FirstFT: Russian gas projects risk sanctions if Ukraine attacks

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The UK and EU are preparing to hit new Russian gas projects with sanctions if Moscow orders an attack on Ukraine, the first time that Europe has weighed on a sector it depends on for 40% of its imports gas.

The plans, backed by the United States, would significantly reduce funding and technology transfer for gas projects, according to people briefed on the talks.

The sanctions reflect concern over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine after Moscow deployed more than 100,000 troops near the border.

The measures would be part of a wider package of potential economic measures, with the severity to be adjusted according to the scale of any Russian offensive, people familiar with the talks said.

The crisis presents the biggest test yet for Joe Biden’s foreign policy doctrine, as the US president has pledged to deal with Russian threats. China, however, has signaled its support for Moscow, saying Vladimir Putin’s regime has “reasonable security concerns” that should be “taken seriously” by the United States and its allies.

A senior UK security official has warned UK organizations and businesses to prepare for possible Russian cyberattacks.

Thank you to the readers who responded to our survey earlier this week. Forty percent of respondents said they believed Russia would invade Ukraine. Thank you for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. No 10 ‘partygate’ report delayed by police investigation The release of an official report by senior civil servant Sue Gray on Downing Street parties during coronavirus lockdowns has been delayed over fears it could jeopardize a police investigation, Whitehall officials say.

Dame Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Government insiders say the Met investigation was primarily responsible for the delay in publishing Sue Gray’s report © Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

2. Latvia denounces relations between Germany and China Germany’s “immoral and hypocritical” relations with Russia and China have driven a wedge between Western and Eastern Europe, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told the Financial Times in comments that highlighted evidence of the cracks in the unity of the West.

3. Robinhood’s growth is running out of steam Retail brokerage stocks fell more than 12% in after-hours trading after missing targets in the final quarter of 2021 as retail fervor for meme stocks and cryptocurrencies currencies ran out of steam.

4. Biden promises to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court The US president has confirmed he will nominate a black woman with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity” to replace Stephen Breyer on the highest US court. Breyer, 83, said in a resignation letter that he would step down at the end of the court’s current term.

5. Oaktree may clash with Beijing over Evergrande debt The US asset manager is risking a showdown with Beijing over control of one of struggling real estate developer Evergrande’s most prized projects in mainland China, a sprawling tourist resort on the Yellow Sea coast called “Venice”.

Follow the news throughout the day with Top Stories Today, an abbreviated audio summary of the titles. Watch the latest episode here.

Summary of coronavirus

  • Cases in the UK rebound, especially in schoolchildren, according to a symptom-tracking study, as a subvariant of Omicron spreads. In England, the number of people starting an apprenticeship has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Apple posted record revenue of $123.9 billion during the holiday quarter, an 11% gain from a year ago, as the iPhone maker navigated the chain constraints of supply. McDonald’s revenue grew more slowly than expected last quarter, driven by rising costs and restrictions in China and Australia.

  • Chinese authorities have tightened restrictions in parts of beijing in a bid to minimize disruption to the Winter Olympics, which begin next week.

  • the American economy saw its fastest annual rebound since 1984 last year as the country began to outgrow the worst of the pandemic’s economic damage.

  • Opinion: As the world faces severe supply constraints, it is better not to destroy jobs and growth but to allow economies to recover, writes Philipp Hildebrand.

Column chart of GDP change (annualized %) showing accelerated US economic growth at the end of last year

The coming days

European economic data Gross domestic product figures from Germany and France are expected to underline the diverging performance of the two largest eurozone economies, with Germany expected to decline slightly in the last quarter of 2021 compared to the previous one, while France is expected to grow by 0.5%. Italy and France publish data on the producer price index.

business profits Full-year results will show the impact on clothing retailer H&M of state-influenced Chinese consumer boycotts. Companies reporting quarterly profits include Caterpillar, Chevron, Colgate-Palmolive, Saipem and Volvo, while UniCredit has annual results.

Mike Lynch extradition decision Priti Patel, Britain’s Home Secretary, has until midnight to decide whether to approve the extradition of the British software entrepreneur, who faces trial in the US on criminal fraud charges over the sale of $11 billion from his company Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard.

australian open The men’s singles semi-finals take place today, with Daniil Medvedev taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal taking on Matteo Berrettini for a place in Sunday’s final. Tomorrow, Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins See you in the ladies’ singles final. Barty is the first Australian to compete in the women’s final since 1980. (NYT)

General elections in Portugal The country is holding early legislative elections on Sunday. The centre-right opposition Social Democratic Party leads in opinion polls over the ruling Socialist Party.

Join leaders from UEFA, The FA, PCP Capital Partners, LaLiga and more to discuss disruption, recovery and the struggle for power in the football industry. The fourth edition of our Business of Football Summit will begin online and in person on March 2-3. Register here.

What else we read and watch

How to keep resolutions How are those New Year’s resolutions going? If you persist, good for you. Many are not. Tim Harford questions the problem of treating certain dates as springboards for personal change: “Look for a fresh start that will last, a change in routine or context to which a new habit can be pinned.”

Tim Harford: “A new start is just a start.  But it's better than nothing'

Tim Harford: “A new start is just a start. But it’s better than nothing’ © Anna Wray

Would you buy a house in the metaverse? You could buy an island, complete with villa, for prices as low as $104,000, less than half the average cost of a first-time buyer’s home in the UK. There’s a little catch: you can’t really live there. It only exists online, in a virtual world filled with buyable digital assets ranging from art to cars.

Turkish Lira Stables After falling 44% last year, emergency measures announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have helped the Turkish currency off to a relatively calm start to 2022 – but analysts remain deeply uncertain about its outlook.

Investors: watch out for liquidity holes This week, investors would be well advised to consider the concept of “liquidity holes”. After US Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell signaled future rate hikes, markets may see a shortage of buyers for certain assets relative to supply, writes Gillian Tett.

Space solar energy beckons The US, UK and China are exploring the potential of an untapped source of clean energy. But there are risks to harnessing space-based solar power for use on Earth – namely issues of launch costs, space governance and land use, writes Anjana Ahuja.

Video: Space solar power “could be deployed in 10 years”

Style

Is Kanye West good for Gap? What started as a coup for the store turned into frustration with the slow rollout of the Yeezy Gap brand.

The Yeezy Gap hoodie, released in September and the puffer jacket, released in June 2021. Both sold out quickly although not much was revealed about Yeezy Gap’s sales performance

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