Russia swerves default as Putin forced into dollar U-turn – live updates


Putin - Getty Images

Putin – Getty Images

Russia appears to have dodged its first foreign debt default in a century after the Kremlin tapped domestic dollar reserves in a humiliating U-turn for Vladimir Putin.

Investors have begun to receive overdue payments on two bonds, Bloomberg reports.

Russia had initially attempted to make the payments with roubles instead of dollars, a move that was blocked by the US Treasury.

The White House is likely to hail the move as a victory for sanctions, as it forced the Kremlin to erode its domestic cash stockpiles, raising the cost of imports.

The deadline for Russia to make the coupon payments, totalling $650m over two bonds, is tomorrow, when a 30-day grace period ends.

Failure to make the payments would tip Russia into an international default for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution.

01:38 PM

Facebook gives up on podcast products

Mark Zuckerberg - JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty ImagesMark Zuckerberg - JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg – JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook has ditched its podcasting product after just one year, appearing to cede the field to established players such as Spotify and Amazon’s Audible.

My colleague Gareth Corfield reports:

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, confirmed on Tuesday that the social network is discontinuing its Soundbites and Podcasts products after a note sent to partners revealing the change was leaked to Bloomberg.

Podcasting features will disappear from Facebook by June 3, according to Bloomberg, which also reported that the social media site will not alert users but “leave it up to the publishers to decide how they want to disclose that information”.

Facebook launched its “social audio experiences” last April with its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg saying at the time: “When we launched video rooms earlier last year, groups and communities were one of the bigger areas where that took off. So, I think around audio, just given how much more accessible it is, that’ll be a pretty exciting area as well.”

Podcasting has enjoyed a boom in popularity over the last couple of years, coinciding with COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdowns.

01:23 PM

Germany raids Morgan Stanley Frankfurt office

German prosecutors are in the process of raiding Morgan Stanley’s Frankfurt office, as part of a probe into the multi-billion euro cum-ex scandal.

Bloomberg reports:

Authorities are searching a bank and the homes of two suspects in a probe over Cum-Ex and related strategies, according to a spokesman for Cologne prosecutors. More than 75 officers are taking part in the action, he said.

Morgan Stanley confirmed that its premises were targeted and said the investigation relates to a “historic activity” and that the bank is “continuing to cooperate with the German authorities.”

Cum-ex was a trading strategy in which traders took advantage of a loophole in German tax law that allowed multiple investors to claim refunds per single payment made as part of a tax on dividends.

12:57 PM

Full report: BP boss claims profit jump will boost pensions

Bernard Looney - REUTERS/Toby Melville/File PhotoBernard Looney - REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Bernard Looney – REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

My colleague Rachel Millard has a full report on this morning’s BP results. She writes:

BP’s boss has insisted the company’s rising profits will benefit Britain’s pension savers, as Boris Johnson appeared to rule out a windfall tax.

Bernard Looney said the company was rewarding shareholders who are “real people” as it posted underlying quarterly profits of $6.2bn [£5bn] – its highest in more than a decade.

The results have fuelled further calls for oil and gas producers to face windfall taxes as they benefit from surging wholesale oil and gas prices which are pushing households into poverty.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, last week suggested the measure could be introduced if companies did not invest enough in producing energy.

12:30 PM

Kwarteng: Some suppliers are overcharging for energy

In a tweet, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said some energy suppliers have increased direct debit payments “beyond what is required”.

11:44 AM

Citi: We were behind ‘flash crash’ on Monday

Citigroup has admitted that its London trading desk was behind a “flash crash” that sent shares across Europe tumbling on Monday.

My colleague Simon Foy reports:

The Wall Street giant said one of its traders made a mistake “inputting a transaction” that triggered a knee-jerk selloff in Swedish stocks, wiping out as much as €300bn (£251bn) in a matter of minutes.

The bank said it identified the error “within minutes” and corrected it, but the mistake will come as a fresh blow to Citi which has spent years attempting to improve its financial controls.

Jane Fraser, the Scottish native who became the first woman to run a Wall Street bank when she took over in September 2020, has ordered thousands of employees to focus on improving Citi’s risk and controls systems.

11:20 AM

Musk seeks to lower his contribution to Twitter takeover – Reuters

Elon Musk - AP Photo/Susan Walsh, FileElon Musk - AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Elon Musk – AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Elon Musk is trying to reduce the amount he has to pay as part of a $44bn takeover of Twitter, Reuters reports.

The wire says:

Musk is the world’s richest person, with Forbes estimating his net worth at about $245 billion. Yet most of his wealth is tied up in the shares of Tesla, the electric car maker he leads. Last week, Musk disclosed he sold $8.5bn worth of Tesla stock following his agreement to buy Twitter.

The new financing, which could come in the form of preferred or common equity, could reduce the $21bn cash contribution that Musk has committed to the deal as well as a margin loan he secured against his Tesla shares, the sources said.

10:50 AM

How we got here

Here’s a quick reminder of how Russia got to the brink of its first foreign debt default since the Russian revolution:

  • Russia had been due to make dollar coupon payments on two Eurobonds in early April

  • It attempted to make the payments in roubles, a move that was blocked by the US Treasury

  • Several ratings agencies said rouble payment would contravene the contracts investors had bought, and therefore constitute a default

  • Having failed to pay, Moscow entered a 30-day ‘grace period’ (due to lapse tomorrow), after which it would be deemed to have defaulted

  • On Friday, the Kremlin U-turned, tapping its limited domestic dollar stockpiles in order to make the payment

  • Those payments have gone through the system in recent days and have now arrived with some investors, suggesting a default has been averted

10:22 AM

Default averted as Russian bond payments reach investors

Russia appears to have dodged its first foreign debt default in a century after the Kremlin tapped domestic dollar reserves in a humiliating U-turn for Vladimir Putin.

Investors have begun to receive overdue payments on two bonds, Bloomberg reports.

Russia initially failed to make the payments, before attempting to do so with roubles instead of dollars, a move that was blocked by the US Treasury.

The White House is likely to hail the move as a victory for sanctions, as it had forced the Kremlin to erode its domestic cash stockpiles.

Bloomberg adds:

US sanctions currently include a broad exemption for sovereign bond payments. That runs out on May 25, and the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control hasn’t said if it will be extended. If it isn’t, that raises a major hurdle for payments due just days later for interest owed on sovereign notes.

“May 25th is the next hurdle,” said Richard Briggs, a money manager at GAM. “Unless OFAC extends that authorization, they won’t be able to continue to make payments.” That decision will come down to whether Washington deems it better to allow Russia to make payments and tap into its dollar cash pile kept at home, “or whether the optics of forcing a default is preferable,” he said.

09:58 AM

Fitch cuts China growth forecast

Ratings agency Fitch has cut its forecast for Chinese GDP growth this year from 4.8pc to 4.3pc, blaming Beijing’s Covid-19 policies.

In a statement, it said:

We expect the disruption to ease this month, as nationwide infections appear to be down from their mid-April highs and the politburo has indicated its desire to improve coordination between pandemic control and economic development.

It expected growth of 5.2pc next year, up from the 5.1pc previously expected.

09:32 AM

FTSE in the red as Europe advances

With just over two and half hours of cash trading gone, the FTSE 100 is sliding along in the red, despite a 3pc gain for BP following those record profits.

There’s a pretty big drag coming from commodities trading giant Glencore, which is slipping 3pc as waning demand puts pressure on industrial metals prices.

09:16 AM

Australian central bank catches market off-guard with bumper mid-election rate rise

Philip Lowe - BIANCA DE MARCHI/EPA-EFE/REXPhilip Lowe - BIANCA DE MARCHI/EPA-EFE/REX

Philip Lowe – BIANCA DE MARCHI/EPA-EFE/REX

The Reserve Bank of Australia surprised economists and markets today with a 25 basis points rate hike in its key interest rate to 0.35pc.

The move, in the midst of elections in Australia, came two months of Governor Philip Lowe abandoned a pledge to remain patient on rates.

The RBA is one of the last rich-national central banks to turn hawkish, leaving the European Central Bank looking increasingly isolated.

It expects inflation of 6pc by the final quarter of this year, which will moderate to a still-elevated 3pc by 2024 if it presses ahead with interest rate increases/

Marcel Theiliant from Capital Economics said:

The statement shed any vestiges of the Bank’s long-standing dovishness, arguing that inflation had picked up faster and to a higher level than previously anticipated and that there were also signs that inflation is picking up.

08:57 AM

Money round-up

Here are some of the day’s top stories from the Telegraph Money team:

08:45 AM

Russia likely to avoid default after tapping domestic dollars

Russia - ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty ImagesRussia - ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

Russia – ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

Russia is poised to avoid a historic default on its foreign debt after Moscow tapped its domestic dollars stockpiles to pay overdue coupons on two bonds.

The US Treasury is said to have approved the $650m in coupon and principal payments, as part of its strategy to force Russia to erode domestic reserves (and in doing so force up its import costs).

Now, the payments on eurobonds due in 2022 and 2042 have passed at least one clearinghouse, Bloomberg reports.

The wire says:

The funds were initially blocked in early April, triggering a 30-day grace period that ends on Wednesday. Russia said it made the payment in rubles, but that’s not allowed under the terms of the bonds. Then, with a default seemingly just days away, the government unexpectedly announced on Friday that the cash was finally moving through the financial system.

08:27 AM

Slovakia says it would seek exemption from EU oil embargo

The backdrop to these bumper BP profits is of course the conflict in Ukraine, and the ongoing disruption being caused by Russia’s ostracisation from the Western financial system.

European Union officials are still stuck in a debate over whether to impose a full embargo on Russian oil, with Slovakia today become the latest country to warn it would oppose such a measure.

Its Economy Ministry said today:

If it comes to an approved embargo of Russian oil as part of a further package of sanctions against Russia, then Slovakia will request an exemption.

08:14 AM

Italy steps up windfall tax as UK demurs

Boris Johnson has shown himself to be one for turning, but it looks like the PM is sticking to his ‘no windfall’ stance for now.

Meanwhile, Italy is stepping up its raid on energy companies, with the Government announcing last night it would tax energy profits at 25pc, up from 10pc.

Prime minister Mario Draghi said the measures, which will work alongside tax breaks for the industry, “include reforms to streamline and boost renewable investments that will allow us to speed the transition to a green economy”.

He added:

This will allow us to become independent from Russia’s gas.

The former ECB president has resisted calls to expand the country’s deficit to tackle the rising cost of living.

07:54 AM

Johnson: Windfall tax would discourage investment

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Boris Johnson has once again opposed an energy windfall tax, saying it would discourage investment in the UK.

He said:

If you put a windfall tax on the energy companies, what that means is that you discourage them from making the investments that we want to see that will, in the end, keep energy prices lower for everybody.

The PM is also batting some tough questions on the cost-of-living crisis, and whether his Government is doing enough to help:

Here’s a reminder, via my colleague Mason Boycott-Owen, of where we had got to in the windfall debate ahead of today:

A windfall tax on oil and gas companies would be “arbitrary and unexpected”, Kwasi Kwarteng has said, after the Chancellor threatened to implement the policy.

The Business Secretary said on Sunday that the one-off tax on the profits of energy firms when the UK is trying to invest in them “doesn’t make sense”.

It comes after Rishi Sunak said earlier this week that the tax would be “something I’d look at” if companies did not do more to support the economy, adding: “nothing is ever off the table in these things”.

07:40 AM

Those profits in context…

Here’s a look at how BP’s quarterly underlying profit on a replacement cost basis – the measure analysts look at most closely – has shifted over the last ten years:

07:30 AM

BP highlights UK investment plans amid windfall concerns

BP is clearly well-aware of how its profit boom looks, and has tried to hedge off some of the backlash today.

In a call with the media following its first-quarter results, the company has highlighted it plans to spending £18bn in the UK by 2030 on oil and gas, wind farms, hydrogen, and electric vehicle infrastructure.

07:12 AM

Shadow chancellor: Case for windfall tax ‘cannot be ignored’

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has reiterated her party’s call for a windfall tax in response to those BP results:

07:10 AM

BP boom likely to fuel windfall tax calls

Here’s more on those BP results, via Bloomberg:

The company followed its peers Exxon Mobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies, all of which saw their first-quarter net income – excluding Russia-related writedowns – soar in tandem with oil and gas prices after the invasion of Ukraine.

BP comfortably surpassed analysts’ expectations and offered one clue as to how it managed to do so – an “exceptional” three months for its oil and gas trading business. Other commodities traders from Bunge to Glencore have also posted stronger profits, aided by the unprecedented volatility caused by the war.

That trading boom is likely to fuel calls for a windfall tax on energy companies to help the Government tackle Britain’s cost of living crisis – a Labour policy that has divided the Conservatives.

As my colleague Tom Rees wrote last week:

A windfall tax is a one-off raid on the profits of a company.

In this case, the profits of energy companies have been boosted by the surge in oil and gas prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A year-long and one-off levy on their profits, which critics say are being lifted by factors they cannot control, could help pay to support squeezed households.

06:56 AM

Agenda: BP prepares $2.5bn more in buybacks

Good morning. BP has announced plans to make share buybacks of $2.5bn this quarter after surging oil prices helped its cash flows surge.

The energy giant said booming prices had helped it offset a $25.5bn charge incurred after exiting its stake in Russian producer Rosneft. It posted a first-quarter profit of $6.2bn, the highest in a decade.

5 things to start your day

1) Brussels accuses Apple of competition breach over contactless payments The iPhone maker has been accused of breaking competition law by limiting rivals’ ability to create contactless payment apps.

2) Why London’s Russian restaurateurs fear a backlash over Ukraine Dining hotspots that once boasted of their links to Putin are now speaking out against invasion.

3) London is battered by the rise of work from home Capital lags behind other cities as commuters shun the office.

4) Britain turns to South Korea in scramble to boost nuclear power Kwasi Kwarteng in talks over new generation of reactors as UK seeks stronger energy security

5) Julian Jessop: Brexit is not to blame for the surge in inflation and soaring food prices Experts are relying more on predictions and models than hard facts in recent commentary on Britain.

What happened overnight

Asia stocks mostly fell on Tuesday as markets brace for a sharp US interest rate hike. Hong Kong returned from a long weekend break to lead the retreat, shedding more than 2pc at one point. Sydney also fell ahead of an expected interest rate hike by the Reserve Bank of Australia later in the day, while Taipei and Wellington were also down. Seoul edged up slightly, while Tokyo, Shanghai, Mumbai, Singapore and Jakarta were closed.

Coming up today

Full-year results: Card factory

Interims: BP

Economics: Manufacturing PMI, BRC shop price index (UK); unemployment rate (EU); factory orders (US)

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