Daily briefing: Anbang chairman detained, Singapore’s first family feud, surviving life at the back

Arrest casts doubt on company’s future and raises prospect it may be forced to sell off stakes

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Stocks linked to acquisitive insurer Anbang fell on Wednesday after the company acknowledged that its billionaire chairman, Wu Xiaohui, had been detained by the Chinese government. His arrest casts doubt on the company’s future and raises the prospect that it may be forced to sell stakes to meet upcoming maturities or early redemptions.

The billionaire Mr Wu, who describes himself as an “entrepreneur”, presided over prominent deals including the 2014 purchase of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel for nearly $2bn, raising questions at home and abroad about Anbang’s ultimate ownership and where it raises its funds. His detention is the highest-profile development in a sweep of China’s financial industry by corruption investigators. (FT, NAR)

In the news

Singapore’s first family feud
In a rare display of public acrimony in Singapore, one of the sons of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, has announced that he is leaving the country after he and his sister had lost confidence in the leadership of their brother Lee Hsien Loong, the city-state’s prime minister. “We feel big brother omnipresent,” they said. As in many disputes among heirs, the trigger was a disagreement over their late father’s house. (FT)

Pyongyang frees US student in a coma
Otto Warmbier, the American university student held prisoner for 17 months in North Korea, has been released in a coma. His parents said they were told he had been in that condition since March 2016 after falling ill from botulism during his trial. Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, said Washington was moving closer to placing sanctions on countries that did not clamp down on North Korea. (Reuters, FT)

Bumpy ride at Uber
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive, has decided to go on leave for an indefinite period, after a highly critical report into the ride-hailing company’s dysfunctional management. Here is the 13-page report. Shortly after the news, Uber director David Bonderman also resigned — after making a sexist comment to female board member Arianna Huffington at a meeting addressing sexism. (FT, Reuters)

London’s ancient market reopens
Borough Market, scene of carnage during the London terror attack, has reopened. Hundreds of years old, the market has survived plague, fire, world war and urban decay. It has been closed since terrorists rampaged through its stalls, pubs and restaurants 11 days ago. (FT)

Brexit in a time of uncertainty
Former UK prime minister David Cameron has offered some words of advice to his successor, telling Theresa May to adopt a “softer” Brexit and take a more consensual approach to the opposition. However, his advice may not be worth much according to the FT’s Martin Wolf, who has described Mr Cameron as “arguably the worst prime minister in UK history” for holding the EU referendum in the first place. (FT, Independent)

Testy Senate sessions
Jeff Sessions, US attorney-general, blasted suggestions that he had been involved in, or knew of, any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, calling the suggestion “an appalling and detestable lie”. Mr Sessions refused to answer many of the questions posed by senators, repeatedly saying he was unable to comment. Here are the highlights from his testimony. (FT, NYT)

The day ahead

Fed rate rise on the cards
The US Federal Reserve is expected to pull the trigger on a second rate increase this year. Martin Sandbu argues that a rise — no matter how foreordained — would be a mistake. (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

Beijing’s African testing ground
China’s state-owned enterprises, political leaders, diplomats and entrepreneurs have spent the past 15 years engaged intensively on the continent. Instead of seeing Africa as a source of instability, the Chinese see it as a place of commercial and geopolitical opportunity. (FT)

Could Camembert disappear?
Genuine Camembert comprises just 4 per cent of the 360m wheels bearing the name “Camembert” produced each year. To earn official Camembert de Normandie status the cheese must be made with unfiltered raw milk from northern Normandy under strict conditions, and the small producers who make it are being squeezed out of business. (Bloomberg)

Surviving life at the back
Reducing leg room, charging for bad food: airlines seem determined to make air travel unpleasant for those forced to travel in economy class. The FT’s Mike Skapinker offers tips to make life at the back of the plane a bit more bearable. (FT)

The secret history of Operation Goldfinger
A strange, untold episode in modern American history. In the 1960s, as gold’s role in the international monetary system was about to implode, the US government ran a secret project to look for gold in the oddest places: seawater, meteorites, plants even deer antlers. (New Yorker)

The ‘geek’ who saved Macron’s campaign
The youngest member of France’s new government is a self-taught digital guru from a poor immigrant family. Oh, and he foiled the cyber attack that threatened En Marche’s election hopes. (Guardian)

Video of the day

Macedonia looks at name change
The gesture is aimed at ending Greek objection to it joining Nato, in addition to countering Russian meddling in the Balkans. (FT)

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