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FirstFT: Today’s top stories


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America’s top diplomat Antony Blinken has rejected claims the US is entering a cold war with China during a visit to London to discuss with G7 counterparts how best to respond to the challenges posed by Beijing.

In an interview with Financial Times editor Roula Khalaf for The Global Boardroom, Blinken said he resisted “putting labels on most relationships including this one, because it’s complex”.

“This is not about initiating a cold war, this is all about doing our part to make sure that democracy is strong, resilient, and meeting the needs of its people,” he said, referring to Washington’s intention to hold a “democracy summit” later in the year.

Joe Biden, US president, has promised to “win” the 21st century in what he has portrayed as a “battle” between democracies and autocracies and has pointed to Chinese activities that the US says are damaging the international order.

Coronavirus digest

  • Pfizer sharply lifted sales forecasts for its Covid-19 vaccine, raising full-year revenue projections from the jab from $15bn to $26bn after reporting a $3.5bn contribution in the first quarter.

  • Emergency medical aid is pouring into India from around the world as the government seeks to fend off criticism of the pace of supply distribution. Some US business leaders, alarmed by the Biden administration’s initial response, mobilised their own aid efforts for India.

  • The Indian Premier League has been suspended after several cricketers and staff tested positive for Covid-19.

  • Melinda Gates has called on wealthy nations to stop “hoarding” coronavirus vaccines.

  • Goldman Sachs told its bankers in the US and UK that they should be ready to return to the office next month.

Follow our pandemic live blog and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter to get Covid-19 news delivered to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

In the news

UK-India virtual summit agrees ‘2030 road map’ The UK and India have outlined a plan to strengthen bilateral ties in key areas such as trade, education and defence, as London announced that the two countries had agreed investment deals worth almost £1bn.

Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi at a G7 summit in 2019. Johnson said the deals would take the relationship between the UK and India to ‘new highs’ © Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images
Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi at a G7 summit in 2019. Johnson said the deals would take the relationship between the UK and India to ‘new highs’ © Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images

Yellen says US rates may have to rise to prevent ‘overheating’ US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen warned on Tuesday that interest rates may need to rise to keep the US economy from overheating, comments that exacerbated a sell-off in technology stocks.

General Electric shareholders reject CEO pay deal General Electric shareholders voted against chief executive Larry Culp’s $230m pay package on Tuesday, extending a wave of investor activism over big bonuses at US companies this year.

Philippine diplomat apologises for Twitter rant against China Foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr said he was sorry for calling China an “ugly oaf” in an explicit rant demanding that Chinese ships leave an area of the South China Sea that both nations claim. Locsin said he was informed that only the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, is allowed to curse. (SCMP)

Mexico City railway bridge collapses At least 24 people died, including several children, and 79 were taken to hospital when an elevated section of the Mexico City metro collapsed without warning on to a busy road late on Monday.

Telenor writes off $782m Myanmar business following coup Norway’s Telenor has written off its entire $782m investment in Myanmar but insisted it would remain in the country for now despite internet shutdowns, pressure on staff and deteriorating operating conditions since a military coup in February. 

Women central bankers want action on ‘hidden barriers’ Two of Europe’s most senior female central bankers — Isabel Schnabel, executive board member of the European Central Bank, and Margarita Delgado, deputy governor of the Bank of Spain — called for more decisive action to promote women’s careers in economics and improve decision-making at their institutions.

Isabel Schnabel, left, and Margarita Delgado say central banks need a strategy to hire and promote more women © FT Montage/Reuters/Europa Press via Getty Images
Isabel Schnabel, left, and Margarita Delgado say central banks need a strategy to hire and promote more women © FT Montage/Reuters/Europa Press via Getty Images

The day ahead

Indonesia GDP Data will be released on Wednesday on the country’s gross domestic product during the first three months of the year. GDP is expected to contract between 1 per cent to .01 per cent from a year earlier. (Reuters)

Facebook to announce decision on Trump’s account The social platform’s oversight board will state whether Donald Trump will have his now-suspended account reinstated. The former US president was permanently banned from Twitter. (NYT)

What else we’re reading

Ho casino empire emerges from shadow of late patriarch Stanley Ho, the late legendary gambling tycoon, left behind a complex inheritance — four recognised partners and 17 children. With one of his daughters now heading his Macau gaming company, SJM Holdings, there are questions about whether she can chart a new course.

Sanjeev Gupta’s ‘spiritual home’ Whyalla left on edge The steel magnate once called Whyalla, a rust-bucket Australian steel city, a “diamond in the rough” and unveiled plans to invest billions of dollars. But that grand vision remains unfulfilled. Instead, Whyalla is one of several steel cities plunged into uncertainty by the gathering crisis at GFG Alliance.

The future of the Gates Foundation Their 27-year marriage may be “irretrievably broken”, but there are still questions for Bill and Melinda Gates over the future direction, scale and governance of the philanthropic organisation they set up together. FT’s Andrew Jack breaks down the factors involved in its future endowment.

Treemap showing Gates Foundation funding by area, Year ending Dec 31 2019 ($bn) Global development 1.7 Global health 1.5 Global growth and opportunity 0.7 Global policy and advocacy 0.5 US programme 0.5 Other programmes 0.2

Australia wrestles with its coal mining dilemma In Australia, the world’s second-biggest exporter of coal by volume, discussions around phasing out fossil fuels remain contentious and risk inflaming the nation’s “climate wars” — a bitter 15-year battle between conservatives and progressives which has contributed to the ousting of three prime ministers in recent years.

Will regulators deflate the Spac boom? Special purpose acquisition companies have become the driving force of capital markets and dealmaking over the past year. But Spacs have suddenly lost their lustre — not least in the eyes of regulators. Meet the man with more Spacs than anyone. (FT, WSJ)

Workers can use their voice if they come together The gift that 2020 gave us was space and a chance to work out what is good and bad in our lives and reimagine it to be more sustainable. Wherever you sit in the “at home or five days in the office” debate, it’s clear flexible working is a battle for equality.

Podcast of the day

Investment masterclass with Merryn Somerset Webb In this special episode of the Money Clinic podcast, columnist Merryn Somerset Webb chats to Claer Barrett about her personal investment strategy — and the forces she believes will shape the stock market in the years to come.

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