Company news in brief

15 September 2020 | Business

Vodafone’s sale of Egypt unit lingers on

Vodafone Group said yesterday due diligence regarding the US$2.4 billion sale of its 55% stake in its Egyptian unit has been "substantively" completed by the potential buyer, Saudi Telecom Co (STC).

The London-listed telecom firm said that despite the expiry of a memorandum of understanding, the company remains in talks with Saudi Arabia's largest telecoms operator to finalise the deal in the near future.

"Vodafone now looks to STC and Telecom Egypt to find a suitable agreement to enable the transaction to close," Vodafone Group said in a statement.

On Sunday, STC said no agreement had been reached to buy the stake in Vodafone Egypt, and that the parties have agreed to keep dialogue open.

STC had in January signed a non-binding agreement, before citing coronavirus-driven logistical challenges to seek extension twice, first in April and then in July. Originally expected to close in June, the deal would have been STC's biggest in more than a decade. – Nampa/Reuters

AstraZeneca resumes vaccine trials

UK shares rose yesterday as drugmaker AstraZeneca (photo) resumed trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, while Brexit fears simmered ahead of a parliament vote on a plan to break international law by breaching parts of the divorce treaty with the European Union.

The House of Commons will debate the Internal Market Bill, which the EU has demanded prime minister Boris Johnson scrap by the end of September. After the debate, lawmakers will decide if it should go to the next stage.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 rose 0.6% in early trading, with a 0.8% gain for AstraZeneca Plc among the top boosts to the index.

The drugmaker said over the weekend it had resumed British clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development, after getting the green light from safety watchdogs. – Nampa/Reuters

China would rather see TikTok US close

Beijing opposes a forced sale of TikTok's US operations by its Chinese owner ByteDance, and would prefer to see the short video app shut down in the United States, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok's US business to potential buyers including Microsoft and Oracle since US president Donald Trump threatened last month to ban the service if it was not sold.

Trump has given ByteDance a deadline of mid September to finalise a deal.

However, Chinese officials believe a forced sale would make both ByteDance and China appear weak in the face of pressure from Washington, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

ByteDance said in a statement to Reuters that the Chinese government had never suggested to it that it should shut down TikTok in the United States or in any other markets. – Nampa/Reuters

UK clinches vaccine deal with Valneva

Britain has secured access to up to 190 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine from Valneva in deal worth as much as 1.37 billion euro, the French-Austrian vaccine firm said yesterday.

It had already been disclosed in July that the British government had reserved 60 million doses of Valneva's inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine under development.

The firm said it expects to begin trials of the two-dose vaccine in December and if it is successful for it to become available in the second half of 2021.

The 60 million doses supplied to Britain in 2021 would come at a cost of 470 million euro (US$557 million).

Britain will then have options on 40 million doses in 2022 and between 30 and 90 million across 2023 to 2025, which would cost 900 million euro.

Shares in Valneva jumped more than 20% in early morning trading in Paris. – Nampa/AFP

Neste to cut up to 470 jobs

Finnish biofuel producer and oil refiner Neste plans to cut up to 470 jobs in Finland to seek 50 million euro (US$59 million) of savings due to declining demand for fossil oil products, it said yesterday.

"The company is exploring the shutdown of its refinery operations in Naantali and focusing the Naantali site on the terminal and harbour operations, as well as transforming the Porvoo refinery operations to co-processing renewable and circular raw materials," it said in a statement.

Neste, which has invested heavily in renewables, said in July it had delayed the expansion of its Singapore refinery from the middle of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Neste said it continued to believe renewable energy solutions would grow in the coming years, but that the Covid-19 pandemic had substantially accelerated the decline in demand for fossil oil products, with no recovery in sight.

"The energy transition is proceeding faster than expected," Neste said, adding necessary investments into its Naantali refinery were no longer viable due to large over-capacity for oil refining globally. – Nampa/Reuters

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