Novo Banco seeks to offload Spanish retail network: sources

LISBON/LONDON (Reuters) – Portuguese lender Novo Banco is looking to sell its loss-making retail network in Spain as it faces pressure to prop up its balance sheet and prevent further losses, two sources told Reuters.

Novo Banco has reached out to a pool of banks and is expected to select advisers in the coming weeks as it wants to carve out its Spanish business and launch an auction process later this year, the sources said.

The bank ranks as Portugal’s third largest and is majority-owned by U.S. private equity firm Lone Star with a 75% stake.

While selling international retail assets remains a tall order for most banks, Novo Banco’s owners have decided to press ahead with the plan after the bank faced political scrutiny in early May for receiving 850 million euros ($932.79 million) of public funds, the first source said.

The cash injection, under the so-called contingency capital mechanism, was triggered by regulatory requirements over Novo Banco’s solvency ratio. But it raised pressure over the bank’s handling of its troubled Spanish unit.

Novo Banco and Lone Star declined to comment.

If successful, the sale would see Novo Banco focusing primarily on its home turf.

The Lisbon-based bank – which emerged from the ruins of Banco Espirito Santo as part of a state rescue in 2014 – has already sold its international assets in France, Asia and Cape Verde.

However, the novel coronavirus may complicate its exit from Spain where its local network reported a loss of more than 100 million euros in 2019, the second source said.

Novo Banco’s Spanish business has about 2 billion euros in assets and is seen as a possible target for local banks, the first source said.

But the difficult economic backdrop means most banks have become risk-averse and similar deals – including HSBC’s sale of its French branches – have faced significant delay.

“This is a tough sale as most banks have little appetite to take on more risk,” the second source said.

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LVMH's Arnault to buy stake in Lagardere holding company

PARIS (Reuters) – Bernard Arnault, the billionaire behind luxury fashion group LVMH (LVMH.PA), has agreed to buy a stake in the holding company of fellow French billionaire Arnaud Lagardere, according to the holding companies of the two men.

Lagardere’s eponymous publishing and media group, locked in a stand-off with activist investor Amber Capital over the past four years, has been beefing up its defences by attracting allies as investors, including French media magnate Vincent Bollore and his Vivendi (VIV.PA) group.

Groupe Arnault and Lagardere Capital & Management (LCM) said in a joint statement that Groupe Arnault would buy a stake equivalent to around one quarter of the share capital of LCM.

The link-up will “strengthen the corporate structure and financial capacities of LCM. The family groups led by Bernard Arnault and Arnaud Lagardere will act in concert with regard too Lagardere SCA,” the statement said.

Earlier this month, Lagardere (LAGA.PA) fended off Amber Capital’s attempt to replace the company’s supervisory board..

Amber has raised its stake in Lagardere to 18% in recent weeks, making it the top shareholder ahead of the Qatari Investment Authority.

Lagardere has long been under fire for its sprawling business mix and for underperforming on the stock market.

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Doctor who put off retirement to treat coronavirus patients dies of COVID-19

A New York doctor made the ultimate sacrifice after he delayed his retirement to treat low-income coronavirus patients and later died of the virus.

Dr. James Mahoney, a physician at University Hospital of Brooklyn and Kings County Hospital Center, died of COVID-19 in late April, the New York Times reported.

His family encouraged him to step away from his work when it became apparent how serious the virus was. Their family cruise in January was meant to mark his upcoming retirement, Mahoney’s sister, Saundra Chisolm, told the Guardian.

But without hesitation, his plans were put on hold to help during the pandemic.

“There were people who were really reluctant to go into the rooms, and you could understand why,” Dr. Robert Foronjy, Mahoney’s boss, told the Times. “He saw another human being in need, and he didn’t hesitate to help.”

Mahoney treated patients day and night, either in person or via telecounselling. In the second week of April, the Times reports, he came down with a fever. By April 20, he could barely walk when he was admitted to University Hospital.

“He gave everything to that hospital. He gave his life for that hospital,” Mahoney’s older brother, Melvin, told the Washington Post. “There are two hospitals crying. Non-stop. I’ve heard men crying like you wouldn’t believe.

“That’s how much they loved my brother.”

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Mahoney, 64, was well-loved by his patients, and he often gave out his personal cellphone number, checking in on them even while he was fighting the virus.

“As a young Black man, I looked at this guy and said to myself, ‘Twenty years from now I want to be like him,’” Latif Salam, one of Mahoney’s previous students, told the Times. “When a Black medical student, a Black resident sees him, he sees a hero. Someone that you can be one day.

“He’s our Jay-Z.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise money for a scholarship in Mahoney’s name. The funds will be used to “provide tuition support to enable a deserving and talented African American applicant to attend SUNY Downstate Medical School.”

More than US$42,000 has been raised of the $100,000 goal.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

[email protected]

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Thyssenkrupp pools businesses to be sold or shut down

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Thyssenkrupp (TKAG.DE) on Monday said it would pool units that it plans to sell or shut down while singling out three businesses that will definitely stay within the group: materials services, industrial components and car parts.

The announcement comes as part of a strategy update to restore investor confidence, and the group said it was also exploring partnerships and other consolidation options for its steel division.

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U.S. restaurants using blow-up dolls, mannequins to enforce physical distancing

Restaurants are having to get creative as they reopen amid physical distancing rules, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

At their Tuesday night reopening, South Carolina restaurant Open Hearth sat their live customers next to fancy dressed blow-up dolls.

“The G-rated kind,” owner Paula Starr Melehes clarified to Fox19, purchased from Amazon for around $140.

The purpose of the dolls was to make their restaurant feel a little more full, given they aren’t able to seat the same amount of people as they would’ve pre-pandemic, Melehes said.

“Instead of using scary, yellow tape or roping off the empty tables, I thought, ‘We’re going to make this restaurant look full,’” she said. “They are very humorous, and they have nice faces. The ladies have pretty makeup on, and the wigs were gifts from different people.”

They’re all weighted and dressed in used clothing so they don’t move around during their patrons’ dining experience.

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“Golly, just having some customers that don’t talk too much, we love that idea,” a patron told Fox Carolina.

Melehes isn’t the first restaurant owner to use her imagination during the reopening process.

A three-Michelin star restaurant in Virginia called Inn at Little Washington is doing something similar, but with mannequins.

In Virginia, restaurants are allowed to seat diners at only 50 per cent capacity, so they’ll be placing mannequins around to make the space feel more full.

“When we needed to solve the problem of social distancing and reducing our restaurant’s occupancy by half, the solution seemed obvious — fill it with interestingly dressed dummies,” Patrick O’Connell, a chef at the restaurant, told a Fox 5 DC.

“I’ve always had a thing for mannequins,” he said. “They never complain about anything, and you can have lots of fun dressing them up.”

The restaurant, which closed in March for the first time in 42 years, shared a photo of their “full” tables on Instagram.

“Social distancing is ‘inn’ style,” the caption reads.

According to KIRO7-TV, the waiters will even be interacting with the mannequins to make the experience more authentic for the real patrons.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

[email protected]

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Macquarie has not expressed interest in BT's Openreach: source

LONDON (Reuters) – Australia’s Macquarie Group (MQG.AX) has not expressed interest in BT’s (BT.L) Openreach unit and is not in talks with BT’s management, a source close to the investment firm told Reuters.

The Financial Times said on Thursday BT was in talks to sell a multibillion pound stake in its network business, and named Macquarie as a potential buyer.

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CBA sells 55% stake in unit Colonial First State to KKR for $1.1 billion

(Reuters) – Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) said on Wednesday it will sell a 55% stake in unit Colonial First State to private equity firm KKR (KKR.N) for A$1.7 billion ($1.10 billion), in line with plans to focus on its core banking operations.

Australia’s largest bank and KKR also plan to undertake an investment programme. CBA said the deal would allow Colonial First State to become a more focused standalone business.

The deal is expected to be completed by the first half of calendar year 2021.

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Commentary: Why a Republican won’t beat Trump in 2020

Two days before being sworn in to the U.S. Senate, Mitt Romney wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post outlining his concerns about President Donald Trump “not rising to the mantle of the office.” Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, did not exactly break new ground. His column mostly rehashed concerns that many Republicans have long held about Trump’s temperament and international relationships while stopping short of an active commitment to addressing the many problems Romney sees in the Trump administration.

The op-ed also includes the kind of language that was standard from pre-Trump presidential candidates: “I remain optimistic about our future. In an innovation age, Americans excel. More importantly, noble instincts live in the hearts of Americans.” Romney has since said that he won’t run against Trump, but that he won’t necessarily support him either. It is difficult to read Romney’s column and not think that he won’t at least be part of any conversation about which Republican might be able to take on Trump for the Republican nomination.

The notion that a Republican will challenge Trump is not new. The idea of a primary against Trump is very appealing to many centrists, as well as whatever remaining conservative critics of the president still exist. A successful primary would also help bring an end to the Trump experiment while limiting lasting damage to America’s political system and perhaps even diverting the Republican Party from the direction it has taken under Trump. These are the developments that many in the political class, including many of the pundits and political analysts calling for a primary challenge to Trump, would like to see. 

The problem with this scenario is that it overlooks the extent to which the Republican Party has been remade to look like Trump, meaning that any primary challenger to Trump would likely get drubbed and therefore only strengthen Trump’s hold on the GOP. Trump himself has been extremely popular among his party. According to Gallup, his job approval rating among those who identified themselves as Republicans has not dropped below 77 percent at any point in his presidency. In 2018, that number never dipped below 81 percent and most weeks was much higher than that. (By contrast, his overall national approval rating has averaged 39 percent since he took office.)

Unseating an incumbent president in a primary is difficult enough – in recent decades the only candidate to do so was Senator Eugene McCarthy, who almost beat Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, spurring Johnson to drop out of the race. Beating a president who is beloved by the base in his own party in a primary challenge is almost impossible. Trump’s popularity among Republicans also demonstrates the gap between how Republican voters and some Republican elites think about the president. There are a lot of Republicans who are critical of Trump on television and popular political websites, but that is about the only place they can be found.

Beyond public opinion data, Republican primaries since 2016 have generally been won by pro-Trump Republicans while Republicans in Congress often have had to cater to their pro-Trump Republican electorates in order to stay in office. Even Jeff Flake, Trump’s most outspoken Senate Republican critic, conceded that if he had been running for reelection he would not have taken some positions that rankled the president. Policies around trade and foreign policy where Trump differs from Republican orthodoxy still polarize Republican leaders, but these are not the kinds of issues that will swing large number of voters in a Republican primary.

Last month, in the kind of move that does not draw headlines, the Trump reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) began to create a structure that will essentially combine the two entities into one for the 2020 race. The plan, according to a report in Politico, is for the campaign and the RNC to merge their field and fundraising organizations into a single, more streamlined unit. That all but ensures Trump will control the RNC, making it even less plausible that anyone can mount a successful, or even relevant, primary against him. Given this, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel’s Twitter response calling Romney’s opinion piece “disappointing and unproductive” is no surprise.

While it is perhaps possible that Trump will face a primary campaign to become the party’s nominee, whoever runs against Trump is likely not only to lose badly, but to fail in any attempt to move the party away from him. This is why the Republicans most frequently cited as potential challengers, like Arizona’s Flake and former Ohio Governor John Kasich, are in the later stages of their careers. Republicans with futures in the party, like Senators Ted Cruz of Texas or Marco Rubio of Florida, who disagree with Trump on many key issues and have previously indicated concern about his conduct and ethics, are not entertaining the idea of running against Trump and thus damaging their standing in the party. Over the last two years, the Republican Party has become Trump’s. Highfalutin opinion pieces in major media outlets are not going to change that.

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5-year-old boy pulled over while driving to California to ‘buy’ a Lamborghini

One Utah five-year-old had a need for speed — and a Lamborghini.

On Monday, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a swerving van, believing it was being driven by an impaired driver, at around noon.

But instead of an adult being behind the wheel, it was just a five-year-old boy California-bound to buy a sports car.

According to a tweet by the Utah Highway Patrol, the boy “somehow made his way up onto the freeway in his parents’ car.”

“He left home after an argument with Mom, in which she told him she would not buy him a Lamborghini,” the tweet reads. “He decided he’d take the car and go to California to buy one himself.”

“He might have been short on the purchase amount, as he only had $3 in his wallet.”

No one was hurt, Morgan said, adding that local prosecutors will decide whether or not to file charges against the parents, who reportedly told authorities that he’d never driven before.

The boy, per the broadcast station, was under the care of his sibling while their parents were at work.

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Alexion bets on Portola's bleeding antidote with $1.41 billion deal

(Reuters) – Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc (ALXN.O) on Tuesday agreed to buy Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc (PTLA.O) in a $1.41 billion deal, as it looks to exploit smaller rival’s blood-thinning antidote which has reached only a tiny portion of its target population.

Portola’s shares more than doubled in morning trading to $17.82, hovering marginally below Alexion’s offer price of $18 per share. The shares had fallen 68% this year as of last close.

Supply shortages, narrow hospital targeting, and a lack of familiarity had limited the full potential of Portola’s drug, Alexion Chief Commercial Officer Brian Goff said about Andexxa, which was approved in 2018.

Alexion Chief Executive Officer Ludwig Hantson estimated that Andexxa, which reverses the affects of drugs Eliquis and Xarelto in cases of life-threatening or uncontrolled bleeding, had only reached 3% of its indicated patient population.

Fourth-quarter sales of the drug missed estimates due to slow uptake at certain hospitals.

For Alexion, which has been fighting to maintain its leadership in treating certain rare blood disorders, Portola’s addition to its recent string of acquisitions would further boost its treatment pipepline.

Alexion has worked closely with hospitals for its rare blood disorders drugs, Soliris and Ultomiris, and said it planned to use those relationships to expand access to Andexxa.

“We have those strong networks in the hospital, and we have a capability, as we’ve shown over the years, of market access,” said Chief Executive Officer Ludwig Hantson.

However, Wall Street remained cautious on the deal, as the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed visits to the doctor and canceled non-essential medical procedures.

“Accelerating the trajectory of Andexxa will truly be a “show me story”, and one that, in near term, could be at least modestly leveraged to the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stifel analyst Paul Matteis.

Last year, Alexion agreed to buy Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc for $930 million. Before that, it had bought Sweden’s Wilson Therapeutics for $855 million and followed that up with the purchase of Syntimmune for a total value of up to $1.2 billion.

The drugmaker in December rejected Elliott Management’s push for a “proactive sale” process.

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