Business

BERLIN - The European Union is looking into ways of using the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday. The commission proposed on Wednesday a 9 billion euro loan to Ukraine to keep the country going as it struggles to fend off the Russian invasion and wants to set up a reconstruction facility for after the war. "Our lawyers are working intensively on finding possible ways of using frozen assets of the oligarchs for the rebuilding of Ukraine. I think Russia should also make its contribution," she told ZDF television. Von der Leyen also said she favoured coupling the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine with reforms needed for it to join the European Union. While Ukrainians see their future within the EU, certain standards have to be met for membership in areas such as the rule of law and in the economic and pol...
OSLO - Wage talks involving around 8,000 oil drilling workers in Norway broke down on Thursday, labour unions said, raising the risk of strike action that would disrupt oil and gas exploration. The talks between the Norwegian Shipowners' Association (NSA) and the Safe, Industri Energi and DSO unions will resume at a later date under the leadership of a state-appointed mediator, and could end in a strike if those negotiations fail. Any industrial action would most likely have only a marginal impact on production of oil and gas in the short-term, but could have a greater impact in the medium- to long-term as expansion projects and the start-up of new fields would be delayed. Companies affected by the talks include Transocean, Saipem, Odfjell Drilling, Maersk Drilling, Archer, Seadrill and others. The unions represent workers on mobile offshore units as well as platform drilling on permanent installations. Under N...
PARIS - French utility EDF said on Thursday it was pushing back the start date on its Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor to June 2027 and now estimated project costs in the range of 25 billion to 26 billion pounds ($31 to $32 billion). "The start of electricity generation for Unit 1 is targeted for June 2027, the risk of further delay of the two units is assessed at 15 months, assuming the absence of a new pandemic wave and no additional effects of the war in Ukraine," the company said in a statement. EDF last updated its Hinkley Point construction schedule in January 2021, when it said Britain's first new nuclear plant to be built in decades would be delayed by six months to June 2026 with the cost rising by an additional 500 million pounds to 22 billion to 23 billion pounds. Thursday's statement said the pandemic had severely constrained people, resources and supply chains, restricting efficiency. "In addition, the quantities...
SAO PAULO - Shareholders of Carrefour Brasil approved on Thursday the acquisition of Grupo BIG Brasil SA, according to a securities filing. The local unit of the French retail giant announced on March 2021 the acquisition of Grupo BIG for roughly 7.5 billion reais ($1.52 billion) from Walmart and investment firm Advent International. ($1 = 4.9310 reais) (Reporting by Peter Frontini)...
- Five foreign vice-presidents of Russia's Rosneft have resigned because of European Union sanctions forbidding European citizens or Russians living in the EU to work at the Kremlin oil major, six sources familiar with the matter said. They said the five - Didier Casimiro, Eric Liron, Zeljko Runje, Avril Conroy and Otabek Karimov - left Rosneft days ahead of fresh EU sanctions over the Russian assault on Ukraine that came into effect on May 15, the sources said. All five joined the state-owned Russian company in 2012 or early 2013, according to the Rosneft website. Rosneft declined to comment. Casimiro did not respond to a message. Liron, Runje, Conroy and Karimov could not be reached. Rosneft’s boss Igor Sechin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has long said he wants Rosneft to rival the likes of Exxon Mobil Corp by hiring foreign managers and using the best of western technology and expertise....
LONDON - British e-commerce company THG was at the centre of a bid battle on Thursday, rejecting an offer from two investment groups and learning that local entrepreneur Nick Candy was considering making a bid. The nutrition, beauty and e-commerce platform has been on a rollercoaster ride since it floated in 2020, with its shares down 80% this year due to rising costs and underwhelming earnings growth. Chief Executive Matthew Moulding said in April that he had rejected "numerous bids" after he hinted in an interview he could take THG private because floating the business had "sucked from start to finish". He did not give any details at the time. THG said on Thursday it had rejected a third unsolicited, highly preliminary and indicative non-binding proposal of 170 pence per share from Belerion Capital and King Street Capital Management. It said the proposal undervalued the company. THG's shares closed at 116 pence, valuing...
By Gram Slattery - Shell and Brazil's Porto do Açu have agreed to jointly build a green hydrogen plant, executives told , a deal that could result in the debut of the up-and-coming technology in South America's largest nation. Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed on Thursday and first disclosed to the news agency, the firms will build a 10-megawatt green hydrogen plant on the premises of Açu in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state. The plant is due to be completed by 2025. Green hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel made by using renewable power to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, increasingly promoted as a way to clean up emissions-heavy industries such as refining and agriculture. Açu, a massive industrial complex and port, is owned by Prumo Logistica SA, which is in turn controlled by U.S. private equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners. Two subsequent, optional phases in the project would bring pro...
- British entrepreneur Nick Candy's investment vehicle on Thursday said it was in the early stages of making a possible offer for THG, weeks after the e-commerce company disclosed that it had rejected "numerous" bids. Candy Ventures said it had until June 16 to either make a firm offer for THG or walk away under British takeover rules. (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)...
- Russia's largest lender Sberbank has ceased to be a shareholder in some non-financial assets, the company said on Thursday, as it reviews its strategy. Sberbank said it no longer owned Okko online cinema, Zvuk streaming service, SberCloud, online checkout terminals Evotor, and Speech Technology Center - a leading Russian developer of biometric technology. The lender added that it will maintain partnership relations with the companies and continue implementing joint marketing and operational activities. It didn't say who was the new owner, or owners, of the assets. In 2020, Sberbank said it wanted to become one of Russia's top three e-commerce players by 2023, in a shift away from its core banking business. (Reporting by ; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)...
WASHINGTON - Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said on Thursday the German airline strongly backs U.S. airplane manufacturer Boeing Co, which has faced criticism over program delays. Earlier this month, Lufthansa said it would buy 10 cargo planes including seven of the 777X version, also known as 777-8F and boosted its order for Boeing 787s. "Boeing as a symbol of America will get back to its feet," Spohr said. He added to airline officials in attendance "it's a good time to negotiate prices with Boeing right now." (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese)...
By Elizabeth Culliford and Katie Paul - WhatsApp is introducing free cloud-based API services in a push to get more businesses using the app, Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at the company's messaging event on Thursday. The messaging service, which has increasingly courted business users, is one of several platforms where Facebook-owner Meta has launched more shopping and business-focused features. Zuckerberg, speaking at Meta's "Conversations" event, said the offering would mean "any business or developer can easily access our service, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience and speed up their response time to customers by using our secure WhatsApp Cloud API hosted by Meta." WhatsApp already has an API, or type of software interface, for businesses to connect their systems, which generates revenue. Meta, which bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in a landmark 2014 deal, said...
By Kate Abnett BRUSSELS - Negotiators from European Union countries and lawmakers on Thursday clinched a deal on a law to fill Europe's gas storage ahead of winter, as they attempt to build a supply buffer and prepare for possible disruptions to Russian flows. Russia supplies 40% of EU gas and last month cut supply to Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to pay for the fuel in roubles. Gas powers factories, heats homes and produces electricity across Europe, and countries are racing to fill storage to protect against potential supply shocks. The deal would require EU countries to jointly fill gas storage at least 85% by November this year and in 2023, and to 90% in 2024 and 2025. EU gas storage is currently 41% full. Each country must put in storage enough gas to cover 35% of its annual consumption over the last five years. That system is designed to lessen the burden on countries with large gas storage sites, after Hungar...
STOCKHOLM - Sweden has an urgent need for further policy tightening so that the central bank does not have to take even tougher measures further ahead, Deputy Governor Martin Floden said on Thursday. "It is urgent to hike rates once or several times," Floden said. "Partly, because inflation now is high and we don't want it to become entrenched and the longer we wait, potentially the more we need to react," Floden said. A second reason was to gauge how the economy reacts to rate hikes, which have been very uncommon in recent years, he said. (Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Angus MacSwan)...
PARIS - Vivendi, the French media giant in which billionaire Vinvent Bollore's company has the biggest single stake, named Francois Laroze as its new chief financial officer and announced other changes to its board structure. Laroze will remain chief financial officer of Vivendi's Havas division, it said. "The entire Supervisory Board is very pleased to welcome new members to a renewed Management Board supporting Arnaud de Puyfontaine, its Chairman. It is also now able to count on an Executive Committee, bringing together a variety of talent and expertise from across the group," said Yannick Bolloré, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Vivendi. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Angus MacSwan)...
KOENIGSWINTER, Germany - The Group of Seven economic powers are determined to keep markets open, a draft G7 finance chief's communique said on Thursday in the face of moves from some countries to impose export controls on scarce agriculture commodities. "We are committed to keeping markets open and enhancing the resilience of agricultural and energy markets in line with climate and environmental goals," said the communique that is to be finalised before the meeting ends on Friday. It added that G7 central banks were closely monitoring the impact of price pressures on inflation expectations and would continue to calibrate the pace of monetary policy tightening according to economic data and in a clearly communicated way. (Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; writing by Leigh Thomas and Angus MacSwan)...
KYIV - Ukraine has exported 643,000 tonnes of grain since the start of May, considerably less than during the same period of last year when it sold 1.8 million tonnes abroad, the agriculture ministry said on Thursday. The volume has shrunk because of logistical problems since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and blocked Ukraine's Black sea ports, the main routes for Ukrainian grain exports. The ministry said May's volume included about 617,000 tonnes of corn, 16,000 tonnes of wheat and 8,000 tonnes of barley. It did not say how the grain was delivered. Senior agriculture officials have said Ukraine exported up to 300,000 tonnes of grain in March and 1.09 million tonnes in April. Ukrainian traders managed to export up to 6 million tonnes of grain per month before Russia's invasion. The ministry data showed that Ukraine has exported 46.51 million tonnes so far in the 2021/22 July-June season, versus 40.85 mi...
CAIRO - Egypt's central bank raised its key interest rates by 200 basis points on Thursday, it said in a statement. The bank's momentary policy committee increased the overnight lending rate to 12.25% from 10.25% during its meeting on Thursday, the statement said. The committee also hiked the overnight deposit rate to 11.25% from 9.25%. The bank also increased its discount and credit rates by 200 basis points to 11.75%, the statement said. (Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, Yasmin Hussein and Lilian Wagdy; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Angus MacSwan)...
FRANKFURT - Martina Merz, who has been chief executive of Germany's Thyssenkrupp since 2019, has received a five-year contract extension until March 2028, the company said on Thursday. "On behalf of the entire Supervisory Board I would like to thank Martina Merz for the resolute approach to the transformation of Thyssenkrupp," Supervisory Board Chairman Siegfried Russwurm said in a statement. "We are pleased that Ms. Merz has agreed to continue to drive forward this change process in her role as Chairman of the Executive Board of the Company." (Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Angus MacSwan)...
AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government on Thursday said it does not currently have plans to increase gas production at the Groningen gas field despite a delay to a project needed to help replace it. In a letter to parliament, the country's deputy economic affairs minister said that expected production for the year ending in October 2022 remains unchanged at 4.5 billion cubic metres of gas. The Zuidbroek facility, which is being built to add nitrogen to gas from Russia and Norway so it is usable for customers of the Groningen field, has been delayed, the letter said. (Reporting by Toby Sterling;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)...
By Karolina Tagaris and Vassilis Triandafyllou NAXOS, Greece - In a small factory on the Greek island of Naxos, workers are busy churning out its famous graviera cheese. At least, they are for now. A crisis unfolding on the island's farms is sparking fears that the locally-produced pale yellow wheels may soon start to disappear from the cheese counter. Standing among his cows in the scorching May sun, dairy farmer Stelios Zevlis says soaring prices of everything, driven by the war in Ukraine, have made feeding his animals unaffordable, forcing him to slaughter those too malnourished to produce enough milk. "Feed prices have tripled, fuel, fertilizer and electricity prices have doubled. These animals are putting us in the red right now," he said. "If the state doesn't help us there will be nothing left. The livestock will be gone." Local authorities say more than 300 cows and 30,00...