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Google closed the Fitbit deal as US and Australian investigations continued | Instant News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Search and advertising giant Google closed its deal to buy fitness tracking firm Fitbit, it said on Thursday, even as US and Australian competition regulators said they were continuing to investigate a $ 2.1 billion transaction.

The Justice Department, which sued Alphabet Inc’s Google in October for allegedly violating antitrust laws in its search and search advertising businesses, said it “has not yet reached a final decision on whether to pursue enforcement action” over the Fitbit deal.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said “depending on the results of our investigation, we will consider whether to take legal action on this matter”.

Google said it “complied with the extensive DOJ (Department of Justice) review over the past 14 months, and the agreed waiting period has ended without their objection.”

“We are in constant contact with them and we are committed to answering additional questions,” the company added.

Google did not immediately respond to Sims’ statement.

Large transactions are rare without antitrust approval.

Google won EU antitrust approval last month for a Fitbit bid after agreeing to restrictions on how it will use data related to customer health.

Australia rejects similar restrictions proposed by Google, expressing concerns that it might block Fitbit rivals from connecting to phones running Google’s Android operating software.

Fitbit makes watch-like devices for measuring physical activity that compete with Apple Watch and others. Google says it is buying the company to compete in this market.

“We are working with global regulators on an approach that protects consumer privacy expectations,” said Google in a blog post, which said Fitbit had 29 million active users.

“(It includes) a series of binding commitments confirming Fitbit users’ health and fitness data will not be used for Google advertising and this data will be separated from other Google advertising data.”

Although Alphabet is known for its free service, its search engine, it owns many other businesses, including online advertising services, audio devices and thermostat maker Nest, YouTube video streamer, and self-driving car company Waymo.

Google’s plans to buy Fitbit raised concerns when it was announced at the end of 2019 due to its already rich data set about people, what they buy, where they travel and more.

Fitbit fitness trackers and other devices monitor user steps and calories burned. They also measured floors climbed, heart rate, and how long and how well people slept.

Alphabet shares closed around 1% on Thursday. The company is expected to retain 1,800 Fitbit employees.

Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, California; Edited by David Gregorio and Christopher Cushing


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Italy’s MPS will open up the data room next week but needs a source of time | Instant News

ROME / SIENA (Reuters) – State-owned company Monte dei Paschi is expected to provide access to confidential data to potential merger partners within days, three sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

PHOTO FILE: PHOTO FILE: Entrance to the Monte dei Paschi head office in Siena, Italy, 27 October 2017. REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini / Photo Files / Photo Files

The opening of the data room, which marks the start of the process for the re-privatization of Tuscan banks, comes as Italy faces a government crisis after the junior coalition party on Wednesday withdrew its ministers from the cabinet.

Monte dei Paschi (MPS) has announced a capital shortfall of up to 2.5 billion euros ($ 3 billion) and will present plans to fill it to the European Central Bank at the end of the month.

While the Ministry of Finance continues to work to fulfill promises made to Brussels when it rescued the MPS in 2017, people say Rome will only be able to present an outline of planned steps for the bank and count on winning more time from the ECB.

In order to come up with a durable solution to bank woes, the Ministry of Finance is looking to conclude a merger deal for MPS and has focused on UniCredit as the ideal partner.

With UniCredit now in the process of selecting a new chief executive after CEO Jean Pierre Mustier said in November he would step down in mid-April, MPS is also looking for possible alternatives.

The MPS said on Monday that its advisers would explore options regarding opening up the data room. Apart from UniCredit, Banco BPM, BPER Banca, Credit Agricole Italia and BNL-BNP Paribas will also be explored, said two sources.

Asked about the list of names, both MPS advisors, Mediobanca and Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Banco BPM does not currently include MPS among possible merger options, but its advisers are ready to assess the situation if they are to be contacted, a source close to Banco BPM said.

BPER Banca declined to comment. Credit Agricole Italy and BNL-BNP Paribas could not be reached for comment.

Financial sources said Credit Agricole Italy, which plans to launch a takeover offer for smaller rival Creval, is not interested in MPS.

Entering the data room requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement, a step UniCredit has not taken despite contact with the Ministry of Finance regarding the terms of a possible deal.

Rome has worked out a package of measures that will ensure the deal will not harm the buyer’s capital reserves, a key condition set by UniCredit which, according to a fourth source with knowledge of the matter, will also apply to other banks.

But the main hurdle for sales is about 10 billion euros in damages claims MPS is facing after decades of mismanagement.

MPS Fondazione in July filed an extra-judicial claim of 3.8 billion euros against the bank, which the Ministry of Finance hopes can be scrapped as part of a settlement deal.

Chairman Carlo Rossi on Wednesday said the foundation plans to initiate legal action on the claim, although it remains open for discussion.

($ 1 = 0.8214 euros)

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome, Valentina Za in Milan and Silvia Ognibene in Siena; Additional reporting by Andrea Mandala; Edited by Elaine Hardcastle and Steve Orlofsky


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New Fortress Energy is betting on Brazilian LNG growth with the acquisition of Hygo | Instant News

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – US-based New Fortress Energy Inc said on Wednesday it would buy natural gas company Hygo Energy Transition Ltd for $ 2.18 billion to expand its presence in Brazil, the frontier for growth in the burgeoning liquefied natural gas market. developing.

New Fortress, an energy infrastructure company, is among the private sector players turning their sights to Brazil, where demand for super-cooled LNG is increasing, although the market is smaller than in India and China, where power generation is shifting away from more coal. dirty to natural gas.

With Brazil opening up its natural gas industry to private investors, other companies including oil major BP PLC and US-based EIG Global Partners are also planning multibillion-dollar investments in the country.

New Fortress, a growing competitor in the LNG industry, has a small liquefaction plant in Florida and ships LNG throughout the Caribbean. In the past year, its market value has jumped 286% to $ 10 billion, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. The company is building a larger LNG import terminal in Mexico.

The company will acquire all of Hygo’s outstanding shares for 31.4 million shares of NFE Class A common stock and $ 580 million in cash.

Brazil’s annual demand for LNG is expected to grow by more than 80% by 2021, the fastest rate in the world, although its starting point is relatively low compared to large Asian consumers, said Kristen Holmquist, forecasting specialist at Poten & Partners.

Unlike these countries, most of Brazil’s electricity comes from hydropower. This LNG supply is partly intended to replace the supply of natural gas from pipelines originating from Bolivia.

Hygo transports supercooled fuel and has become a key player in Brazil’s natural gas industry as state-controlled Petrobras sells assets, canceling what was almost a monopoly on the market.

Hygo – a 50-50% joint venture between US private equity firm Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and Golar LNG – has recently invested in a number of LNG projects in Brazil for power generation. The company is also competing to operate a highly desirable LNG import terminal which is leased by Petrobras.

“There is strong growth in Brazil for electricity-powered projects,” Holmquist said in a webinar on Wednesday.

Hygo has told Reuters in 2020 that it plans to use LNG instead of diesel in trucks.

The transaction has a corporate value of $ 3.1 billion and an equity value of $ 2.18 billion, according to the statement.

The Hygo acquisition comes four months after the company’s trading debut in New York was suspended at the last minute after Brazilian federal prosecutors said the then company’s chief executive was appointed in the early stages of a corruption investigation, to activity at the company previously.

The CEO at the time, Eduardo Antonello, had left the company. He hasn’t been charged.

New Fortress also agreed to buy Hygo’s controlling company, Golar LNG Partners LP for about $ 251 million in general equity value and a company value of $ 1.9 billion.

Golar LNG Ltd was up 15% in US trading, while New Fortress Energy was up 10%.

Reporting by Sabrina Valle and Rithika Krishna; Edited by Maju Samuel, Krishna Chandra Eluri, Steve Orlofsky and David Gegoryo


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Monte dei Paschi Italia to open books for potential partners | Instant News

ROME / MILAN (Reuters) – Monte dei Paschi in Siena said it would give access to classified data to potential merger partners chosen by its advisers, as Italy goes ahead with plans to cut its holdings in the state-owned bank.

FILE PHOTOS: Entrance to the Monte dei Paschi headquarters in Siena, Italy, 27 October 2017. REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini / Photo Files

Confirming comments to Reuters from an earlier source on Monday, Monte dei Paschi (MPS) said his board had hired Credit Suisse to assist Mediobanca in the task of studying strategic options and exploring market interest for Tuscan banks.

Despite the chaos in the ruling coalition that risks triggering a government crisis, Italy’s Ministry of Finance is moving forward with plans to cut its 64% stake in MPS and fulfill promises made to the European Union as part of its 2017 bailout.

Rome has identified UniCredit as the ideal merger partner for MPS, sources said earlier, but Italy’s second-largest bank wants stringent terms to be met before considering the acquisition and has yet to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

The Ministry of Finance wants to see if Banco BPM, Italy’s third-largest bank which last year saw Rome as a possible partner of MPS, could be interested in entering the data space, said one of the sources.

Banco BPM could not immediately be reached for comment.

UniCredit, which is in the process of selecting a new chief executive after Jean Pierre Mustier decided to step down in April, will only consider a deal that does not affect its capital reserves.

They also want to ensure that an incentive package that Rome is preparing to facilitate sales will be approved in Brussels and Frankfurt, the sources said.

The UniCredit Board is expected to examine the list of candidates for CEO at a meeting on Wednesday before making a final decision in early February.

In the latest push to get the Milan-based bank to consider the deal, Rome is studying plans to divert at least 14 billion euros in non-performing loans from UniCredit to state-backed loan manager AMCO, sources said.

That could increase further to 20 billion to 21 billion euros, accounting for nearly all of UniCredit’s 22.7 billion euros in troubled debt at the end of September, one source added.

The Ministry of Finance has also set aside 1.5 billion euros to cover part of the capital shortfall of up to 2.5 billion euros in MPS.

The Siena-based bank will have to tell the European Central Bank in late January how it plans to fill the gap. The MPS said on Monday that it was pushing back around 10 days to January 28 a board meeting called for approving capital measures.

The tax cuts introduced by Rome for the 2021 merger would cost UniCredit a net profit of 2.4 billion euros if it took the losing MPS.

But the potential takeover is having resistance from within the bank as well as among some of UniCredit’s leading domestic investors.

To remove a major hurdle to a potential deal, Italy is working on a complex scheme requiring bail and a possible spin-off involving state-owned company Fintecna to deal with around 10 billion euros in claims, both in court and out of court, faced by MPS.

Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Valentina Za; Edited by Kirsten Donovan, David Evans and Jonathan Oatis


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TRNC leaders to meet UN envoys, promote a 2-state solution | Instant News

LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – The president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is expected to highlight a two-state solution during a meeting with the UN special envoy to Cyprus.

According to a Turkish Cypriot presidential source, Ersin Tatar is expected to meet Jane Holl Lute on Monday at 14.00 local time.

Lute will meet the leader of the Greek Cypriot Administration Nicos Anastasiades on Monday morning.

The meeting will take place ahead of an expected 5 + 1 informal meeting in Cyprus which is planned to be held under the leadership of the UN soon.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when the Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turks and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor force.

This has seen a persistent peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the aegis of guarantor states Turkey, Greece and Britain. TRNC was founded in 1983.

Tatars are expected to convey a clear and unequivocal message to Lute about the stance of the Turkish side before a possible negotiation process can begin on the Mediterranean island, according to the sources.

The Turkish Cypriot leader will describe in detail a model based on two separate states based on the sovereign equality advocated by the Turkish side on the Cyprus issue.

During the meeting, he is expected to inform UN envoys that negotiations cannot start from the point they left in Crans-Montana, Switzerland and talks about a new federation are unlikely.

The 2017 Crans-Montana conference held with the participation of the guarantor states ended in failure.

According to the source, Tatars will note that Turkish Cypriots have developed their position on the Cyprus issue in coordination with Turkey.

Tatars will also emphasize that the lack of a solution in Cyprus has a serious negative impact on the security and stability of the region and the island, and that the attitude of the Greek side also hinders cooperation on hydrocarbon resources in the East Mediterranean.

In the meeting, he will explain that negotiations can only be started on the basis of equality of sovereignty and acceptance of two countries with equal international status.

He added that otherwise negotiations would have no meaning and such a process would not have started, according to the source.

Last Wednesday, Tatars asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to adopt an open-minded approach to the formula for equality of sovereignty and cooperation between the two countries on the island.

He sent a letter in response to Guterres’ letter, the presidency said in a statement.

In light of the new conditions prevailing on the island and the region, for a fair, realistic and sustainable reconciliation, TRNC aims to establish a cooperative relationship between the two parties based on two sovereign states with equal international status, said Tatar in his letter. .

Greece and Southern Cyprus have tried to prevent attempts at a solution on the island, he said, stressing that a resolution on some basis would help restore regional security and stability and pave the way for an embracing vision in the East Mediterranean.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with the UN special envoy for Cyprus.

“It was stated to Jane Holl Lute, # Senior UN Officer at #Cyprus, that the federation’s project is no longer sustainable,” Cavusoglu said on Twitter.

He said the Turkish side was promoting a two-state settlement based on equal sovereignty in line with the realities on the island.

Common ground must be reached for a new negotiation process to be launched, he added.

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