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First let’s start with some breaking news…

Saudi Arabia has insisted that it remains committed to an initial public offering of national oil company Saudi Aramco, but said the listing would go ahead “at a time of its own choosing, when conditions are optimum”.

The government statement follows months of indications that the planned flotation — which could be the largest ever — was making little progress, and a report from Reuters on Wednesday that both the proposed domestic and international stock listings had been called off, and that financial advisers working on the IPO had been disbanded.

People working closely on the deal told the Financial Times that while the planned listing had indeed been put on ice, advisers had not been officially called off.

Khalid Al Falih, the Saudi energy minister, issued the statement early on Thursday dismissing “speculation surrounding the cancellation of the IPO as not true”. Read more here

And now back to the subject of Corporate America

A year after their exodus from Donald Trump’s business councils, some chief executives have decided it’s safe to be seen with the US president again, writes the FT’s Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

Last week, Mr Trump said PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi had given him the idea to have the SEC review quarterly earnings, and in recent weeks executives from Apple’s Tim Cook to Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg and Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson have visited the president at his golf club.

It is a useful moment to review corporate America’s relationship with a president who touts his business-friendly credentials. In short, most big companies have relished Republican tax reforms and the administration’s unwinding of financial and environmental regulations, but they have been alarmed by the White House’s protectionist trade policy.

The Trump era has marked a sharp rise in what one academic calls CEO activism — bosses speaking up on issues as diverse as climate change, guns, immigration and race. But on this core business subject they have been strangely silent.

There are good reasons for this, from not wanting to invite a presidential tweet attack to not daring to frighten investors about what a trade war might do to their stock. Some CEOs tell the Financial Times they don’t think the president’s mind can be changed on trade.

But they are running a bigger risk: losing the argument with voters whose trust in capitalism is already low. This is not about CEOs siding against a particular president, Edgecliffe-Johnson writes:

It is about them making the case for the principles that will determine their companies’ success in the longer term — and reflecting on how business allowed support for them to become so fragile.

Intelligent curation and exclusive information: This is Due Diligence, the FT’s daily briefing on corporate finance, private equity and M&A. DD is delivered to your inbox Tuesday-Friday at 5am UK time. Meet the team, catch up on previous editions and sign up here. Get in touch with us: Due.Diligence@FT.com

Unfinished business at Fiat Chrysler 

It should come as little surprise to those who followed the goings on at Fiat Chrysler under the late Sergio Marchionne that dealmaking was always on the agenda at the carmaker. 

So much so that Marchionne was involved in detailed talks to sell Magneti Marelli, FCA's automotive component maker, just days before his death. While FCA's line since the start of the year has been that it is planning to proceed with a spinout of Magneti, the company has been negotiating with potential buyers for months. 

The fallout from Marchionne's death also saw the other executive involved in the talks, Alfredo Altavilla, the company's European head, leave FCA after he was passed over for the top job in favour of Jeep boss Mike Manley.

But talks to sell Magneti appear to have re-started with John Elkann (pictured), heir to the Agnelli family empire and chairman of Exor, the vehicle that controls its stakes in FCA and other holdings, becoming more involved in the process.

The latest news is that KKR is in talks to buy the unit for as much as €6bn, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. Those talks were first revealed by the WSJ on Wednesday.

If successful, it would be the latest large European deal for KKR since it acquired Unilever’s spreads business in a €7bn deal. One other interesting dynamic? KKR’s new co-president, Joe Bae, sits on the board of Exor.

Keep an eye out for other bidders in the process including Apollo Global Management, which thought it was close to sealing a deal for the business earlier this summer. 

Job Moves

  • Rachel Osborne has been named as the new chief financial officer at UK department store chain Debenhams. She replaces Matt Smith who announced earlier this year that he would join rival Selfridges. Osborne joins from Domino’s Pizza where she was chief financial officer. 

  • Lowe's, the US home building supplies store, has named David Denton as its new CFO. He joins from CVS Health where he held the role of executive vice-president and CFO. He will join Lowe's after US healthcare group Aetna completes its acquisition of CVS later this year. 

  • AMP, one of Australia’s largest financial services groups, has appointed Francesco de Ferrari, Credit Suisse’s Asia Pacific private banking chief, as its new chief executive to “lead the recovery” of the business. De Ferrari also held the role of chief executive of south-east Asia and frontier markets at Credit Suisse.

  • Dan Rose, Facebook’s vice-president of partnerships, is  leaving in February to spend more time with his family, after their move to Hawaii. He is Facebook's top executive in charge of its platform; partnerships with publishers; and dealmaking.

Smart Reads

  • Air France A look at how France's flagship carrier lost its way following its merger with Dutch rival KLM and what the combined group must do to survive after a tumultuous period. (BBG)

  • Damage control How can Tesla's board limit the fallout from Elon Musk's tweets? This column argues the board should separate Musk's roles as chief executive and chairman and introduce a chief compliance officer to review all his financial-related tweets before they are sent. ( FT)

  • Eastern promises Louise Lucas looks at the plethora of online dating apps in Asia and what they say about the diversity of cultures and norms on the continent. ( FT)

News Round-up

Goldman Sachs agrees sale, leaseback of London HQ with Korea Pension Fund (FT)

Deal-hungry investment bankers walk Tesla tightrope (Reuters)

Linde-Praxair try to save $83 billion merger after antitrust blow (Reuters)

US insurer Hartford to buy rival Navigators in $2.1bn deal (FT)

Australia’s TPG Telecom surges on Vodafone Hutchison merger talks (FT)

Deutsche Bank chief reassures UK staff in London visit (FT)

Follow the FT’s deals team

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Javier Espinoza in London — @JavierespFT

James Fontanella-Khan in New York — @JFK_America

Sujeet Indap in New York — @sindap

Don Weinland in Hong Kong — @donweinland

Eric Platt in New York — @EricGPlatt

Lindsay Fortado in New York — @lindsfortado

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