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The UK’s largest energy suppliers are requesting a multibillion-pound emergency support package from the government to help them survive the crisis sparked by high gas prices, including the creation of a “bad bank” to absorb potentially unprofitable customers from failing rivals.
Kwasi Kwarteng, business and energy secretary, held emergency talks with regulator Ofgem yesterday and was due to meet energy suppliers face-to-face today, amid fears that smaller challenger companies could go bust because of record wholesale costs of natural gas and electricity.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, on a flight to New York for summits at the UN and with US president Joe Biden, said the energy challenges were “temporary”. Here’s what the crisis means for UK consumers.
Benchmark European gas prices have already tripled this year, even before peak winter demand kicks in. Norway’s Equinor, one of Europe’s biggest gas suppliers, said last week that high energy prices could last well into 2022 and warned of possible price spikes.
Five more stories in the news
1. Big Tech snapping up rivals at record pace Refinitiv data analysed by the Financial Times show that tech companies have spent at least $264bn buying up potential rivals worth less than $1bn since the start of 2021 — double the previous record registered in 2000 during the dotcom boom.
2. France and Australia intensify war of words Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison defended his decision to renege on a submarine deal with Paris as acrimony intensified over Canberra’s decision to sign a new security pact with the US and UK.
Go deeper: Keen to de-escalate the worsening spat, US President Joe Biden has asked for a call with France’s President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the deal. Here are the main differences between the submarines Australia would have received from France, versus the ones they will now buy from the US.
3. Credit Suisse charges investors to prop up Greensill The Swiss lender has angered investors facing billions of losses from its defunct supply-chain finance funds with plans to charge them another $145m this year, part of which is being used to prop up Greensill Capital.
4. Taliban tell Kabul’s female workers to stay home Afghan women employed by Kabul’s city government were told yesterday to stay home from work, with the only exception being if they could not be replaced by a man. The hardline views of a new generation of Taliban are running contrary to the image Islamist leaders hope to portray. (AP, FT)
5. SpaceX returns four tourists to earth from orbit Elon Musk’s SpaceX recorded another first for the space tourism industry on Saturday, returning four private citizens from orbit in a splashdown landing off the coast of Florida. The three-day trip was the first to carry a crew composed entirely of space tourists into orbit.
Developing countries could slide into instability without more financial support from richer nations and the IMF, Costa Rica’s president has warned.
US Food and Drug Administration scientific advisers have voted overwhelmingly against Pfizer’s application to offer a third shot to over-16s.
England’s travel restrictions have been eased with the simplification of the “traffic light system” and the scrapping of tests before departure.
Hospital and care home staff in France who refuse to get vaccinated are facing suspension but the government says the mandate is working.
Canada became the first country to grant full approval for Moderna’s vaccine.
Iran’s new hardline administration has refused to give prominence to the nuclear talks in Vienna; instead it has focused on jab imports.
The day ahead
Duma election results announced Russia’s ruling pro-Kremlin party is likely to renew its supermajority as parliamentary elections when results are announced today. However, opposition parties and independent observers reported widespread election tampering. (FT, WaPo)
Canada holds snap election Polls show the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are likely to win more seats than the Conservatives but to remain well short of a majority when Canada holds its snap election.
Climate Week NYC The Climate Group non-profit, along with the UN, will kick off a week-long event that aims to accelerate and assess progress on climate change ahead of COP26. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas levels are going “in the wrong direction”, a UN report card shows.
Labour crackdown on private equity tax loophole Shadow UK chancellor Rachel Reeves will announce that her party’s government would target a loophole that allows executives to pay a reduced tax rate on their bonuses.
What else we’re reading
What changed in Germany? The legacy that Angela Merkel leaves after September’s federal election is mixed. The chancellor has proved to be a debt crisis manager, citizens are richer and women have more jobs — but she has left the country unprepared for a greener, more digitised world. Check out our live-updated tracker indicating potential coalitions after the vote.
How the superpower fight is squeezing the Gulf The United Arab Emirates has long been one of Washington’s closest Middle East partners. Its deepening ties to Beijing, however, are adding a layer of strain to the alliance as Washington takes an increasingly hawkish stance.
Women will redefine the labour market Are we moving towards the feminisation of work? And could this lead to a more balanced workplace and economy? Rana Foroohar explains why she believes the answer to both of these questions is yes.
Lunch with the FT: Tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya The controversial “king of Spacs” weighs in on his “long-term greedy” approach — and the dangers of taking investing advice from Reddit over lunch with the FT’s Miles Kruppa at the offices of Palihapitiya’s Social Capital fund.
The evolution of the chief diversity officer LinkedIn research last year found the number of people with the title “head of diversity” more than doubled worldwide between 2015 and 2020. Yet the title is meaningless if it holds little sway, budget or clarity of purpose.
Meet the journalist: Lilah Raptopoulos
Lilah Raptopoulos is the host of the new FT Weekend podcast. In this week’s episode, she speaks with Elif Shafak — the most widely read woman novelist in Turkey — about writing in countries without freedom of speech and her newest novel. Also, columnist Enuma Okoro explores the meaning of home and Tim Harford helps us let go of our to-do lists.
What themes and stories are you most looking forward to discussing on the FT Weekend podcast? I can’t wait to introduce people to the cast of eclectic geniuses that make up FT Weekend. They’re experts in the fun stuff: wine, film, interior design, behavioural economics. Next week, our travel writer Maria Shollenbarger is bringing us on the actual Orient Express. It’s pure fantasy.
What else are you listening to right now? Really Good Shares is a journey about recovery. It’s not a traditional interview show. It’s great. There’s also a special series about to launch on Wednesday from the FT’s very own Behind The Money, about ESG investing. I’ve heard a sneak peek and it’s excellent.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year? The Island of Missing Trees! By Elif Shafak. I know this may be cheating because she’s our guest on this week’s podcast. But she makes space for nuanced conversations between cultures with sensitive histories; conversations we almost never have. In this novel, it’s between the Greek and Turkish people of Cyprus. It’s about family history, inherited pain and fig trees. I loved it.