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Goldman Sachs has clawed its way into contention for a role in Saudi Aramco’s planned stock market listing after a charm offensive by top executives, including former Trump administration official Dina Powell.

The Wall Street bank had failed to secure a top advisory role in 2017 when Saudi Aramco nominated banks including JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Moelis, Evercore and HSBC for what could be the world’s largest listing. But the initial public offering was postponed following an inability to achieve the $2tn valuation flotation and is now expected in 2020 or 2021.

The successful launch of a $12bn international bond by Saudi Aramco this year renewed momentum for the IPO and revived optimism about the Saudi economy after the international condemnation that followed the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ms Powell, an Egypt-born Arabic speaker, has leveraged her regional knowledge and relationships. “She’s a formidable operator,” said one person close to the Saudi state energy giant. “She’s doing what she did for Trump, for Goldman . . . she is opening doors to win business.” David Solomon, the bank’s chief executive, also visited the kingdom this year. (FT)

In the news

Trump ditches Denmark trip

Donald Trump has scrapped a planned state visit to Denmark next month to meet the Scandinavian country’s prime minister after she rebuffed his interest in purchasing Greenland. On her first trip to the Arctic island on Sunday Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s prime minister, called the US president’s idea “absurd”. The president appeared to make light of his suggestion when he tweeted a picture this week of a town in Greenland, superimposing an image of Trump Tower on top of it. Was Denmark right to reject Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland? Have your say in our latest poll. (FT)

US-Japan trade talks

The US and Japan are racing to clear the final hurdles of a partial trade deal that could be finalised as early as next month, according to people familiar with the matter. The deal could involve Japan opening up to American agricultural goods in exchange for cuts to US industrial tariffs and immunity from levies against its carmakers. Separately, China’s abrupt ban on US agriculture in its trade war with the US is hitting Donald Trump’s voting heartland. (FT, NAR)

Italy’s government collapses

Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, resigned on Tuesday, pre-empting a confidence vote backed by interior minister Matteo Salvini and deepening the country’s political crisis. Mr Conte’s dysfunctional coalition lasted just 14 months but its successor is far from certain, FT Europe editor Ben Hall writes. (FT)

Walmart sues Tesla

Walmart has sued Tesla, alleging that its solar panels were responsible for fires at seven of its stores and adding another headache to Elon Musk’s $2.6bn acquisition of SolarCity, which supplied 244 rooftops for the US retailer. (FT, Reuters)

Target gets digital sales boost

Target lifted its profit outlook and revealed stronger-than-expected sales growth on Wednesday in a sign the US retailer’s digital efforts meant to compete with online rivals like Amazon have paid off. (FT)

Facebook’s new ad privacy tool

Facebook will allow users to prevent websites from passing on their data to the social network for targeted advertising, which could dent revenues but will not affect data collection on the platform and Instagram. Meanwhile, EU antitrust regulators are investigating Facebook’s planned digital currency over consumer data and information use. (FT, Bloomberg)

Ferguson considers US listing

Ferguson, the UK-listed building merchant that generates 90 per cent of profits in the US, has sounded out top investors about switching its listing to New York, causing a transatlantic rift among shareholders, including the US activist fund Trian Partners, run by Nelson Peltz. (FT)

US and Venezuela hold ‘high-level’ talks

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro and US President Donald Trump have confirmed that high-ranking officials from both countries are engaged in talks to resolve the Latin American nation’s long-running political crisis. Meanwhile, latest estimates are that 6m to 8m people living in Venezuela are malnourished. The suffering must end, the FT says in an editorial, and talks should begin with Russia and China to end the crisis. (FT)

Forest fires rage in Brazil

Wildfires raging in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest have hit a record number this year, causing the city of São Paulo, 1,700 miles away, to go dark. Brazil’s space research centre INPE said 72,843 fires had been detected, an 83 per cent surge on the same period last year. The environmental policies of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro have been blamed. Here’s a closer look at his inner circle — a turbulent mix of ideologues and pragmatists. (Reuters, FT)

Judge approves recreational use of cocaine in Mexico

A Mexican judge has granted two people the right to recreational cocaine use, in the first ruling of its kind, the organisation behind the cases said. The court said it would allow both claimants to “possess, transport and use cocaine” but not sell it, according to Mexico United Against Crime. (BBC)

The day ahead

Federal Reserve focus

The US Federal Reserve has come under attack again this week from Donald Trump. The US president called on the US central bank to cut interest rates by 100 basis points and launch a new bond-buying programme as White House officials grow increasingly nervous about the health of the US economy. The Trump administration is also considering new tax cuts, including to capital gains and payroll taxes, to stave off the threat of a recession next year. Last month the Fed cut rates by 25bp and today we get the minutes from that meeting. Fed chair Jay Powell is due to speak at a gathering of central bankers on Friday, when we should get more of an insight into his thinking. (FT)

Johnson-Merkel meeting

Boris Johnson makes his international debut as UK prime minister today when he meets German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. The talks take place a day after the UK prime minister’s demand that the so-called Irish backstop be dropped from the Brexit talks was firmly rejected by the EU. Mr Johnson will take his uncompromising message to Paris on Thursday for talks with France’s president Emmanuel Macron, before heading to a G7 summit of world leaders in south-west France. (FT)

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What else we’re reading

The feud that rocked Apollo

Marc Rowan, the billionaire co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and his protégé Imran Siddiqui were two of Wall Street’s cleverest dealmakers. But then they fell out over Athene Holdings, one of the most lucrative investments of the past decade that has upset the leading private equity firm. (FT)

The return of the ‘widow-maker’ trade

The most famous “widow-maker” trade — one that has frustrated generations of money managers — is betting against Japanese government bonds. But as yields have sagged to eye-popping lows, investors are contemplating what could be this era’s ultimate ruinous trade: leaning against the bonds rally. (FT)

Hong Kong business must stay steadfast

Beijing wants companies to discipline protesting employees in Hong Kong but its use of multinationals endangers both, John Gapper writes. The demonstrations add a new twist to US-China trade talks, James Politi writes in our Free Trade newsletter — sign up here. (FT)

Why second-hand is best

In the UK alone, 11m items of clothing end up in landfill each week. In an effort to raise awareness of the fashion industry’s wastefulness, next month will see the launch of Second Hand September. Oxfam is asking consumers to abstain from buying new clothes for 30 days as part of the global campaign and instead buy from charity shops, ideally its own. Model Stella Tennant has taken the pledge and taken part in a shoot to promote the campaign, alongside Iris, her 16-year-old daughter. Will you join? (FT)

The truth about faster internet

Americans are spending ever more for faster internet speeds. But testing shows that typical households use only a fraction of their bandwidth — and receive only marginal gains in speed or quality from upgrading. (WSJ)

Video of the day

Olya Misik: the Russian teenager defying Putin’s rule

The FT’s Henry Foy meets the 17-year-old student who has become a symbol of the pro-democracy movement that has rocked Moscow this summer. (FT)

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