Daily briefing: London’s Saudi Aramco bid, Macron plays host, women in the age of Trump

FCA move to create category for sovereign-owned companies looking to privatise is a boon for lobbyists wanting Saudi oil group to choose UK capital for its IPO

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London is sharpening its bid for Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has announced that it is planning to create a category for sovereign-owned companies that are looking to privatise. The move is part of broader plans by the FCA to reform equity and debt markets in an attempt to keep the UK open for business after Brexit. It is also a boon for those lobbying for Saudi Arabia’s Aramco to choose London for its IPO.

The Saudis are seeking to sell 5 per cent of their national oil company in what is set to be the world’s biggest flotation. They have already begun to rein-in the behemoth’s activities ahead of the IPO. With a valuation officials hope will reach $2tn, London and New York have been the frontrunners for a listing that would be a fee bonanza for advisers working on the deal. Should London be successful, it would also be a boost for the City amid fears that leaving the EU could cost it its status as an international finance hub. The FT’s Paul Murphy describes the move as “regulatory mercantilism”. (FT, Reuters, Bloomberg)

In the news

Macron plays host
The French president is hosting the leaders of Germany and the US as he burnishes his image as a global heavyweight. Donald Trump begins a two-day visit to Paris to celebrate Bastille Day, giving Emmanuel Macron a chance to reboot their relationship and show off his military might to the US president in the celebrations. The US president will be treated to blue lobster at the Eiffel Tower and the two leaders will be looking for common ground on terrorism and defence policy. (Politico, The Local France, France24)

Trump claims innocence
Donald Trump declared that his son was “innocent” as the scandal over Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer escalated. Meanwhile, investigators are now probing whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation — run by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 race. Here’s Ed Luce on “the rot inside America’s first family”. (FT, McClatchy)

Sukuks stall
The market for Islamic finance has stalled after a Middle Eastern energy company attempted to declare its bond issue unlawful, provoking a court battle. Dana Gas told investors last month it could not make payments on its $700m sukuk bond because its structure had been deemed unlawful under Emirati law. The row has sent a chill through the world of Islamic finance, with bond issuance dropping to its lowest level for more than six years. (FT)

Pakistan’s ‘fontgate’
A corruption scandal embroiling Pakistan’s prime minister has engulfed Wikipedia. Accusations that Nawaz Sharif’s daughter forged documents because they were written in Calibri font, which was not made public until a year after they were supposedly filed, has seen Pakistanis swamp the online encyclopedia to investigate the claim — with someone allegedly trying to change the article content to support Ms Sharif’s claims. (FT, Guardian)

Nemtsov killers jailed
A Chechen gunman and four accomplices have been given long jail sentences for the killing of leading Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov near the Kremlin. But the Nemtsov family believes the person who ordered the killing may never be caught. (BBC)

Lula’s near 10-year prison sentence
Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in jail for corruption, in a decision that promises to send shockwaves through Brazil’s political establishment. (FT)

The day ahead

Barnier meets Corbyn
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, will meet the UK’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the day after he warned that Britain would need to pay an exit bill as part of its divorce settlement, hitting back at Boris Johnson’s calls that Brussels can “go whistle”. (FT)

Repeal bill published
Prime Minister Theresa May will publish the government’s flagship piece of Brexit legislation, the first of eight Brexit bills Mrs May hopes to get enacted. But pro-Europeans are already seeking to amend legislation to ensure the UK makes a softer exit from the EU. (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

How the ‘Brussels effect’ will undermine Brexit
Vital industrial sectors are likely to upset optimistic predictions that Britain will be able to negotiate deals easily with the EU. (FT)

Women and the age of Trump​
When Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election to a man who talked proudly of pussy-grabbing and said women should be “punished” for having abortions, it was more than a blow to feminism. But a spate of new books shows the backlash is on. (FT) ​

My first robot
Meet the newest recruits to Singapore’s preschools — robots. But is introducing AI to nurseries a good idea for shaping children’s minds? (FT)

Mark Zuckerberg was never here
The Facebook chief executive is touring the US on a trip that totally does not presage a run for president at some point, he assures us — and he is showing up at homes and businesses with little notice, asking not to be quoted or photographed. (WSJ)

Megacities vs middleweights in Asia
The ASEAN market is set to look vastly different by 2030, with one of the biggest shifts already under way as megacities like Manila or Bangkok find so-called middleweight regions such as Cebu and Da Nang fast becoming growth hotspots. For companies wanting to ensure future success, aim for the middle. (NAR)

Video of the day

Wolf: Trump underlines splits in west
The meeting of the G20 countries in Hamburg was preceded by a speech by Donald Trump in Warsaw, suggesting the west was under attack. The FT’s Martin Wolf and Martin Sandbu discuss Trump’s “clash of civilisations” speech and why America was alone at the G20. (FT)


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