Fiat Chrysler Automobiles logo is seen on a panel at the media center in Balocco
FILE PHOTO: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles logo is seen on a panel at the media center in Balocco, Italy, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Fiat Chrysler shares jumped on Tuesday to the top of Europe’s STOXX 600 after the president of Peugeot family holding company FFP told French daily Les Echos he would support a new deal and suggested Fiat Chrysler was among the options.

“With them, as with others, the planets could be aligned,” Robert Peugeot was reported as saying, asked about targets for acquisitions or mergers.

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) declined to comment.

Shares in the Italian-American carmaker were up 5.2 percent by 1050 GMT, while Peugeot gained 2.7 percent, helping boost Europe’s autos index which was up 2.5 percent.

Peugeot’s remarks came on the heels of reports the group’s CEO Carlos Tavares is open to deals and that Fiat, General Motors, and Jaguar Land Rover could be ideal partners.

FCA’s new boss Mike Manley, who took over after deal-making guru Sergio Marchionne died last year, said this month the carmaker was open to pursuing alliances and merger opportunities if they make sense and strengthen its future.

FCA is often cited as a possible merger candidate because of its strong exposure to the North American market, where it generates the lion’s share of profits, and because of its popular Jeep, RAM and Maserati brands.

“PSA is essentially an EU pure play as things stand (roughly 90 percent of consolidated unit sales in EU) so an acquisition of a company with a broader reach would make strategic sense,” said Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst.

Investors and analysts alike were wary of betting on an imminent deal, though, mindful of potential antitrust obstacles.

“Although we believe that some M&A could materialize in the automotive sector, we do not expect it in the short term,” said Mediobanca Securities analyst Andrea Balloni.

(Reporting by Helen Reid, Danilo Masoni, Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Keith Weir)

Source: OANN

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini present plans on how the 500th anniversary of Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci's death will be marked in Italy, in Rome
FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte presents plans on how the 500th anniversary of Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci’s death will be marked in Italy, in Rome, Italy March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

March 19, 2019

ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday that commercial and economic deals he will seal with China have no implications for Italy’s geo-political position, in a bid to reassure the European Union and the United States.

Conte told parliament that a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed with President Xi Jinping hooking Italy up to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative “do not remotely put into doubt our euro-Atlantic alliance”.

The United States has warned Italy against signing the MOU on what it calls a Chinese “vanity project”, but Conte, speaking ahead of an upcoming EU summit, left no doubt that the deal would go ahead.

The MOU “is fully in line with the strategy of the EU and in fact it promotes it as no other member state has done so far in its dealings with Beijing,” he said.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Conte, writing by Gavin Jones; editing by Agnieszka Flak)

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An employee of Germany's Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) uses his mobile phone in front of a screen set up for the auction of spectrum for 5G services at the Bundesnetzagentur headquarters in Mainz
An employee of Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) uses his mobile phone in front of a screen set up for the auction of spectrum for 5G services at the Bundesnetzagentur headquarters in Mainz, Germany, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 19, 2019

By Douglas Busvine

MAINZ, Germany (Reuters) – Germany begins an auction of spectrum for next-generation 5G mobile networks on Tuesday, the outcome of which will play a decisive role in determining whether Europe’s largest economy remains competitive in the digital age.

It nearly didn’t happen: a raft of lawsuits brought by network operators was thrown out by a court only last week. The buildup has also been overshadowed by U.S. pressure on its allies to bar Chinese vendors from participating in building 5G networks due to national security fears.

In the end, regulators preferred to draft tougher rules for all vendors rather than meet the U.S. demand to banish China’s Huawei Technologies, the global network market leader.

Here’s an overview of how the auction will work:


Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) is auctioning off 41 blocks of spectrum in the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands.

These frequencies have relatively short range and high data-carrying capacity, suiting them to use in running ‘connected’ factories – an industrial policy priority.

Urban areas should get 5G coverage early, with another application likely to be super-fast domestic wireless broadband.


Germany’s three network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – have been admitted into the auction.

Also participating is 1&1 Drillisch, a virtual mobile operator controlled by United Internet that wants to run a fourth network.

The Big Three filed lawsuits to delay the auction, arguing that its requirement to provide high-speed coverage to 98 percent of households by 2022 was too onerous. They also criticized rules for network sharing, arguing they would make life too easy for new market entrants.

The Cologne Administrative Court threw out those lawsuits on Friday. Outstanding litigation may yet lead to the results of the auction being reviewed, although BNetzA says it is on firm legal ground.


BNetzA has declined to forecast proceeds but the federal government hopes to raise several billion euros – money it will reinvest in upgrading Germany’s broadband networks.

The last auction in 2015, for 4G frequencies, raised 5.1 billion euros ($5.8 billion). Back in 2000, a 3G auction raised more than 50 billion euros – a ruinous sum that forced some players out of the market and others to merge.


The auction is being held in old army barracks in the south-western city of Mainz. Bid teams will have to surrender their phones when they enter. They will submit offers from separate rooms via a secure network, and can only seek guidance via fax from their head offices.

All 41 blocks will be auctioned simultaneously and results will be published online after each round. Minimum bids range between 1.7 million and 5 million euros and total 104.6 million euros. The process ends when no fresh bids are entered.

Based on past experience, the auction could run for weeks – a previous one in 2010 lasted six weeks.


Germany resisted calls from the United States to shut Chinese network vendors out of its 5G buildout due to national security concerns.

Instead of banning Huawei outright, regulators have tightened rules on all network vendors. These won’t bid in the auction but will be key partners in upgrading network infrastructure.


Several countries – among them Ireland, Finland, Italy, Switzerland and Austria – have already auctioned 5G spectrum. Most have been low-key affairs, with only modest sums raised because the sales were designed to leave operators with money left over to invest in network upgrades.

The exception was Italy, where frenzied bidding last year raised 6.5 billion euros for the cash-strapped government but left operators financially stretched.

Countries like France have yet to hold 5G auctions, leaving Europe as a whole lagging early adopters like the United States, Japan and Korea.

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Source: OANN

Graeme Gallagher | Contributor

While waiting to get inside a St. Patrick’s Day disco at a hotel, a stampede erupted and resulted in the death of three teenagers in Northern Ireland, according to The Guardian.

On a cold and wet night, the “crush” occurred at around 9:45 p.m., as hundreds of people were waiting to enter the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, County Tyrone. A 17-year-old boy, 17-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy died as the stampede broke out.

“Our preliminary investigations show that there was a crush toward the front door of this hotel, and in that crush, people seem to have fallen, said Mark Hamilton, an assistant chief constable with the Police Serice of Northern Ireland (PSNI). (RELATED: Six Dead And Nearly 50 Injured After Night Club Stampede In Italy)

In addition to the three deceased teenagers, another 16-year-old girl was in stable condition and other teenagers were injured after the incident.

The Greenvale hotel has the capacity of about 500 people and is a popular venue for discos. While the doors to the hotel were locked on Sunday night, several coaches of young people arrived at the same time resulting in a large flux of people waiting for the gates to open. (RELATED: Farmer Accuses Vegans Of Killing Piglets In Stampede While Trying To Cuddle Them)

“We were all outside waiting for the gate to open and get in,” an unnamed teenager, who was at the incident, told the Ulster Herald. “Then, everyone just started swaying back-and-forth and pushing from side-to-side. Suddenly, there was a rush forward and the whole queue collapsed and everyone fell to the ground.”

The teenager went on the explain that there were “more than 100” people who fell down in the crowd, including himself, who was “pinned down” under others and unable to move for “20 minutes.”

COOKSTOWN, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 18: The scene outside the Greenvale Hotel night club on March 18, 2019 in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The scene outside the Greenvale Hotel night club on March 18, 2019 in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

“I didn’t know what was going to happen or how I’d get out,” said the teenager. “Eventually I was pulled out and thankfully was able to walk away. There were ambulances and police all around. I could see them giving one person CPR treatment.”

The incident “traumatized” the teenager and made him reconsider if he would go out ever again: “It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, really frightening. I’m traumatized, and after this, I don’t know if I ever want to go out again.”

Reports of assaults during the chaos at the hotel were downplayed by police, who said the struggle to get people off the ground could have led to some fighting.

“There seems to have been a little bit of struggling to get people up off the ground. And that may have explained why there was some reports of fighting,” said Hamilton.

In an effort to understand what happened, Hamilton and the Northern Ireland police are interviewing those who are present and are asking those with footage of the incident to share it with them directly.

“It is heartbreaking that an event which should have been fun for these youngsters on St. Patrick’s night should end in such a terrible tragedy,” said Hamilton.

Politicians from Northern Ireland offered their thoughts and prayers for those affected in the incident, including Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of the Sinn Féin, an Irish-left wing party, who called it a “night of tragedy.” (RELATED: Northern Ireland’s Citizens Want Abortion Decriminalized, According To Poll)

“I cannot fathom the horror that the parents of these children are going through this morning,” McDonald tweeted. “What should have been a night of fun and celebration for young people has turned into a night of tragedy.”

Source: The Daily Caller

A German soldier holds NATO flag during a ceremony to welcome the German battalion being deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO deterrence measures against Russia in Rukla
FILE PHOTO – A German soldier holds NATO flag during a ceremony to welcome the German battalion being deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO deterrence measures against Russia in Rukla, Lithuania February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

March 18, 2019

By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) – NATO is to receive the first of five Northrop Grumman high-altitude drones in the third quarter after years of delays, giving the alliance its own spy drones for the first time, the German government told lawmakers.

Thomas Silberhorn, state secretary in the German Defence Ministry, said the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone would be delivered to an air base in Sigonella, Italy, followed by four additional systems, including drones and ground stations built by Airbus, later in the year.

NATO plans to use the aircraft, a derivative of Northrop’s Global Hawk drone, to carry out missions ranging from protection of ground troops to border control and counter-terrorism. The drones will be able to fly for up to 30 hours at a time in all weather, providing near real-time surveillance data.

Northrop first won the contract for the AGS system from NATO in May, 2012, with delivery of the first aircraft slated for 52 months later. However, technical issues and flight test delays have delayed the program, Silberhorn said.

Andrej Hunko, a member of the radical Left opposition party, called for Germany to scrap its participation in the program, warning of spiraling costs and the risk that it could escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“The drones are closely linked to a new form of warfare,” he said. “They stand for an arms race that will see existing surveillance and spy systems replaced with new platforms.”

Silberhorn, in a previously unreported response to a parliamentary query from Hunko, said NATO had capped the cost of the program at 1.3 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in 2007.

Germany, which is funding about a third of system, scrapped plans to buy its own Global Hawk drones amid spiraling costs and certification problems, and is now negotiating with Northrop to buy several of its newer model Triton surveillance drones.

Fifteen NATO countries, led by the United States, will pay for the AGS system, but all 29 alliance nations are due to participate in its long-term support.

Germany has sent 76 soldiers to Sigonella to operate the surveillance system and analyze its findings, Silberhorn said. He said a total of 132 German soldiers would eventually be assigned to AGS, of whom 122 would be stationed in Sigonella.

NATO officials had no immediate comment on the program status or whether Northrop faced penalties for the delayed delivery.

No comment was available from Northrop.

(1 euro = $1.1336)

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Season opening of La Scala theatre in Milan
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the La Scala theatre before the season opening in Milan, Italy December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo/File Photo

March 18, 2019

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s La Scala opera house has decided to return more than 3 million euros ($3.4 million) in funding to Saudi Arabia after a plan to work closely with the country was widely criticized, including by members of the governing League party.

The Saudi proposal, which would have included giving a seat on the La Scala board to Saudi Arabia’s culture minister, had set off a furious row, with human rights groups and some politicians arguing that one of Italy’s most prestigious cultural institutions should shun Saudi money.

The deeply conservative Muslim kingdom has been accused of repeated rights abuses and has come under intense international scrutiny since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.

The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, who also chairs La Scala’s board, said the funds – part of a proposed 15-million euro five-year partnership deal with the Saudi culture ministry – had been deposited into an escrow account without the theater’s consent.

“We have unanimously decided to return the money,” Sala told reporters after a board meeting called to decide whether to accept the funding.

“Right now, going down this road is not possible,” he said.

Deputy prime minister and League leader Matteo Salvini had urged the opera house to reject the cash, while the governor of the Lombardy region – also a member of the League – called at the weekend for the dismissal of the opera house’s artistic director, Alexander Pereira.

Sala said Pereira, whose term at La Scala ends next year, would remain in his job

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN


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WASHINGTON — Those of us who have always thought that Brexit — Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — was a bad idea should be feeling self-satisfied and vindicated now. Well, we’re not; at least this observer isn’t. The reason is obvious. Many of the things that we feared would happen have happened, or might still. Worse, the consequences aren’t confined to the United Kingdom.

If you take a crude and unscientific survey of some of Washington’s major think tanks, you discover (no surprise) that they’re generally agreed that the economic outlook for Britain is grim. Here’s a commentary by economist Desmond Lachman of the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute:

“Since the Brexit referendum, the U.K.’s economic performance has deteriorated. It has done so as the U.K.’s future access to the European single market, which buys around 50 percent of the U.K.’s exports, has come into serious question. … At a time that the European economy is already stuttering, with Italy in recession and the German economy on the cusp of recession, the last thing that Europe now needs is a sclerotic UK economy.”

A new study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics reviewed the forecasts of 12 economic models and found that only two of them predicted gains from Brexit. Other studies forecast losses up to 8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The study also warns that “a no-deal ‘crash out'” — a reversion to higher tariffs rather than a “soft Brexit” of continuing the present no-tariff situation — “would have serious negative short-run impacts on the U.K., which are essentially impossible to model.”

Although EU countries would also lose some exports to the U.K., these are much smaller than the U.K.’s export losses to the EU. Thus, they’re more easily made up by boosting exports to other countries, the report contends.

The U.K.’s losses are not just theoretical. Already, some companies are announcing closures of U.K. manufacturing operations, a good example being Honda. Similarly, some banks are moving financial assets (stocks, bonds, other securities) from their London offices to locations on the continent. There is much fear that London will lose its traditional position as Europe’s pre-eminent financial center.

Meanwhile, the chaos, confusion and contradictions of Parliament’s efforts to find a tenable Brexit policy must seriously undermine confidence in Britain’s political system and its ability to attract future investors, domestic and foreign.

The prevailing political anarchy was on public display last week. On March 12, Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed agreement with the EU for the second time. Then on March 13, it voted down a proposal for the U.K. to leave the EU without an agreement, failing to acknowledge “that this is precisely what will happen unless they reconcile themselves to the very deal they rejected the day before,” as Douglas Rediker of The Brookings Institution noted in a blog post. The deadline for deciding is March 29, though that could be extended.

The larger and more significant issue floating over this controversy involves the future of the world trading system. There has been a loss of authority among the corporate executives, governmental officials and economists whose support is crucial if the system is to survive and flourish.

It’s not that they have changed their minds about the value of open trade so much as the public has turned more skeptical and hostile to trade expansion. A less supportive public in turn alters the political climate, making governments more nationalistic and leading to more, not fewer, trade barriers. Multinational firms become more cautious in making new investments, because they can’t know how much open trade will be tolerated.

Brexit is one example of this break from the past. Others are well-known: the Trump administration’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico; its bargaining with China over trade practices; and the imposition of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The fate of Brexit is just a small part of this much larger story. Is the post-World War II global trading system, constructed gradually over the past half-century or so, breaking down? Or is it just in a state of temporary hiatus? History awaits an answer.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov speaks during a news conference in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

March 18, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – United States Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov are due to meet in Rome this week to discuss the situation in Venezuela, diplomats from the two countries said.

Venezuela, a close ally of Moscow, is in political turmoil.

The United States and many other Western countries back Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who invoked the constitution in January to assume an interim presidency, while Russia says President Nicolas Maduro remains the country’s only legitimate leader.

Washington says Moscow is propping up Maduro’s administration. But U.S. diplomats say there could come a point where Russia decides that Maduro’s rule is beyond salvaging.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited Ryabkov on Sunday as saying that the main day of talks with Abrams would be on Tuesday and that the two sides would discuss how they might encourage negotiations between the Venezuelan government and opposition.

“The positions of Moscow and Washington on this question are diametrically opposed, but that’s not a reason not to talk,” Interfax quoted Ryabkov as saying.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)

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FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping visits Portugal
FILE PHOTO: China’s President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Portugal’s Parliamentary President Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues at the Parliament in Lisbon, Portugal, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

March 17, 2019

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A top Vatican official says China’s government should not fear “distrust or hostility” from the Roman Catholic Church, writing amid speculation over whether President Xi Jinping will meet Pope Francis this week.

Senior Vatican sources have said Francis is willing to meet Xi and that intermediaries had made overtures to the Vatican, but the Chinese side had not yet formally asked for a meeting. Any encounter would be the first between a Chinese leader and a pope.

Xi’s visit, starting Thursday, is his first to Italy following a historic agreement in September between the Vatican and the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops in China.

Beijing cut diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951 and has remained concerned that an independent Church in China could threaten its authority.

“The Holy See (nurtures) no distrust or hostility toward any country,” Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin writes in the introduction of a new book on China to be published on Tuesday. An advance copy of Parolin’s comments in the book, “The Church in China – A Future Yet to be Written” – were made available to Reuters.

Parolin, second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, said the Catholic Church’s work in China “cannot be separated from a stance of respect, esteem, and trust toward the Chinese people and their legitimate state authorities.”

This appeared to be another attempt by the Vatican to allay Beijing’s concerns.

While the historic September agreement initiated an unprecedented direct dialogue between the Vatican and China, Beijing and the Holy See have not resumed diplomatic, relations.

Parolin wrote that the previously “inextricable knots” in relations between China and the Vatican could be untied through a new, unified approach involving a mix of “theology, law, pastoral work, and even diplomacy.”

It is routine for heads of state and government visiting Italy to also meet the pope. A Vatican source said it could be inserted into Xi’s schedule “at the last minute”. A Vatican spokesman said it is not on the pope’s schedule.

The September deal, in the making for more than 10 years, gives the Vatican a long-sought say in the choice of bishops in China. Critics, particularly conservative Catholics, have labeled it a sellout to the Communist government.

China’s approximately 12 million Catholics have been split between an underground Church swearing loyalty to the Vatican and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association. Now both sides recognize the pope.

Many believe the September deal is a precursor to resumption of diplomatic ties with Beijing.

That would mean severing relations with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province. The Vatican is the self-ruled island’s last remaining diplomatic ally in Europe.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Bird flies near ING Bank Slaski logo seen on their building in Warsaw
A bird flies near ING Bank Slaski logo seen on their building in Warsaw, Poland July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

March 16, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Italian central bank on Saturday said Dutch lender ING is not allowed to take on new customers in Italy as long as it has not improved its monitoring of client behavior.

The measure follows inspections by Banca d’Italia from October last year until the beginning of 2019, which showed ING Italy did not do enough to prevent money laundering transactions through its accounts.

ING paid a record 775 million euro ($900 million) fine in a settlement with Dutch prosecutors in September last year for failing to spot criminal use of its Dutch accounts for years.

The bank said the shortcomings found by the Italian supervisors were the result of steps announced after the Dutch settlement, meant to enhance management of compliance risks.

“In the coming days ING will work hard to address the shortcomings and resolve the issues identified,” the lender said.

ING said it would refrain from taking on new customers in Italy during further discussions with Banca d’Italia, but would continue to serve existing clients in the country.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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