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Lockheed nears $27 billion helicopter deal with Pentagon

( ) – Lockheed Martin Corp is expected to receive Pentagon approval on Thursday to begin production for 200 new heavy cargo helicopters for the U.S. Marines, a Defense Department official said on Tuesday.

The long-expected award for the CH-53K King Stallion will cost $87 million on average ea上海夜生活网ch and $105 million including spare parts and certain service contracts, said Colonel Hank Vanderborght, who heads the program for the Pentagon. The $27 billion program also includes more than $6 billion in research and development costs.

The new helicopter, in development by Lockheed’s Sikorsky helicopter business, can lift 36,000 pounds and would replace the CH-53E Super Stallion, which has operated as the backbone of field logistics for the U.S. Marines since the mid-1980s.

The Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board will meet on Thursday and it is expected to approve the beginning of production of the new helicopter, Vanderborght told . A Lockheed Martin representative declined to comment.

The expected approval by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board would be a major milestone for the largest U.S. defense contractor. Final terms of the production deal still are being finalized, a Defense Department official said.

Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson told reporters at the company’s annual media day last week that the 2015 purchase of helicopter maker Sikorsky from United Technologies Corp for $9 billion helped reshape the company.

Trump seeks to ‘reboot’ U.S. relationship with Egypt in Monday talks

WASHINGTON ( ) – President Donald Trump will seek to rebuild the U.S. relationship with Egypt at a Monday meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi focused on security issues and military aid, a senior White House official said on Friday.

“He wants to use President Sisi’s visit to reboot the bilateral relationship and build on the strong connection the two presidents established when they first met in New York last September,” the official said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity.

Egypt has long been one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East, receiving $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid annually. The country is fighting an Islamist insurgency in Sinai, and hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed fighting insurgents.

The bilateral relationship was strained when former President Barack Obama criticized Sisi for cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist group.

Sisi does not make a distinction between the Brotherhood, which says it is peaceful, and Islamic State militants. Egypt considers the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

Obama froze aid to the country for two years after Sisi, then a general, overthrew President Mohamed Mursi in mid-2013 after mass protests against Mursi’s rule. Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, had been elected the previous year.

Human rights groups have estimated that at least 40,000 political prisoners have been detained by Sisi’s government.

Trump’s relationship with Sisi got off to a good start when they met last September in New York while Trump was running for president, the White House said.

Trump supports Sisi’s approach to counterterrorism, which includes both military and political efforts, his efforts to reform Egypt’s economy, and Sisi’s calls for “reform and moderation of Islamic discourse,” the official said.

Asked whether the United States would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, as Egypt has, the official said Trump was interested in hearing Sisi’s views during the meeting.

“We, along with a number of countries, have some concerns about various activities that the Muslim Brotherhood has conducted in the region,” the official said.

‘MORE DISCREET WAY’

Sisi’s visit comes as the Trump administration has proposed massive cuts to U.S. foreign aid, the details of which are still to be determined. The White House anticipates aid to Egypt will continue but provided no details on Friday.

“We’re in the budget process right now and those discussions are ongoing as to how it will be broken out,” the official told reporters.

Some U.S. lawmakers have opposed loosening restrictions on aid to Egypt because of concerns about human rights in the country. The Trump administration intends to address human rights issues behind closed doors, the White House official said.

“Our approach is to handle these types of sensitive issues in a private, more discreet way. We believe it’s the most effective way to advance those issues to a favorable outcome,” the official said.

The official would not say whether Trump would discuss with Sisi the case of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American who works with street children and was arrested in May 2014 on human trafficking charges. Rights groups have called for her release.

Hijazi has been held in custody for 33 months in violation of Egyptian law, which states that the maximum period for pretrial detention is 24 months.

A verdict was set to be read in a March 23 court session, but was postponed with no reason stated by the judge until April 16. The maximum possible jail sentence in her case is 25 years.

The White House is aware of Hijazi’s case “at the most senior levels,” the official 上海夜网told reporters.

“We are going to address this with Egypt in a way that we think maximizes the chances her case will be resolved in a satisfactory way,” the official said.

Trump national security aide McFarland may become envoy to Singapore: official

PALM BEACH, Fla. ( ) – President Donald Trump’s deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, is expected to step down and has been offered the position of U.S. ambassador to Singapore, a U.S. officia上海夜生活论坛l said on Sunday.

The move will be seen as a victory for Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who is retooling the national security team he inherited from retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who resigned as Trump’s first national security adviser in February.

McFarland, 65, is a former national security analyst for Fox News and was one of Trump’s original hires after he won the presidential election on Nov. 8.

The exact date of her departure was unclear, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

News of her pending departure came less than a week after Trump removed his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from the National Security Council at McMaster’s urging. Bannon had a seat on the council’s “principals committee,” which included the secretaries of state, defense and other ranking aides. Flynn was forced to resign on Feb. 13 over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, before Trump took office on Jan. 20.

McFarland’s expected departure will likely elevate the status of Dina Powell, who is deputy national security adviser for strategy. She had served in Republican President George W. Bush’s State Department, and had advised Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, during Trump’s transition to the presidency.

Trump’s White House has been rife with infighting and palace intrigue as the president has struggled to get past some early stumbles.

Investor Ackman opposes United Technologies’ aerospace merger with Raytheon: source

( ) – Billionaire investor William Ackman’s activist hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP is opposing United Technologies Corp’s planned $120 billion aerospace merger with defense contractor Raytheon Co, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The move makes Ackman the first major Wall Street figure to come out against the deal. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concerns over the merger’s impact on competition, though he also said he hoped the deal would happen.

Ackman wrote an email to United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes early on Sunday morning to express his concerns about the proposed deal after reading press reports about it, the source said.

The fund manager, whose firm owns roughly 0.67% of United Technologies, had previously supported the company in its plans to split into three businesses – aerospace, Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners.

“We are extremely concerned that such a transaction will significantly lower the business quality of pro-forma United Technologies’ aerospace business, and, to make matters worse, will be accomplished through the highly dilutive issuance of large amounts of Un上海夜生活网ited Technologies stock,” Ackman’s email, seen by , said.

A spokesman for Pershing Square declined to comment. Raytheon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We are confident that our shareholders will see the merits of this transaction and the value it brings to them and the company. We will be working diligently in the days and weeks ahead to make sure that the details of the transaction are presented to and fully understood by all shareholders,” United Technologies said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Pershing Square’s opposition to the deal.

Activist hedge fund Third Point LLC also has a stake in United Technologies. Like Pershing Square, it supported the company’s break-up, but its views on the Raytheon deal are not known. A Third Point spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

The merger would reshape the competitive landscape by forming a conglomerate which spans commercial aviation and defense procurement. United Technologies provides primarily commercial plane makers with electronics, communications and other equipment, whereas Raytheon mainly supplies the U.S. government with military aircraft and missile equipment.

United Technologies and Raytheon shares have dropped 7% and 4.5% respectively since their deal was announced, as investors expressed disappointment with the low value of synergies the companies announced. Investors also fret that major clients of the companies such as the Pentagon would seek to review their supply chains.

Shareholders of United Technologies and Raytheon would have to approve the deal in separate votes.

Activist hedge funds are increasingly targeting announced deals and are seeking to upend them, often by betting that the acquirer’s stock would go up were it to walk away from the purchase.

Earlier this year, activist hedge fund Starboard Value LP sought to muster opposition against Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s $74 billion acquisition of biotech Celgene Corp, but abandoned the effort after two leading proxy advisory firms backed the deal.

United Technologies’ deal with Raytheon also faces regulatory hurdles. The U.S. Defense Department and big customers like Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp will have a lot of clout in the antitrust review, and may worry about over-reliance on one company for a big suite of products.

ACKMAN’S CONCERNS

Ackman’s email said that if the company moves forward with the deal, he expects the substantial majority of other shareholders to also line up against it.

The deal with Raytheon would be structured as an all-stock merger of equals because United Technologies, which currently has a market capitalization of $106 billion, would separately spin off Carrier and Otis. United Technologies bulked up in aerospace last year with its $23 billion acquisition of avionics maker Rockwell Collins.

“We cannot comprehend why United Technologies would attempt to effectuate a merger with Raytheon now, when United Technologies’ shares are likely to be materially higher after the business separation is effectuated early next year,” Ackman’s email said.

This year, Ackman’s firm has been one of the hedge fund industry’s best performers delivering gains of nearly 40% in the first four months of the year. This follows a rough patch where he faced big losses on Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc and Herbalife Nutrition Ltd and lost a proxy fight with Automatic Data Processing Inc. He has vowed to make back the money that he lost by reshaping his organization.

FOREX-Chinese yuan falls to 2019 low on U.S.-China trade setback

* Yuan headed for sixth consecutive day of losses

* But most currencies little changed by trade war

* Risk aversion dominates FX

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh (Adds quote, updates prices)

By Tom Finn

LONDON, May 13 ( ) – China’s yuan was set for its worst daily fall in nine months on Monday as trade negotiations between the U.S. and China ended after President Donald Trump raised tariffs on Chinese goods.

Currency moves in response to the latest trade hostilities have been muted, but on Monday the yuan fell 0.8% to 6.9040, its weakest since Dec. 27.

The yuan has fallen for six consecutive days and some analysts believe it will breach 7 per dollar in coming months, a level last seen during the global financial crisis.

China would probably use its vast currency reserves to stop any plunge through 7 to the dollar, which could trigger speculation and heavy capital outflows.

Investors bid up the yen, which is considered a safe haven in times of stress given Japan’s status as the world’s largest creditor and its huge hoard of assets abroad.

The yen was 上海夜生活论坛0.25% higher at 109.700 yen, near last week’s three-month high of 109.470.

“Since demand for safe haven could exaggerate any gains in the yen, Japanese exporters could find themselves particularly disadvantaged in these circumstances. We expect the yen to be trading in the region of 108 on a 12-month view,” said currency analysts at Rabobank.

The world’s two biggest economies appear deadlocked. Washington demands changes to Chinese law; Beijing says it won’t swallow any “bitter fruit” that harms its interests.

President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are likely to meet during a G20 summit in Japan at the end of June and discuss trade.

The Australian dollar shed 0.3% to $0.6976. A drop below $0.6960 would take the currency, already burdened by a dovish shift by the Reserve Bank of Australia, to its lowest since early January.

The Aussie is sensitive to shifts in risk sentiment and also serves as a proxy for trades related to China, Australia’s largest trading partner.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was flat at 97.318.

UPDATE 4-ANC set to retain power in South Africa but support slips

* Results in from 64 percent of voting districts

* ANC share of vote could fall to 55-59 percent -analysts

* President Ramaphosa trying to halt slide in ANC support

* Jobs, land and corruption were key issues for voters

* For more stories on the elections: (Adds DA, EFF, analyst comment, updates results)

By Alexander Winning and Onke Ngcuka

PRETORIA, May 9 ( ) – Results from nearly two-thirds of voting districts in South Africa’s election put the African National Congress on course to retain power but heading for its worst performance in a national poll in its 25 years in government.

The former liberation party of Nelson Mandela has not won less than a 60 percent vote share since it swept to power in South Africa’s first all-race election in 1994, marking the end of white minority rule.

As of 1840 GMT on Thursday, ballots in 64 percent of 22,925 voting districts had been counted. The early tallies put the ANC on 57 percent in the parliamentary race, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on nearly 23 percent and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on nearly 10 percent.

Based on those results, analysts predicted the ANC was set for a vote share of between 55 and 59 percent.

“The ANC result is going to be lower because of voter turnout, which could be the lowest at any parliamentary election since 1994,” political analyst Melanie Verwoerd said. “Turnout has been lower in areas where more black voters live, while the turnout has been higher in the white areas.”

She projected a vote share of 56-57 percent for the ANC.

South Africans voting on Wednesday for a new parliament and nine provincial legislatures had expressed frustration at rampant corruption, high unemployment and racial inequalities that remain deeply entrenched.

“The ANC have taken a hit in the polls — with an estimated near 5 percent loss on 2014 results — due to their failure to address key challenges affecting the South African population,” said Indigo Ellis, Verisk Maplecroft’s Africa analyst.

He cited youth unemployment of 53 percent, among the highest rates in the world.

Analysts have said that a poor showing for the ANC would embolden opponents of President Cyril Ramaphosa and risk a potential challenge to his leadership. The elections are the first test of national sentiment since Ramaphosa replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018.

“As long as the ANC gets more than 55 percent, things will be okay for Ramaphosa inside the ANC,” Verwoerd said.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a government agency, also forecast a decline in support, predicting the ANC would get just over 57 percent of the parliamentary vote and about 50 percent in the provincial polls.

Turnout on Wednesday was just over 65 percent, according to the votes processed so far, the Electoral Commission said.

ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte said she expected the party’s vote share to grow as results from larger voting districts filtered through.

Mmusi Maimane, the DA leader, said he was content with his party’s performance so far, while EFF’s chairman Dali Mpofu said the results showed the party to be “the only growing big party”.

At the last election in 2014, the ANC won 62 percent of votes, the DA 22 percent and the EFF 6 percent.

Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo said the Electoral Commission hoped that results from around 90 percent of voting districts would be declared by 10:00 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), with the remaining results to be released on Friday morning.

RAMAPHOSA BAROMETER

Ramaphosa is trying to arrest a slide in support for the ANC, whose image has been tarnished in the last decade by corruption scandals and a weak economy.

Ramaphosa, who became ANC leader in December 2017 after narrowly defeating a faction allied with Zuma, has promised to improve poor public services, create jobs and fight corruption.

But he has been constrained by divisions within his own party, where some Zuma supporters still retain influence and oppose his agenda.

The ANC achi上海夜生活网eved its best parliamentary election result in 2004 under former president Thabo Mbeki, when it won 69 percent of the vote. But its support fell under Zuma, and it lost control of big cities like the commercial capital Johannesburg in local government elections in 2016.

The party now controls eight of the country’s nine provinces, with the DA in power in the Western Cape. Early results showed ANC ahead in Gauteng province, where Johannesburg and the administrative capital Pretoria are located, while the DA led in the Western Cape, home to Cape Town.

Election officials said voting had in general progressed smoothly but that there had been isolated disruptions caused by bad weather, unscheduled power outages or community protests.

GRAPHIC-Take Five: Trade winds – World markets themes for the week ahead

May 10 ( ) – Following are five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week and the stories related to them. 1/WATCH THOSE CURVES Moody’s warned this week that a trade war could tip the U.S. economy into recession next year. And U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest decision to hike tariff rates on Chinese goods has possibly brought that risk a bit closer. At least the bond market seems to think so — the yield on three-month U.S. Treasury bills is on the cusp of rising above 10-year yields.

A sustained curve inversion, as such a shift is called, would be seen as a sure-fire recession signal; in a normally growing economy, longer-dated borrowing costs are higher than short-term rates.

But the curve has sent a false alarm at least once before and some believe it is doing so again, above all because huge Fed purchases have depressed longer yields. Huge issuance of short-term debt is also likely to have contributed to the flattening.

Which brings us to another question. Given 2019 net borrowing will top $1 trillion, might Washington find itself scrambling to find buyers? Some dismal bond auctions recently have raised the question whether China is paring Treasury purchases — due to the escalating trade spat. Simmering tensions will keep the issue alive.

-EXPLAINER-What is an inverted yield curve -Flattened yield curve reason to be nervous, but US economy solid – Fed’s Evans -U.S. yields spike after dismal 10-year note sale

tmsnrt.rs/2zUqXiW

2/ TALK, TWEET, REPEAT Industrial output, retail sales, house prices: a batch of data due in coming days was supposed to give investors an idea about how China’s economy was faring against a backdrop of 10% U.S. tariffs and authorities’ stimulus policies.

Fast forward and the stakes have been raised — quite a lot. On Friday, Washington hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% and Trump, reverting to Twitter, has threatened more. Beijing warned it would retaliate, though it didn’t say how.

Negotiations to try to end a 10-month-old trade war between the world’s biggest economies are continuing, and markets have taken heart from China’s decision to stick with the talks. Another factor is China’s central bank, which assured markets it had “rich” policy tools to cope with external uncertainties. Weak economic data can only cement that resolve. -Trump’s tariff hike on $200 bln of Chinese goods takes effect -More China policy easing seen as lending slows, trade risks rise -Counting the cost of the U.S.-China trad上海夜生活论坛e war so far tmsnrt.rs/2Lzed8e

3/OIL SLICK The world economy seems to be shifting into a lower gear but Brent crude futures are holding above $70 a barrel, up 30% this year. Barclays sees a climb to $74-$75 in the coming year.

In the short-term too, oil looks well-supported. On the demand side, Chinese imports hit a record in April, possibly due to economic stimulus measures taking effect. And supply has been curtailed by a pipeline contamination issue in Russia and U.S. sanctions that have cut shipments from Venezuela and Iran.

Venezuelan exports have dropped 40% since January and Iran’s exports have more than halved, to one million barrels per day or less. They are expected to slide further in May.

None of these issues will be resolved anytime soon. Iran for one is threatening to retaliate against U.S. sanctions by breaching a nuclear pact signed in 2015. Sanctions have failed to dislodge Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro but they are likely to cut oil exports further in May, after the expiry of an April 28 deadline for U.S. firms to complete existing deals.

-U.S. sanctions and Venezuela’s exports and imports -OPEC supply squeeze seen supporting higher oil prices -Sinopec, CNPC skip Iran oil purchases for May to avoid U.S. sanctions tmsnrt.rs/2VThqU1

4/NO STICKER SHOCK Few U.S. data series have been as choppy in recent months as retail sales. December’s drop in core sales was the largest in nearly two decades — only to be followed by an equally large swing to the upside in January. Demand for big-ticket items like cars then pushed the March total to the highest in 18 months.

Consumer resilience, emboldened by a strong job market, was a key pillar of support for the U.S. economy in the first quarter. So the April reading will show if that willingness to spend continues into Q2.

estimates point to the first back-to-back rise in retail sales since November. Headline sales are seen up 0.2%.

The report comes soon after Trump imposed new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports, but it is far too soon to see a meaningful impact from the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Shoppers will probably not start reacting to sticker shock until the third quarter. -U.S. retail sales post biggest gain in 1-1/2 years in March -Fed rate cut likely if U.S. manufacturing continues to slow: Kemp tmsnrt.rs/2VVixm4 5/ITALIA DEJA VU Once again it seems there’s good reason to fret over Italy, the euro zone’s third-biggest economy — and one of its most indebted.

Tensions have flared within the ruling coalition over a corruption scandal that cost a junior minister his job. Rome may find itself footing the bill for a bank bailout after BlackRock ditched a proposed rescue of Carige. And finally, the European Commission has warned that Italian finances may deteriorate further. So another showdown with the EU might be looming.

How talks on deficit targets may pan out could become clearer at the May 16 Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers.

Signs of compromise will bring relief to Italian bond markets, where yields have seen their biggest weekly jump in three months with a rise of over 10 basis points. Contrast that to Spain and Portugal, often lumped in with Italy as the euro zone “periphery” — 10-year Spanish yields are at 2-1/2 year troughs while Portuguese yields have touched record lows.

The latest bond sell-off, which took Italian yields to 2.7%, is small compared to the rout a year ago when yields spiked to 3.4%. But who could be blamed for a sense of deja vu? -Rome scrambles to swerve Carige bank bailout after BlackRock pulls out -Italy coalition patches up rift after PM ousts junior minister

-Italy accuses EU of prejudice after grim economic forecasts

tmsnrt.rs/2LzsCkO

U.S. judge orders Arkansas to pay Planned Parenthood in narrow ruling

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. ( ) – A U.S. district judge on Friday ordered Arkansas to continue payments to Planned Parenthood for its treatment of three women who challenged Governor Asa Hutchinson’s directive cutting off Medicaid reimbursements to the organization.

The order applied only to the cases of the three plaintiffs, although the judge suggested that Planned Parenthood as an organization might successfully challenge the cutoff.

Judge Kristine Baker held that the three women, identified in court papers as “Jane Does,” had demonstrated they would incur irreparable harm should they not be able to access contraceptive care and other services through Planned Parenthood. 

Arkansas is one of several Republican-controlled states that have cut funds for the organization after the release of videos by an anti-abortion activist group, the Center for Medical Progress, in which Planned Parenthood officials are seen discussing transactions involving fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing.

The preliminary injunction the judge issued on Friday follows a temporary restraining order she put in place two weeks ago.

The judge declined to bar the introduction of the videos in further proceedings, but dismissed them from immediate consideration as “inadmissible hearsay.”

Hutchinson, a Republican, said in a statement the ruling was limited to the three women and that he would direct the state health department to “prohibit funding to Planned Parenthood consistent with the Court’s ruling.”

In Washin上海夜生活gton, U.S. congressional Republicans this week challenged Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for federal funds, while the health organization’s president said defunding it would restrict women’s access to care and disproportionately hurt low-income patients.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million annually in federal funds, largely in reimbursements under Medicaid, the government’s healthcare program for the poor.

In Arkansas, reaction from social conservatives to the judge’s move was swift.

“Arkansans have made it clear time and again they do not want public dollars subsidizing abortions,” said Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council of Arkansas. 

Planned Parenthood has said almost all of its work in the state covered services other than abortions.

The Arkansas contracts with Planned Parenthood involved services including nurse practitioners, pharmacy and family planning and were delivered through the Arkansas Medicaid program. No state funds were used for abortions, except in the case of incest, rape or when the life of the mother was at stake, state health officials said.

A spokesman for the state attorney general said no decision had been made regarding an appeal of the ruling.

Russia’s top banks plot temporary sanctions workaround: sources

MOSCOW ( ) – Leading Russian banks are working on plans to help each other retain at least short-term access to the global financial system in the event that they are hit by fresh U.S. sanctions, sources familiar with the matter told .

Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank and others are examining how they can provide each other with access to U.S. dollars or other major foreign currencies by using so-called correspondent accounts, the sources said.

Banks access financial services in different jurisdictions and provide cross-border payment services to customers in various currencies through correspondent banking relationships.

The new scheme, which banks started to draft with Russia’s finance ministry and the central bank last year, would be unlikely to work indefinitely but could help avoid a panic if one or several big banks are cut off from dollar transactions.

U.S. lawmakers last year drafted a sanctions bill which proposed cutting off some of Russia’s top banks from the U.S. dollar system, mentioning Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Russian Agriculture Bank, Promsvyazbank, VEB and Bank of Moscow.

This did not come into force and recently another was proposed, without mentioning any specific banks.

But Russian banks still fear they could come under sanctions and so have begun to draft a contingency plan.

“Each important bank has a step-by step plan on what should be done in a given situation. The first month is set out day by day, if not hour by hour,” a senior financial official said.

The central bank and Gazprombank declined to comment. The finance ministry, Sberbank, VTB, Promsvyazbank, VEB and Russian Agriculture Bank did not reply to requests for comment.

The two biggest threats to the banking sector in Russia are being cut off from the SWIFT banking messaging system and losing access to foreign currency, which they usually get from U.S. banks via correspondent accounts.

In the event of being shut out of SWIFT, Russia already has its own system, which it is upgrading.

And for foreign currencies there are a number of options, said the sources, who include a high-ranking state banker, a well-placed industry official, an executive with a large bank and an individual in a foreign bank.

TEMPORARY FIX

The main option relies on at least one major Russian bank avoiding sanctions and being able to retain access to foreign currencies via correspondent accounts with major overseas banks.

Other Russian banks would then set up or upgrade existing correspondent accounts with that bank to shift currency around.

Publicly available documents show VTB has correspondent accounts with Sberbank and VEB, while Russian Agriculture Bank has accounts with VEB, VTB, Gazprombank, Sberbank and a number of other Russian banks.

VEB has such accounts with Sberbank and Gazprombank.

Sberbank, VTB, VEB, Gazprombank and Russian Agriculture Bank have correspondent accounts with the central bank as well.

However the bulk of these accounts are denominated in rubles, with only a handful in U.S. dollars and euros.

“This would (them) allow to move the dollars between themselves bypassing a correspondent account,” the source at a foreign bank said, adding that in order for the back-up to work one bank in the chain would need to have a U.S. dollar correspondent account with a U.S. bank as there would still be a need to make external settlements, necessitating a bridge.

Correspondent accounts would complicate tracking currency transfers between the banks, making them harder for overseas authorities to spot, a former central bank official said.

Such an arrangement would represent a “temporary solution” which might last for three or four months and buy the banks time to find an alternative, while also reassuring customers.

And a spike in currency transactions by the banks which had not been sanctioned and were dealing with the foreign correspondent bank would likely arous上海夜生活e suspicions.

Other options include the central bank providing forex currency to a ‘clean bank’ which in turn would then distribute it to peers via correspondent accounts, sources said.

Alternatively a sanctioned bank could use correspondent accounts directly with the central bank although that would raise the risk of the central bank itself being hit with sanctions and therefore, is unlikely, the sources said.

Sterling regains poise as fresh Brexit developments eyed

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv

LONDON, March 19 ( ) – The pound edged higher on Tuesday thanks to broad dollar weakness against its rivals as investors waited cautiously for developments on Brexit negotiations with less than two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union.

The British currency got off to a volatile start to the week, shedding half a percent in late London trading on Monday, after John Bercow, the speaker of Britain’s parliament, said Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal could not be voted on again unless a different proposal was submitted.

While traders have steadily reduced their fears that Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal in recent weeks, Bercow’s move means more uncertainty in the short term as the government 上海夜网races to convince opposing lawmakers to back May’s deal or request for an extension.

“The predominant notion adopted by the market is that as long as the worst case scenario of hard Brexit is avoided by delaying Brexit, the pound is a buy on dips,” Rabobank strategists said in a note.

That view was shared by Morgan Stanley strategists who said the pound remained a buy on dips. The U.S. bank’s positioning tracker showed broader market positions on the pound was broadly neutral.

Against the dollar, the pound firmed 0.1 percent higher at $1.3267. It rallied to a 9-month high against the greenback to nearly $1.34 last week and is down less than a percent from those highs.

Against the euro, the pound was broadly steady at 85.55 pence.

Despite the latest political developments, various gauges of volatility indicators for the pound ticked lower on Tuesday, reflecting a broader drop in currency market volatility.

Joao Mario joins West Ham

The Portuguese international has joined the Hammers until the end of the season.

Inter Milan midfielder Joao Mario has joined West Ham United on a season long loan move, the club from London have confirmed.

The 2016 Euro winner has joined the club at London Stadium and is excited to get started in the Premier League as he spoke to West Ham’s official website:

– I am really happy to be here, – said the new No18. – It’s a really amazing experience to join this amazing team and I am just glad to be here.

– It was a fast move. I have spoken with everyone around the team and, for me, it is exciting to play in the Premier League. I spoke with the coach and for me, I am really happy to be training for an amazing coach, also.

Joao Mario also added that his Portugal team-mate Jose Fonte played a major part in his move to London.West Ham suffer a tough injury blow Nedim Maric – After a promising start of the season, Manuel Pellegrini and West Ham will have to adapt after losing one of their crucial players.This weekend…

– Jose explained to me a little more about the Club and also the song we have, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and that, of course, it was really important for me上海夜生活网 to join West Ham!

– It’s a really historic Club with an amazing stadium and amazing players. I am just trying to know a little bit more about the Club every day and now I have some time to know more.

Preview: Sassuolo – Inter

Inter Milan will look to bounce back from their surprise loss to Udinese last weekend, whe上海夜网n they welcome Sassuolo in Serie A.

Flashscore presents the key facts before the match:

It is so tight at the top that one loss brought Inter down the table to third after 17 games (40pts, W12, D4, L1). Their first loss of the season puts them two points behind new leaders Napoli (42pts) and Inter must also be worried about AS Roma below them, who are now just two points behind with a game in hand.

Sassuolo are 15th in SA (17pts, W5, D2, L10) but have been on a revival since Beppe Iachini took control at the end of November. Nine out of their 17 points (53%) came in their last five matches where they picked up 1.8 points per game (compared to season avg. of 1.0 points per game).

The visitors are unbeaten in eight away games (W5, D3) conceding just five goals (avg. of 0.62 per game) while scoring 13 (avg. of 1.62 per game). This is bad news for the hosts who have just one win in eight home games (W1, D2, L5) and their home point tally (five) is better than that of only Genoa (two) and Benevento (one).

Inter’s Mauro Icardi has scored 17 goals so far in 17 games and is looking well on course to join Gonzalo Higuain and Luca Toni as the only strikers since the 1930s to score 30 goals in a SA season. The hosts want their talisman to get their title charge back on track, as they look for their first Scudetto since 2010!Italian football to pay respects to Sassuolo owner Squinzi George Patchias – Sassuolo owner Giorgio Squinzi has died at the age of 76, and a minute’s silence will be observed across Italian football this weekend as…

Sassuolo have failed to score in six of their eight home games (75%) while keeping just two clean sheets (25%). They have scored just three home goals (avg. of 0.38 per game) while conceding ten goals (avg. of 1.25 per game). But, the positive news is that their only win has come in their most recent match!

Sassuolo have won four of their last five (80%) encounters against Inter, with their only loss during this process coming last year at home (1-0). Can Inter repeat that feat?

Missing players

Sassuolo: C. Dell’Orco (knee injury), T. Letschert (knee injury), C. Adjapong (doubtful)

Inter: Z. Vanheusden (knee injury), J. Mario (doubtful).

Wenger vs Mourinho

Jose Mourinho accused Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger of lying about Alexandre Lacazette’s fitness before the showdown between the Gunners and Manchester United last weekend

The Red Devils coach claimed the Frenchman wasn’t honest about his striker’s fitness, and Wenger felt like he had to hit back.

It was France international Alexandre Lacazette who wasn’t supposed to feature against United on Saturday, as Wenger had previously stated he wasn’t in the right condition to play. Not only has he played, the striker managed to score.

As the former Lyon star’s presence put pressure on Mourinho’s men, he accused Pep Guardiola of being similarly dishonest when the Manchester City coach said David Silva isn’t ready to play on Sunday.

The Manchester United manager took his shot at Wenger and Guardiola during a press conference,上海夜生活论坛 when assessing his injured players after their 2-1 Champions League victory over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.Solskjaer “very pleased” after another failure to win George Patchias – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he was “very pleased,” even though United failed to win yet again.It is now ten games on the road since…

“The truth is Eric Bailly, no chance for the weekend, Phil Jones a chance, [Marouane] Fellaini a chance, Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] a big chance and [Nemanja] Matic is injured but will play for sure. [Michael] Carrick no chance,” Mourinho said.

“I’m telling the truth, he’s injured but will play for sure. No stories of Lacazette or David Silva. All the truth.”

Once Wenger heard what the Portuguese coach had to say, he couldn’t not comment on the issue, and he replied to Mourinho’s claims during a news conference ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League game against BATE.

“I though he wouldn’t play, yes, but in the end, he could play. What did you want me to do, to leave him at home?” the Frenchman replied.

“I’m always honest and I thought really he wouldn’t play. He had a test on Friday morning and we were not sure he would play. After he tried, and he played. That’s part of football,” Wenger said.

Preview: Barcelona – Sporting

Sporting’s only chance to qualify from Group D is a win in Barcelona today, coupled with a favorable result in the other match of the group between Olympiakos and Juventus (1x).

Flashscore presents the key facts before the match:

Sporting Lisbon face a 1,250km trip to Barcelona and face a mammoth task in their final group game in this Champions League (CL) campaign. Sporting must win here to stand any chance of qualification from the group. But for them to beat a Barcelona side away from home, who are unbeaten domestically and in the CL so far, whilst also relying on Olympiakos to do a job on Juventus – may be too big of an ask.

Barcelona have already qualified from the group having gained 11 points from their first five fixtures, but do not be mistaken in thinking that they’ll take their foot off of the gas for this one. Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona have won nine of their last ten at the Nou Camp, and their last defeat in any competition, home or away, was against their rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

To add more misery to Sporting’s chances, Barcelona have scored three goals in each of their home group games so far (3-0 vs Juventus, 3-1 vs Olympiakos). Furthermore, they remain unbeaten here in the CL since all the way back in September 2013 – a remarkable 23 CL home games.

Jorge Jesus’ Sporting side have not won in Spain in 11 attempts, drawing three and losing the remaining eight games, and m上海夜网ost recently to Real Madrid last season. Meanwhile, Barcelona are unbeaten vs Portuguese teams in their last 15 games, winning 12 and drawing three – with their last defeat to a Portuguese side being back in ‘87/’88!Niko Kovac urges Bayern Munich to remain ‘humble’ Andrew Smyth – Niko Kovac has called on Bayern Munich to stay focused and humble after thrashing Tottenham 7-2 in the Champions League.

Barcelona have managed five clean sheets in their last six CL outings, yet Sporting have scored 27 goals in their last ten away games, which is just short of three goals per game. The last meeting between the two at the Camp Nou ended with a Barca win and both teams finding the net (3-1).

Lionel Messi is on the brink of making history, he is now just three goals away from his century of CL goals, and he will surely be looking to take the match ball home after the game.

Missing players

Barcelona: O. Dembele (muscle injury), J. Mascherano (muscle injury), Rafinha (knee injury), S. Umtiti (muscle injury), A. Iniesta (doubtful), A. Turan (doubtful)

Sporting: J. Silva (knee injury), S. Doumbia (doubtful).

Real Madrid monitor Tottenham duo

Real Madrid are keeping tabs on two of Tottenham’s best players, Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

Los Blancos tried to sign Kylian Mbappe last summer and make him their galactico transfer, in an era when Florentino Perez chose to focus on younger players. But their plans have been ruined by PSG, who stepped in and made a superior offer, managing to attract the young French forward to Parc des Princes eventually.

However, Perez is aware that his club need some big name signings if they are to keep their status and continue to challenge for both La Liga and Champions League. For this reason, Real Madrid remain true to their strategy of looking at some of the best young players in the world and will try to sign the two best players of Tottenham, according to Marca.Donny van de Beek rules out January switch to Real Madrid Andrew Smyth – Donny van de Beek has ruled out a January move to Real Madrid as he plans to see out the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign with Ajax.

Harry Kane (24) and Dele Alli (21) are two players who have proved their ability at the highest level, despite their young age. Both of them have played vital roles in Tottenham’s Premier League title challenge in the past two seasons.

Real Madrid will have the chance to see the two players in action up close in their upcoming Champions League clash with Tottenham. Los Blancos will have to cope with a striker that scored 14 goals in 10 matches this season and with an attacking midfielder that played a vital role in creating上海夜生活论坛 most of his team’s chances.

However, any endeavour to sign the two players will be very very difficult. Florentino Perez already knows how hard it is to negotiate with Daniel Levy from the transfer of Gareth Bale, for whom Real Madrid ended up paying a world-record fee at that time.

Messi’s hattrick sends Argentina to World Cup

Lionel Messi scored a hattrick in Argentina’s 3-1 victory over Ecuador, that secured the Albiceleste’s World Cup spot.

Argentina went to Ecuador with one clear objective in their mind – a victory that would seal their qualification to the 2018 World Cup. Despite their last matches being far from convincing, the Argentinian fans were putting all of their hopes on the talents of their best footballer – Lion上海夜网el Messi.

And the number 10 did not disappoint. In a crucial match for the football destiny of his country, Messi delivered – and he delivered big time. Having his own personal reasons on top of the country’s hopes to take part in the upcoming World Cup, Messi scored a hat-trick to overturn a match that Ecuador found themselves leading from minute 1.

For Lionel Messi it was one of the last chances to win a World Cup. If Argentina would have missed the presence in Russia, it’s hard to believe that Messi would have had another realistic chance to lift the trophy in 2022, when Barcelona’s player would be 35.

Argentina needed a victory in Ecuador, as well as other results to play in their favour, in order to qualify directly to World Cup. The pre-match statistics were not encouraging for Argentina. The Albiceleste only won once in Quito, where the altitude makes it almost impossible for Ecuador’s opponents to perform at full potential. Also, Argentina failed to score a single goal from open play since November 2016, a less than encouraging statistic going into a decisive World Cup Qualifiers where you need to score.Ernesto Valverde praises Lionel Messi’s “fantastic” impact Andrew Smyth – Ernesto Valverde praised a not fully-fit Lionel Messi’s impact as Barcelona came from behind to beat Inter Milan 2-1 on Wednesday.

Ecuador were decided to make life difficult for Argentina. In fact, they only needed 39 seconds to open the score through Ibarra. However, Messi was not about to give up. And this time, he was not alone. Angel di Maria sent a magical pass in the 12th minute, that found Barcelona’s player in a finishing position. Messi took no chances and finished accurately, levelling the score and keeping the World Cup dream alive.

With the next two goals, Messi proved his commitment to his nation and to the presence at the World Cup. First, in the 20th minute, he chased a loose ball, powering past a defender and sending the ball into the net from a less than comfortable angle. Then, in the 62nd minute, Messi proved his absolute brilliance with a lob that left Ecuador’s goalkeeper, Banguera, stranded.

Messi sealed the 44th hat-trick of his career and perhaps the most important one, in a moment when his country needed him the most. It has to be said that this time, as opposed to the previous few matches for the national team, Messi had help from his teammates. Angel Di Maria, Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio all stood out with their performances last night, acknowledging the importance of the moment.

Messi saved the day and took Argentina to the World Cup. But Sampaoli will have a lot of work to do if he wants to achieve any big things in Russia next summer.

Real Madrid preparing huge offer for Spurs’ star

Los Blancos are interested in Harry Kane and willing to spend big to land the striker.

According to sports news outlet Diario Gol, Real Madrid are prepared to launch a huge offer for Harry Kane. As the report states, the La Liga champions are willing to offer money plus one of Gareth Bale, Luka Modrić or Karim Benzema.

The English striker has been in outstanding form since the start of 2017, netting 43 goals in 37 appearances for both club and country. September proved上海夜生活 to be one of the most fruitful months for him as he reached a milestone of 13 goals across all competitions.Donny van de Beek rules out January switch to Real Madrid Andrew Smyth – Donny van de Beek has ruled out a January move to Real Madrid as he plans to see out the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign with Ajax.

It is no secret that some of the biggest European clubs are interested in the forward due to Kane’s impressive and consistent performance on the pitch. However, it is rather surprising to see Real Madrid willing to give up on Luka Modrić, who is considered by many the best central midfielder in the world of football at present. Yet, a potential offer including Bale or Benzema would make more sense given the inconsistent showing of the Frenchman and the high number of injuries of the Welshman.

Preview: Monaco – RB Leipzig

Monaco and RB Leipzig are separated by two points at the bottom of Group G. The French team are last, with two points, while their German opponents are third, with four points after four rounds.

Flashscore present the key facts before the match:

AS Monaco have positive statistics facing teams from Germany in Europe’s premier competition with 7 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses.

When RB Leipzig score in the Champions League (CL) it’s mainly the first half – 4 of their 5 goals in this season’s competition have come in the first 45 minutes and overall they haven’t scored after the 48th minute in any CL match.

After reaching the semi-finals in the last CL campaign, Monaco have failed to shine this season. They haven’t manage to win a single match or score more than 1 goal in the 4 games so far (3 goals in total).

In the last 2 CL matches Monaco have even given away a 1-0 lead, with the opponents turning it into a draw and a defeat, respectively.

Leipzig have lost 5 of 10 competitive away matches this season and have conceded 7 out of 10 goals 上海夜生活论坛in the first half.Koulibaly warns about Genk danger Nedim Maric – The reliable Napoli defender, Kalidou Koulibaly warned his team about Genk’s quality as he’s played for the Belgian side in the past.Napoli opened their…

Despite losing both home matches in the CL, Monaco remain a big threat at home in Ligue 1 (P 6 W5 D1) and have scored 21 scored goals. In 4 of those matches they scored at least 3 goals.

Leipzig have conceded 6 goals in the 1st half of their Bundesliga away matches (4 in the 2nd) and that could be handy for Monaco, as the team has already scored 12 goals in the first 45 minutes of their home matches (9 in the 2nd half) in Ligue 1.

It’s not easy to be leading after 45 minutes against Monaco, as the team were only behind on 3 occasions at half-time this season.

Missing players

Monaco: T. Lemar (shoulder injury), D. Sidibe (injury), L. Badiashille (doubtful)

RB Leipzig: S. Ilsanker (toe injury), F. Coltorti (doubtful).

Silva praises amazing De Bruyne

The Belgium international has enjoyed a tremendous start of the season under Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City’s summer signing Bernardo Silva has lauded his team-mate Kevin De Bruyne as ‘one of the best in the world’. The Citizens’ playmaker is in outstanding form since the start of the season, constantly lifting the assist bar with his performances. De Bruyne has been the most assisting footballer in the Premier League since arriving at the Etihad Stadium in 2015. The 26-year-old’s showing on the pitch has been vital for Guardiola’s men, who keep smashing every team they face in England.

Their latest feature was a 7-2 hammering over Stoke City, with De Bruyne once again under the spotlight as he was involved in the majority of City’s goals. His incredible form has not gone unnoticed as Bernardo Silva could not hide his satisfaction with the Belgium international’s form and contribution to the club: “Kevin, is just an amazing player. It’s a pleasure to play alongside these kind of players and he showed us again that he’s one of the best in the world.” the Portuguese striker stated, according to beIN Sports.Neville: Pep Guardiola knows Ma上海夜生活n City aren’t good enough Andrew Smyth – Gary Neville has quashed Pep Guardiola’s claims that Manchester City won’t buy in January as they can’t challenge for trophies without defensive cover.

“It feels great to be part of this team and score my first goal for Manchester City, I’ve very happy for this.

“The team played an amazing game, three well deserved points and now we have to think about the Champions League, because we want another three points there to help us progress.

“To be here and to be able to learn from all these fantastic players, it’s an amazing opportunity, I’m very happy to be here, and I hope I can help the team to achieve the goals.”

Transfer embargo stopped stopped Griezmann from leaving

The ex-agent of Antoine Griezmann has revealed that the Frenchman was really close to United this summer.

The France international would have certainly joined Manchester United if it had not been for Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban, according to the player’s former agent.

Griezmann was a target for a number of European clubs, with the Red Devils being in the leading position for his signature as they submitted a bid close to €100 million in the very start of the summer.

Yet, the 26-year-old confirmed that he would remain at Atletico Madrid since his club needs him now most than ever due to their FIFA-imposed ban on adding new players to their ranks.Report: Mourinho rejects several offers amid Real Madrid talk Andrew Smyth – Jose Mourinho has reportedly turned down several job offers in Europe as he eyes up a potential shock return to Real Madrid.

“Griezmann hasn’t felt able to leave Atletico,” Olhats, who was Griezmann’s manager until September 2016, told France Football . “It showed the integrity of his links with the club, [who were] unable to sign players. Without that上海夜生活网 ban, he would have gone, without a doubt.”

“His omnipresence in the media has not helped him to relaunch himself on a sporting level,” he said. “The balance between the search for performance and the desire to sell your image is very fragile. Unconsciously, you can choose the wrong side.

“There are a lot of aspects of show business in football these days. Antoine is immersed in that inescapable logic at the moment. Now, he’s a footballer, not a singer.

“The press and marketing side of Antoine’s career are handled by his sister Maud, who know all about that. It was decided that Griezmann’s image would take a different path with new methods.”