“It’s very easy to suspend campaign contributions two months after an election. The question is whether these policies will remain in effect,” said Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily.
A growing band of U.S. companies are understood to be reviewing their links to the Republican party after FBI warnings over the threat of further acts of civil disobedience by groups attempting to block the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week. Some of the biggest names in corporate America including Amazon, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are said to be severing their links to senators who have openly supported the “Stop the Steal” movement, which is accused of coordinating the attacks on Capitol Hill.
Elsewhere, Silicon Valley is also continuing to block fringe and extreme right-wing groups from using its platforms amid the ongoing unrest. Payment portals Paypal and Stripe, and the crowd-funder GoFundMe, say they are barring several groups, including the pro-Trump “Joy in Liberty,” from using their services to raise travel expenses. The home-sharing company Airbnb has also canceled the accounts of individuals associated with so-called hate groups, including the white supremacist “Proud Boys.”
In Europe there was more evidence of the gloom in the auto sector, with German giants BMW and Volkswagen both reporting a fall in sales last year of up to a fifth in some key markets, as showrooms close and the roads empty.
But in evidence of the vast investment flows currently going into electric car development, Chinese auto maker Xpeng has announced a new $2 billion credit line from backers to fund the roll-out of its electric division across China, notably its popular G3 and P7 models.
Further down, CGTN Europe speaks to International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol on why the days of energy pre-eminence are numbered for oil producers such as Saudi Arabia.
And scroll to the bottom to see which EU country is paying the most in environmental taxes. Is it mighty manufacturing Germany? Super-charged Sweden? Or Brexit-ready Britain? You may be surprised.
Read on for all the day’s business news in full.
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Corporate backers have begun withdrawing support from the outgoing Republican administration in the U.S., after last week’s disruption in Washington DC by the so called “Stop the Steal” coalition. Amazon, Walmart, Marriott, General Electric, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, American Express and Airbnb are among the big names understood to be reassessing their support for senators who sought to challenge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It has been claimed that greeting-card giant Hallmark has asked representatives Josh Hawley (MI) and Roger Marshall (KS) to return previously donated contributions.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Deutsche Bank is reported to be cutting ties with President Trump after last week’s assault on Capitol Hill by right-wing groups backing his election fraud claims. Citing sources at the bank, The New York Times and Bloomberg claim that Deutsche, which has lent $340 million in property-related loans to the Trump Corporation, has ruled out any future deals with the president once he leaves office. While the bank has declined to comment publicly, its head of U.S. operations, Christiana Riley, condemned the violence in DC, in a posting on her LinkedIn profile, stating: “We are proud of our Constitution and stand by those who seek to uphold it, to ensure … a peaceful transition of power takes place.”
Silicon Valley is also acting to place further controls on the mobilization of extreme and conspiracist groups on its platforms, as the FBI warns of the threat of more civil disobedience when President-elect Biden is inaugurated next Wednesday. Payment portals Paypal and Stripe and the fundraising site GoFundMe are blocking fringe groups including “Joy in Liberty” and Christian crowdfunder “GiveSendGo” from using their services to raise support. E-commerce platform Shopify also says it is removing all Trump-related merchandise from its online stores.
The euro area economy could shrink again in a double-dip recession, according to the latest research by analysts at JPMorgan Chase and UBS. Investment banks are downgrading growth forecasts as delays in vaccination roll-outs and Brexit-related trade disruption set the conditions for a second straight quarter of falling GDP across the zone, increasing pressure on the European Central Bank to provide more financial support.
Bitcoin appears to have rallied slightly on the markets after a plunge in value over the weekend left investors badly rattled. The digital currency briefly topped $42,000 on Saturday, before a two-day drop of 26 percent. By midday on Asian markets, it was up 8 percent to about $36,600. On Monday, the UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority warned that investors in crypto and blockchain must be ready to “lose all their money” on the many deals currently being advertised online, offering high returns.
The UK Space Agency and Rolls-Royce have signed a research contract to develop nuclear-powered rockets, potentially halving the time it takes to travel from Earth to Mars. The project could have far-reaching effects on crewed missions into space, which have traditionally been stymied by serious health impacts of keeping humans in orbit for too long. In a statement, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the project aimed to “propel our next generation of astronauts into space faster and for longer, significantly increasing our knowledge of the Universe.”
German car giant BMW says sales fell 8.4 percent overall in 2020 as the COVID-19 outbreak took its toll on the auto market. However, customer demand picked up by 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, with strong demand for its “BMW M” model. The Munich-based luxury car maker, which incorporates Mini and Rolls-Royce, says sales in Europe were down 15.7 percent and in the U.S. by 18 percent.
Rival Volkswagen reports sales of its core brand dropped by 15 percent to 5.3 million vehicles last year, with a modest recovery in December. The Wolfsburg-based group says demand for its electric models jumped by 158 percent on the year, to more than 200,000 vehicles. For the year as a whole, Volkswagen brand sales fell by more than 23 percent in Western Europe and by 17 percent in North America, while the smallest drop was in China, at just under 10 percent.
Chinese auto maker Xpeng has signed an agreement with banks for a $2 billion line of credit to help fund the roll-out of its electric car capabilities. The group which has backers including Alibaba, still lags market leader Tesla but sold more than 27,000 cars last year and is extending free charging services at stations across 100 Chinese cities. Shares in the firm surged more than 40 percent on their New York debut last summer, valuing Xpeng at more than $10 billion.
Global e-commerce retailer The Hut Group says revenue rose 51 percent in the quarter to December, above expectations. The Manchester, UK-based luxury goods company says sales were particularly strong in cosmetics and skincare, with annual revenues up 66 percent to $404m. The firm now expects income growth for the current financial year to rise by more than a third. Sales of beauty and self-improvement products are understood to have boomed during lockdown, partly due to the so-called “Zoom” effect of corporate online conference calls.
Another industry flourishing in the UK lockdown is home food delivery. Market leader Deliveroo says it will expand to cover 100 more towns and cities across the country this year, reaching two-thirds of the population. The company took on an additional 25,000 riders last year, taking its total workforce to more than 50,000.
Elsewhere in the UK, retail sales fell by the most in 25 years last year according to new data. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said total sales fell by 0.3 percent on 2019, the worst since 1995. While sales over the Christmas period were 1.8 percent higher on the previous year, the last-minute surge in online shopping and the reopening of non-essential stores after November’s lockdowns, were not enough to offset the impact of renewed shopping restrictions that took effect from the middle of December.
UK supermarkets, meanwhile, are reassessing their sourcing policy, after Brexit-related delays disrupted supplies to their outlets in Northern Ireland. Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have all reported problems with red tape and customs paperwork since the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. This has resulted in empty shelves for perishable goods such as fresh fruit, vegetables and chilled meat. Sainsbury’s says it is seeking to offset the shortfall by seeking locally sourced alternatives. The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium says “all retailers” are experiencing problems under the new regime.
The developments in Northern Ireland come as Scottish seafood groups warn of possible business closures, after “confusion over paperwork” meant firms were unable to book services with shipping companies. DFDS is one group that has suspended services to France at the earliest for smaller exporters using its ferries for deliveries.
WATCH: While museums spent time developing their digital presence amid closures of museums and art galleries. The world famous Louvre in Paris took the rare chance to spend weeks undertaking crucial renovations.
International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol says long-term climate goals won’t be enough to reach net zero by 2015 and that global tracking and accountability will be required to address the issues. He told CGTN Europe why investors should make their portfolios climate friendly.
There are two reasons why the investors put money in the clean energy technologies. One of them is, I would say, a moral obligation, which is investors are part of this planet, part of this world. I would hope to see that the investors are putting their money in something which is good for them, for their families, for their fellow citizens and for the world. But putting this aside, I believe that energy is going in a direction which is definitely in the direction of clean energy technologies and the signals coming from large economies of the world, from China, from Europe, from Japan and soon from the United States, will make everybody understand that a clean energy investments are the profitable ones.
Where should governments start?
We have to put our money in the clean energy infrastructure, solar, wind, electric cars and, in some countries, nuclear. It is good for the economy of the country and it is important for the countries to put themselves in an advantageous position in terms of the next industrial revolution taking place.
What do you think the Saudis cutting oil production says about future demand?
No energy-producing country will be unaffected from the clean energy transition. If not today, it is tomorrow because clean energy technologies are going to take the place of the traditional fuels, maybe not immediately, but in the next years to come. And those governments, those countries whose economies are indexed to oil and gas and coal economies will need to reform themselves as soon as possible and broaden their energy and economic systems in order to not be vulnerable to the clean energy transition.
And finally, staying with the greening of the world’s biggest economies, the latest figures show that the environmental tax take across the EU rose to 5.9 percent in 2019. However, the more highly polluting eastern states pay far more in “green taxes” than Europe’s biggest and wealthiest economies. Analysts warn that more tax incentives in areas such as recycling and energy conservation are vital for the bloc to reach its 2050 goal of climate neutrality.