta scrambles to counter TikTok
Sir Nick Clegg joins Silicon Valley exodus
Sir Nick Clegg is partly relocating to the UK, becoming the latest top Meta official to ditch Silicon Valley.
The former deputy prime minister turned social media executive will split his time between homes in London and California, the Financial Times.
It comes after Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said he’s moving to London, while chief marketing officer Alex Schultz has also made the move.
Sir Nick, who’s in charge of Meta’s dealings with governments around the world, has been candid about his reluctance to live in California. He’s said to be moving to be closer to his parents and for ease of travel to Europe and Asia.
5 things to start your day
1) Workers to suffer record wage squeeze as Britain plunges into recession Millions of households’ savings to be wiped out as inflation surges to 11pc, forecaster warns
2) HSBC looking at ‘alternative structures’ as break-up pressure grows Angry investors in Hong Kong call for the bank’s Asian operations to be spun-off
3) Record bookings at Airbnb as travel bounces back US company expects to deliver record revenue and profits in the next quarter
4) Star Observer columnist suspended after trans rights row Nick Cohen agrees to pause writing while GNM investigates allegations about his conduct by campaigner Jolyon Maugham
5) Ferrari to raise prices of luxury sports cars Booming demand has pushed up quarterly sales by 29pc
What happened overnight
Asia-Pacific bond yields followed US Treasury yields higher this morning and the dollar continued its climb after Federal Reserve officials signalled they are nowhere near done raising interest rates.
Yields were also helped as demand for the safest assets retreated following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan. The safe-haven yen continued its slide.
That lifted stocks in Asia, despite the slide on Wall Street overnight.
Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.5pc, rebounding from Tuesday’s two-week closing low, while Chinese blue chips jumped 0.9pc and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.8pc.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares edged 0.11pc higher. Taiwan’s stock benchmark was about flat, while Australian equities declined 0.5pc.
Coming up today
Corporate: Endeavour Mining, Ferrexpo, Hill & Smith Holdings, Hiscox, IP Group, Taylor Wimpey (interims)
Economics: Composite PMI (UK, US, EU), services PMI (UK, US, EU), retail sales (EU), producer price index (EU), factory sales (US)