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Italy’s UniCredit is plotting to merge with French rival Société Générale in a bold move that could lead the way for an expected round of banking mergers on the continent.

Jean-Pierre Mustier, UniCredit’s French chief executive, has been pioneering the idea for several months, according to people close to the situation. They said no formal approach has been made but SocGen directors have also been studying the possibility of a combination.

Senior figures on both sides stressed planning was at an early stage and Italy’s volatile political situation has pushed back the timetable for a deal from the original plan of 18 months. Others say the banks are too big and complex to merge anytime soon. (FT, Bloomberg)

In the news 

Breast cancer study set to free women from chemotherapy
Hundreds of thousands of women with early-stage breast cancer are set to be spared chemotherapy after a groundbreaking study showed that many of them don’t need it and can be treated with hormone therapy alone. (FT)

No deal in US-China trade talks
The world’s two largest economies remained on track to commence a $100bn trade war as early as this month, after a third round of China-US trade negotiations ended in Beijing on Sunday without a breakthrough. (FT)

Rudy Giuliani: Trump ‘probably’ has the power to pardon himself
Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said the president’s constitutional powers probably include the ability to pardon himself. The comments came after the New York Times published a January letter from Mr Trump’s lawyers to the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The letter claimed that the president could “terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired”. (WaPo, NYT)

UK to review its ‘arbitrary’ visa cap
The UK is set to review its visa system for highly skilled professionals in response to criticism that it is keeping out thousands of foreign doctors and other essential workers — while many employers, including several hospitals, have complained that they are unable to fill jobs. (FT)

US ambassador to Germany talks politics
Going against the usual diplomatic etiquette of not taking a position on politics, President Trump’s appointee Richard Grenell has courted controversy, saying: “I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe.” (FT)

Newly accredited US Ambassador Richard Allen Grenell stands in front of a military honor guard during an accreditation ceremony for new Ambassadors in Berlin, Germany, on May 08, 2018. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell © AFP

Blockchain start-up raises more than $4bn
A blockchain start-up has raised more than $4bn in a year-long auction, topping nearly all initial public offerings this year, in the latest testament to demand for ways to participate in cryptocurrency. (FT)

The day ahead 

Netanyahu visits Europe
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is kicking off a trip to Europe on Monday to discuss ways to stop what he calls Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional expansionism. The visit follows the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which the European signatories, France, Germany and Britain, have said they will stick to. (FT)

What will Apple bring to its annual Worldwide Developers Conference? 
Last year’s conference saw the unveiling of the HomePod, but where is Apple headed next? Expectations are low for any new hardware — but the iPhone maker is likely to address growing concerns over smartphone addiction and its ‘unintentional negative side-effects’ on children. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

The mystery trader who roiled Wall Street
Akshay Shah, at the time a managing director at Blackstone’s GSO hedge fund unit, for nearly a decade spearheaded a series of unconventional trades that made him the most feared operator in European credit markets, terrorising a string of rival hedge funds and costing them millions in trading losses. (FT)

‘This is a government like we have never seen in this country before’
Italy’s new government was sworn in on Friday, ending a political crisis that has gripped the country for nearly three months. A mix of technocrats with politicians, hardliners with more conciliatory figures and Europeanists with nativists, the new cabinet is eclectic— and raising eyebrows. (FT)

Want to understand Trump on trade? Try studying professional wrestling
Try to imagine President Trump in tight red briefs with an American flag painted on his chest and an “I love Mom” tattoo on his bicep, writes the FT’s Rana Foroohar. No strategy — only a comic book world in which “good guys” fight “bad guys”, throw folding chairs, and engage in a lot of posing and fakery. (FT)

The world isn’t prepared for retirement
The results from a new survey revealed just how unprepared a good chunk of the world is for retirement — and whether people understand basic concepts such as investment and inflation. Let’s just say . . . things don’t look good. (Bloomberg)

Iran’s hardliners and reformers present a united front
As the Islamic republic grapples with the fallout from Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Tehran, Iran’s supreme leader is determined to demonstrate that hardliners and reformers are united in the face of what Iran’s rulers see as an existential threat to their survival. (FT)

Five myths about marriage
Marriage is one of the oldest social, economic, religious and legal institutions in the world, and there’s no shortage of opinions on what makes it work. But much of the conventional wisdom is not based on evidence, and some is flat-out wrong. After researching thousands of couples for more than 40 years, here are some of the myths two analysts encountered most often. (WaPo)

More students from around the world are choosing to study in Tokyo 
Foreign students studying in Japan have soared to a record high — and many of them are choosing Tokyo. But why? (NAR)

Video of the day

Who is Spain’s new prime minister?
Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s Socialist party, has risen to power from relative anonymity before, claiming his party’s leadership after past political gambits paid off.

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