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Our scoop today reveals that Vladimir Putin had ordered the seizure of Danone and Carlsberg’s Russian operations after businessmen close to the Kremlin expressed an interest in the assets.
Yesterday, the government appointed Yakub Zakriev, Chechnya’s agriculture minister, as head of the Danone business and installed Taimuraz Bolloev, a longtime friend of Putin, as director of Carlsberg’s Baltika subsidiary.
Zakriev, 34, is a close ally of the region’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, while Bolloev, who previously ran Baltika in the 1990s, is reportedly close to billionaires Yuri and Mikhail Kovalchuk.
The Kovalchuk brothers, who are among Putin’s closest confidants, had previously signalled their interest in Baltika, which is based in their native St Petersburg, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Both brothers are under western sanctions, as are Kadyrov and most of his entourage.
The expropriations, announced on Sunday and followed by the transfer of Danone’s operations two days later, are a prelude to further distributions of foreign assets to regime loyalists, analysts and insiders said.
Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:
Economic data: Economists expect last month’s headline UK inflation rate declined slightly when it is published today. Britain also releases its house price index, while the EU has its harmonised index of consumer prices for last month.
Results: Investors will be closely watching Goldman Sachs results, with some analysts predicting last quarter could be one of the bank’s worst. Baker Hughes, IBM, Netflix, Northern Trust and Tesla also report.
Odey scandal: The UK Parliament’s Treasury committee will question the Financial Conduct Authority’s leaders over the watchdog’s work on non-financial misconduct, following an inquiry into barriers for women in financial services.
Five more top stories
1. Exclusive: Rishi Sunak is set to delay a decision on whether Britain should rejoin the EU’s €95.5bn Horizon science programme until after the summer holidays. Scientists had hoped the prime minister would make a decision before the House of Commons takes its break tomorrow. Here’s why Sunak is stalling.
2. Donald Trump has said he is the target of a new criminal probe into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election. The former president said he had received a letter from the Department of Justice informing him he was the target of an investigation into the run-up to the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Read the full story.
3. US banks have come under pressure from institutional clients demanding higher rates. Lenders have so far been able to benefit from tighter monetary policy by charging more for loans and at a quicker pace than they have had to boost interest rates for savers, a trend that is starting to reverse.
4. Exclusive: Tata Motors is set to announce a new flagship battery factory in England that will supply its subsidiary Jaguar Land Rover’s electric cars, choosing the Somerset site over a rival location in Spain. Tata is expected to unveil its decision today. Here’s how secret talks with the UK prime minister may have led to the move.
5. Blackstone’s troubles with its flagship property fund last year threatens to undermine a key milestone as it is expected to cross $1tn in assets under management tomorrow. Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust was forced to limit investor withdrawals late last year to avoid a painful fire sale of assets, exposing the risks of amassing vast assets in an era of rock-bottom interest rates.
The Big Read
After Switzerland joined the embargo imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine, much of the Russian oil trade in Geneva has shifted to the Middle East. According to a Financial Times analysis, companies registered in Dubai bought at least 39mn tonnes of Russian oil worth more than $17bn between January and April — about a third of the country’s exports declared to customs during that period.
We’re also reading . . .
Chart of the day
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed the need to recalibrate weapons procurement priorities. War games have identified munitions as an area of risk that needs urgent attention. The US, for example, could use some munitions faster than they are produced, and there are certain scenarios where it may not have enough to sustain a war.
Take a break from the news
Anya von Bremzen’s new book National Dish is a dazzlingly intelligent examination of how foods become national symbols, writes Bee Wilson. The Russian-American food writer examines why we still care so deeply about national foods in an age where you can find hamburgers, sushi and cappuccinos in every city of the world.
Clarification: The London High Court hearing in the Dyson lawsuit referred to in Monday’s FirstFT was regarding jurisdiction, while the factory in Johor, Malaysia, was operated by ATA, not Dyson
Additional contributions by Benjamin Wilhelm and Gordon Smith
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