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Germany took control of a major Russian-owned oil refinery on Friday

   News / 20 Sep 2022

Published: 20 September 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Germany took control of a major Russian-owned oil refinery on Friday, risking retaliation from Moscow as Berlin strives to shore up energy supplies and meet its European Union commitment to eliminate Russian oil imports by the end of the year, Reuters reports. The economy ministry said it was putting the Schwedt refinery unit of Russian oil firm Rosneft under the trusteeship of industry regulator the Federal Network Agency (FNA) and taking over the business, which supplies 90% of Berlin's fuel. "This is a far-reaching energy policy decision to protect our country," Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a news conference, adding: “We did not take this decision lightly, but it was unavoidable”. "Russia, we have known for some time, is no longer a reliable energy supplier," he said. A policy document also released by Berlin on Friday showed it is in talks with the government of Kazakhstan about securing oil deliveries for the Schwedt refinery. UK oil giant Shell, which owns a 37.5% stake in Schwedt, which it has wanted to sell for some time, said it was "unaffected" by the German move.  Germany is grappling with Russia's move to halt flows of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which had been the biggest gas supply route powering Europe's biggest economy. As a result of Friday's decision, the FNA will also take Rosneft Deutschland's shares in the MiRo refinery in Karlsruhe and the Bayernoil refinery in Vohburg.
China spent a record $8.3bn (£7.3bn) on Russian energy last month, the Telegraph reports. Beijing has been snapping up the Kremlin’s oil and gas at a discount, and the spend for August was 68% higher than a year ago. It also included a record amount of coal. According to Chinese data, the country’s total energy spend on Russian fuel was $44bn (£38.59bn) in the six months since the start of the war – almost 75% higher than the same period last year.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called for a global end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, saying a “massive scaling up” of investment in clean energy is needed to “boost energy security”. Electric cars accounted for just over 1% of all cars on the road in 2021, it said, but that needs to rise to 20-25% by 2030 to put the world on course for climate targets.

Online auction site eBay had to remove sales listings for wristbands for the queue to see the Queen lying-in-state in London over the past few days. Some used wristbands were attracting bids of up to £70,000 before they were removed, the Guardian says, although it is not known whether the bids were genuine. Sellers were offering the bands, which mark mourners' place in the queue, as memorabilia. The bands are marked as non-transferable and would not have guaranteed entry into Westminster Hall to file past the Queen's coffin.
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), UK house prices will fall by 4.5% on average next year, with peak annual contraction of 6.2% expected in the third quarter, the dip fuelled by sharp rises in mortgage rates, significant cost of living pressures, an impending recession, and anticipated increases in unemployment. “A contracting housing market will bring economic pain for everyone,” the economics consultancy said, noting that according to data from the ONS Wealth and Assets Survey, aggregate property wealth in the UK accounted for over a third (36%) of total wealth between April 2018 and March 2020, and for those in the middle and upper-middle of the country’s wealth distribution, it represents the single most valuable asset class. This implies a harder relative hit to overall middle-class wealth than that of the wealthiest, the Cebr said, while those in the lowest wealth decile will be plunged deeper into negative equity, widening the gap between richest and poorest. Neither does the Cebr believe the fall will make housing more affordable for ‘generation rent.’ “Given that frequently the biggest hurdle to get onto the housing ladder is the deposit, lenders’ tendency to push down loan-to-value ratios during periods of downturn means market accessibility at the lower ends is in fact set to worsen,” it said.
Retail billionaire Mike Ashley is to step down from the board of Frasers Group, which he founded 40 years ago. Ashley has already handed over the role of CEO of the group to his son-in-law Michael Murray but now says he will not be standing for re-election as a director and will leave the board next month. Frasers Group also announced that he will provide the company with £100m worth of funding and be available to the board and management for advice "when called upon". Murray said his father had "built an incredible business over the past 40 years". Frasers Group owns Sports Direct, the UK's largest sportswear retailer, with more than 400 stores.
US delivery firm FedEx withdrew its full-year guidance after the US markets closed on Thursday, citing "macroeconomic weakness" in Asia and "service challenges" in Europe. FedEx said volumes fell around the world during its first quarter, worsening towards the end of the three-month stretch and business conditions were expected "to further weaken" in the second quarter. The announcement caused Royal Mail shares to plummet 11.68% to 220.70p.
Spanish bank Santander has hired a US law firm Gibson Dunn to investigate a whistleblower report that a group of bankers at the lender’s UK headquarters visited a strip club after a day of company meetings and pressured younger employees to join the party, the Financial Times said yesterday. The incident took place in February.  
The CEO of Germany’s Daimler Truck, Martin Daum, has told Reuters that deliveries could have been higher by a "five-digit figure" in 2021 and 2022 if it had not faced supply chain problems. He also said that "Germany has a clear competitive disadvantage when it comes to energy prices," referring to record high energy prices in the German market caused in part by a standoff on gas deliveries between Germany and Russia. This could hold back the country's ambitions to build batteries, a highly energy-intensive process, and Daimler Truck’s aims for up to 60% of its sales to be electric or hydrogen-fuelled vehicles by 2030.
Volkswagen said on Sunday that it was aiming for a valuation of €70bn-75bn (£61.41bn - £65.79bn) for Porsche AG, slightly below some estimates of up to 85 billion euros, but far outstripping the 49-billion-euro price tag for rival BMW and Mercedes-Benz's €61bn (£53.51bn). However, the structure of the listing, in which Volkswagen's largest shareholder - Porsche SE - will receive a blocking minority of 25% plus one of the voting ordinary shares, has sparked criticism from some fund managers, Reuters says. The IPO will list 25% of preferred shares, which do not have voting rights, meaning stock market investors will own just 12.5% of Porsche AG's capital and have little say.
American Express says it is looking to hire around 1,500 people for technology roles, shrugging off fears of an economic slowdown that has prompted other U.S. financial companies to cut jobs in recent months, Reuters says. The new hires would fill up roles such as data scientist, software engineer and others by the end of the year. The company has already brought in around 3,600 tech employees this year, a spokesperson for the credit card giant said in an emailed statement.
Vegan food giant Beyond Meat's chief operating officer has been arrested for reportedly biting a man's nose during a row in the US, the BBC reports. Douglas Ramsey faces charges of "terroristic threatening" and third-degree battery, court records show. He was released after posting a $11,085 (£9,711) bond on Sunday.

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