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News In Brief


    Russian finance minister to borrow less in 2018 due to lower deficit: Minister

    Moscow: Russia’s finance ministry plans to borrow less this year than in 2017 due to a smaller budget deficit and higher oil revenues, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told RBC TV in an interview on Wednesday.

    “The deficit is shrinking this year and total borrowing volumes will be less than in 2017,” he said. “The total amount of revenues... including from oil... will be enough to cover borrowing needs if we decide not to tap the market.”


    UN mediator invites Syria, opposition to Vienna talks next week

    Geneva: The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria said on Wednesday he had invited the Syrian government and opposition to a special meeting to be held next week in Vienna, Austria. 

    In a statement, Staffan de Mistura said that the Jan 25-26 meeting would focus on constitutional issues in Syria. “The Special Envoy looks forward to the participation of both delegations in this special meeting. He expects that delegations will be coming to Vienna prepared for substantive engagement with him and his team with a specific focus on the constitutional basket of the agenda towards the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2254...,” he said.


    Democrats say no Dreamer solution after Kelly meeting

    Washington: Two Democratic lawmakers said White House chief of staff John Kelly offered no legislative solutions to protect people brought to the United States illegally as children in a meeting on Wednesday with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

    Democratic Senator Bob Menendez told Reuters the White House is making unacceptable demands on immigration measures related to “Dreamer” protections. Luis Gutierrez, a Democratic congressman, said the caucus’ meeting with Kelly was positive but he offered no solution to the immigration standoff.


    Trump's ex-aide Bannon strikes deal to avoid grand jury testimony: CNN

    Washington: Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has struck a deal to be interviewed by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team instead of appearing before a grand jury, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to Bannon. 

    The New York Times said on Tuesday Bannon had been subpoenaed by Mueller to testify before a grand jury in an ongoing probe of alleged ties between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.


    Juncker says would like Britain to rejoin EU after Brexit

    Strasbourg: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that he hoped Britain would rejoin the European Union after it has left next year. 

    Speaking to the European Parliament, the EU chief executive, who will step down in late 2019, noted that the Union’s treaty provided not only for exit but also for admission to the bloc:  “Once the British have left under Article 50 there is still Article 49 which allows a return to membership and I would like that,” Juncker said. “I would like us now to treat each other with respect and not abandon each other.”


    Wall Street opens higher as tech stocks gain

    Bengaluru: Wall Street’s main indexes opened higher on Wednesday, led by gains in technology stocks including Microsoft and IBM. 

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 156.43 points, or 0.61 percent, to 25,949.29. The S&P 500 gained 9.75 points, or 0.351172 percent, to 2,786.17. The Nasdaq Composite added 33.63 points, or 0.47 percent, to 7,257.31.


    Storm to disrupt traffic at Amsterdam airport on Thursday

    Amsterdam: Air France-KLM has cancelled 228 European flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport planned for Thursday morning, as a storm is expected to disrupt traffic at the Dutch national airport. 

    KLM, the operator of the cancelled flights, on Wednesday said runway capacity at Schiphol will be severely restricted due to the storm, with heavy winds making ground handling operations impossible during a large part of Thursday morning. Passengers of other flights should expect delays throughout the day, KLM said.


    Russia, Turkey foreign ministers discuss Syria by phone: Russian foreign ministry

    Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the conflict in Syria and the humanitarian situation in a phone conversation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. 

    “The ministers discussed preparations for the Syrian National Dialogue Congress as a major milestone on the way to reaching a settlement in the Syrian political question,” the ministry said.


    US mortgage application volume hits six-week high: MBA

    New York: U.S. mortgage application activity rose to its strongest level in six weeks even as 30-year home borrowing costs jumped to their highest levels since March, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

    The Washington-based group said its index on mortgage requests rose 4.1 percent to 406.3 in the week ended Jan. 12, which was the highest since 408.3 in the Dec. 1 week. Average interest rates on 30-year conforming mortgages, or loans with loan balances of $453,100 or less, increased to 4.33 percent, up 10 basis points from the prior week. This was highest since 4.34 percent in week of March 31.


    Koreas to form unified ice hockey team, march together in Winter Olympics

    Seoul: The two Koreas agreed during rare talks on Wednesday to form a combined women’s ice hockey team to take part in next month’s Winter Olympics in the South, and march together under a unified peninsula flag at the opening ceremony, a joint statement released by Seoul’s unification ministry said. 

    North Korea will send a 550-member delegation of about 550, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondo players for a demonstration, the statement said. The delegation is scheduled to begin arriving in South Korea on Jan. 25, the statement said.


    Turkish military cargo plane crashes, kills three soldiers: Army

    Ankara: A Turkish military cargo plane crashed in the Western province of Isparta while on training exercises on Wednesday, killing three soldiers, the army said. 

    Two pilots and one technician were on the aircraft and all three were killed in the crash near the Egirdir Lake, the army said in a statement. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but communication with the plane was lost around 0950 GMT, the army said, adding that several emergency teams were dispatched to the crash site.


    Rolls-Royce considers sale of commercial marine operation

    London: Britain’s Rolls-Royce (RR.L) said on Wednesday it was considering the sale of its commercial marine business, which has been hit by weak demand in offshore oil and gas markets, as part of a restructuring of the company into three core units.

    The aero-engine maker said it would simplify the business into civil aerospace, defence and power systems units, with naval marine and nuclear submarines consolidated into defence and civil nuclear into power systems. Its shares jumped 6 percent.


    Keep going to work, May tells public service employees at Carillion

    London: British Prime Minister Theresa May urged workers employed by failed services and construction company Carillion for public service contracts to keep going to work confident that they will be paid.

    “This has been a difficult time for a number of people concerned about their jobs, about public services and about their pensions,” she told parliament. “I want first of all ... to provide reassurance to all employees who were working on public services for Carillion that they should continue to turn up to work confident in the knowledge that they’ll be paid for the work they’re providing.”


    WDM witnesses trade worth Rs 830.00 cr on NSE

    Mumbai: Wholesale debt market segment of the National Stock Exchange today witnessed a total turnover of Rs 830.00 crore in 24 trades.

    Top securities (non-repo) traded at the WDM: The 8.24 per cent government securities maturing in CG2027 traded value at Rs 100.00 crore at weighted yield of 7.62 per cent, the 91-days treasury bills (issue no.010318) traded at Rs 100.00 crore at weighted yield of 7.15 per cent and the 6.79 per cent government securities maturing in CG2027 traded value at Rs 75.00 crore at weighted yield of 7.42 per cent, an NSE release said.


    Futures higher as investors weigh bank earnings

    New York: US stock futures pointed to a higher open for Wall Street on Wednesday as investors assessed earnings of Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp.

    At 6:54 a.m. ET (1154 GMT), Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were up 141 points, or 0.55 percent, with 34,268 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis ESc1 were up 9.5 points, or 0.34 percent, with 158,007 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 were up 24.25 points, or 0.36 percent, on volume of 38,655 contracts.


    US dollar declines against rupee

    Mumbai: The US dollar declined against the rupee at Rs 63.88/89 per dollar but the pound sterling finished higher at Rs 88.15/17 per pound at the close of the Interbank Foreign Exchange (forex) market here today.

    Following are the Interbank forex and RBI rates: (In Rs per unit) Unit Interbank  RBI Reference US Dollar 63.88/89  US Dollar  Rs 63.9797 Pound Sterling 88.15/17  Euro  Rs 78.3495 Euro   78.02/04 Japanese Yen (100) 57.69/71


    Merkel in Paris on Friday to discuss Europe's future with Macron: Elysse

    Paris: German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Paris on Friday for a working meeting with President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the future of Europe, the French leader’s office said.

    France wants to inject new momentum into the two countries’ European Union reform efforts, which have been stalled by Merkel’s taxing coalition government talks at home. Their meeting will take place a day after Germany’s acting Finance Minister Peter Altmaier, one of Merkel’s closest allies, meets his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire for talks in Paris.


    Niger Delta Avengers say they will attack Nigeria's oil sector within days

    Yenagoa, Nigeria: Nigerian militant group Niger Delta Avengers said on Wednesday it planned to launch attacks on the country’s oil sector in the next few days. 

    The group claimed responsibility for most attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta in 2016, which cut Nigeria’s crude production from a peak of 2.2 million barrels per day to near 1 million barrels per day. That was the lowest level seen in Africa’s top oil producer in at least 30 years.


    India suffer 135-run defeat in second Test, lose series

    Centurion: India went down by 135 runs in the second Test against South Africa to lose the three-match series 0-2 here today.

    Chasing 287, India were bundled out for 151 in 50.2 overs. Resuming the day at 35 for three, India failed to recover in their second innings and surrendered to a potent South Africa pace attack. Lungi Ngidi was the pick of the bowlers for South Africa, picking up a six-wicket haul in the innings and a match haul of seven on debut. India had lost the first Test by 72 runs at Cape Town. The third and final Test will be played in Johannesburg from January 24. Brief scores: South Africa 1st innings: 335 India 1st innings: 307 South Africa 2nd innings: 258 India 2nd innings: 151 in 50.2 overs (Sharma 47; Ngidi 6/39).


    UK energy price cap laws should be passed by summer: Minister

    London: Britain hopes to pass laws to allow the capping of the most common form of gas and electricity tariffs for millions of households by the summer, a junior minister in the business department told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. 

    “The intention would be to introduce the bill shortly, with the intention of getting royal assent before the summer recess,” said Claire Perry, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Parliament usually begins its summer recess in mid to late July.


    ArcelorMittal-Votorantim tie-up will require more asset sales - report

    Sao Paulo: Brazil’s antitrust watchdog Cade will press steelmakers ArcelorMittal SA and Votorantim Siderurgia SA for more asset sales before approving their merger, newspaper Valor Economico reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources.

    The newspaper did not specify which assets Cade is targeting nor which the companies have proposed to sell. Cade, Votorantim and Arcelor did not respond to requests for immediate comment. In September, a body of Cade recommended rejecting ArcelorMittal’s proposed acquisition of Votorantim Siderurgia, saying a tie-up between two of Brazil’s top-three long steelmakers would hurt competition.


    ECB's Nowotny says strengthening euro "not helpful"

    Vienna: The euro’s recent strength against the U.S. dollar is ‘not helpful’, European Central Bank policymaker Ewald Nowotny said on Wednesday when asked about the currency’s recent gains. Nowotny added that the ECB had no exchange rate target so it would monitor the developments.

    The euro has gained 4 percent against the dollar in the past three months and now trades 4.5 percent above the level used in the ECB’s December macroeconomic projections.


    RBI sets rupee reference rate at 63.9797 against US dollar

    Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India today fixed the reference rate of the rupee at 63.9797 against the US dollar and 78.3495 for the euro. The corresponding rates were 63.7602 and 78.2019, yesterday.

    According to an RBI statement, the exchange rates for the pound and the yen against the rupee were 88.1256 and 57.74 per 100 yens, respectively, based on reference rates for the dollar and cross-currency quotes at noon. The SDR-rupee figure will be based on this rate, the statement added.


    Saudi Arabia says depositing $2 billion in Yemen central bank to back currency

    Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ordered a deposit of $2 billion (£1.4 billion) into Yemen’s central bank on Wednesday to shore up the weak Yemeni currency, the Saudi government’s media office said. 

    The move comes a day after the Yemeni prime minister issued a public plea for funds to prop up the rial and help stave off hunger in the war-torn country.


    South African commission says pursing criminal complaints against SAP, KPMG, McKinsey

    Johannesburg: South Africa’s companies registry office said on Wednesday it is pursuing criminal complaints against SAP, KPMG and McKinsey on suspicion that business they conducted with friends of President Jacob Zuma contravened the companies act. 

    The complaints were submitted to South African police in November and December last year and the matter is ongoing, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) said in emailed response to questions.


    After FT's Interserve report, Britain says none of its suppliers are comparable to Carillion

    London: Britain said that it does not believe any of its suppliers are in a comparable position to failed outsourcer Carillion after the Financial Times reported that the government was monitoring peer Interserve due to concern over its finances. 

    “We monitor the financial health of all of our strategic suppliers, including Interserve. We are in regular discussions with all these companies regarding their financial position,” a spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said. “We do not believe that any of our strategic suppliers are in a comparable position to Carillion.”


    Saudi government announces tender to build 60 schools, ease burden on state

    Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s education ministry announced on Wednesday a tender for private companies to build 60 schools, part of economic reforms designed to ease pressure on state finances. 

    Tatweer Buildings Co, a government-owned corporation which manages projects, said the winning bidder would be awarded a concession to design, build and maintain 60 schools in Jeddah and Mecca, ranging from kindergartens to secondary schools.


    South Africa prosecutors to serve McKinsey with court order on Wednesday

    Johannesburg: South African prosecutors will serve a court order on Wednesday to consultancy McKinsey and a local firm controlled by friends of President Jacob Zuma regarding a contract with state utility Eskom, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said. 

    Luvuyo Mfaku also said the NPA would meet lawyers from the two companies on Thursday. Officials are investigating whether McKinsey knowingly let funds from the utility be diverted to Trillian as a way of securing the deal to advise Eskom in 2016.


    Kapil Mishra marshalled out of Delhi Assembly

    New Delhi: Rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra was marshalled out of the Delhi Assembly here on Wednesday. 

    Mishra was forced out after he walked to near the Speaker with a poster in his hand and a cloth tied around his mouth, stating that the Aam Aadmi Party had "sold" the Rajya Sabha seats in the national capital.


    Melrose offers to buy UK's GKN for $10.2 billion'

    Turnaround specialists Melrose (MRON.L) on Wednesday made a firm offer to buy GKN (GKN.L) for 430.1 pence per share or 7.4 billion pounds ($10.18 billion) after meeting its shareholders, adding pressure on the British engineering company to accept the deal.

    GKN was under pressure from U.S. activist investor Elliott Advisors to open talks with Melrose having rebuffed a 405 pence per share cash-and-stock offer this month.


    Sensex hits 35,000 mark for first time

    New Delhi: Sensex tops 35,000 level for the first time, Nifty as well at a new high of 10,760.70 in late afternoon trade. 


    Interserve shares fall 14% after FT reports that UK is monitoring firm

    London: Shares in British construction and services firm Interserve dropped 14 percent after the Financial Times reported that ministers are “very worried” and have set up a team of officials to monitor the company.

    The FT report came after the collapse of competitor Carillion earlier this week highlighted concerns over the outsourcing sector in Britain. The Financial Times said that civil servants had monitored the contractor since a profit warning in September due to concerns over its financial health, citing government advisers and officials.



    Czech govt approves resignation after losing confidence vote

    Prague: The Czech government led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis approved its resignation on Wednesday, a spokeswoman said, a compulsory move after the minority cabinet lost a confidence vote on Tuesday.

    The government will remain in office pending negotiations on forming an alternative administration that could take weeks or months. Milos Zeman, who as president appoints prime ministers, has said he will give Babis another go at forming a government.


    China says Canada meeting on North Korea showed 'Cold War' mentality

    Beijing: China said on Wednesday a just concluded meeting in Canada about North Korea showed a Cold War mentality and would only undermine a settlement of the North Korea issue. 

    Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang made the comment at a daily news briefing.  China did not attend the meeting in Vancouver, saying it would not help with efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issu


    Syrian Kurdish PYD urges action against Turkish bombing of Afrin: statement

    Beirut: The main Syrian Kurdish political party called on world powers to stop Turkey’s bombardment of the Afrin region in northern Syria. 

    “Afrin will not be alone,” the PYD said in a statement on Wednesday, vowing that all northern and eastern Syria would stand with it.Ankara has warned of an imminent military operation in Afrin, one of three autonomous cantons that Kurdish forces and their allies have set up since the start of Syria’s conflict in 2011.


    Russia calls for talks between Afghan government and the Taliban

    Moscow: Russia called on Wednesday for urgent talks between the government in Afghanistan and the Taliban, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding Russia could host such talks. 

    “We strongly recommend that negotiations start as soon as possible... to put an end to the civil war,” the ministry said.


    British government monitoring Interserve after Carillion collapse - FT

    London: British ministers are “very worried” about contractor Interserve (IRV.L) and have set up a team of officials to monitor the company, following the collapse of competitor Carillion, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

    The Financial Times said that civil servants had monitored Interserve since a profit warning in September due to concerns over its financial health, citing government advisers and officials Interserve declined to comment on the report.


    Quake rattles Taipei but no reports of damage

    Taipei: A 5.7-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan’s capital Taipei on Wednesday with several witnesses reporting a slight rocking of buildings in the city’s business district.

    The quake struck about 19 km (11.81 miles) east of Taipei at a depth of 140 km (87 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. Taiwan’s tech giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said it did not suffer any damages, according to a spokesperson.


    Informa offers to buy events organiser UBM

    Britain’s Informa (INF.L) on Wednesday offered to buy events organiser UBM (UBM.L) for cash and stock. 

    UBM shareholders would receive 1.083 Informa shares for each UBM share and 163 pence in cash, the companies said. 



    Hyundai Motor Group to invest $21.6 bn over five years: FinMin

    Seoul: Hyundai Motor Group plans to invest about 23 trillion won ($21.56 billion) over the next five years in areas such as electric cars, self-driving automobiles and artificial intelligence, South Korea’s finance ministry said on Wednesday.

    Hyundai Motor Group will also target hiring about 45,000 people for the next five years, the ministry said in a statement after Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon’s visit to Hyundai Motor earlier on Wednesday.


    Volkswagen 2017 sales up 4.3% at 10.7 mn vehicles

    Frankfurt: Germany’s Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), vying for the top spot among the world’s largest carmakers, reported a gain in 2017 sales of 4.3 percent to 10.7 million vehicles.

    Rivals Toyota (7203.T) and Renault-Nissan (RENA.PA) are expected to announce full-year unit sales at the end of January and February, respectively. VW group’s gains in December, up 8.5 percent from a year earlier to 1.0 million vehicles, were driven by growth in China and Germany.


    North Korea to send 230-strong cheering squad to Olympics in South, says Seoul

    Seoul: North Korea will send around 230 people as a single cheering squad to the Winter Olympics in the South next month, South Korea’s unification ministry said in a statement after officials from the two Koreas held talks on Wednesday.

    North and South Korea have been talking since last week regarding Pyongyang’s participation in the Olympics. The ministry said the two sides exchanged opinions on several issues, including the size of the North Korean athletics team, joint cultural events and use of the Masikryong ski report in North Korea.


    Mamata remembers former CM Jyoti Basu on his death anniversary

    New Delhi: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee today remembered former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu on his seventh death anniversary. Basu, the longest serving chief minister of West Bengal, had passed away on January 17, 2010.

    The communist leader had served as the chief minister from 1997 to 2000. "Solemnly remembering former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu on his death anniversary," Banerjee wrote on her Twitter handle this morning. Basu, who was born on July 8, 1914, had led the Marxists to power for five consecutive times in West Bengal.


    Scandal-hit KPMG South Africa appoints new chairman

    Johannesburg: The South African arm of global audit firm KPMG [KPMG.UL] said on Wednesday it had appointed veteran public servant and former chairman of the Development Bank of Southern Africa Wiseman Nkuhlu as its chairman.

    KPMG sacked its South African leadership in September after it found work done for companies owned by the Gupta family, accused by a public watchdog of improperly influencing government contracts, “fell considerably short” of its standards.The Guptas, who are close to President Jacob Zuma, have consistently denied wrong-doing.



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