News Bites

Shareholders of French rail giant Alstom overwhelmingly approved the planned merger with Siemens rail operations, leaving the verdict of antitrust authorities as the only remaining hurdle. (Reuters)

The EU and Japan signed a historic free-trade agreement dubbed JEFTA today. Tokyo will reduce tariffs on European dairy, meat and wine, and Brussels will slash duties on auto imports when the deal comes into force, possibly next year.

Officials from the EU, Ukraine and Russia met in Berlin to discuss the use of Ukraine’s gas routes after the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine, is built. Berlin wants Moscow to continue using these old routes after the contract expires in 2019, to ensure Kiev isn’t left out. (FT)

Spain overtook Italy as the country taking in the most refugees and migrants arriving by sea, with 18,016 people reaching Spanish shores from January 1 to July 15 this year.

Jörg Schneider, CFO at Munich Re, will step down at the end of the year. He will be replaced by Christoph Jurecka, CFO of Ergo, a subsidiary of Munich Re.

Michael Kühne, a German billionaire, received an offer from Morgan Stanley Infrastructure for VTG, valuing the company at €1.52 billion. Morgan Stanley already owns 49% of the rail logistics firm.

The EU wants to cooperate more closely with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, with trade agreements and collaboration on energy, infrastructure and R&D, the bloc’s chief diplomat said on Tuesday.

Revenues grew 7.2% to €7.1 billion at Hella, a German maker of lights for cars, for a business year that ended in May.

Registrations of new cars in Europe rose 5% in June thanks to more sales days. For the first half of the year, new car sales rose 3% to a record 8.2 million vehicles. (ACEA)

ThyssenKrupp shares climbed more than 8% after board chair Ulrich Lehner said he would step down at the end of the month. Market analysts said pressure is building on managers to split up the conglomerate.

Half of Germans store gold in deposit boxes, according to a survey conducted for Deutsche Börse. One in 10 would be willing to bury it in their garden.

Airbus signed an agreement with an undisclosed customer at the Farnborough Air Show for the sale of 100 aircraft. The list price for the jets is $11.5 billion.

The European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia over its investigation into the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the 2012 imprisonment of the protest group Pussy Riot, in two separate judgments.

The number of M&A deals by Chinese companies in Europe dropped by 12% in the first half of 2018 and their combined value halved to $14.9 billion, an EY study found, as rising protectionism discouraged international takeovers.

The Chinese made 22 corporate purchases in Germany last year, down from 26 in 2016. But the value rocketed to a combined $9.9 billion, thanks to a single megadeal: Geely’s $8.9 billion stake in Daimler.

Volkswagen posted record sales in the first half of 2018, with more than 5.5 million vehicles sold worldwide, up 7% from the same period last year.

The neo-Nazi party NPD published footage showing party officials patrolling commuter trains in Berlin amid calls for “secure areas” for ethnic Germans. Police are investigating the incident.

The German captain of a migrant rescue ship slammed the EU’s “disgraceful” crackdown on NGOs’ efforts to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean. Claus-Peter Reisch is due to stand trial in Malta this month for steering the Lifeline without the proper registration.

Specialty chemicals firm Evonik raised its earnings target for 2018 after an unexpectedly profitable second quarter. The group now hopes to post an operating profit of up to €2.65 billion.

Frankfurt looks set to gain fewer finance jobs from London after the UK leaves the European Union than it initially hoped as banks may spread offices across Europe. (Bloomberg)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel turned 64 today and is enjoying a well-deserved day off after a turbulent year. Happy birthday, Mutti!

Carles Puigdemont founded a new Catalan independence party, the National Call for the Republic, where he hopes to unite supporters of secession from Spain. The deposed leader is fighting Spanish demands for him to be extradited from Germany.

The US has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against retaliatory tariffs imposed by the EU, China, and others, arguing that US punitive tariffs are justified.

ThyssenKrupp’s board chairman Ulrich Lehner announced his resignation less than two weeks after the CEO stepped down, as activist investors urge breakup of the conglomerate.

VW has mostly met its obligations to customers over the Dieselgate affair, said the European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Vera Jourová. While around 80% of the required updates have been undertaken, the repairs were not guaranteed, Ms. Jourová complained.

Last week, an ex-bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, known as Sami A., was deported to his homeland, Tunisia. The deportation may have been illegal but the Ministry of Interior denies their boss, Horst Seehofer, put extra pressure on the ministry to have it done quickly.

Win-win deal

German gas firm Messer profits from Linde-Praxair selloff

Linde and Praxair are selling assets to meet antitrust concerns over their merger. German family-owned industrial gas firm Messer has swooped in to purchase American operations, turning it into a global player.

News gallery

In case you missed it

Happy birthday to the leader of the free world and happy emoji day to everyone else.

Daily briefing

Europe aghast at Moscow puppet show

Horrorshow, or when it's okay to be ignored. Thankfully, European leaders are busy defending people's interests. Here's our daily briefing for July 17, 2018.

middle kingdom

EU and China find new rapport in Beijing, amid US trade disputes

At last year’s summit, the EU and China had so little in common they didn’t even issue a joint statement. This year, the two parties are upholding “free trade and the multilateral order” in the face of the what appears to be a new common enemy.

Editors’ Pick

Their darkest hour

US-loving Germans planning life without trans-Atlantic ties

Hope springs eternal for an elite cadre of dedicated trans-Atlanticists in Germany, who are working out how to deal with Donald Trump’s anti-European rhetoric and maintain the world order the way they like it.

Dive In

Power players

Trump and Putin ignore Europe in Helsinki summit

The historic meeting of the leaders worried European officials fearful the two were united in opposing their interests. Amid global security matters and the US election controversy, there was little mention of Europe.

Digital money

How soon will Big Tech disrupt the banks?

With Google set to launch Google Pay in Germany, some observers predict that Big Tech companies will corner the market in personal financial services. For others, the fear is hugely exaggerated.

Smoke screen

Deutsche Bank’s second-quarter profit surprise

Shares in Deutsche Bank soared on Monday following news of a surprisingly strong second quarter. But it’s far too early to talk of a turnaround.

Penny-Pincher

Germany’s beloved finance minister needs to prioritize investment

Olaf Scholz is Germany’s most popular politician, but he isn’t investing enough in education, infrastructure and health, writes Handelsblatt’s Martin Greive.

unknown unknowns

German car supplier Brose builds a complex plan B for Brexit

Brose, a maker of auto components from Germany, is re-configuring its network of factories in 22 countries plus Britain, amid uncertainty about Brexit.

Fiscal fillips

Berlin should brace for economic downturn, Bundesbank chief warns

Germany is enjoying another year of robust growth. But Jens Weidmann warns the government must prepare now for the end of the boom, which easily could come sooner than later.

News gallery

In case you missed it

Deutsche Bank distracts shareholders, Kerber distracts from World Cup, German feud distracts from Trump-Putin summit, online streaming distracts everyone.

Murder most foul

Doubts grow over ‘suicide’ of Bavaria’s fairytale king

Speculation about the death of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II in 1886 has swirled for decades, like the Alpine mist that wafts across the turrets of his world-famous Neuschwanstein palace. New research suggests the official verdict of suicide was fake news.

Digital Estate

German court rules Facebook content is inheritable, just like a diary

A landmark ruling from Germany’s high court has set aside privacy concerns and put digital assets on the same footing as physical assets after death.

BAVARIAN BOOM

No end in sight for Munich’s real-estate rush

Bavaria’s capital is Germany’s most expensive city to buy or rent property. With demand steady and supply constricted, prices look set to keep pressing upward.

european parliament

EU financial watchdog ESMA will get less bite than planned

European lawmakers aim to scale back Brussels' plans to give the stock market regulator new powers. National supervisors are resisting reforms that would weaken them.

Ask a German

Handelsblatt explains

Much about Germany is confusing or surprising to foreigners - and even to Germans. Our editors provide clarity.

Summit shock

In, out and down in NATO

Donald Trump knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, not even of the Western alliance, says Andreas Kluth. The onus is on Germany to respond.

Farcical contradictions

Trump ditches diplomacy, makes NATO summit all about deals

The Brussels conference was shaped by the president’s wavering commitment to the alliance and hounding of members to spend more.

Mifid II fallout

EU securities regulator probes pricing of stock data

Should stock exchanges profit from securities data? The European securities watchdog, ESMA, is examining the matter after exchange operators raised fees charged to banks, brokers and high-frequency traders.

Germany agrees

Commission’s debt oversight too lax, EU auditors find

The European Commission has been too lax in monitoring euro-zone debt, the European Court of Auditors warns. The accusation jibes with criticism from the ECB, Germany and other EU countries.

Golden goals

Nike trounces Adidas to clinch World Cup title

Nike 1 – Adidas 0. Despite spending millions of dollars to be an official partner, Adidas has lost out to US arch-rival Nike in the battle of the sportswear sponsors at the soccer tournament.

Terrible tariffs

Clothing discounter KiK stops US launch, blaming Trump

The German retailer had planned to open stores in America but has decided it’s too risky because of Donald Trump’s escalating trade war. Instead, expansion in Europe will get priority.

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