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Hungary buys Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, first in EU, minister says

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Hungary buys Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, first in EU, minister says 1

By Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary has signed a deal to buy Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, the first European Union country to do so, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a briefing during talks in Moscow on Friday.

In a live video posted on his Facebook page, Szijjarto told a joint briefing with Russia’s health minister that the vaccines would arrive in three tranches, and that details about the size of the shipments would be released later.

The agreement comes days after Hungary’s drug regulator gave approval for use of Britain’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines against the coronavirus, as Budapest strives to lift coronavirus lockdown measures to boost the economy. The EU’s medicines regulator has yet to approve the Russian or AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I am very happy to announce that we have signed an agreement today under which Hungary can purchase a large quantity of Russia’s vaccine in three tranches,” Szijjarto said.

He said this could allow Hungary to lift restrictions to curb the pandemic sooner. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to decide on the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and OxfordUniversity on Jan. 29. Scientists have raised concern about the speed at whichMoscow has launched its vaccine, giving the regulatory go-aheadfor the shot at home and beginning mass vaccinations before fulltrials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed. Moscow has said Sputnik V is 92% effective at protectingpeople from COVID-19 based on interim results, but has not yetreleased the full dataset for the trials. Russia on Wednesday filed for registration of the Sputnik Vvaccine in the EU before an EMA review next month.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Australia’s Macquarie raises guidance after U.S. winter freeze

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Australia's Macquarie raises guidance after U.S. winter freeze 2

By Paulina Duran and Jonathan Barrett

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Macquarie Group lifted its profit guidance on Monday, sending shares to 12-month highs, as its large North American energy business profits from the winter storms sweeping across Texas and other states.

Macquarie said it expects its fiscal 2021 profit to jump by as much as 10%, after warning just two weeks ago that earnings would be “slightly down”.

The energy business unit, designed to move large quantities of gas to meet unexpected demand, has single-handedly increased the overall profit forecast of the investment bank by about A$400 million, analysts said.

“Extreme winter weather conditions in North America have significantly increased short-term client demand for Macquarie’s capabilities in maintaining critical physical supply across the commodity complex,” the company said in a statement.

Macquarie is the second biggest gas marketer in North America, behind oil major BP. It purchases natural gas and moves it along pipelines and grids, typically from an area where usage is low to high-demand markets.

The deadly winter storm that crippled infrastructure and left millions of Texans without power meant electricity generators had to compete for natural gas supplies, pushing up prices sharply in the deregulated market.

The urgent supply situation has provided Macquarie with an unexpected windfall

“Macquarie appears to be capitalising well on volatility and financial market dislocation,” Bank of America Securities analysts said in a note, as it increased its earnings forecasts for the Sydney-headquartered company.

Macquarie’s performance hurt last year by the pandemic, with subdued deal-making and deteriorating economic conditions leading to a rise in impairment charges.

But a strong initial public offering of its majority-owned data analytics software business, Nuix, late last year and a fillip in the energy business have helped push its share price back to pre-pandemic levels.

The company, which also operates Australia’s largest asset manager and investment banking business, is set for extra boost from a rebound in local M&A activity this year.

Macquarie’s shares were 4.31% higher at A$148.39 early on Monday, the highest level in a year, outperforming a broader market that was flat. The share price eased slightly in afternoon trading.

Earlier this month, the Sydney-based financial conglomerate had forecast full-year earnings for the group to be “slightly” lower than in fiscal 2020.

Macquarie’s Commodities and Global Markets division contributes close to 40% of its group earnings. Analysts had previously raised concerns that the pandemic could erode profits from the division if high energy-use industries shuttered.

(Reporting by Paulina Duran and Jonathan Barrett; Additional reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan; Editing by Peter Cooney, Jane Wardell & Shri Navaratnam)

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Baidu-Geely EV venture names Mobike co-founder as chief

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Baidu-Geely EV venture names Mobike co-founder as chief 3

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Baidu Inc and automaker Geely hired Mobike co-founder and former chief technology officer Xia Yiping as chief executive of their new electric vehicle venture, the search engine giant said on Monday.

Baidu last month had announced it would set up a company with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to leverage its intelligent driving capabilities and Geely’s car manufacturing expertise.

“Xia has extensive management experience in the field of smart cars and mobility services,” Baidu said in a statement. “We welcome Xia Yiping to join Baidu’s auto company and look forward to his contribution to Baidu and the automobile industry.”

Reuters reported Xia’s appointment last week, citing people familiar with the matter.

Xia served as Mobike’s chief technology officer until the company was acquired by food delivery giant Meituan in 2018. Prior to Mobike, he worked at Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler.

(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang, Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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UK firms report strongest hiring intentions in a year – CIPD

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UK firms report strongest hiring intentions in a year - CIPD 4

LONDON (Reuters) – British businesses have the strongest hiring intentions in a year and fewer are planning to make redundancies as the economic outlook has brightened over the past three months, a human resources industry body said on Monday.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said 56% of businesses planned to increase staff numbers in the coming months, up from 53% in late 2020 but below the 66% planning to hire staff a year ago before the pandemic.

The proportion of firms planning redundancies dropped sharply to 20% from 30% in the last quarter.

However the CIPD said unemployment was likely to rise sharply if finance minister Rishi Sunak does not extend jobs support for businesses at his March 3 budget.

“It is far too soon to rule out further significant private sector redundancies later in the year if the government does not extend the furlough scheme to the end of June or if the economy suffers any additional unexpected shocks,” said Gerwyn Davies, a senior labour market advisor to the CIPD.

A costly furlough programme that is supporting around one in five private-sector employees during the current lockdown is due to end on April 30.

The British Chambers of Commerce warned last week that one in four of its members planned to make job cuts if the support ended while they were still feeling the impact of the pandemic.

The CIPD said hiring plans were strongest in healthcare, finance, education and IT, and weakest in the hospitality sector which is bearing the brunt of the current lockdown.

The survey, run jointly with recruiters Adecco, covered 2,000 employers between Jan. 5 and Jan. 30.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)

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