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FirstFT: Today’s top stories


FirstFT: Today’s top stories

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AT&T has agreed to spin off and combine WarnerMedia with its rival Discovery in a multibillion-dollar deal to create a media empire that has the programming heft to compete with Disney and Netflix in a global streaming race.

The deal comes just three years after AT&T paid $85.4bn for the owner of CNN, HBO and Warner Bros and reflects the breakneck pace of change for traditional US media groups attempting to reinvent themselves as streaming services.

Under the proposed tie-up, one of Hollywood’s most prized portfolios — including Warner Bros film and television studios, the HBO network and a portfolio of cable channels including CNN — will be brought together with the “real life” output of Discovery, whose brands range from sport and wildlife to home renovation.

David Zaslav, Discovery’s long-serving chief executive, will lead the combined group, which will be 71 per cent owned by AT&T.

AT&T over the past decade has tried to move beyond its mobile, broadband and wireline phone businesses to be a serious Hollywood player. Instead, its two big acquisitions — Time Warner and DirecTV in 2014 for $67bn — proved to be millstones, says the Lex column.

Coronavirus digest

  • The price of gold rose to its highest level in more than three months on Monday after a US inflation scare last week and a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in parts of Asia rattled investors.

  • A leading Indian scientist has resigned from a government-appointed Covid-19 task force days after publicly criticising Narendra Modi’s government.

  • The EU’s largest countries are lifting restrictions but epidemiologists worry the shift is coming too soon. Brussels plans to throw its weight behind a new push to expand vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

  • Matt Hancock, UK health secretary, expressed confidence that vaccines worked against the variant detected in India, which is surging in London and north-west England.

  • GlaxoSmithKline said it was banking that it can come back from behind in the race for a Covid-19 vaccine after releasing positive trial data with partner Sanofi of France.

Follow the latest on our live blog, and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

In the news

Israel steps up Gaza attacks Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip stretched into a second week on Monday as talks to end the violence continued between Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and the US. The conflict has rattled Israel’s ties with a third of the Arab world, but it may have resurrected Benjamin Netanyahu’s political fortunes. “Together we count out loud the explosions” — Gazans describe the terror.

A father carries his wounded daughter from the rubble of a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza
A distressed father carries his wounded daughter from the rubble of a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Sunday © Haitham Imad/EPA/Shutterstock

Citi names new head of European investment banking Ignacio Gutiérrez-Orrantia has been named as Citigroup’s new head of investment banking operations in Europe, as the US lender makes a push to displace JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs as the top-earning bank in the region. Meanwhile, a top banking analyst has warned that US banks could shed 200,000 jobs or 10 per cent of their workforce over the next decade.

Asset managers express caution on cryptocurrency UBS Wealth Management, Pimco, T Rowe Price and Glenmede Investment Management have raised doubts over the future of cryptocurrencies as an asset class following recent bitcoin price volatility triggered by Elon Musk. Bitcoin traded at just above $44,000 on Monday, down about $20,000 from the record high it hit just a month ago. 

Spacs lose their deal ‘pop’ as fever fades Shares in special purpose acquisition companies are sliding following takeover announcements, a marked reversal from previous enthusiasm for the vehicles, which could threaten their ability to do deals.

Microsoft investigated Gates over ‘intimate relationship’ Bill Gates denied that Microsoft’s investigation into an “intimate relationship” with an employee two decades ago had any impact on his decision to leave the software company’s board last year.

Indonesia’s Gojek and Tokopedia agree $18bn merger Indonesia’s two biggest start-ups have agreed a merger that will create an $18bn food delivery, ride-hailing and ecommerce group with reach across south-east Asia. Separately, JD Logistics, the delivery unit of Chinese ecommerce group JD.com, will seek to raise up to $3.4bn in a Hong Kong IPO this year.

Jimmy Lai’s Hong Kong media group in doubt A Hong Kong media company controlled by Jimmy Lai halted trading of its shares on Monday after authorities froze the jailed pro-democracy campaigner’s assets under the territory’s national security law. The halt came as Lai and nine other activists pleaded guilty to a charge of organising an “unauthorised assembly”.

China lands rover on Mars for the first time Chinese state media reported that the lander and the rover from the Tianwen-1 unmanned probe reached Mars on Saturday. The FT View is that the international community should establish norms of governance and laws in space.

A depiction of a Chinese lander in a Mars-like environment in Beijing. China reported its spacecraft and accompanying rover landed on the red planet early on Saturday morning © AP
A depiction of a Chinese lander in a Mars-like environment in Beijing. China reported its spacecraft and accompanying rover landed on the red planet early on Saturday morning © AP

The day ahead

Covid restrictions ease Indoor hospitality will reopen in the UK from today, despite concerns about the variant that was detected in India. England, Wales and Scotland will also allow international travel to resume. Turkey will begin to lift restrictions, while Pakistan is to lift a ban on internal travel. Trinidad and Tobago will impose a state of emergency.

The FT launches a new email today on markets and the people and companies that live and die by them. Written by US financial editor Robert Armstrong, it will land in inboxes each weekday morning. Sign up to “Unhedged”.

What else we’re reading

A midlife crisis takes shape in the US For decades, the US birth rate helped buoy growth and global status. But since the financial crisis the total fertility rate — the number of births that a woman is expected to have in her lifetime — in the US has fallen to levels similar to Europe. A country obsessed with youth will need creative, bipartisan thinking to address the magnitude of its demographic slowdown, writes Rana Foroohar.

Inflation: will central banks and investors hold their nerve? A summer burst of inflation was inevitable once lockdown measures began to ease. But central bankers’ assurances that price rises are temporary have not calmed investors’ nerves. Investors will have to make a call on whether the shift is transitory or a regime change.

Colombia’s social unrest could spread Colombia this month looks uncannily similar to Chile in 2019. President Iván Duque’s “Sustainable Solidarity Law” has proved anything but for residents of one of the world’s most unequal countries. And across the region, tempers are fraying as longstanding grievances over governments seen as out-of-touch, corrupt and incompetent come to the fore, writes Latin America editor Michael Stott.

The sinister PR push that links cyber criminals to CEOs DarkSide, the hackers that forced the closure of a US pipeline last week, is the most prominent group in the rapidly-professionalising industry dubbed ransomware-as-a-service. They are in a “war for talent” on the dark web, where résumés and references are solicited. DarkSide is also wise to the ESG trend.

Can a building be sexist? An exhibition at London’s Barbican gallery explores the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative, one of the first architectural practices to explicitly call itself feminist. The idea of feminist architecture is to creatively rethink assumptions behind conventional building provision and design.

How to avoid the return of office cliques After weighing up the pros and cons of future working patterns, Dropbox decided against the hybrid model. It opted for a virtual-first policy, which prioritises remote work over the office. Status-conscious workers may be itching to return to the office but this could create a two-tier workforce, warns one expert.

  • Remember Mondayitis? The problem has faded during the pandemic but maybe set to return in many parts of the world, says Pilita Clark.

© FT montage

Video of the day

Why internet freedom is under threat Is the dream of a free and accessible internet already dead? Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan examines how philosophical, political and social attitudes towards online privacy are creating a “splinternet”.

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Published at Mon, 17 May 2021 11:45:19 +0000