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UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank by assets, has raised its first-quarter profits by 42 per cent. Adjusted pre-tax profits rose to SFr1.9bn ($1.9bn) in the first three months of the year compared with the SFr1.5bn analysts had expected, and SFr1.4bn a year earlier.
However, the news was not quite so rosy at other banks reporting on Friday. Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 72 per cent owned by the British government, returned to profit but the government earlier this month indicated that its stake could be sold at a loss, with its share price far below what was paid to rescue the bank after the financial crisis. The chief executive of another UK bank, Barclays, has been forced to defend a disappointing performance in parts of its investment bank. Despite profits from continuing operations more than doubling to £1.2bn, analysts said the bank missed expectations due to weaker than expected fixed income trading. The results add to the impression that European investment banks are falling behind their US rivals after Deutsche Bank unveiled a disappointing showing this week.
In the news
Ireland reunited? European leaders meeting for a summit this weekend are to recognise the potential for a “united Ireland” within the EU, confirming that Northern Ireland would seamlessly rejoin the bloc after Brexit in the event of a vote for Irish reunification. Ireland is one of three priorities for the first phase of Brexit talks, according to a letter from European Council president Donald Tusk ahead of the meeting. (FT)
That’ll be $1bn please South Koreans are balking at Donald Trump’s comment that they should pay $1bn for the deployment of the US THAAD missile defence system, which will become operational on their soil within days. The missile system has caused controversy in South Korea and elsewhere in the region, with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Friday becoming the latest body to voice anxiety over rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula. South Korean social media users vented their anger at the US president’s remarks. One post on Twitter said: “So he wants to start a war with North Korea and he wants South Korea to pay for it.” (FT, NAR, Jazeera)
UK economy slows The British economy’s growth slowed to its weakest pace in a year at the beginning of 2017, moderating from 0.3 per cent in the three months to the end of March from 0.7 per cent the previous quarter. UK growth has been broadly resilient in the aftermath of last June’s Brexit vote but economists have warned that rising inflation could damp the consumer spending that has powered the economy since last summer. (FT)
Macedonian MPs attacked Masked men have stormed Macedonia’s parliament and attacked MPs in an effort to thwart the formation of a new government. The attack on Thursday evening left the head of the opposition bloodied and trapped in the legislature. Russia has condemned western attempts to mediate in the political crisis in the Balkan republic, which aspires to EU and Nato membership. (FT)
Terror foiled in London Counter-terrorism police shot one woman and arrested six others in a series of overnight raids in London, just hours after an apparently unrelated incident in which security services foiled an attempt to attack the heart of Westminster. The plots occurred just over a month after a Muslim convert ploughed his car into pedestrians close to the Houses of Parliament, and stabbed a policeman. (Reuters, FT)
Queen goes casual For the first time in more than 40 years the state opening of the British parliament on June 19 will be changed. Queen Elizabeth has agreed to a “dress-down” state opening of parliament without carriages or robes because of the snap election. (Times)
It’s a big day for
Sony After a year shaken by earthquake damages and a $1bn writedown on its film business, analysts expect the Japanese entertainment and electronics group’s net profit to increase nearly fourfold for the financial year as it reports earnings. (FT)
Pope Francis The head of the Catholic church visits Egypt as part of his mission to reach out to Muslims. There are obvious security concerns after two Christian churches were recently attacked by Isis. (NYT)
Test your knowledge of this week’s news with the FirstFT quiz. North Korea staged its largest ever military drill to celebrate what?
Food for thought
‘No fly zone’ Isis terrorists have been using drones to drop bombs in Syria and Iraq. Chinese drone maker DJI has issued a special software update that could put a stop to it. (FT)
Cricket goes for gold in its Olympic bid The sport and the Olympics went their separate ways after 1900. Are the 2024 games the right time for the two to be reunited? The only thing standing in the way is India. (FT)
Has champagne lost its fizz? For years, champagne ran the most sophisticated and effective public relations machine in the world of wine. All that has changed. A vast army of enthusiastic wine buyers now regard prosecco as their drink of choice rather than second best. Ironically, champagne is better quality now than it has ever been. (FT)
Reclaiming Afrikaans Afrikaans may be associated with the worst excesses of apartheid in South Africa but South Africans of all colours have contributed to its development. There is a movement afoot to decouple the language from its association with racism and celebrate its importance to the millions who speak it — 60 per cent of whom are black. (The Conversation)
How to have a good death How and where death happens has changed in the past century. Most doctors help people delay death, not talk about its inevitability, and dying has become a medical experience. An argument on why death is inevitable but a bad death is not. (Economist)
Video of the day
Korea at a turning point Bryan Harris looks at why the arrests of former president Park Geun-hye and the de facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, have revitalised enthusiasm for democracy in the East Asian nation. (FT)