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FirstFT: US to demand halt to Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine


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The US is putting pressure on Germany to block Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as part of a package of sanctions that would be implemented in the event of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine.

The demand for Berlin and Brussels to prevent the pipeline from becoming operational is part of a sanctions package the US is proposing as it tries to stave off further conflict in the region amid fears in the intelligence community that Russia is preparing for military action. It comes as US President Joe Biden on Tuesday used a two-hour call with Putin to warn him of “strong economic and other measures” if the Russian leader sends troops into Ukraine.

The threat to Nord Stream 2, which is built but not yet pumping gas, would be included alongside a package of sanctions being proposed by the US, which would include financial measures such as blocking the conversion of roubles into dollars and further targeting Russian oligarchs, two officials briefed on the plan told the Financial Times.

The EU earlier vowed to expand punitive measures against Russia in case of “further aggression”.

  • Global Insight: Russia lands Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz with his first foreign policy test, writes Ben Hall.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

1. Evergrande bondholders yet to be paid Some investors in China Evergrande say they have not received crucial bond payments after the expiry of a 30-day grace period on Monday, as the world’s most indebted developer edges closer to a formal default.

2. UAE to shift weekend and create shorter working week The United Arab Emirates government is shifting the national weekend from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday to synchronise with global markets, instituting a four-and-a-half day working week from January next year.

3. French police arrest Saudi national over killing of Khashoggi A man suspected of being involved in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was detained at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris yesterday when he was about to board a plane bound for the Saudi capital Riyadh, a police official told the FT.

4. Samsung launches management shake-up Four months after being released from prison, Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong has reshuffled his management as the group steps up its push into non-memory chips and artificial intelligence. The changes included merging the consumer electronics and mobile divisions to take on competitor Apple.

5. China denounces US boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics China’s foreign ministry has denounced the Biden administration’s decision to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said crimes committed by the US against native Americans and not China’s persecution of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang “are the real genocide”.

Coronavirus digest

  • Stocks globally rallied by the most in over a year yesterday, with investors encouraged by signs that the Omicron coronavirus variant may prove less serious than feared.

  • Seoul’s foreign embassies, including those of the US and the UK, have called on South Korea to grant “urgent recognition” of foreign nationals vaccinated overseas against Covid-19.

  • Early data from a hospital in South Africa showed that on December 2 only nine of 42 patients in the Covid-19 ward were being treated and needed oxygen, suggesting the Omicron coronavirus variant could result in less severe illness.

  • Doubts over efficacy of Chinese vaccines are stoking anxiety at home and abroad as recent outbreaks raise uncertainty over Sinovac and Sinopharm jabs.

Are you worried about the efficacy of the Sinovac or Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines? Tell us in our poll below.

The day ahead

Cricket’s Ashes series Rivals England and Australia will begin the first of the five Test matches in Brisbane today as part of the Ashes series. (CNN)

Weibo shares begin trading in Hong Kong The social media app is expected to launch its secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Shares are expected to be priced at HK$272.8 (US$35.01) each to raise $385m. (Reuters)

Olaf Scholz’s coalition takes office in Germany Parliament will officially elect Scholz to become the country’s next chancellor, ending Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign.

This week, join more than 100 influential leaders and the FT’s top journalists from around the world for the Global Boardroom conference as they discuss how to build resilient, sustainable, inclusive economies and businesses in a world transformed by crisis. Register for free here.

What else we’re reading

The next quant revolution Corporate credit has been largely untouched by computer-driven trading. But a new breed of money managers is hoping to shake up the market using processing power, models, algorithms and big data to systematically wring cash out of pricing anomalies.

Line chart of Percentage of electronic trading showing Electronic corporate bond trading has taken flight

‘When a fan asks for an autograph, give it to them’ The Indian actor Abhishek Bachchan weighs in on loyal audiences, his family’s dynasty and why Bollywood is losing its desire to dance in his recent interview with Nirpal Dhaliwal.

Buyout firm Thoma Bravo goes from niche to big league The private equity industry is rolling on with record buyouts worth more than $1tn this year, according to Refinitiv, and Thoma Bravo has helped set the pace. The firm has taken more multibillion-dollar public companies private in the past year than any other buyout firm worldwide, PitchBook data show.

Will China have to loosen policy? The latest news on Evergrande suggests that the property developer is very close to default, and the shares of the super-indebted group say pretty clearly that it is going to happen, writes Robert Armstrong. The question now turns to whether Evergrande will force China into a policy shift.

The race to go electric A transformation is under way in the automobile industry as batteries replace the internal combustion engine. From behind the wheel of the latest models, FT reporters talk about the cars, the technology and the companies and countries that will come out on top.

  • Related read: Smarter cars are intensifying the race to get the top semiconductors, and could prolong run on chips.

Film

Danny Leigh details the best movies to spirit you away to Tokyo: A Kurosawa crime thriller, a Soviet sci-fi epic and a wild anime reimagining of the Nativity are among the classics that take our film critic to the Japanese capital.

Thank you for reading and remember you can add FirstFT to myFT. Send your recommendations and feedback to firstft@ft.com

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