Europe

Germany, France and Italy said on Monday they would suspend AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots after several countries reported possible serious side-effects, but the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was no proven link and people should not panic. Still, the decision by the European Union’s three biggest countries to put inoculations with the AstraZeneca shot on hold threw the already struggling vaccination campaign in the 27-nation EU into disarray, Reuters reported.
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A group of executives instrumental in Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA’s failed attempt to provide low-cost, trans-Atlantic travel are trying again, this time with a new airline, Bloomberg News reported. Norse Atlantic Airways aims to start operations by year-end, according to a statement Monday. It is 53% owned by shipping entrepreneur Bjorn Tore Larsen, whose company OSM Aviation provided flight crews for Norwegian Air before the carrier filed for insolvency.
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Updated guidance on monetary penalties by the United Kingdom’s sanctions enforcer this week provides more clarification on self-reporting and suggests the agency may adopt a more aggressive enforcement approach, compliance observers said, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, a U.K. Treasury unit in charge of applying and carrying out sanctions policy, on Wednesday released the guidance outlining its enforcement powers and how it will use them, effective April 1.
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Thorntons, the 110-year-old British chocolatier and retailer, said on Monday it would permanently close all 61 UK stores, putting 603 jobs at risk, blaming the impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Reuters reported. Multiple lockdowns in Britain have heaped pressure on store-based retailers already struggling with tight margins and intense competition from purely online players. Thorntons, which was acquired by Italian group Ferrero in 2015 for 112 million pounds ($156 million) said the challenges it faced to trading were “too severe” and it would enter a consultation with impacted staff.
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Euro-area governments should be ready to keep up emergency support for their economies even after the worst of the coronavirus crisis is behind them, according to the official who leads meetings of the region’s finance ministers, Bloomberg News reported. Speaking before chairing a virtual gathering of his counterparts on Monday, Paschal Donohoe warned that the currency zone will require ongoing aid as it recovers lost ground to reach its pre-pandemic growth levels.
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Spain’s government approved an 11 billion-euro ($13 billion) plan to help companies pay down debts accumulated during the pandemic, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said, Bloomberg reported. The package, which has three parts, will leave companies better poised for the economic recovery, Calvino told journalists during a televised news conference on Friday. The announcement is the latest example of how European governments are accelerating plans to prevent defaults and corporate bankruptcies as businesses struggle to survive extended pandemic restrictions.

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U.S. private equity company Apollo Global Management has ended talks with the administrators of British financing company Greensill after a JPMorgan investment in Greensill’s technology partner, Reuters reported. Greensill, which filed for insolvency earlier this week after losing the support of its main backers, employed around 1,000 people in the UK. Apollo was negotiating a $60 million acquisition of Greensill’s operating assets via its insurance arm Athene, the company said in its insolvency filing in a UK court earlier this week.

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Romania’s central bank bought bonds on the secondary market this week, triggering a rally in the country’s government debt and prompting the cabinet to sell more debt than planned at domestic auctions, Bloomberg News reported. The bank purchased about 150m lei ($36 million) of local-currency government bonds from commercial lenders on March 8 and 9 in an attempt to rein in a spike in yields since mid-February. It was active for the first time since August, buying notes due July 2025 and January 2028, among others, the people said.

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Britain’s economy shrank by less than feared in January when the country went back into a coronavirus lockdown, but trade with the European Union was hammered as new post-Brexit rules kicked in, Reuters reported. Gross domestic product was 2.9% lower than in December, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a contraction of 4.9% and government bond prices fell as investors took the data as a sign that the Bank of England was less likely to pump more stimulus into the economy.
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Close scrutiny of UK financial firms’ European Union outposts will continue indefinitely, the bloc’s securities watchdog said, as regulators begin a round of new checks on how they are operating, Reuters reported. Hundreds of trading and investment firms from the City of London have set up shop in the EU to avoid disrupting business with the bloc by relocating staff and assets. The costly investment was vindicated by an UK-EU trade deal that left UK financial services largely cut off from the continent after Britain left the EU’s orbit on Dec. 31.

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