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Angela Merkel has expressed opposition to the Biden administration’s proposal to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, saying it would have “serious implications” for vaccine production worldwide.

The German chancellor said the limiting factors in vaccine supply were “production capacities and the high quality standards, not the patents”.

Indeed, there is “no evidence” that other companies would suddenly be able to make the vaccines if the patented intellectual property was released, according to Sir Robin Jacob, chair of intellectual property law at University College London.

The chief executive of Moderna was of a similar mind. Stéphane Bancel said he “didn’t lose a minute of sleep” following the US government’s decision to support the suspension of Covid-19 vaccine patents, arguing
that there were not enough production sites or skilled workers to be able to rapidly increase the supply of mRNA vaccines such as Moderna’s.

The decision of Katherine Tai, US trade representative, to issue support for waiving Covid vaccine patents came as an unwelcome surprise to Big Pharma as Alan Beattie details in Trade Secrets.

The FT is revamping its Trade Secrets newsletter from Monday. Expect more on the inside story of global trade, with punchy and pithy analysis from a team of FT correspondents led by Alan Beattie in Brussels and Aime Williams in DC, delivered straight to your inbox at 7pm HKT Monday to Thursday. Click here to sign up.

Coronavirus digest

  • India’s huge wave of Covid-19 infections has hit the international shipping industry, which relies on the country for seafarers.

  • Has Covid-19 changed tourism for good? Luxury hotels operators such as Mandarin Oriental believe so. The owner of the Madrid Ritz, Spain’s first luxury hotel, is betting that the post-pandemic world will be more suited to high-end tourism.

  • As western economies prepare for a vaccine-induced rebound, parts of Asia are still paralysed by the pandemic.

Line chart of GDP rebased (2019 = 100) showing Asian economies were less affected by the early stages of the pandemic

Follow our 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

China hits out at G7 leaders over Taiwan statement China has accused G7 leaders of meddling in its internal affairs after the group of leading industrialised nations backed participation by Taiwan at World Heath Organization forums and criticised Beijing’s record on human rights and erosion of democracy in Hong Kong.

Fed warns of hidden leverage lurking in financial system The US Federal Reserve has warned that existing measures of hedge fund leverage “may not be capturing important risks”, pointing to the collapse of Archegos Capital as an example of hidden vulnerabilities in the global financial system.

Olympics sponsors duck questions over Beijing 2022 Multinational companies sponsoring the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb, Panasonic, Toyota, Samsung and Alibaba are evading questions about their participation as China comes under intense pressure over the repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Singapore ranked top spot for arbitration Singapore has for the first time taken the top slot, along with London, as the most popular seat to conduct international arbitration, according to a new study.

Gary Gensler warns against consolidation in US markets The Securities and Exchange Commission chair told lawmakers his staff would advise on ways to promote more competition in markets, warning that consolidation in the securities wholesaling and brokerage industries could lead to market “fragility”. In prepared remarks, Gensler expressed concern about the prominent role Citadel Securities and other big trading firms are playing in US equity markets. (MarketWatch, FT)

Nintendo warns global chip shortage to hit Switch production The Japanese gaming company said that production of its popular Switch console could be hit by global chip shortages, following a similar warning from rival Sony last week. At its full-year results, Nintendo forecast a 12 per cent drop in sales of its flagship Switch in the financial year ending in March 2022.

Yale endowment chief dies aged 67 David Swensen, the head of Yale University’s endowment who helped reshape how institutions manage their money, has died from cancer aged 67. The pioneering manager helped revolutionise how institutions control their money.

David Swensen’s approach was so successful it revolutionised how endowments and many other institutional investors allocated their money © Peter Foley/Bloomberg
David Swensen’s approach was so successful it revolutionised how endowments and many other institutional investors allocated their money © Peter Foley/Bloomberg

The day ahead

China international trade figures Data, to be released today, is expected to show that China’s exports growth slowed in April as demand dropped off overseas. (Reuters)

US labour data The US Department of Labor releases its non-farm payroll data for April on Friday. March data marked a sharp improvement from the previous month, but many economists surveyed by Bloomberg are optimistic that the number of new jobs will climb yet again.

What else we’re reading

A harrowing brush with Covid as India is ravaged As a foreign correspondent, Amy Kazmin’s writes that her job is “to tell India’s stories, not be part of them.” But when she started feeling feverish while writing an article about Covid-19 vaccine policy last month, she had a gut feeling that the virus had found her.

Bring back the business lunch As HR teams plan for the return to the office, what workers really need is to gather in small groups, to bond quickly, deeply and efficiently. Presentations are much better done online. What we really need is to chat, to flirt, to exchange inconsequential gossip, to laugh, share stories and maybe get a little messy, writes Tim Hayward.

The west is in a contest, not a cold war, with China Instead of complaining about the economic coercion inherent in, say, Beijing’s Belt and Road plan, the G7 should present its own development projects to persuade non-aligned nations that it has a better offer, writes Philip Stephens. A timetable to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 would be a good start.

The death throes of American conservatism Trump’s influence is destroying a political tradition that used to value truth-telling, writes Edward Luce. Liz Cheney, one of the most conservative Republican lawmakers, stands to be ejected as number three in the party’s leadership for disagreeing with Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Three months on from Myanmar’s coup Headlines in Myanmar’s military newspapers today boast of a “thriving” economy and say that democracy will return soon. But there are no signs of the aforementioned prosperity in the nations streets, where citizens walk with fear of being arrested by the junta for “no reason at all.” (NYT)

Get ready for the new workplace perks Pre-pandemic perks of gyms and free meals are being replaced by flexible hours, free health programmes, unlimited holiday and debt relief in the post-Covid era. “People don’t want free coffee, but they might need insurance now, faster broadband,” says one tech consultant.

The pandemic has catalysed a fundamental shift in employee values — from wanting games, food and beer at work and travel perks, to financial aid and advice, flexible hours and wellness apps
The pandemic has catalysed a fundamental shift in employee values — from wanting games, food and beer at work and travel perks, to financial aid and advice, flexible hours and wellness apps © FT illustration

Video of the day

Why sustainable ETFs are on the rise ESG-focused exchange traded funds are grabbing market share, says the FT’s ETF news editor Emma Boyde. But why are investors moving to sustainable ETFs and what are the pitfalls?

For the latest news and analysis on ESG and responsible business subscribe to our Moral Money newsletter, delivered every Wednesday and Friday.  

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