Biden-Putin quarrel over Ukraine | Financial Time


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This is an audio transcript of the FT press briefing podcast episode: Biden-Putin fight over Ukraine

Marc Filippino
Hello from the Financial Times. Today is Wednesday December 8th, and this is your FT News Briefing.

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Marc Filippino
Another shoe could fall in China’s ongoing crackdown on tech companies, and US President Joe Biden has warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine. Here is the point of view of our Moscow office manager.

Max Seddon
It is not Putin who is trying to signal that he is preparing to invade Ukraine. It’s more about showing Ukraine, but more importantly, the United States, that Russia has the ability to crush Ukraine if it wants to.

Marc Filippino
We’ll also talk about the latest moves by activist hedge fund Elliott Management. I’m Marc Filippino, and here is the news you need to start your day.

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Beijing plans to prevent tech newcomers from using a crucial financial channel that other Chinese tech groups are using to attract international capital. The FT reports that the Chinese authorities are preparing this blacklist, and this would limit the role of foreign shareholders in Chinese technology companies. A new ban would likely apply to start-ups, not tech companies that currently use the investment tool to run their businesses. These are called variable interest entities or VIEs. Chinese tech groups like Alibaba and Tencent are using VIEs to bypass foreign investment restrictions and raise billions of dollars from international investors. Sources said the blacklist could include sectors that use a lot of data or involve national security concerns. And if that sounds familiar to you, it’s because Washington has taken similar steps to restrict Chinese investment in Silicon Valley startups.

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US President Joe Biden held a two-hour video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday. It comes as the United States fears that Russia is considering invading Ukraine. Biden used the call to warn Putin that there would be strong economic measures if he sent troops to Ukraine. Biden is pressuring Germany to block the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It was built to supply Germany with Russian gas and is still awaiting the green light. FT’s Moscow bureau chief Max Seddon followed the talks from Russia. He says the Kremlin’s view on them is that Putin has made it clear that he wants security guarantees regarding Russia’s red lines.

Max Seddon
What a lot of people in Moscow have told me is that it is not Putin who is trying to signal that he is preparing to invade Ukraine. It’s more about showing Ukraine, but more importantly, the United States, that Russia has the ability to crush Ukraine if it wants to. And that means Russia is important and you have to listen to her and talk to her about what she wants on her terms. And for Putin, he has been unusually explicit about this in recent weeks. He says the West must respect Russia’s red lines. The red lines are neither NATO expansion nor the deployment of weapons systems in countries bordering Russia, and it looks like the White House is ready to at least talk about it. The Kremlin said in reading the call that Biden and Putin had agreed to have future consultations on sensitive issues that appeared to refer to this new security architecture for Europe, something Putin had wanted for at least 15 years. years. It really could be what ultimately results, not an invasion or the lack of it, but some sort of broader security talks on some sort of new architecture is what Putin has been pretty public about. of research.

Marc Filippino
Max Seddon is the FT’s Moscow bureau chief.

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Scottish energy group SSE takes on Elliott Management. Yesterday, the activist hedge fund criticized SSE’s plan for a cleaner energy transition and called for sweeping changes. Now, SSE is just the latest company to fight the aggressive activist hedge fund. Elliott is famous for lashing out at boards of directors to maximize shareholder value. Elliott urged Twitter’s CEO to leave. He was involved in the fight for Toshiba’s future and was successful in pushing SoftBank to agree to another big share buyback. These are just a few of his victories. To learn more about Elliott, we have our hedge fund correspondent Laurence Fletcher online. Hi, Laurence.

Laurence Fletcher
Hello marc.

Marc Filippino
So Laurence, who runs Elliott Management, who is behind the fund?

Laurence Fletcher
So Elliott is headed and founded by Paul Singer. In fact, it was founded in 1977, and that’s what he’s been doing for pretty much his entire career. He’s a billionaire. He’s built a huge and very successful fund here, $ 50 billion in assets and through a huge range of strategies as well.

Marc Filippino
Now, how did they get so good at getting boards to do what they want?

Laurence Fletcher
I think it’s a few things. I’m thinking about their size first, and so for a fund like that you have to sit down and listen. They also have a reputation for toughness and very large scalps. And I think the investment that really needs to be highlighted is their 15-year battle with the government of Argentina, which is kind of an epic story that ended with their victory and forcing the government to pay the bills. overdue debts. And it has become one of the greatest features in the history of hedge funds. So when you are faced with this as a corporate CEO, you have to listen.

Marc Filippino
So Laurence, when Elliot focuses on increasing shareholder value, does that go hand in hand with strengthening the business?

Laurence Fletcher
Yes, I think so. And in fact, in a recent letter to investors, they sort of explain how it has become a little more difficult for activists. They’re talking, talking about some kind of a decrease in the number of activists over there where you have companies that are focusing more and more on stakeholders, a range of stakeholders and who those kinds of employees are and who are this larger society and who are what kind of environmental lobby groups or whatever. And Elliott really sees his role as saying, OK, you know, what we need to do here is make sure that this management is really held to account and is delivering what it should be providing to the owners. of the company.

Marc Filippino
You know, Laurence, it’s interesting to hear you say that there are fewer activists there. You know, I feel like every time I turn around there’s some kind of activist lobbying the board of an oil company or something like that.

Laurence Fletcher
I certainly think Elliott is one of the leading funds that helps, you know, show how, for little activists, how they can go after the business. You’ve had much smaller companies like Bluebell Capital, for example, that have been very successful. This is a fund that has also worked with Elliott in the past. But I think that more generally, we are living in a kind of very fruitful period for the militant funds at the moment. You have globally buoyant markets favorable to activists. And you’ve had huge upheaval given the flows to ESG as well, given the coronavirus pandemic. So you’ve had some really good opportunities for activists to kind of get stuck in companies, and they’re hoping they can create some value.

Marc Filippino
Laurence Fletcher is the FT’s hedge fund correspondent. Thanks Laurence.

Laurence Fletcher
Thanks Marc.

Marc Filippino
And before they leave, China’s population is getting older and shrinking, and the government really wants women to get married and have more babies. The problem is, weddings are really expensive. A study found that the average value of engagement gifts for rural couples that include a dowry such as money or housing has climbed to nearly $ 50,000. This is more than six times the annual household income. Now, earlier this year, authorities launched a campaign to make marriage more affordable. They offered suggested gift prices and tried to persuade people that happiness has nothing to do with engagement gifts. But not many people buy this. Data shows that marriage licenses have in fact fallen to their lowest level in 13 years.

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You can read more about all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News briefing. Make sure to come back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript was generated automatically. If by any chance there is an error, please send the details for correction to: [email protected]. We will do our best to make the change as soon as possible.

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