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FirstFT: Today’s top stories

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Facebook has agreed to restore Australian news on its platform “in the coming days” following an agreement with the government on amendments to a proposed law that would force Big Tech to pay for news.

The world’s largest social media company said on Tuesday it was satisfied that “a number of changes and guarantees” it had agreed with Canberra addressed its concerns over the bill.

The proposed law is being debated in parliament and could become a model for other governments’ efforts to reframe the relationship between dominant tech platforms and the media. Facebook had argued that the legislation “fundamentally misunderstood” its interaction with publishers and penalised the company “for content it didn’t take or ask for”.

It abruptly blocked the sharing of news in the country altogether last week, causing a public backlash after access to critical emergency services and health pages was cut off. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

When Covid-19 shook the world last year, CureVac seemed positioned to produce a “best-in-class” vaccine. Now, the company’s product is lagging up to six months behind. Here’s how it is trying to get back on track. (FT)

A transatlantic tug of love and a CEO brain haemorrhage has afflicted the Bill Gates-backed biotech
A transatlantic tug of love and a CEO brain haemorrhage has afflicted the Bill Gates-backed biotech © FT montage; Curevac AG; NIAID

Follow the latest Covid-19 news with our live blog and vaccine tracker.

In the news

Fed chair signals no early tightening of monetary policy Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, has told Congress there was “hope for a return to more normal conditions” this year but signalled that the central bank intended to maintain its heavy support of the economy. Treasury secretary Janet Yellen dropped hints of her priorities in a recent interview. (FT, NYT)

  • US stocks clawed back losses to end a wild trading day higher after Powell signalled he had no immediate plans to change monetary policy. Meanwhile, a commodities price surge raises fears of an “overshoot”. (FT)

HSBC shifts ‘heart of business’ to Asia Europe’s largest bank pledged to invest $6bn to expand in Hong Kong, China and Singapore and confirmed it would sell its US retail arm as it reported a 50 per cent fall in fourth-quarter profits — albeit with a resumption of dividends. The bank’s pivot to China is a recognition of the country’s decoupling from the west, writes our editorial board. (FT)

Jailed Indian environmental activist to be freed on bail Disha Ravi, the 22-year-old linked to Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, is to be freed on bail 10 days after she was arrested and accused of sedition for her efforts in supporting a protest by farmers against new agricultural laws. (FT)

Disha Ravi’s arrest reflects the authorities growing use of India’s sweeping colonial-era sedition law © Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Disha Ravi’s arrest reflects the authorities growing use of India’s sweeping colonial-era sedition law © Adnan Abidi/Reuters

US considers Russia sanctions over SolarWinds hack The Biden administration is planning a package of measures, including sanctions, to punish Russia over the SolarWinds espionage campaign that struck at the heart of the US government. Actions will also include measures to secure commercial networks and improve third-party services. (FT)

Ex-Capitol officers say they did not see FBI warning before riot Former security officials cited a failure in intelligence sharing between law-enforcement agencies during testimony in the first public hearing on the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, which left five people dead and resulted in scores of criminal charges. (FT)

Dumped WeWork co-founder set for gains ahead of Spac deal Adam Neumann could reap almost $500m in cash from his holdings in WeWork and emerge with a stake in a public company, less than 18 months after the high-profile failure of its initial public offering cost him his job as chief executive. (FT)

South African bank challenger Tyme to launch in Asia The banking start-up Tyme has raised $110m from investors to expand and launch a digital bank in the Philippines, in one of the biggest fintech investments spanning Africa and Asia. Sign up for our #fintech newsletter for the latest updates in the industry, delivered to your inbox every Monday. (FT)

Mitsubishi Motors set to reverse withdrawal from Europe The decision to have Renault produce Mitsubishi cars at its French factories, if finalised, would force the Japanese company to justify the U-turn — and face down accusations it yielded to a Renault campaign to protect French jobs. (FT)

Japanese companies stick with Myanmar The brewer Kirin pulled out of military-linked beer deal but for other Japanese corporations, it’s business as usual — to the extent that is possible while tens of thousands of civil servants, transport workers, medical staff and others protest against the military. (FT)

A group of protesters march in Yangon on Monday © Reuters
Protesters against Myanmar’s military march in Yangon, the country’s capital, on Monday © Reuters

The days ahead

China’s Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Thailand Thai FDA secretary-general Paisarn Dunkum approved China’s Sinovac jab on Monday ahead of the arrival of 2m doses of the vaccine planned for Wednesday. (Bloomberg)

Hong Kong budget When the territory releases its budget on Wednesday, it will include an unprecedented programme that will allow unemployed Hongkongers to be offered low-interest bank loans. (SCMP)

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam © AP

Andrew Bailey addresses Treasury Committee Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey appears before the UK Treasury Committee on Wednesday, which could also produce some market-moving comments. (FT)

What else we’re reading

The Apple dilemma for Japan’s car industry As the iPhone maker looks for a partner for its secretive project to build autonomous electric vehicles, Apple’s courtship is a double-edged sword for Japanese carmakers as it considers shifting from a parts supplier to an assembler like Foxconn writes Kana Inagaki. (FT)

Singapore data debacle When it emerged that Singapore’s police had used Covid-19 contact-tracing data for a criminal investigation, an online backlash erupted. The debacle has highlighted that the city-state’s drive to develop and deploy cutting-edge technology to build a smart city might not be as straightforward as expected. (FT)

Is McKinsey losing its mystique? The consultancy’s reputation has allowed it to have its pick of bright business school graduates and to charge a premium for their work, but “the McKinsey mystique” is fading fast following the firm’s involvement in litigation against a drugmaker at the centre of the US opioid crisis. (FT)

The question is playing out this week as senior partners vote on whether global managing partner Kevin Sneader should have a second three-year term
The question is playing out this week as senior partners vote on whether global managing partner Kevin Sneader should have a second three-year term © FT montage

Don’t let gig economy companies rewrite the law Gig economy companies such as Uber, battered by repeated legal defeats, want to change the law rather than changing their business model. If they succeed, then a handful of mostly lossmaking companies will change the world of work profoundly, writes Sarah O’Connor. (FT)

‘Seven minutes of terror’ — in half the time Nasa has released a short video of the descent of its Perseverance rover on to the surface of Mars last week, together with the first sound recordings from the surface of the red planet. (Nasa)

The fashionable dogs of Instagram Pets such as Tika the Iggy are proving more than just meme-worthy, they are fuelling the growth of pet apparel. John Lewis reports dog coat sales are up 420 per cent year on year, with dog jumper sales up 2,200 per cent. (FT)

Moncler’s signature quilted nylon vest, £305, store.moncler.com
Moncler’s signature quilted nylon vest, £305, store.moncler.com

Podcast of the day

Claer Barrett’s Money Clinic: Financial tips for the self-employed Have you ever dreamt of starting your own business? It might sound more fulfilling — but being an employee has some perks you might miss. Claer talks to Rhiannon, who set up her first business three years ago, offering virtual PA services. Even though she’s making a profit, Rhiannon is struggling to find a mortgage lender who will help her buy a property. Listen to this week’s episode of Money Clinic for more.

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