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The Russian rouble weakened against the dollar on Wednesday but steadied not far from a five-year high against the euro, after losing the support of some capital controls and as sovereign default risk again became a prominent issue.

The rouble has become the world’s best-performing currency this year despite a full-scale economic crisis, artificially supported by controls that Russia imposed in late February to shield its financial sector after it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

At 0741 GMT, the rouble was 0.5 per cent weaker against the dollar at 63.90, moving further away from the 62.6250 level reached on Friday, its strongest since early February 2020.

It had gained 0.2 per cent to trade at 66.96 versus the euro, hovering near its strongest level since mid-2017 of 64.9425, which it touched last week.

The rouble has pared some gains since the central bank on Monday raised the ceiling for cross-border transactions, allowing Russian residents and non-residents from friendly states to channel foreign currency abroad at an amount equivalent to up to $50,000 a month. The previous limit was $10,000.

Export-focused companies are still obliged to convert 80 per cent of their revenues, because the central bank cannot itself intervene after the West froze about half of its gold and foreign exchange reserves.

Promsvyazbank analysts said they expected the rouble to consolidate in the range of 63 to 64.5 against the greenback on Wednesday.

Attention will be on Finance Minister Anton Siluanov’s speech at a forum on Wednesday, after a US administration official said Washington was considering blocking Russia’s ability to pay its US bondholders by allowing a key waiver to expire next week. That could push Moscow closer to the brink of default.

Russian stock indexes were climbing.

The dollar-denominated RTS index (.IRTS) was up 1.3 per cent at 1,216.6 points, its strongest since Feb. 23. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index (.IMOEX) was 1.7 per cent higher at 2,466.2 points.

Veles Capital analysts said the focus on Wednesday could be on dividend stories. Shares in mobile operator MTS (MTSS.MM) jumped around 20 per cent after the company’s board recommended a dividend of 33.85 roubles ($0.5314) per share late on Tuesday.

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Russia became the fourth-largest oil supplier to India in April, with volumes set to rise further in coming months as low prices spur demand from the world’s No. 3 oil consumer and importer, tanker tracking data showed.

Russia’s share in India’s oil purchases rose to a record 6 per cent, about 277,000 barrels per day (bpd) in April, up from about 66,000 bpd in March, when it was in 10th position, according to the data, which was supplied by trade sources.

Indian Oil Corp. (IOC.NS), the country’s top refiner, bought its first-ever Russian Arco oil cargo last month.

Western sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine has opened a rare arbitrage flow, prompting Indian refiners to increase buying of cheaper Russian oil shunned by many Western countries and companies.

“Prices of Russian Urals crude fell sharply due to sanctions against Russia while Kazakhstan’s CPC blend crude came under pressure as it is loaded from a Russian port,” said Ehsan Ul Haq, analyst with Refinitiv.

Indians had bought stranded Russian oil while some European buyers had bought higher volumes of African and US oil, he said.

The share of African oil in India’s overall oil imports declined to about 6 per cent in April from 14.5 per cent in March, while that of US almost halved to 3 per cent.

Grades from Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan together accounted for about 11 per cent of India’s imported oil in April, compared with about 3 per cent in March. The share of Middle Eastern oil rose to 71 per cent from 68 per cent.

India’s oil imports from Russia are set to rise further to about 487,500 in May, since refiners have ramped up purchases from Russia, preliminary data from Refinitiv flows show.

Last month, Iraq continued to the top oil supplier to India, followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In April, Indian refiners shipped in 4.7 million bpd of oil, up 6.9 per cent from the previous month and about 11.6 per cent higher than a year earlier, when a second COVID-19 wave hit local oil demand.

India’s oil imports in April were high as refiners raised runs to meet local demand and gain from robust refining margins, Haq said.

“Also the companies got Russian grades at very tempting rates and they had to lift committed volumes under term contract with Middle Eastern producers,” Haq said.

The higher imports from Russia dragged down OPEC’s share of foreign supplies to India in April.

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Italian energy group Eni (ENI.MI) will open bank accounts this week to pay for Russian gas after clarification that such a move will not breach sanctions, two sources said on Monday.

In updated guidance on Friday, the European Commission confirmed its previous advice that EU sanctions do not prevent companies from following Russia’s payment procedures which involve opening an account at a designated Russian bank.

It said companies can pay for Russian gas – so long as they do so in the currency agreed in their existing contracts and declare the transaction completed when that currency is paid.

“The clarified guidelines have given a green light for Eni,” one of the sources said.

Last week sources told Reuters Eni would begin the process of opening an account in roubles this week to pay for Russian gas unless told that would breach sanctions.

The updated guidance has essentially offered Eni assurances nothing contrary is in its way, the second source said.

Earlier on Monday, Germany’s RWE (RWEG.DE) said it had opened an account in Russia to pay for gas in euros.

“Eni is still carrying out its assessments and at the moment has not started any procedure to open two accounts,” an Eni spokesman said.

Eni, one of Europe’s biggest importers of Russian gas, faces a deadline to pay Russia’s state-owned Gazprom (GAZP.MM) around May 20.

Under the new Russian payment system, introduced in response to sweeping Western sanctions imposed after Moscow invaded Ukraine, buyers are obliged to deposit euros or dollars into an account at private Russian bank Gazprombank (GZPRI.MM).

The bank will then convert the cash into roubles, place the proceeds in another account owned by the foreign buyer and transfer the payment in Russian currency to Gazprom.

Italy, which last year sourced around 40 per cent of its gas from Russia, is scrambling to find alternative supplies.

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Turkish house sales rose 38.8 per cent in April on the year to 133,058 houses, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed on Tuesday, with more than double the houses sold to Russians compared to a month ago as they sought a financial haven.

Sales to foreigners rose 58.1 per cent, the institute said. Russian citizens rose to the top of the list in April with 1,152 houses from 547 in March. They were followed by Iranians and Iraqis.

Wealthy Russians are pouring money into real estate in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, seeking a financial haven in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions, many property companies say.

The data also showed April mortgaged sales rose 82.9 per cent from a year earlier to 32,030, accounting for 24.1 per cent of the total sales in the period.
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Elon Musk suggested that a lower price for Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) may be appropriate as he and CEO Parag Agrawal quarreled over the company’s estimates of spam accounts on Monday, according to an attendee at a private conference where Musk was speaking.

Twitter shares extended losses in late afternoon trading following Musk’s comments, which came at a conference in Miami that was closed to the press.

Shares dropped more than 8 per cent to close at $37.39, lower than their level the day before Musk revealed his Twitter stake in early April, sowing doubts that the billionaire entrepreneur would proceed with his $44 billion acquisition of the company at the agreed price.

Agrawal tweeted earlier on Monday that internal estimates of spam accounts on the social media platform for the last four quarters were “well under 5 per cent,” responding to days of criticism by Musk of the company’s handling of phony accounts.

Twitter’s estimate, which has stayed the same since 2013, could not be reproduced externally given the need to use both public and private information to determine whether an account is spam, he added.

Musk, who on Friday said the deal was “temporarily on hold” pending information on spam accounts, responded to Agrawal’s defense of the company’s methodology with a poop emoji.

“So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter,” Musk wrote.

Shortly after his tweets, Musk told the conference in Miami that he suspects bots – or automated accounts – make up about 20 to 25 per cent of users, according to tweets by attendees.

Musk has pledged changes to Twitter’s content moderation practices, railing against decisions like the company’s ban of former President Donald Trump as overly aggressive while pledging to crack down on “spam bots” on the platform.

Musk has called for tests of random samples of Twitter users to identify bots, and said he has yet to see “any” analysis that shows spam accounts making up less than 5 per cent of the user base.

Musk said on Sunday “there is some chance it might be over 90 per cent of daily active users.”

Independent researchers have estimated that anywhere from 9 per cent to 15 per cent of the millions of Twitter profiles are bots.

Twitter does not currently require users to register using their real identities and expressly permits automated, parody and pseudonymous profiles on the service.

It does ban impersonation and spam, and penalizes accounts when the company determines their purpose is to “deceive or manipulate others” by engaging in scams, coordinating abuse campaigns or artificially inflating engagement.

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Cryptocurrency exchange FTX’s founder has said that bitcoin has no future as a payments network and criticized the digital currency for its inefficiency and high environmental costs, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

An alternative to the system is called the “proof of stake” network, where participants can buy tokens that allow them to join the network. The more tokens they own, the more they can mine.

FTX Founder and Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried told FT that “proof of stake” networks would be required to evolve crypto as a payments network as they are cheaper and less power-hungry.

Blockchain Ethereum, which houses the second-largest cryptocurrency ether, has been working to move to this energy-intensive network. read more

Bankman-Fried also said he didn’t believe bitcoin had to go as a cryptocurrency, and it may still have a future as “an asset, a commodity and a store of value” like gold, the report said.

Bitcoin touched its lowest since December 2020 last week after the collapse of TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin.

FTX, which Bankman-Fried co-founded in 2019, was valued at $32 billion in a February funding round, and Bankman-Fried himself is worth $21 billion, according to Forbes.
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The world's largest fast food chain had in March decided to close its 847 restaurants in Russia, taking a hit of $50 million per month

McDonald’s said on Monday it has started a process to sell all its restaurants in Russia, exiting the country after more than 30 years following its invasion of Ukraine.

The world’s largest fast food chain had in March decided to close its 847 restaurants in Russia, taking a hit of $50 million per month. It now expects to record a non-cash charge of about $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion following the sale.

The decision to sell its Russia assets, including the iconic Pushkin Square location in central Moscow, marks a major retreat by an iconic Western brand.

Once a symbol of flourishing American capitalism in the dying embers of the Soviet Union, the store was the first to be opened in the country in 1990. More than 5,000 people had attended the opening.

McDonald’s said it was looking to sell all its restaurants in Russia to a local buyer, but will continue to retain the trademark.

“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable,” McDonald’s said.

A slew of other Western companies have agreed to sell their Russian assets or hand them over to local managers as they scramble to comply with sanctions over the Ukraine conflict and deal with threats from the Kremlin that foreign-owned assets may be seized.

The company said it would ensure that its 62,000 employees in Russia continue to be paid until the close of any transaction and that they have future jobs with any potential buyer.

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Shares in Vodafone (VOD.L) jumped 4 per cent in early trade on Monday after the United Arab Emirates-based telecoms company e& (ETISALAT.AD) revealed it had bought a 9.8 per cent stake in the British mobile operator.

Formerly known as Emirates Telecommunications Group, e& said it had no intention of making an offer for the whole of Vodafone and it had spent $4.4 billion to invest at an “attractive valuation” to benefit from a diversification in currencies.

The company said it was fully supportive of Vodafone’s board, which has come under pressure from other investors after the group struggled in its mature European markets where competition and regulation have pushed prices lower.

Vodafone Chief Executive Nick Read has vowed to lead a wave of consolidation in Europe to rebuild markets and boost returns but in recent months he has rejected an approach for the group’s Italian assets and missed out on a deal between rivals in Spain.

Shares in Vodafone were up 3.1 per cent at 121.50 pence at 0732 GMT. The stock is down around 25 per cent since Read moved from the finance director role to the top job of CEO in October 2018.

Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight, said the UAE investment was a strong endorsement of Vodafone’s strategy and board, despite the failed attempts to strike deals in major markets.

“The move itself will raise eyebrows and may lead to some tension with other shareholders who are keen to see Vodafone consolidate in key markets,” he said.

“There will now be opportunities for both Etisalat and Vodafone to work more closely to bring greater efficiencies and launch new products in more products globally.”

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Movers and shakers arriving for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) this month can pack sandals instead of ski boots for a rare springtime version of the event in Davos, the Swiss ski resort that is Europe’s highest city.

In December, organisers postponed the meeting of government, business and other leaders just before its traditional January slot, citing the difficulties of holding an in-person conference during the coronavirus pandemic.

Simply putting on the event after a two-year hiatus is welcome news to locals, who, a 2017 study showed, benefit from a $60 million windfall every time it takes place.

“All the people here are very glad that the World Economic Forum is coming back now. It is another step back to normality,” said Samuel Rosenast, spokesperson for the local tourism board.

The pandemic slammed hotels and restaurants in Davos, whose fresh air and sunlight drew sanatoriums featured in German novelist Thomas Mann’s work “The Magic Mountain”.

“The whole congress business was dead,” Rosenast said, noting that Davos’s conference centre had closed for more than a year.

Construction crews have been finishing pop-up networking facilities for the business and political elite that descend for the May 22-26 conference. Soldiers are erecting security fences.

The Swiss government will deploy as many as 5,000 military personnel to support local police. Air force jets will again circle above to enforce a no-fly zone.

Geneva-based WEF says the meeting will bring together more than 2,000 leaders and experts from around the world, somewhat smaller than some past meetings. No government or corporate bigwigs from Russia were invited, because of the Ukraine war.

Topics on the agenda include the pandemic recovery, tackling climate change, the future for work, accelerating stakeholder capitalism, and harnessing new technologies.

Svea Meyer, who runs the Kaffee Klatsch cafe in Davos and caters to clients at the meeting, was looking forward to business in May, typically in the quiet period between the end of the ski season and the start of the summer peak.

“It’s a real big chance for us and we’re happy to see a lot of the customers from the WEF that we haven’t seen for the last two years,” she said.

“It’s better to have the WEF now in spring than not having it at all,” she added, seeing the bright side of showing off the warmer face of a place better known for winter sports.

“We don’t have to shovel.”

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Some Western companies have agreed to sell their Russian assets or hand them over to local managers as they scramble to comply with sanctions over the Ukraine conflict and deal with threats from the Kremlin that foreign-owned assets may be seized.

The moves, part of a broader corporate exodus from the country, are likely to stir concerns that Russian firms and institutions are snapping up prized assets for a bargain.

Below is a list of firms by sector that have secured deals to sell their businesses in Russia:

AUTOMAKERS

INCHCAPE (INCH.L)

The British car distributor said it had agreed to sell its Russian business to local management. The sale will result in an exceptional non-cash loss before tax of about 240 million pounds ($294 million).

RENAULT (RENA.PA)

The French carmaker said on May 16 it will sell its majority stake in Russia’s biggest carmaker, Avtovaz (AVAZI_p.MM), to the Russian Central Research and Development Automobile and Engine Institute (Nami), with a six-year option to buy back the stake.

Renault also said that 100 per cent of the shares in Renault Russia will go to the city of Moscow.

Russia had said on April 27 that Renault would transfer its 67.69 per cent stake in Avtovazto the institute for the symbolic sum of one rouble.

BANKS

SOCIETE GENERALE (SOGN.PA)

The French lender expects to close the sale of its Rosbank (ROSB.MM) unit to Russia’s Interros Capital “in the coming weeks,” it said on May 5.

It announced the sale on April 11, adding it would write off 3.1 billion euros ($3.2 billion), comprising a 2 billion-euro hit on Rosbank’s book value and the rest linked to the reversal of rouble conversion reserves.

ELECTRICAL COMPONENTS & EQUIPMENT

SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC (SCHN.PA)

The French electrical equipment maker will sell its operations in Russia and Belarus to local management, the company said on April 27, as it signed a letter of intent with the designated buyers.

It will write off up to 300 million euros ($312 million) of net book value and make a non-cash reversal of currency translation estimated at 120 million euros.

ENERGY

SHELL (SHEL.L)

The British energy and petrochemical giant will sell its Russian retail and lubricants business to Russia’s Lukoil (LKOH.MM), the companies said on May 12. The deal includes 411 retail stations and the Torzhok lubricants blending plant. Shell would not comment on the value of the deal.

FOOD & BEVERAGES

AB INBEV (ABI.BR)

The brewer said on April 22 it would sell its non-controlling stake in its Russian joint venture AB InBev Efes. The divestiture will result in a $1.1 billion impairment charge in the first quarter. The joint venture has 11 breweries in Russia and three in Ukraine.

FAZER

Finnish bakery and food service company said on April 29 it had agreed to sell its Russian unit to Moscow’s Kolomenskij Bakery and Confectionery Holding. Fazer did not disclose the value of the transaction.

PAULIG

The privately owned Finnish food and drink company said on May 5 it had sold its operations in Russia to private Indian investor Vikas Soi, after being mentioned by Russian authorities as an example of a foreign company that could be nationalised.

It said the divesture includes the Paulig Rus LLC unit and Paulig’s operations, as well as its coffee roastery in Tver, but not the Paulig brand, which will be phased out in Russia over the coming months.

RAISIO (RAIVV.HE)

The Finnish food processing company said on April 29 it had agreed to sell its consumer business in Russia to Copacker Agro Ltd for about 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million). As a result of the sale, Raisio said it would recognise an estimated impairment loss of 2.9 million euros in its Q1 earnings before interest and taxes.

VALIO

The Finnish dairy producer has sold its Russian business to GK Velkom, the company said on April 26, following an earlier threat by Russian authorities to nationalise its business there. Valio said the transaction would take effect immediately but gave no financial value for it.

MINING

AMUR MINERALS CORP (A7L.L)

The London-listed Russian mining company announced on May 9 it proposed to sell its main Kun-Manie project for $105 million and agreed to assign to buyer benefit of all loans owed by Kun-Manie to Amur in consideration for $30 million.

KINROSS (K.TO)

Kinross Gold Corp is selling its Russian assets to the Highland Gold Mining group of companies for a total of $680 million in cash, the Canadian gold miner said on April 5, nearly a month after suspending its operations in the country.

OTHERS

AUTHENTIC BRANDS GROUP (AUTH.N)

The Russian business of Authentic Brands Group-owned Reebook has been taken over by Turkey’s FLO retailing, Kommersant daily reported on May 16. Analysts Kommersant said the deal could be worth 1.5 billion roubles ($24.26 million).

BRUNEL INTERNATIONAL (BRUN.AS)

The Dutch employment services company is in the process of selling activities in Russia to local management, it said on April 29, adding its net investment in the country at end-March was 14 million euros ($14.6 million).

FLUGGER GROUP (FLUGb.CO)

The Danish paint maker said on April 8 it had initiated the sale of its Russian and Belarusian companies, taking a 115 million Danish crowns ($16.1 million) write-down.

IMPERIAL BRANDS (IMB.L)

The British tobacco group announced the transfer of its Russian business to investors based in Russia on April 20, following talks with an unidentified third party in March.

MAERSK (MAERSKb.CO)

The Danish shipping company has found possible buyers for its 30.75 per cent stake in Global Ports Investments (GLPRq.L), which operates ports in Russia, it said on May 4.

STORA ENSO (STERV.HE)

The Finnish forestry firm has completed its exit from Russia with the sale of three corrugated packaging plants to local management, it said on May 16.

At the end of April, Stora said it had agreed to sell its two sawmills and their forest operations in Russia to local management, causing it to record a 130 million euro ($136 million) loss.

YIT (YIT.HE)

The Finnish builder has signed an agreement with Etalon Group PLC (ETLNGq.L) for the sale of its operations in Russia for about 50 million euros ($52 million). As a result of the sale, YIT said it would book an impairment of about 150 million euros in its first quarter income statement.

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Russian oil and gas condensate average output has increased by around 1.7 per cent month on month to 1.4 million tonnes per day (10.25 million barrels per day) in the first half of May, Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing a source.

It also said Russian oil exports excluding the former Soviet Union via the Transneft (TRNF_p.MM) network have declined from April’s average by 4.1 per cent to 608,600 per day (4.46 million barrels per day) for the period.
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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is considering financial support for Ukraine’s transport and logistics companies to help them maintain their exports, a senior bank official said on Thursday.

Ukraine last week formally closed its four Black Sea and Azov Sea ports, which Russian forces have captured, leaving land routes through neighbouring countries as its only export option.

It consequently risks losing millions of tonnes of grain exports due to Russia’s control of Black Sea shipping, triggering a food crisis and inflationary pressure on global food commodities markets.

The EBRD plans to offer a liquidity line to Ukraine’s rail company UZ to keep it running and prepare it to export more Ukrainian goods, EBRD’s eastern Europe head Matteo Patrone told Reuters at the bank’s annual meetings in Marrakech.

“We are working with logistics companies to see how to support them on liquidity lines,” he said.

The initiative includes Ukraine’s post office and other companies in the private and public sectors, as well as municipalities, he added.

Talks between EBRD and Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry are looking at ways to upgrade transborder and transhipment infrastructure, Patrone said.

A trader said rail could only export a fraction of the grain currently stored in Ukraine’s silos, with the rail company needing to adapt its infrastructure and equipment for transborder grain shipments.

The Bank is also in the early stages of negotiating liquidity lines to help Ukraine’s neighbouring countries deal with Russia’s gas supply halt, Patrone said, without giving details.

“We are also discussing with Naftogas the provision of a liquidity line to them,” Patrone said.

The EBRD has said it intends to spend 1 billion euros ($1.04 billion) in 2022 to help the Ukrainian economy.

European Union Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis estimated the cost of war damage to Ukraine at between 500 billion and 600 billion euros.

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With estimated recoverable resources of 8.2 TCF and 234 MMbbl of gas and condensate respectively, the Ryder Scott Company, has confirmed Innoson Oil & Gas Ltd.’s own findings from a rigorous hydrocarbon exploration campaign it’s been engaged in, in the Sierra Leonean basin since 2020._ 

A recently concluded independent third party evaluation, by the Ryder Scott Company, revealed an SPE-PRMS P50 estimated unrisked gross prospective recoverable resources of 8.2 TCF and 234 MMbbl of gas and condensate respectively, attributable to the Innoson Oil & Gas (IOG) concession offshore Sierra Leone.

IOG was awarded nine graticular provisional blocks in May 2020. The following year, the parliament of Sierra Leone ratified a petroleum exploration and production license in favor of IOG as confirmed in a letter of conveyance to IOG in April 2021.

The Sierra Leonean basin has a working petroleum system, corroborated by oil deposits encountered during previous exploration activities amongst others by Anadarko, Repsol, and Tullow Oil that achieved the Venus B1 discovery and Mercury wells.

According to Martin Nweke (IOG’s Administrative Director), boldness, and the willingness to deploy unconventional but performant technological ingenuities and people, constitute foundational propositions that drove the campaign of the industry novice.

With cost, time, and precision quintessential, IOG exploration team, led by Dr. Andrey Sergeev (Project Director & Chief Geologist) deployed ab initio, robust earth remote sensing (ERS) method for basin reconnaissance. Assessment of gathered ERS data pre-informed the choice and number of graticular blocks in IOG extant acreage. The so determined ERS acreage pre-knowledge reduced the need for 2D & 3D seismic- and well-data to target only prospective anomalous zones in the contract area.

The development opportunity is currently being appraised. Asset evaluation, a field development plan, and the setup of a data room are vigorously pursued with the immediate objective to engage a farm-in partner; ideally, with the financial strength, technological and management competencies to accomplish joint discovery, development, and production.

IOG has a 100% working interest on the prospect with a 10% carried, plus an optional 5% paid interest(s) for the state of Sierra Leone. Attractive fiscal and tax regimes by the state of Sierra Leone offer a flexible so robust environment for a big take.

Innoson Oil & Gas is located in Uru Umudim, Nnewi, Anambra State.

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Japan’s Toshiba Corp (6502.T) said on Friday it has received interest from 10 potential investors after it solicited buyout offers.

It also announced a special dividend of 160 yen per share, worth some $545 million, in an apparent effort to placate activist shareholders it has long been at odds with.

The industrial conglomerate set up a special committee last month to explore strategic options including potential deals to go private after shareholders voted down a management-backed restructuring plan.

Toshiba said 10 investors had signed confidentiality pledges, without identifying them. It was not clear how many separate proposals it had received.

The investors have received detailed financial information and the deadline for submitting non-binding proposals is May 30.

US private equity firm Bain has sounded out multiple other Toshiba shareholders about teaming up as it prepares to make a buyout offer, sources have previously told Reuters. And Toshiba’s top shareholder, Singapore-based Effissimo Capital Management, has said it has agreed to sell its 9.9 per cent stake to Bain if it launches a tender offer.

Blackstone and KKR are considering a joint bid for Toshiba, according to media reports earlier this week.

Those three private equity firms and Canadian investment firm Brookfield were tapped by Toshiba’s strategic review committee last year to put together and submit their ideas for the conglomerate, sources have previously said.

Toshiba said it has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Mizuho Financial Group Inc (8411.T) as financial advisors in addition to Nomura Holdings (8604.T).

It also has delayed board director nominations, saying it needed more time to finalise candidates. The company, which will hold its annual general meeting in June, is trying to ascertain whether there were any conflict-of-interest issues for some candidates, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Interim board chairman Satoshi Tsunakawa has been in the position on a temporary basis. Shareholders last year rejected the re-election of his predecessor, angered after an investigation found that the company’s management colluded with the Japanese government to put pressure on foreign investors.

Toshiba also forecast a 7 per cent rise in operating profit to 170 billion yen ($1.3 billion) for the year through March. That compares with a consensus estimate of 177 billion yen drawn from 11 analysts polled by Refinitiv.

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OPEC on Thursday cut its forecast for growth in world oil demand in 2022 for a second straight month, citing the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rising inflation and the resurgence of the Omicron coronavirus variant in China.

In a monthly report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said world demand would rise by 3.36 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2022, down 310,000 bpd from its previous forecast.

The Ukraine war sent oil prices briefly above $139 a barrel in March, the highest since 2008, worsening inflationary pressures. OPEC has cited suggestions that China, with strict COVID lockdowns, is facing its biggest demand shock since 2020 when oil use plunged.

“Demand in 2022 is expected to be impacted by ongoing geopolitical developments in Eastern Europe, as well as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions,” OPEC said in the report.

Nonetheless, OPEC still expects world consumption to surpass the 100 million bpd mark in the third quarter, and for the 2022 annual average to just exceed the pre-pandemic 2019 rate.

OPEC cited rising inflation and continued monetary tightening, and lowered this year’s economic growth forecast to 3.5 per cent from 3.9 per cent, adding upside potential was “quite limited”.

“It may come from a solution to the Russia and Ukraine situation, fiscal stimulus where possible, and a fading pandemic, in combination with a strong rise in service sector activity,” OPEC said.

Oil extended an earlier decline after the report was released, trading further below $106.

LOWER RUSSIAN OUTPUT SEEN

OPEC and its allies which include Russia, known as OPEC+, are unwinding record output cuts put in place during the worst of the pandemic in 2020 and have rebuffed Western pressure to raise output at a faster pace.

At its last meeting, OPEC+ swerved the Ukraine crisis and stuck to a previously agreed plan to boost its monthly output target by 432,000 bpd in June.

OPEC+ has been undershooting the increases due to underinvestment in oilfields in some OPEC members and, more recently, losses in Russian output as a result of sanctions and buyer avoidance.

The report showed OPEC output in April rose by 153,000 bpd to 28.65 million bpd, lagging the 254,000 bpd rise that OPEC is allowed under the OPEC+ deal.

The growth forecast for non-OPEC supply in 2022 was reduced by 300,000 bpd to 2.4 million bpd. OPEC cut its forecast for Russian output by 360,000 bpd and left its US output growth estimate largely unchanged.

OPEC expects US tight oil supply to rise by 880,000 bpd in 2022, unchanged from last month, although it said there was potential for further expansion later in the year.

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Cryptocurrencies nursed large losses on Friday, with bitcoin pinned below $30,000 and set for a record losing streak as the collapse of TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin, rippled through markets.

Crypto assets have also been swept up in broad selling of risky investments on worries about high inflation and rising interest rates. Sentiment is particularly fragile, however, as tokens supposed to be pegged to the dollar have faltered.

Bitcoin BTC=BTSP, the largest cryptocurrency by total market value, attempted a bounce early in the Asia session and rose 2% to $29,500, something of a recovery from a 16-month low of around $25,400 reached on Thursday.

It remains a long way below week-ago levels of around $40,000 and, unless there is a rebound in weekend trade, is headed for a record seventh consecutive weekly loss.

“I don’t think the worst is over,” said Scottie Siu, investment director of Axion Global Asset Management, a Hong Kong based firm that runs a crypto index fund.

“I think there is more downside in the coming days. I think what we need to see is the open interest collapse a lot more, so the speculators are really out of it, and that’s when I think the market will stabilize.”

TerraUSD (USDT) broke its 1:1 peg to the dollar this week, as its mechanism for remaining stable, using another digital token, failed under selling pressure. It last traded below 10 cents.

Tether, the biggest stablecoin and one whose developers say is backed by dollar assets, has also come under pressure and fell to 95 cents on Thursday, according to CoinMarketCap data.

UNSTABLE

Selling has roughly halved the global market value of cryptocurrencies since November, but the drawdown has turned to panic in recent sessions with the squeeze on stablecoins.

These are tokens pegged to the value of traditional assets, often the U.S. dollar, and are the main medium for moving money between cryptocurrencies or to convert balances to fiat cash.

“Over half of all bitcoin and ether traded on exchanges are versus a stablecoin, with USDT or Tether taking the largest share,” analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a research note.

“For these types of stablecoins, the market needs to trust that the issuer holds sufficient liquid assets they would be able to sell in times of market stress.”

Tether has recovered to parity on the dollar and its operating company says it has the necessary assets in Treasuries, cash, corporate bonds and other money-market products.

But it is likely to face further tests if traders keep selling, and analysts are concerned that stress could spill over into money markets if pressure forces more and more liquidation.

Ether ETH=BTSP, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation, steadied near $2,000 on Friday after a drop as low as $1,700 on Thursday. Bitcoin and ether are about 60% below record peaks reached in November.

Crypto-related stocks have also copped a pounding, with shares in broker Coinbase COIN.O steadying overnight but still down by half in little more than a week.

In Asia, Hong Kong-listed Huobi Technology 1611.HK and BC Technology Group 0863.HK, which operate trading platforms and other crypto services, eyed weekly drops of more than 15%.

Amid the turmoil, Nomura 8604.T on Friday said it had begun offering bitcoin derivatives to clients, the latest move by a traditional financial institution into the asset class.

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Siemens (SIEGn.DE) will quit the Russian market due to the war in Ukraine, it said on Thursday, taking a 600 million euro ($630 million) hit to its business during the second quarter, with more costs to come.

The German industrial and technology group became the latest multinational to announce losses linked to its decision to leave Russia following the Feb. 24 invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Several companies, from brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) and Carlsberg to sportswear maker Adidas (ADSGn.DE), carmaker Renault and several banks have been counting the cost of suspending operations in or withdrawing from Russia.

Siemens Chief Executive Roland Busch described the conflict as a “turning point in history.”

“We, as a company, have clearly and strongly condemned this war,” Busch told reporters.

“We’re all moved by the war as human beings. And financial figures must take a back seat in the face of the tragedy. Nevertheless, like many other companies, we’re feeling the impact on our business.”

During the second quarter Siemens incurred 600 million euros in impairment and other charges mostly recorded in its train-making mobility business subsequent to sanctions on Russia, Siemens said.

Busch said further impacts were to be expected, mainly from non-cash charges related to the winding-down of legal entities, revaluation of financial assets and restructuring costs.

“From today’s perspective, we foresee further potential risks for net income in the low- to mid-triple-digit million range, although we can’t define an exact timeframe,” he added.

Siemens shares dropped 5 per cent in early trading as the company missed analysts’ expectations for second- quarter profit.

The Munich company employs 3,000 people in Russia, where it has been active for 170 years. It first went to Russia in 1851 to deliver devices for the telegraph line between Moscow and St Petersburg.

The country now contributes about 1 per cent of Siemens’ annual revenue, with most of the present day business concerned with maintenance and service work on high-speed trains.

Its sites in Moscow and St Petersburg are now being ramped down, Busch said.

The costs weighed on Siemens’ second quarter earnings, with net income halved to 1.21 billion euros ($1.27 billion), missing analysts’ forecasts of 1.73 billion.

The company posted industrial profit of 1.78 billion euros, down 13 per cent from a year earlier and also missing forecasts.

But demand stayed robust, with orders 22 per cent higher on a comparable basis and revenue 7 per cent higher.

As a result it confirmed its full-year outlook, with revenue comparable revenue growth of 6 per cent to 8 per cent for the full year, with a downturn in mobility expected to be compensated by faster growth in factory automation and digital buildings.

JP Morgan analyst Andreas Willi described the results as “mixed with strong orders, industry leading growth in automation and strong cash conversion.”

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Cryptocurrencies extended their sell-off on Thursday, with Bitcoin falling to its lowest levels in 16 months as a stampede out of so-called stablecoins sent shockwaves around broader markets.

The latest blow to Bitcoin and its smaller rival Ether , which has shed more than half its market value so far this year, came from a meltdown this week in TerraUSD, also one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin dropped to a low of $25,401.05, its lowest level since Dec. 28, 2020. In the past eight sessions, it has lost a third of its value, or $13,000, and is down more than 45 per cent so far this year.

From a peak of $69,000 in November 2021, it has lost nearly two-thirds of its value.

TerraUSD, also known as “UST”, slipped below its 1:1 peg to the dollar this week, roiling cryptocurrency markets already under pressure alongside tumbling stock markets.

“The collapse of the Peg in TerraUSD has had some nasty and predictable spillovers. We have seen broad liquidation in BTC, ETH and most ALT coins,” said Richard Usher, head of OTC trading at BCB Group, adding that the moves are reminiscent of the bank runs during the 2008 financial crisis.

Stablecoins are digital tokens pegged to the value of traditional assets, such as the US dollar. They are popular in times of turmoil in crypto markets and are often used by traders to move funds around and speculate on other cryptocurrencies.

On Thursday, TerraUSD was quoted around 50 cents, according to CoinGecko price data.

Unlike most stablecoins which are backed by reserves, TerraUSD is an algorithmic, or “decentralised”, stablecoin. It was supposed to maintain its peg via a complex mechanism which involved swapping it with another free-floating token.

But even reserve-backed stablecoins, which say they have sufficient assets to maintain their pegs, were showing signs of stress on Thursday.

Major stablecoin Tether slipped below its dollar peg, hitting as low as 98 cents around 0732 GMT on Thursday, according to CoinGecko. USD Coin was trading at around $1.04 while Binance USD was at $1.07 – a significant breakout of its usual range.

“The Terra incident is causing an industry-based panic, as Terra is the world’s third-biggest stable coin,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote Bank. But TerraUSD “couldn’t hold its promise to maintain a stable value in terms of US dollars.”

Market players are still assessing the fallout of the collapse of TerraUSD to identify whether major companies or investors have been badly hurt. That would be a possible clue to wider contagion.

Ether , the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, tumbled nearly 15 per cent on Thursday to $1,700, its lowest since June 2021.

Unlike previous sell-offs in broad financial markets, when cryptocurrencies have been largely untouched, the selling pressure in these assets this time has undermined the broader argument that they are dependable stores of value amid market volatility.

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Pressure on Europe to secure alternative gas supplies increased on Thursday after Moscow imposed sanctions on European subsidiaries of state-owned Gazprom and Ukraine stopped a gas transit route, pushing prices higher.

Russia imposed sanctions late Wednesday mainly on Gazprom’s European subsidiaries including Gazprom Germania, an energy trading, storage and transmission business that Germany placed under trusteeship last month to secure supplies.

It also imposed sanctions on the owner of the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline that carries Russian gas to Europe.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said there can be no relations with the companies affected nor can they take part in supplying Russian gas.

The entities on a list of affected firms on a Russian government website were largely based in countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, most of them members of the European Union.

Germany, Russia’s top client in Europe, said some subsidiaries of Gazprom Germania were receiving no gas because of the sanctions, but are seeking alternatives.

“Gazprom and its subsidaries are affected,” Habeck told the Bundestag lower house. “This means some of the subsidiaries are getting no more gas from Russia. But the market is offering alternatives.”

The list includes Germany’s biggest gas storage facility at Rehden in Lower Saxony, with 4 billion cubic metres of capacity and operated by Astora, as well as Wingas, a trader which supplies industry and local utilities.

Wingas has said it would continue operating but would be exposed to shortages. Rivals Uniper UN01.DE, VNG EBKG.DE or RWE RWEG.DE could be potential sources of supply to the market. Gas flows continue to Germany from Russia via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

The owner of Poland’s section of the Yamal pipeline, EuRoPol Gaz, has been earning proceeds from the transit of Russian gas. It is jointly owned by Polish gas firm PGNiG and Gazprom.

While Poland, along with Bulgaria, was cut off from Russian supplies last month for refusing to comply with a new payment mechanism, it has been able to use the reverse flow on the Yamal pipeline to ship gas from Germany.

Exit flows into Poland at the Mallnow metering point on the German border stood at 9,734,151 kilowatt hours per hour (kWh/h) on Thursday, down from roughly 10,400,000 kWh/h the previous day, data from the Gascade pipeline operator showed.

Last year, EU countries got around 155 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia.

TRANSIT

Dutch gas prices at the TTF hub, the European benchmark, rose by around 20% on Thursday morning.

Germany’s Halbeck said Russia’s measures seemed designed to drive up prices but the expected 3% drop in Russian gas deliveries could be compensated for on the market, albeit at a higher cost. Read full story

European wholesale gas prices have skyrocketed over the past year, adding to burdens on households and businesses.

Although German gas storage is around 40% full, that is still low for the time of year and inventories need to be built up over the summer in preparation for winter.

Moscow announced the sanctions the day after Ukraine halted a major gas transit route to Europe, blaming interference by occupying Russian forces, the first time exports via Ukraine have been disrupted since the invasion.

The transit point Ukraine shut usually handles about 8% of Russian gas flows to Europe, and Ukraine proposed that flows could be re-directed to an alternative transit point, Sudzha.

On Thursday morning, flows through Sudzha had fallen to 53 million cubic metres (mcm) per day, from around 70 mcm the day before, Ukraine gas transmission operator data showed.

However, the Ukrainian suspension does not present an immediate gas supply issue, the European Commission said.

Meanwhile, there is still confusion still among EU gas companies over a payment scheme decreed by Moscow in March which which the European Commission has said would breach EU sanctions.

Germany’s top power producer, RWE RWEG.DE, expects Berlin to soon clarify whether payments for Russian gas can be made under the new scheme proposed by Moscow, its finance chief said on Thursday, as a deadline approaches at the end of the month.

Russia’s demand that future payments for its most precious fossil fuel be made in roubles has been rejected by most European gas buyers over the details of the process, which requires opening accounts with Gazprombank.

That has fuelled fears about potential supply disruptions should buyers refuse to meet the guidelines to avoid breaching sanctions, which could have far-reaching consequences for Europe and Germany, in particular, which relies heavily on Russian gas.

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The Rock, the biggest white diamond ever pictured prior to the start of Christie's Magnificent Jewels sales in Geneva. – AFP

The Rock, the biggest white diamond ever auctioned, sold for a hammer price of 18.6 million Swiss francs ($18.8 million) on Wednesday, far short of the record for such a jewel.

The 228.31-carat stone, larger than a golf ball, was sold in Geneva by Christie's auction house.

There had been high hopes that The Rock would smash the world record for a white diamond, which stands at $33.7 million, fetched in the Swiss city in 2017 for a 163.41-carat gem.

But the bidding, which started at 14 million francs, came to a halt after two minutes at 18.6 million, though the price will increase once taxes and the buyer's premium are added on.

The pre-sale estimate had been 19-30 million Swiss francs.

The Rock, a perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped diamond, was in the hands of an unnamed owner from North America. It was bought by a telephone bidder following the action at the Hotel des Bergues.

Max Fawcett, head of the jewels department at Christie's auction house in Geneva, said there were only a handful of diamonds of similar size and quality to The Rock.

The large diamond was extracted from a mine in South Africa in the early 2000s and has been shown in Dubai, Taipei and New York ahead of the sale in Geneva.

Red Cross gem

On sale later in the Magnificent Jewel auction is an historic intense yellow diamond associated for more than a century with the Red Cross.

The Red Cross Diamond is a cushion-shaped, 205.07-carat canary yellow jewel, which has a price estimate of seven to 10 million Swiss francs ($7.09 to $10.13 million).

A large chunk of the proceeds will be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is headquartered in Geneva.

The original rough stone was found in 1901 in a De Beers company mine in South Africa and is said to have weighed around 375 carats.

As well as ranking among the largest diamonds in the world, a striking feature is its pavilion, which naturally bears the shape of a Maltese cross.

The stone was first put up for sale on April 10, 1918 at Christie's in London. It was offered by the Diamond Syndicate in aid of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John.

The Red Cross Diamond fetched £10,000 -- approximately £600,000 ($740,000) in today's money. It was bought by the London jewellers S.J. Phillips.

It was sold again by Christie's in Geneva in 1973, fetching 1.8 million Swiss francs, and is now being offered by the auction house for a third time.

Also being sold is a tiara that belonged to Princess Irma of Furstenberg (1867-1948), a member of one of the most pre-eminent aristocratic families in the Habsburg Empire.

It is estimated to go for 400,000 to 600,000 Swiss francs.

AFP