China’s Xi to address key reform anniversary on Tuesday – Xinhua

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 7, 2018. Fred Dufour/Pool via BEIJING () – President Xi Jinping will make a major speech on Tuesday to mark the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, state news agency Xinhua reported. Xi will speak at a conference to be held at the Great Hall of the People from 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Tuesday, Xinhua said on Sunday.…

INSIGHT-Deep in the red: Chinese county pays price for vanity-project binge

RUCHENG COUNTY, China () – In the heart of an impoverished village in southern China, a life-sized statue of Mao Zedong sits on a platform adorned with intricate stonework, flanked by a diorama of Red Army soldiers and traditional brick-and-tile homes with curved roofs. Women visit a statue of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Shazhou village, Rucheng county, Hunan province, China December 3, 2018. Picture taken December 3, 2018. /Shu ZhangOfficials have spent a small fortune on the project that has transformed the village of Shazhou, in Hunan province,…

UPDATE 3-British minister warns Brexit is stuck as no-deal or referendum loom

LONDON () – Britain’s exit from the European Union was heading for an impasse, one senior minister said on Saturday, after a week in which Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win EU assurances on her deal and pulled a vote because UK lawmakers would defeat it. FILE PHOTO – British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news conference following a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 14, 2018. /Francois LenoirWith just over 100 days until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, Brexit remains up in…

UPDATE 1-Trump hails judge’s ruling against Obamacare as ‘great’

WASHINGTON () – President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed a court decision against Obamacare as “a great ruling for our country,” while a U.S. government official said the decision by a Texas judge would have no immediate impact on health coverage. A box of masks is shown in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. /Mike BlakeU.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday said that Obamacare, known formally as the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), was unconstitutional based on…

No immediate health coverage changes from Obamacare ruling -gov’t

() – There will be no immediate health coverage impact from a federal judge’s ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional, as it is expected to be appealed through higher courts, a government official said. A box of masks is shown in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. /Mike BlakeU.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday sided with a coalition of 20 states that argued requiring people to pay for insurance coverage…

UPDATE 1-Maldives police freeze bank accounts of ex-president Yameen as part of probe

FILE PHOTO: Maldives President Abdulla Yameen attends a signing meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 7, 2017. Fred Dufour/Pool via //File PhotoMALE () – Police in the Maldives said they have frozen the bank accounts of former president Abdulla Yameen as they investigate allegations by state bodies that he conducted “illicit” deals, some involving Chinese infrastructure projects, whilst leader. Yameen lost a presidential election in September and the new government of his successor, Mohammed Ibrahim Solih, seen as close to India, has been trying…

Europe must fight illiberal forces, Draghi warns

PISA, Italy () – The spread of illiberal ideology is threatening the euro but it is an illusion that leaving it would offer an easier path, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Saturday. European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi speaks during a news conference at ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany December 13, 2018. /Kai PfaffenbachWarning that a half-finished monetary union could be at risk in the next crisis, Draghi made the case for sweeping changes in how the currency bloc operates and spreads around financial risk. “The…

UPDATE 2-British minister warns Brexit is stuck as no-deal or referendum loom

LONDON () – Britain’s exit from the European Union was heading for an impasse, one senior minister said on Saturday, after a week in which Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win EU assurances on her deal and pulled a vote because UK lawmakers would defeat it. FILE PHOTO – British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news conference following a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 14, 2018. /Francois LenoirWith just over 100 days until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, Brexit remains up in…

UPDATE 1-Sri Lanka PM Rajapaksa resigns amid government shut down fears

COLOMBO () – Sri Lanka’s embattled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Saturday, only a month and a half after taking office and giving the country’s president political space to prevent an imminent government shutdown. Sri Lanka’s former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa attends a religious ceremony after he resigned from the prime minister post in Colombo, Sri Lanka December 15, 2018. /Stringer     The South Asian island has been in political limbo since President Maithripala Sirisena in late October replaced former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with Rajapaksa, who was then twice…

Ban on three Russian businessmen attending Davos forum lifted – RIA

MOSCOW, Dec 15 () – An official Russian delegation will travel to the Davos world economic forum after organisers of the event lifted an earlier ban on several Russian businessmen, the state-run RIA news agency cited a government source as saying on Saturday. Last month, the Financial Times reported that Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg and Andrey Kostin had been told to stay away from the high-profile forum, due to take place in January, due to caution over dealing with businessmen under sanctions from Washington. In response, Russia threatened to boycott…

UPDATE 1-Britain’s Hunt says version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament

Britain’s Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt arrives in Downing Street, London, Britain, December 4, 2018. /Henry NichollsLONDON () – Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that the British parliament could back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal if lawmakers received assurances from the European Union, but warned that a no deal Brexit was still on the table. May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop”, an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard…

UK’s Hunt says version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament

Britain’s Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt arrives in Downing Street, London, Britain, December 4, 2018. /Henry NichollsLONDON () – Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that the British parliament could back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal if lawmakers received assurances from the European Union, but warned that a no deal Brexit was still on the table. “When the dust has settled, the only way we’re going to get this through the House of Commons … is to have a version of the deal that the government has…

Sri Lanka’s newly appointed PM Rajapaksa resigns – party lawmaker, son

Sri Lanka’s former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa attends a religious ceremony after he resigned from the prime minister post in Colombo, Sri Lanka December 15, 2018. /Stringer COLOMBO () – Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Saturday, his son and a party lawmaker told , seven weeks after President Maithripala Sirisena appointed him in controversial circumstances. His son Namal Rajapaksa, also a lawmaker, said his father would make a special statement at 0830 GMT “He just signed the resignation letter in front of party members,” Shehan Semasinghe, a legislator…

China c.bank adviser says China should defend yuan at 7 yuan per dollar

A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. /Thomas White/IllustrationBEIJING () – China should not allow the yuan to fall below 7 per dollar or attempts to stabilize the currency will become more costly on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, Sheng Songcheng, an adviser to the People’s Bank of China, said on Saturday. Policy insiders told in October that China was likely to use its vast currency reserves to stop any precipitous fall through the psychologically important level of 7 yuan per dollar [CNY=CFXS] because…

UPDATE 2-China’s Nov home price growth slows as smaller cities cool

BEIJING () – Growth in China’s new home prices slowed in November as markets in smaller cities lost some of their heat, though the sector remained relatively resilient amid a broader slowdown in economic activity. Small fishermen’s homes are seen in Daya Bay district next to new buildings under development in Huizhou in China’s Guangdong province, August 11, 2017. /Clare JimAverage new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.9 percent in November from a month earlier, slower than the previous month’s 1 percent and the weakest since September,…

UPDATE 1-Robinhood’s checking plan could face regulatory scrutiny

WASHINGTON () – Financial technology startup Robinhood could face scrutiny by U.S. regulators over statements that its new checking and savings accounts are insured by an industry-backed protection fund. A photo illustration of Robinhood’s checking and savings accounts provided by Robinhood December 13, 2018. Robinhood/Handout via . The uncertainty over the new services underscores the regulatory gray area many new fintech companies operate in, as they look to use new technology to gain footholds in traditional financial services. Robinhood, which is valued at $5.6 billion and has gained popularity with…

UPDATE 2-U.S. federal judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional

() – A federal judge in Texas on Friday ruled the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, was unconstitutional based on its mandate requiring that people buy health insurance, a decision in a case that could reach the U.S. Supreme Court. A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro, San Diego, California, U.S., October 26, 2017. /Mike BlakeU.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of 20 states that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having…

UPDATE 1-China’s Nov home prices slow as domestic demand cools

BEIJING () – Growth in China’s new home prices slowed in November as domestic demand weakened though the sector remained relatively resilient in contrast to a deeper slowdown in broader economic activity. Small fishermen’s homes are seen in Daya Bay district next to new buildings under development in Huizhou in China’s Guangdong province, August 11, 2017. /Clare JimAverage new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.9 percent in November from a month earlier, slower than the previous month’s 1 percent and the weakest since September, calculations based on…

UPDATE 1-U.S. federal judge rules Obamacare unconstitutional

() – A U.S. federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday that the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional, a decision that was likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court. A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro, San Diego, California, U.S., October 26, 2017. /Mike BlakeU.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of 20 states that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire Obamacare law. O’Connor’s…

China’s new home prices rise 0.9 pct m/m in Nov

Small fishermen’s homes are seen in Daya Bay district next to new buildings under development in Huizhou in China’s Guangdong province, August 11, 2017. /Clare JimBEIJING () – China’s new home prices rose 0.9 percent in November from a month earlier, slower than a 1.0 percent increase in the previous month, calculated from data published on Saturday by the National Bureau of Statistics. On a yearly basis, average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities increased 9.3 percent, accelerating from the 8.6 percent gain in October. China’s massive property…

CVS defends settlement that allowed Aetna merger as judge assesses

WASHINGTON () – CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) defended on Friday an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department which allowed it to purchase health insurer Aetna for $69 billion, a settlement that a federal judge is still assessing. FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk outside a CVS store and pharmacy in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S. December 4, 2017. /Brian Snyder/File PhotoThe Justice Department approved the merger of CVS, a U.S. pharmacy chain and benefits manager, and Aetna in October on condition that Aetna sell its Medicare prescription drug plan business to WellCare Health Plans…

UPDATE 2-Intel, TPG in early talks to sell McAfee to Thoma Bravo -source

McAfee computer security software is shown for sale at a computer store in San Marcos, California, U.S., May 15, 2017. /Mike Blake() – Private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC is in early talks to buy security software company McAfee from TPG Capital and Intel Corp, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday. Talks are at an early stage and there is no guarantee they will lead to a deal, the source said. The talks were reported earlier by CNBC. Intel and TPG declined to comment, while Thoma Bravo…

UPDATE 1-Intel, TPG in talks to sell McAfee to Thoma Bravo for over $4.2 bln -CNBC

McAfee computer security software is shown for sale at a computer store in San Marcos, California, U.S., May 15, 2017. /Mike Blake() – Private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC is in early talks to buy security software company McAfee from TPG Capital and Intel Corp for more than $4.2 billion, CNBC reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. Talks may still fall apart and a deal announcement isn’t expected soon, according to CNBC. Intel, which paid $7.7 billion for California-based McAfee in 2011, completed the sale of a…

Intel, TPG in talks to sell McAfee to Thoma Bravo for over $4.2 bln -CNBC

Dec 14 () – Private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC is in early talks to buy security software company McAfee from TPG Capital and Intel Corp for more than $4.2 billion, CNBC reported here on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. Talks may still fall apart and a deal announcement isn’t expected soon, according to CNBC. Intel, which paid $7.7 billion for California-based McAfee in 2011, completed the sale of a 51 percent stake here in the company to TPG at a $4.2 billion enterprise value last year. Thoma…

‘Not just a small-island problem’: As planet warms, losses mount for all

KATOWICE, Poland (Thomson Foundation) – Climate change is turbo-charging losses from wilder weather and rising seas in rich countries as well as poor – and leaders must figure out how to handle that, experts said as U.N. climate talks in Poland neared their conclusion on Friday. “Loss and damage is no more just a small-island problem,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a key figure behind the Paris Agreement on global warming. “That countries cannot cope is more and more evident,” she said. Negotiators were working…

UPDATE 2-Vivendi calls for the replacement of five of Telecom Italia’s board members

(Adds Telecom Italia statement, details from Vivendi’s statement) PARIS/MILAN, Dec 14 () – French media giant Vivendi called on Friday for the replacement of five of Telecom Italia’s board members put forward by U.S. activist fund Elliott, citing a “substantial lack of independence”. The move is the latest twist in a months-long battle between Vivendi, which holds a stake of around 24 percent in Telecom Italia (TIM), and Elliott over how to revive Italy’s biggest phone group, an underperforming business saddled with 25 billion euros ($28.24 billion) of debt. The…

UPDATE 1-Vivendi calls for the replacement of five of Telecom Italia’s board members

(Adds details, context) PARIS/MILAN, Dec 14 () – French media giant Vivendi called on Friday for the replacement of five of Telecom Italia’s board members put forward by U.S. activist fund Elliott, citing a “substantial lack of independence”. The move is the latest twist in a months-long battle between Vivendi, which holds a stake of around 24 percent in Telecom Italia (TIM), and Elliott over how to revive Italy’s biggest phone group, an underperforming business saddled with 25 billion euros ($28.24 billion) of debt. The U.S. hedge fund wrested board…

UPDATE 1-Colombia court fines Odebrecht consortium $250 mln for graft

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of the Odebrecht SA construction conglomerate is pictured at its headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 3, 2018. /Paulo Whitaker/File PhotoBOGOTA () – A Colombian tribunal fined a consortium led by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] $250 million and banned it from government contracts for 10 years, saying the group used corrupt tactics to win infrastructure contracts. Odebrecht has been at the center of a massive Latin American graft scandal, acknowledging in 2016 that it bribed officials in a dozen countries. The company paid some…

UPDATE 1-Watchdog gives Europe’s insurers all clear in health check

* Tests show resilience to natural catastrophe shock * Results also tested for interest rate shocks * European insurers are extremely stable – GDV (Updates with details from the report) By Tom Sims FRANKFURT, Dec 14 () – Europe’s biggest insurers successfully withstood the latest tests of their ability to cope with severe market shocks, the European Union’s insurance watchdog said on Friday. The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) published results of this year’s stress test of 42 insurers, representing around 75 percent of the market. “On aggregate,…

UPDATE 1-EU banking watchdog says no-deal Brexit could disrupt payments

LONDON () – Although the main banks have stepped up preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit, UK-based payment firms used by European Union customers are not ready, the bloc’s banking watchdog said on Friday. The sun sets behind the Canary Wharf financial district of London, Britain, December 7, 2018. /Simon DawsonBritain’s parliament is deadlocked over a divorce settlement that Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with the EU before the country’s planned departure from the EU next March. The impasse has increased the possibility of Britain crashing out of the…