Europe

The European Central Bank withdrew its request to gain more power over derivatives clearinghouses, exposing a rift among European Union authorities over how to regulate the increasingly critical market, Bloomberg News reported. The Governing Council unanimously decided to retract the demand it made in 2017, according to a statement from the Frankfurt-based institution. ECB President Mario Draghi heavily criticized the outcome of political negotiations reached by EU policy makers this month, saying the powers the ECB would gain are too narrowly focused.

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Russian steel and coal producer Mechel said on Thursday its 2018 core earnings fell 7 percent versus the previous year, with lower sales in the mining division only partly offset by higher coal prices, Reuters reported. Mechel, controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin, said its 2018 earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were at 75.67 billion roubles ($1.2 billion), down from 81.11 billion in 2017. Mechel, at one point on the brink of bankruptcy, has been in restructuring talks with its lenders for several years.

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Sweden's Skanska does not expect to hit an operating margin target for its construction business this year or next, sending its shares down nearly 3 percent on Wednesday, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. The Nordic region's biggest building firm, which is also one of the largest in the United States, is restructuring its construction division due to weak profitability and project writedowns, mainly in Poland and the United States.

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The creditors of UK restaurant chains Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner have approved proposals to shut 27 restaurants and renegotiate leases for at least 13 others, the Financial Times reported. More than three quarters of the restaurant’s creditors voted to approve the plan — known as a company voluntary arrangement — which will see nearly a third of the two chain’s 70 restaurants close, putting 340 employees out of work. Sites include prime locations in Manchester, London and Glasgow. Franchised restaurants, of which there are 17, are not affected by the CVA.

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The U.K.’s biggest business lobby group took the rare step of joining forces with labor unions to warn Theresa May that she’s presiding over a “national emergency” on Brexit, Bloomberg News reported. Avoiding a no-deal split with the European Union is “paramount” and securing an extension to the process is “essential,” Confederation of British Industry Director General Carolyn Fairbairn and Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady said in a letter. The two also requested an “urgent meeting” with the prime minister. “Our country is facing a national emergency,” they wrote.

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Soon, the government of Japan might be the only issuer paying less to borrow than Danish homeowners, Bloomberg News reported. Danes are about to learn whether they can get a 30-year mortgage at a fixed rate of 1 percent. That’s less than the governments of Switzerland and Germany pay their long-term investors. Denmark finances its home loans through the world’s biggest covered-bond market. The securities are coveted as some of the safest around, thanks to the huge cover pools backing the debt.

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Croatia will decide in coming days whether to place troubled shipbuilder Uljanik into bankruptcy or try to restructure the business at a cost to the state of around one billion euros, a top official said on Wednesday. Last month Uljanik, the country’s largest shipbuilder, chose local rival Brodosplit as a strategic partner to restructure its operations, with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri acting as an adviser in the process, Reuters reported.

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British builder Kier Group on Wednesday reported a 14.5 percent slump in first-half underlying earnings on higher expenses, a day after it hired former Carillion CEO-designate to run the company, Reuters reported. Underlying operating earnings fell to 51.8 million pounds for the six months ended Dec. 31 from 60.6 million pounds, as administrative costs jumped nearly 35 percent to 202 million pounds during the period.

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Less than a year after Greece emerged from a multibillion-euro international bailout, Athens is witnessing an investor boom, the International New York Times reported. Hip new hotels with Acropolis views are dotting the skyline. Construction workers are tearing into dwellings owned by Greeks needing cash and converting them swiftly to short-term rentals, Airbnbs or fancy new homes for foreigners.

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For Irish businesses and for the Government’s Brexit economic planning, the latest events threaten that the uncertainty will just roll on, perhaps into the latter part of next week, just before Brexit is scheduled on March 29th, The Irish Times reported. They also show that the risk of a disruptive no-deal Brexit is not off the table.

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