Sunday, August 1, 2021

Olympics-Organisers investigating after athletes drinking violates COVID-19 curbs

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Preview

TOKYO (Reuters) -Tokyo Games organisers said they are investigating after a group of athletes were found drinking alcohol in the Olympic village this week, violating measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The athletes were caught drinking in a park in the athletes’ village on Friday night, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told a news conference, adding police were later present at the incident.

“We are looking into the matter. We will take appropriate steps based on our findings,” he said. Police were also at the scene, he said, adding it was not clear what action they took, if any.

Muto did not give details of the number of athletes involved or their nationalities. Organisers previously said athletes are permitted to drink alcohol only in their rooms and only if they are alone, as a precaution against COVID-19.

Drinking and partying are normally features of life in the Olympic village, as athletes let off steam after years of gruelling training once their competitions end.

But with Tokyo 2020 taking place without spectators and under tight social distancing measures because of the pandemic, athletes have been subject to daily testing and their movements limited inside a “bubble”.

Some have taken to social media to complain of boredom.

Organisers had said they planned to give out 150,000 condoms at the Games, but would tell athletes to take them home rather than use them in the village.

Separately, organisers have said six people attending the Games have so far had their accreditation revoked for violating rules imposed to hold the Olympics safely.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and David Dolan; Editing by Lincoln Feast)


U.S. House Democrats seek eviction moratorium extension through Oct. 18

FILE PHOTO: People camp out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday called on the Biden administration to immediately extend a moratorium on housing evictions through Oct. 18.

The moratorium, related to the coronavirus pandemic, expired at midnight on Saturday. The request was made through a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top leaders.

“House leadership is calling on the administration to immediately extend the moratorium,” the Democratic leaders said.

President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress to extend the deadline, citing the COVID-19 Delta variant that is taking hold in the United States.

But Congress, possibly lacking the votes to approve such an extension, failed to act after a Republican lawmaker blocked a move in the House to immediately bring up a bill under the unanimous consent of the chamber.

It was unclear whether the administration has the authority to extend the moratorium using its executive powers and without Congress acting.

More than 15 million people in 6.5 million households are currently behind on their rental payments.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Edmund Klamann)


Takeda to record 63 billion yen provision, update Q1 results on Irish tax issue

FILE PHOTO: Shareholders of Takeda Pharmaceutical enter the venue of their shareholders' meeting in Osaka

(Reuters) – Takeda Pharmaceutical Co said on Monday it will record a provision of about 63 billion yen ($574.56 million) in its financial statements for the first quarter to reflect a decision by Ireland’s tax appeals body relating to tax assessment received by company’s unit on a break fee.

Takeda said it received “a decision by the Irish Tax Appeals Commission on July 30, 2021 to uphold the Irish Revenue Commissioners’ position related to the treatment of a break fee received by Shire plc in October 2014 from AbbVie Inc,”.

“First Quarter FY2021 reported IRFS-based financial results will be updated to reflect the impact of the decision with no impact on core and underlying financial results,” it said, adding that it will refile the revised information by Aug. 6.

Japan’s biggest drugmaker said it plans to challenge this outcome through all available legal means including appealing the decision to the Irish courts.

The company is not revising its forecast for the full fiscal year 2021 and will update the outlook at appropriate timing by taking this decision as well as other factors into consideration.

Shire Plc, which Takeda acquired in 2019, received a tax assessment from the Irish Revenue Commissioners to tax a break fee the company received from AbbVie Inc for terminating its offer to acquire Shire. Takeda had appealed this assessment in 2020.

($1 = 109.6500 yen)

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)


Smart buildings: Cohesion CEO on the office of the future

FILE PHOTO: The skyline of downtown Manhattan is seen as people gather on the runway before a fashion event in New Jersey

By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Before COVID-19, Thru Shivakumar, co-founder and CEO of Cohesion, was already working on apps to convert office buildings into smart spaces, powered by technology that enables interaction with tenants through phones and computers.

Since the pandemic began, however, she is learning that the smart buildings of the future are going to look different from the ones she was planning prior to 2020.

Chicago-based Cohesion, which works with companies worldwide to create software for “intelligent” buildings, sees an increase in the number of people who would use a building smartphone app to track cleanliness, air quality and building security. Pre-pandemic, employees were more interested in amenities, such as restaurants and gyms.

Shivakumar, 39, talked to Reuters about the workplace of the future. Edited excerpts are below.

Q. How will offices change as they reopen?

A. After every crisis, the pendulum doesn’t swing too far from the center. I don’t think that offices are gone and remote work is here to stay for good, but people will want more flexibility, more communication and more transparency. A smart building app is no longer nice to have. It’s a must-have.

Q. What do employees want when they return to the office?

A. Our research shows that over 60% of people have said they want to come back full-time. When employees return, their new priorities are health, wellness and security. People want outdoor spaces to get fresh air.

We also know that people want to interact less with the office staff and have more ability to do their own thing – maybe they want to have an in-app key card, so you don’t have to take out a physical key card to enter.

They don’t want to touch elevator buttons. They would like touchless controls or an application-driven elevator that knows where you’re going.

Smart bathrooms where they can touch fewer things and surfaces are important, too. So is the ability to see what kind of air they are breathing.

We’ve also heard that people don’t want to be inundated with all this information, but they want to know it’s there when they want to go see it.

Q. What is the best job advice you’ve gotten?

A. One of my mentors early on told me to never say “no” to any project, and to deliver what I said I would deliver and when I said I would deliver it.

In my 20s, I did so many mundane projects, but because I always delivered, I got a seat at the table. I never said I couldn’t get it done because I needed sleep. I just delivered.

As you progress through your career, you’re not the individual contributor any more. You’ve got to make sure that your team delivers. Stay communicative and never think that anything is beneath you to do. There’s a lot of administrative work even in my job now. I never say it’s not my job to do it.

Q. Have you developed any interesting work habits since the pandemic began?

A. Since I was in the office, I never got to cook in the middle of the day, but now I’m doing a lot of instapot cooking – a lot of cutting vegetables and dumping things in a pot, and I can still take a call with my AirPods while I’m doing it.

Because we’re on video calls all day, my staff has seen me cooking an omelet in the morning.

Q. You won a 200-person charity poker tournament in 2007 – what did you learn from that?

A. It was a tournament to benefit sarcoma research in Chicago. I was one of the few females in it, and the only female at the final table.

It was a fun experience. There was so much going on, and I could get distracted, but I had to have this sustained focus.

Early on, I played some hands that some people wouldn’t have – I took some risks and, in the end, it was me against a professional poker player, and they said both of us won. My takeaway was that to be an entrepreneur you really have to be a risk-taker.

(Reporting by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in New York; Editing by Lauren Young and Matthew Lewis)


Factbox-Record-low rates spur Australia M&A frenzy in 2021

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd adorns the hotel and casino complex in Melbourne, Australia

(Reuters) -Australia is seeing a flurry of deal-making so far this year, as record-low interest rates have given institutional investors and companies a well-funded war chest to chase higher valuations.

From potentially one of Australia’s biggest-ever buyouts to a multi-party tussle for a troubled casino giant, here are some of the major deals Down Under in 2021:

Vocus Group – Macquarie/Aware Super

Vocus Group in March agreed to a A$3.5 billion ($2.61 billion) takeover offer from a consortium of a Macquarie fund and pension fund Aware Super.

Orocobre – Galaxy Resources

Orocobre Ltd in April agreed to buy Galaxy Resources for $1.4 billion to create the world’s fifth most valuable lithium producer.

BINGO Industries – Macquarie

Waste management firm BINGO Industries in April agreed to a A$2.3 billion ($1.72 billion) buyout offer from funds managed by Macquarie.

Tilt Renewables – PowAR/Mercury NZ

New Zealand-listed Tilt Renewables in April agreed to a NZ$3.07 billion ($2.15 billion) bid from a consortium including AGL Energy, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, and Mercury NZ.

Tabcorp – Entain/Apollo Global/Betmakers

UK’s Entain in February offered to buy betting firm Tabcorp Holdings’ wagering and media business. In April, it sweetened its offer to A$3.5 billion ($2.61 billion).

In May, Apollo Global Management matched Entain’s offer, and BetMakers Technology jumped in with a A$4 billion ($2.98 billion) bid.

Crown Resorts – Blackstone/Star Entertainment

Casino giant Crown Resorts in March received a A$8 billion ($5.97 billion) buyout proposal from Blackstone and a A$9 billion ($6.71 billion) all-stock offer from peer Star Entertainment Group in May.

Oaktree Capital Group is also in the race for Crown.

Washington H Soul Pattinson – Milton Corp

Australia’s Washington H Soul Pattinson said in June it will buy Milton Corp in a deal that values the target at A$4.05 billion ($3.02 billion).

Boral – Seven Group

In May, diversified investor Seven Group offered to buy shares it does not already own in Boral, valuing the building materials supplier at $6.23 billion.

In July, Seven raised its offer to A$8.75 billion ($6.53 billion), which was rejected.

National Australia Bank – Citigroup

National Australia Bank, the country’s third-largest lender, said in July it was in talks with Citigroup to buy the U.S. bank’s Australian consumer business.

Sydney Airport – Sydney Aviation Alliance

A consortium called Sydney Aviation Alliance in July made a A$22.26 billion ($16.61 billion) play for Sydney Airport Holdings. If the deal goes through, it will be one of the biggest ever in Australia.

Spark Infrastructure – KKR/Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board

In July, Spark Infrastructure received a A$4.91 billion ($3.67 billion) takeover bid from a consortium including KKR and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board.

Oil Search – Santos

Oil Search said in August it intended to recommend an improved buyout offer from Santos Ltd, worth A$8.4 billion ($6.2 billion), in a deal that would create a top-20 global oil and gas company. [nL1N2P80ME]


Square Inc said in August it has agreed to purchase buy now, pay later pioneer Afterpay Ltd to create a global online payments giant, offering a 30% premium in a share-swap deal that is set to be Australia’s biggest-ever buyout.

(Compiled by Shashwat Awasthi; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Rashmi Aich)


U.S. senators finalize details of $1 trillion infrastructure plan, predict passage this week

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles are parked outside the U.S. Capitol building the morning the Senate returned to session in Washington

By David Morgan and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. senators on Sunday finalized details of a roughly $1 trillion plan to invest in roads, bridges, ports, high-speed internet and other infrastructure, with some predicting passage of the bipartisan legislation later this week.

After weeks of negotiations, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, said she had introduced the bill’s text for consideration on the Senate floor, starting a process of considering proposed amendments.

The massive infrastructure package, a goal that has eluded Congress for years, is a top legislative priority for President Joe Biden, who has billed it as the largest such investment in a century. In a tweet on Sunday, Biden called it “the most important investment in public transit in American history.”

Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said the bill included $550 billion in new spending. This was expected to go to projects including roads, rail, electric vehicle charging stations and lead water pipe replacements on top of $450 billion in previously approved funds.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, told CNN that she believes at least 10 Republicans will support the measure, enabling it to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.

“My hope is that we’ll finish the bill by the end of the week,” Collins said, adding that the measure is “good for America.”

Individual senators’ review of the final text – including detailed provisions to pay for it – will determine whether a sizeable bipartisan majority in the closely divided Senate can hold up. Senators so far have supported a shell version of the legislation in procedural votes, including a 66-28 margin on Friday that included 16 Republicans.

White House economic adviser Brian Deese talked up the bill before its final provisions were revealed as “badly needed investments in our economy” that could help ease supply bottlenecks that were contributing to inflation.

“It will make it easier to get goods and services flowing. It’ll actually lower prices over the long term,” Deese said on “Fox News Sunday.”

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Ross Colvin, Andrea Ricci and Diane Craft)


Japan’s factory activity growth picks up, costs rapidly rise -PMI

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from a factory during the sunset at Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s factory output growth picked up in July due to a stronger expansion of output and new orders, as manufacturers benefited from a continuing recovery of the coronavirus pandemic-hit global economy.

The final au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in July rose to 53.0 on a seasonally adjusted basis from 52.4 in the previous month.

That compared with a 52.2 flash reading released last month.

“The Japanese manufacturing sector continued to see an improvement in operating conditions at the start of the third quarter,” said Usamah Bhatti, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

The PMI survey showed that overall output and new orders rose at a faster pace due to strong output in the electronics and auto sectors and solid demand for semiconductors. Firms’ expectations for the year ahead remained firm.

Manufacturers, however, struggled with material shortages and logistical disruptions stemming from higher costs as input prices rose at the fastest pace since September 2008.

“Supply chain disruption continued to impact activity within the sector, with firms recording the second-greatest deterioration in lead times in over a decade,” Bhatti said.

The world’s third-largest economy is likely to grow at a slower pace than initially expected in both the second and third quarters, as coronavirus emergency curbs in Tokyo and some other areas are weighing on consumption, a Reuters poll found last month.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Sam Holmes)


S.Korea’s factory activity extends growth despite supply, virus worries

Employees work at a bio plant factory of Hanmi Pharm in Pyeongtaek

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s factory activity grew for a 10th straight month in July, driven by a solid expansion in production and new orders, though supply-chain disruptions continued to add strains on manufacturers, with both input and output prices rising.

The IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for July stood at 53.0, slipping from 53.9 in June but holding above the 50-mark, which indicates an expansion in activity.

“South Korean manufacturers continued to report a sustained improvement in operating conditions at the start of the second half of the year as production levels continued to expand,” said Usamah Bhatti, economist at IHS Markit.

The sub-index for output stood at 53.5, marking the 11thconsecutive month of expansion, and up from 53.3 amonth earlier.

To meet the increased production, firms continued to raise staffing levels for another month, though the rate was the softest in five months.

Total new orders and export orders both expanded for a 10th month but the pace of growth slightly eased from June as highly contagious Delta variant and related curbs weakened global demand.

“Anecdotal evidence suggested a resurgence in COVID-19 cases across Asia and ongoing supply chain disruption had led to demand easing in domestic and external markets,” Bhatti said.

Monday’s survey showed that raw material shortages and delivery delays continued, leading to a further increase in input prices. That also put firms under pressure to pass higher costs on to their clients.

The sub-index for input prices stood at the second-highest on record, extending the rise to a 13th straight month, while the pace for output prices hit an all-time high.

Looking ahead, firms remained positive over the coming 12 months on expectations that output and demand would rise and the launches of new products would further boost the sector, but the gauge of optimism eased to a seven-month low.

“Ongoing supply chain disruption and the resurgence of the virus also contributed to a softening in business sentiment. The degree of optimism was the lowest since December 2020, yet was strong overall,” Bhatti added.

(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Sam Holmes)


Asian shares weighed down by China worries as U.S. earnings shine

FILE PHOTO: Asian stocks drop as Fed shift reverberates

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares face another tough week as Beijing’s regulatory crackdown fans fears about China’s economy, though upbeat economic data in the United States and Europe and solid corporate earnings put a floor under their markets.

China’s woes were underlined over the weekend by a survey showing factory activity grew at the slowest pace in 17 months amid rising costs and extreme weather.

In contrast, Europe’s economic recovery outpaced all expectations last quarter, while U.S consumers spent with abandon in June as coronavirus restrictions eased, a trend likely to ensure a strong payrolls report at the end of this week.

“Surging company profits in the U.S. and lower bond yields are providing support, and in any case the rising trend in shares is likely to remain in place into next year as rising vaccination rates allow economic recovery to continue,” said Shane Oliver, chief investment strategist at AMP Capital.

About 89% of the nearly 300 recent U.S. earnings reports have beaten analysts’ profit estimates. Earnings are now expected to have climbed 89.8% in the second quarter, versus forecasts of 65.4% at the start of July.

There was also the prospect of more fiscal stimulus ahead as U.S. Senators worked to finalise a sweeping $1 trillion infrastructure plan that could pass this week.

The optimism was apparent in early trading with S&P 500 futures rising 0.4% and Nasdaq futures 0.3%.

Asia has fared so well, with China’s crackdown on the tech and education sectors hammering stocks, while the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the region hit growth.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a just fraction firmer early Monday, having hit its low for the year so far last week.

Japan’s Nikkei bounced back 1.1%, but that was from its lowest since January. Investors were anxiously waiting to see how Chinese blue chips fared after that index shed 5.5% last week.

Equity valuations elsewhere have been supported by a steady decline in bond yields, with yields on U.S. 10-year notes falling for five weeks in a row to reach 1.23%.

That drop combined with surprisingly strong EU economic data out on Friday to lift the euro to $1.1866, away from its July low of $1.1750.

The dollar has also drifted off to 109.67 yen, from its recent top of 110.58, but has support around 109.35. As a result, the dollar index has eased to 92.110, from a July peak of 93.194.

The drop in bond yields and the dollar gave gold a fillip last week but it again faltered at resistance around $1,832 and was last trading flat at $1,812 an ounce.

Oil prices eased a little on Monday, but that comes after four straight months of gains amid expectations demand will remain strong and supply constrained. [O/R]

Brent was last down 29 cents at $75.12 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 23 cents to $73.72.

(Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)


Venezuela to receive COVAX vaccines in coming days, Maduro says

FILE PHOTO: A pack of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines is seen as the country receives its first batch of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines under COVAX scheme, in Accra

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela will receive 6.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines through the COVAX initiative “in the coming days,” President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, potentially speeding up an inoculation campaign well behind regional peers.

The announcement comes after the GAVI alliance, which co-runs the facility along with the World Health Organization (WHO), said in early July that COVAX had received payments from the South American country after Venezuelan officials said some payments were blocked by a bank due to U.S. sanctions.

Maduro had given COVAX an “ultimatum” to send the doses or return the funds Venezuela has already paid.

Venezuela will receive doses of China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines through the initiative, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional arm of the WHO. The country has so far been administering Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik-V, and Cuba’s Abdala vaccines.

The country of some 28 million inhabitants has reported 305,766 cases and 3,591 deaths, official data show. It had administered some 2.2 million doses as of July 14, according to PAHO. Reuters data show Venezuela has fully vaccinated 3.9% of the population, among the lowest rates in Latin America.

(Reporting by Caracas newsroom; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Chris Reese)


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Olympics-Organisers investigating after athletes drinking violates COVID-19 curbs

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