FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Taiwan sounded the alarm over China conducting large-scale joint air and naval exercises inside its air defence buffer zone, a move Taipei denounced as a “severe provocation” and a threat to regional peace and stability.

At a rare press conference called on Thursday night, the defence ministry said almost two dozen Chinese military aircraft and seven naval ships had operated between 7am and noon on Wednesday and Thursday in an area between Pratas, a Taiwan-controlled atoll in the South China Sea, and Taiwan’s south-western coast.

A Taiwanese former senior military officer said the Chinese move was the most serious threat to the island’s security since 1996, when Beijing fired missiles into waters just north and south of Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and threatens to attack it if the country refuses to submit to Beijing’s control indefinitely.

Elsewhere in China’s geopolitical conflicts, as relations sour between Beijing and the US, some of Wall Street’s most powerful financial institutions are still stepping up efforts to strike deals in China. Meanwhile, the US has revoked visas of 1,000 Chinese nationals since June. (FT, CNN)

Coronavirus digest

  • Singapore Airlines Group has unveiled plans to shed 4,300 jobs as the south-east Asian carrier seeks to cope with the debilitating pandemic crisis.

  • The European Central Bank has left its monetary policy unchanged as it assesses the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The US Senate failed to pass a “skinny” coronavirus aid bill that would have provided $300bn in new aid, as Democrats try to secure more funding.

  • AstraZeneca is still on target to submit data on its Covid-19 vaccine candidate to regulators before the end of the year, the company’s chief said.

  • Japan’s stadiums have welcomed back sports fans — as long as they keep quiet. (FT, Reuters, New York Times)

Globally, the payout from dividends — a vital source of income for pension funds, charities and foundations — fell by $108bn in the second quarter of 2020, the biggest drop since 2009, according to the investment group Janus Henderson. Follow our live blog.

In the news

EU threatens legal action over UK Brexit treaty breach Brussels told the UK on Thursday to immediately scrap its plans, as the European Commission gives Britain until the end of September to withdraw its proposed internal market bill. Micheál Martin, Ireland’s prime minister, told the FT the UK’s move risks forfeiting the EU’s trust. (FT)

Citigroup becomes first big Wall Street bank to be run by female CEO Jane Fraser will succeed Mike Corbat, the US bank announced on Thursday. The succession was teed up by the Scottish woman’s appointment as Citi’s president last year. (FT)

Jane Fraser’s appointment is a big moment for Wall Street, which remains male-dominated in its top ranks © Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg

LVMH retaliates against Tiffany by preparing lawsuit The French luxury group alleged that the US jeweller has mismanaged business during the Covid-19 crisis so significantly that was forced to reconsider its $16.6bn takeover bid. The French government’s request that LVMH delay the deal was reportedly only advice, not an order — contradicting LVMH’s earlier statement. (FT, Reuters)

US accuses Giuliani ally of being ‘active Russian agent’ The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on a Ukrainian politician who helped Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani investigate Joe Biden. Microsoft said on Thursday that Russian hackers are targeting both major US political parties. Twitter, meanwhile, has toughened up its policy on misleading election posts. (FT)

Use our US election poll tracker to see how the latest state-by-state polling data would translate into electoral college votes and use FT’s interactive calculator to zero in on the crucial battleground states.

Yum China shares drop on Hong Kong debut Shares in the group, which operates KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in the world’s second-biggest economy, slipped as much as 6.3 per cent on Thursday, as the market struggled to digest the latest “homecoming” listing of a Chinese company. Elsewhere in the Hong Kong market, police detained 15 people over Next Digital stock surge. (FT)


Some traders said there were concerns around Yum China’s growth prospects © Bloomberg

India and China meet to defuse Himalayan border tensions The foreign ministers of the two countries met for talks in Moscow on Thursday in an attempt to defuse the military stand-off along their disputed border, just days after the countries accused each other of firing shots along the frontier. Expectations for the talks were muted, analysts said. (FT)

India’s Reliance Retail in talks to sell stake Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds, including the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, are in talks to buy a stake in the retail arm of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries empire. The Indian billionaire is also reportedly in talks to sell a roughly $20bn stake to Amazon. (FT, Bloomberg)

Fire at Beirut’s port, US west coast wildfires rage A huge fire broke out in the ruins of Beirut port on Thursday, sending black smoke billowing over a city still traumatised after one of the biggest chemical explosions in modern history five weeks ago. Historic wildfires in California, Washington and Oregon turned the sky orange at midday on Wednesday. (FT)


Smoke and ash mixing with cooler air from the Pacific Ocean in effect blocked sunlight all day on Wednesday © Reuters

The day ahead

Anniversary of September 11 Friday marks 19 years since the terror attacks on New York and Washington. Read an oral history of 9/11 from those aboard Air Force One that day. After the communal grief the US felt after September 11, why does the country’s pain feel so splintered during a crisis that has killed 60 times as many Americans? (Politico, Atlantic)

How will markets react to a Covid-19 vaccine? Join the FT’s Hannah Kuchler and Colby Smith as they discuss science, the economy and the race to recovery in a series exploring our new economic reality on September 15. Sign up here.

What else we’re reading

Buffett could lead other money managers into Japan The Tokyo stock market is a bit like an old curiosity shop, writes Leo Lewis. Everyone knows there are bargains galore, but who can be bothered to study the cluttered and poorly labelled shelves? Berkshire’s investment in Japanese trading houses highlights the case for putting in the work. (FT)


Warren Buffett during a visit to Japan in 2011. Berkshire Hathaway has built 5% stakes in each of Japan’s five biggest trading houses © REUTERS

A switch to medical equipment shifts labour relations Ford’s shift to producing medical supplies revealed a subtle but striking shift in labour relations, writes Gillian Tett. Despite the automotive sector’s historically terrible tensions between unions and bosses, the carmaker was flooded with offers to help convert assembly lines for the Covid-19 fight. (FT)

What Freidman missed To mark the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s landmark essay on stakeholder primacy, Leo Strine Jr, former Delaware Chief Justice, and Joey Zwillinger, Allbirds co-chief executive, warned of shareholder capitalism’s dangers to social equality. (NYT)

Post-Brexit UK must respect the rule of law The author of Magna Carta and habeas corpus likes to style itself the mother of parliaments. But Boris Johnson has proven unimpressed by history when it gets in his way, Philip Stephens writes. (FT)


© Ingram Pinn/Financial Times

How a retail options craze fuelled SoftBank’s ‘whale’ trade SoftBank’s big US technology stocks buy this summer, worth a notional value of about $30bn, have stirred theories that the Japanese conglomerate intensified the Nasdaq’s summer rally and contributed to its reversal. Meanwhile, retail traders have spent almost $40bn on similar trades in the past month. (FT)

QAnon cult shows America should fear the enemy within Mention terrorism and most Americans will think of Islamist extremists, but we should be far more worried about far-right threats, writes Edward Luce. Two-thirds of US terrorist incidents last year were carried out by far-right homegrown extremists, and many were inspired by QAnon. (FT)

Myanmar election will fall short of democratic standards The November 8 poll results are already near certain: another five years of Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership. But with power skewed heavily in favour of the ethnic majority, a shadow is cast over the election’s credibility. (FT)


Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy hold 80 per cent of the elected seats in parliament © Thet Aung/AFP/Getty

Statistics, lies and the virus Two contrasting visions of statistics emerged in 1954: one as a trick, one as a tool. Tim Harford outlines five lessons the pandemic can teach us about statistics — and vice versa — if we are willing to learn. (FT)

Digital fashion China holds the key to the fashion industry’s recovery. The number of viewers who watched Louis Vuitton’s virtual Paris men’s fashion week on Chinese platforms Weibo, Douyin and Tencent exceeded those who watched on Vuitton’s website by millions. The brand vs bland battle explains why so many “disruptive” start-ups look the same. (Axios, Bloomberg)

Podcast of the day

Rachman Review: Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic success Israel has taken a step towards conciliation with the Arab world without solving the Palestine question. Gideon Rachman talks to author Anshel Pfeffer about whether an agreement with the United Arab Emirates is a triumph for the Israeli prime minister. (FT)

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