Saudis target ‘oil addiction’, bank security threat and battle against the bag

Kingdom unveils long-awaited plan for a radical transformation of its economy and promises to list 5% of state oil company

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Saudi Arabia has vowed to end its “addiction to oil”, unveiling a long-awaited plan for a radical transformation of its economy and promising to list 5 per cent of the state oil company in a deal that could value it at more than $2tn.

The FT’s David Gardner wonders whether the ambitious economic reform programme will work, after previous attempts to reform fizzled out. He notes that many economists think this time could be different, because this oil price collapse is not cyclical but structural and because the kingdom’s cash reserves are dwindling fast. “On that view, the Saudis have no choice but to change. But it is a view that may underestimate the absolute primacy of politics and control for the House of Saud.” (FT)

In the news

Cyber thieves target bank systems Thieves who raided the Bangladesh central bank in February are now targeting other financial institutions, according to the main group providing interbank transfer messages and a cyber security company investigating the crime. Swift, the financial transaction system that has about 11,000 banks worldwide as its customers, said it had ordered clients using its Alliance Access interface software to install a mandatory upgrade after attackers “successfully compromised the banks’ own environments” in order to send messages. (FT)

BP profits rebound Profits at the oil major rebounded in the first quarter, as refining and trading operations compensated for losses in its exploration and production business caused by the persistently low oil price. The results will provide some relief for chief executive Bob Dudley. Earlier this month shareholders revolted against his 20 per cent pay rise for 2015, which was granted despite the company making its worst-ever loss last year. (FT)

Co2’s ‘greening effect’ Up to half of the Earth’s vegetation-covered land is now “greener” than it was 30 years ago, according to a paper published in Nature Climate Change. Most of the change is down to rising CO2 from human activity, say the researchers, but they note that this is not necessarily good news for the planet. As CO2 concentrations increase, other factors such as the availability of nutrients may limit growth, and the rate of climate change increase. (Nature Climate Change, carbonbrief)

Bangladesh murders continue A Bangladeshi gay rights activist and his friend were hacked to death in what the police believe is the latest in a series of targeted killings by Islamist militants. In the last two years, a spate of similar killings have taken place, targeting intellectuals, secular writers and activists critical of Islam. So far, no attacker has been prosecuted or sentenced. (NYT)

Tribune considers $815m offer Gannett has moved to extend its lead as the biggest print and digital news organisation in the US with a takeover proposal for Tribune Publishing. The owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune newspapers is considering the proposal. (FT)

Toshiba warns on operating loss The Japanese semiconductor-to-nuclear conglomerate has warned its operating loss will be far greater than previously forecast as a result of writedowns at its US nuclear business Westinghouse. (NAR)

It's a big day for

US presidential candidates Five northeastern states hold primaries, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump leading the polls. Mr Trump is poised to sweep the GOP primaries, but his rivals are already looking ahead to next week’s contest in Indiana, which may be their last chance to keep him from clinching the nomination. Sign up for our daily US politics newsletter here. (WSJ)

Apple, which may report a quarterly decline in revenue for the first time in over a decade. Some Wall Street analysts are predicting Apple sales to fall for the next few quarters, and the current set of earnings should provide some insight into the near future of the company. (Quartz)

Food for thought

Barack Obama and the end of the Anglosphere The US president’s intervention in Britain's EU referendum last week was a potentially devastating moment for the Brexit campaign. But it also revealed something important about Obama’s foreign policy: despite turmoil in the Middle East and Ukraine, the US president has remained determined to devote more of his country’s resources to Asia. (FT)

No magic pill Governments around the world are struggling with rising healthcare costs from ageing populations. In the UK the pressures are even greater, and the country has among the slowest uptake of new drugs in western Europe. (FT)

Battle against the bag Jennie Romer moved from California to New York about four years ago to save the city from plastic bags. A practising attorney, she is the country’s leading expert in plastic-bag law. “I came to New York because if we can stop plastic bags here we’ll have an effect nationwide, even more than the anti-bag laws in California did,” she said. (New Yorker)

Remaking China's military President Xi Jinping's plan to revamp the armed forces marks a milestone in the nation's development and emergence from isolationism. But the challenges he faces are daunting. (WSJ)

Genius genesis A 19th century prank sprung by John James Audubon on another naturalist — in which he invented various species of fish and mammals — was so well executed that its full scope is only now coming to light. (Atlas Obscura)

Video of the day

France wins Australian submarine deal DCNS is to design and build 12 “Shortfin Barracuda” submarines over four decades as Australia modernises its navy in the latest phase of an Asia-Pacific arms race. The FT’s Jamie Smyth reports. (FT)

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