29 March 2019

Katie Stanton

29 March 2019

Good morning 

It’s spring, it’s Friday and, as far as I can tell, we’ve not come crashing out of the EU (yet) so naturally I’m channelling positive energy vibes. Say goodbye to winter languor and oppressive coat wearing; hasta luego annoying woollen gloves, see you never (translation: November).

With that in mind, I’m giving today’s not-so “meaningful” vote the cold shoulder. If I’ve learnt anything from this Brexit fandango, it’s that vivacity is in scarce supply in the Commons.

Not today, Theresa! I’m looking for a touch more verve – and I’m not the only one.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is on a quest to add a bit of oomph to his energy supply, and he’s going nuclear. The crown prince has set a new target of 17 gigawatts of capacity by 2040 to provide 15 per cent of the country’s power.

The Saudi plans for nuclear development have been in the pipeline for a while and dialogues with a number of countries – including South Korea, Russia, France, China and the US – are well established. Yet so far plans have stalled, and Saudi continues to be powered on oil and gas.

But, as we all know, the nature of energy is changing and Saudi Arabia needs to diversify its supply.

Not least for economic reasons: the use of oil to generate electric power, as well as the very low prices charged for petrol (54 cents a litre), means that the kingdom now uses more than a quarter of its total production for domestic purposes. The result is a loss in potential export revenue.

So Saudi Arabia is looking to build “one large plant with capacity of 1200MW to 1600MW, mainly for use in desalination projects.” All very good news for the planet, but what are the political implications of acquiring nuclear power capability?

Civil nuclear reactors go hand-in-hand with nuclear weapons. They are, as the Nobel Prize winner Hannes Alfvén once said, “Siamese twins”.

And the crown prince isn’t filling anyone with confidence. Last year he said that Saudi Arabia would have no choice but to turn to nuclear weapons if Iran was to do the same.

The skills and capabilities for nuclear development take years to put in place, but once they are there, it is feared that Saudi could turn to a close ally – perhaps Pakistan – to acquire the weapons technology. Countries in the region would follow suit and before you know it you’ve found yourself in a nuclear arms race.

The geopolitical implications of nuclear energy are vast. With great power (literally) comes great responsibility.

News

MPs are set to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal once again today. Ministers say their backing is vital if the UK is to avoid a disorderly Brexit and secure a delay until 22 May. But with Labour and the DUP set to vote against it, it looks like the prime minister is heading for another defeat.

The biggest ever study of gender pay in the public sector has discovered that male doctors in the NHS earn an average 17% more than their female peers, with the greatest disparity experienced at GP level.  The study also revealed that two thirds of senior medics are men, despite more women than men starting training.

A band from Liverpool have been killed in a car crash in Arizona alongside their tour manager. Duo Her’s had played a gig in Phoenix and were travelling to California when the crash occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Local reports said a total of four people were killed when a vehicle going the wrong way on Interstate 10 collided with a van carrying three people.

Business & Economy

Chinese telecoms provider Huawei has announced revenues of over $100 billion in 2018 despite a US-led campaign against the business. The firm said global revenue surged 19.5%, its fastest pace of growth in two years, and net profit jumped 25% to 59.3 billion yuan. Huawei faces growing backlash from western countries over concerns that its 5G technology could pose a security threat, but the firm says it is independent and strongly denies any risk.

AstraZeneca has struck a deal worth up to $6.9 billion with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo to develop a promising new cancer drug. The agreement will see the two companies sharing the development and commercialisation of the drug trastuzumab deruxtecan, which is expected to have annual peak sales of more than $4.5 billion. The drug is used to treat breast and gastric cancers connected to a gene called HER2. (£)

Ride-hailing firm Lyft has priced its shares at $72, valuing the company at $24.3 billion. Lyft’s shares are set to start trading on the tech-heavy Nasdaq index on Friday. It is the largest company to go public since China’s Alibaba Group in 2014. Uber, Lyft’s main rival, is also expected to float later this year. 

Markets                                                               

What happened yesterday?

The FTSE 100 closed up last night, with Ocado the big winner of the day. The online grocery giant was 5.34% higher, continuing their strong run over the past few weeks. This helped the FTSE 100 climb 0.56% throughout the day.

Easyjet and National Grid dragged the index, however, with losses of 3.37% and 3.3% respectively.

Meanwhile the pound sank as the news that the Brexit impasse is set to continue sinks in. It rebounded later in the day, demonstrating the volatility and nervousness of the currency markets. This morning it was up 0.21% at $1.31. Against the euro it was up 0.16% at €1.16.

Wall Street had a good day as US-China trade talks resumed in Beijing, despite the downgrading of the estimate for US fourth-quarter growth. Stocks closed higher following a recovery in 10-year US Treasury yields, after weakness in bond rates had raised worries about slowing economic growth.

The Dow Jones and the broad-based S&P 500 both gained 0.4%, while the Nasdaq closed 0.3% ahead. T-Mobile and Sprint fell 4.3% and 6.1% respectively following a report that claimed their merger would be blocked by antitrust regulators. 

Finals

Chesnara

Cathay International Holdings Ltd.

GAN

Public Joint Stock Company Rosseti GDR (Each REPR 200 ORD) Reg S

Interims

CVS Group

AGMs

Angus Energy

Autins Group

Blue Star Capital IDOX

IRF European Finance Investments Ltd (DI)

Local Shopping REIT

Micro Focus International

St. Modwen Properties

EGMs

Globalworth Real Estate Investments Limited

GMs

Akers Biosciences, Inc.

UK Economic Announcements

(08:55) Unemployment Rate (GER)

(09:30) Current Account

(09:30) M4 Money Supply

Int. Economic Announcements

(07:00) Import Price Index (GER)

(07:00) Retail Sales (GER)

(08:55) Unemployment Rate (GER)

(10:00) Business Climate Indicator (EU)

(10:00) Consumer Confidence (EU)

(10:00) Economic Sentiment Indicator (EU)

(10:00) Industrial Confidence (EU)

(10:00) Services Confidence (EU)

(12:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US)

(12:30) Personal Spending (US)

(13:45) Chicago PMI (US)

(14:00) New Homes Sales (US)

(14:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US) 

Columns of Note

In this week’s Atlantic, Olga Khazan examines the real problem with trigger warnings in universities. The warnings are primarily intended to help people who have experienced traumatic events, such as rape, but a Harvard study recently found that trigger warnings made practically no difference for any of these symptoms. In fact: “the authors argue that their research should condemn trigger warnings to the dustbin of wokeness history.”

Writing in this week’s Financial Times big read, Hannah Kuchler explores how Facebook grew too big to handle. In the first few years, Facebook’s creators cultivated a culture of growth by any means possible. This has since escalated to produce a “digital Frankinstein” which governments cannot control despite their best efforts. (£)

Did you know?

As the nearest major hospital is over 600 miles away, you must have your appendix removed to become a long-term resident of Villa Las Estrellas, a Chilean town in Antarctica. 

Parliamentary highlights 

House of Commons

No business scheduled. 

House of Lords

No business scheduled.

Scottish Parliament

No business scheduled.