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World News

John Lewis to permanently close eight stores with 1,300 jobs at risk

John Lewis says it will permanently close eight of its stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.

Two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford are closing, as well as four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth, and two travel hub outlets at Heathrow and St Pancras.

The John Lewis Partnership said the decision was made to ‘secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs’.

It said the eight shops were already ‘financially challenged’ before the pandemic, which has driven customers towards online shopping.

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The group estimated that between 60% and 70% of John Lewis sales will be made online this year and next, compared with 40% before the coronavirus crisis.

John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Sharon White said: ‘Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners.

‘However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop.

‘Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many partners as possible within our business.’

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Economy

EU to back Croatia, Bulgaria in first step to join euro, sources say

BRUSSELS, July 9 (Reuters) – Euro zone officials are ready to let Croatia and Bulgaria into the ERM-2 mechanism, a preliminary stage for adopting the euro as their currency in the next three years, four sources told Reuters.

The move would pave the way for the first enlargement of the euro zone since 2015, when Lithuania joined the currency bloc, which now has 19 members.

European officials said a decision was imminent after a final backing from euro zone and EU finance ministers, who hold video conferences later on Thursday and Friday.

Two sources said the decision was likely to be announced outside market hours, probably during the weekend, to prevent market speculation.

Officials said some minor issues remained to be settled in the coming hours. They could delay the announcement beyond the weekend, but were unlikely to derail the decision on accession to the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism.

Once countries join the ERM-2, they remain in the mechanism for about two years before starting the practical preparations to join the euro zone, a process that takes roughly another year, making 2023 the earliest year for euro membership. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels, Tsevetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Balazs Koranyi in Frankfurt and Igor Ilic in Zagreb; editing by Larry King)

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World News

European shares rise after SAP's reassuring outlook

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July 9 (Reuters) – European stocks rose on Thursday as software giant SAP signalled a rebound in its business from a coronavirus hit, while optimism over China’s recovery helped Germany outperform.

The broader European equities index rose 0.3% in early deals.

SAP jumped 6.5% after the German group confirmed its full-year outlook and said business activity gradually improved in the second quarter from the effects of a global lockdown.

Denmark’s Pandora gained 1.2% after it lifted its profit forecast for the second quarter, saying consumers had returned to shops faster than expected.

China-exposed miners, luxury stocks and automakers all rose, drawing comfort as a rally in Shanghai shares extended to the eighth day on hopes of a faster recovery for the world’s second largest economy.

Frankfurt-listed shares outperformed its European peers with a 0.9% jump, as data showed German exports rebounded in May, spurred by the lifting of lockdown measures. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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World News

Japanese shares rebound but spike in COVID-19 cases caps gains

TOKYO, July 9 (Reuters) – Japanese shares bounced back on Thursday buoyed by technology-related stocks following a rise in U.S. peers overnight, but gains were limited by a surge in domestic coronavirus cases.

The benchmark Nikkei share average rose 0.4% to 22,529.29, clawing back from a 0.78% drop in the previous session. On the Nikkei index, there were 63 advancers against 158 decliners.

The market extended gains after the midday break supported by the Shanghai Compsite stocks rallying into eighth day.

However, investor sentiment was soon dampened by 224 fresh coronavirus cases in Tokyo on Thursday, which hit a record daily high.

The market showed little reaction to data that Japan’s machinery orders unexpectedly rose 1.7% in May after a 12.0% slump in April due to the pandemic.

Domestic technology-related stocks advanced after the Nasdaq marked its fourth record closing high in five days on Wednesday.

Tech conglomerate and Nikkei heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp jumped 4.52%, lifting information and communication to the top performing sector on the main bourse at 1.6%.

Sony Corp added 3.27%, while Yaskawa Electric Corp rose 1.98%.

Eisai Co Ltd climbed 4.84% after the pharmaceutical company and its partner Biogen submitted a marketing application to U.S. regulators for their Alzheimer’s drug.

Trading house Itochu Corp added 0.22% after it announced a tender offer for the rest of FamilyMart Co Ltd . The convenience store, expected to be delisted if the bid is successful, jumped 22.81%.

The broader Topix ended flat at 1,557.24, with all but nine of the 33 sector sub-indexes on the Tokyo exchange trading in negative territory. (Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shailesh Kuber)

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Economy

Greek unemployment rises to 15.5% in April

ATHENS, July 9 (Reuters) – Greece’s jobless rate rose to 15.5% in April from an upwardly revised 14.5% reading in the previous month, data from the country’s statistics service ELSTAT showed on Thursday.

It was still the lowest jobless rate since March 2011.

Seasonally adjusted data showed the number of unemployed at 708,655 people, with those aged up to 24 bearing the brunt of being out of work.

Among younger persons aged 15 to 24, the jobless rate rose to 33.6% from 32.7% in the same month in 2019. Greece’s jobless rate, which hit a record high of 27.8% in September 2013, remains the highest in the euro zone.

Greece’s 2020 budget projects growth picking up this year, helping to drive joblessness down to 15.6%. But the government-imposed lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 disease and travel restrictions around the world has thrown forecasts off. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou)

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World News

Meghan tries to stop Mail on Sunday from naming five of her friends in court battle

The Duchess of Sussex has applied to the High Court to stop The Mail and Mail on Sunday from revealing the names of five of her friends in her ongoing lawsuit against the papers’ publisher, according to a source close to Meghan.

The women’s names were given to the judge and to the Mail for its defence, confidentially, by the duchess last week as part of the court process, the source said, adding the threat to identify them “is an attempt to intimidate the duchess and her friends”.

As part of today’s court filing, the duchess provided a witness statement in which she accused the Mail on Sunday of “playing a media game with real lives”.

“Each of these women is a private citizen, young mother, and each has a basic right to privacy,” she said, adding that the threat to expose them was “for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain”.

She described the move as “vicious” and one that “poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing”.

The duchess is suing ANL, which also owns MailOnline and the Daily Mail, over a Mail on Sunday article that reproduced sections of a handwritten note she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle, 75, in August 2018.

Lawyers for the duchess claim the story breached her privacy.

Associated Newspapers claims it only included the letter because it had already been referenced by Meghan’s friends in an interview with People magazine in the US.

The duchess identifies the five friends who gave the People interview, but refers to them only as friends A, B, C, D and E, and denies she authorised them to do it.

In the article, published in February last year, they spoke out against the bullying she said she has faced.

They could be called to testify if the case goes to trial, but no dates have been suggested for a potential hearing.

“These five women are not on trial, and nor am I,” the duchess said in her statement.

“The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case – that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter.”

The source added: “The Mail’s threat to publish has nothing to do with the case, and is only being done so the Mail can target five innocent women through the pages of its newspapers and its website.”

Sky News has contacted the Mail group for a comment.

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Business

Alstom offers French factory sale to clinch Bombardier deal

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s TGV high-speed train maker Alstom (ALSO.PA) on Thursday offered to sell a French rail factory and make other concessions to win European Commission approval for its planned purchase of Bombardier Inc’s (BBDb.TO) transportation business.

The commitments also included selling Alstom’s Coradia Polyvalent – a range of regional trains – and divesting a Bombardier commuter trains division and the production facilities attached to that at its Hennigsdorf site in Germany.

Alstom’s bid in February of up to 6.2 billion euros ($7.0 billion) for Montreal-based Bombardier’s rail business has faced scrutiny from EU antitrust authorities, which have been expected to demand concessions to approve the deal.

By buying Bombardier’s train division, Alstom is seeking to create the world’s second largest train manufacturer to compete more effectively with Chinese leader CRRC Corp (601766.SS). Last year, EU regulators blocked Alstom’s attempt to merge rail assets with Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE).

Alstom said it would sell its Reichshoffen factory in France, confirming a report by Reuters on Wednesday. The site in Eastern France has around 800 employees and produces mostly regional trains.

French unions, which are due to be updated on the concessions on Thursday, were still hoping to keep the site, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The EU is due to decide whether or not to pursue a deeper enquiry on July 16, following its preliminary review of the deal.

Alstom said other concessions included providing access to some products within Bombardier’s train control systems and signalling units – one of the areas where the combined companies would have a large market share.

Alstom’s shares were up 0.3% at 43.05 euros by 0828 GMT.

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World News

Hong Kong to tighten restrictions after a fresh spike in Covid-19 cases

HONG KONG – The city’s government is expected to tighten social distancing measures, possibly as soon as Thursday (July 9), as fresh clusters continue to emerge which has led health experts to warn of the next wave of Covid-19.

Local media HK01 and TVB said that at least 16 new cases had been confirmed, with the source in about half of those unknown.

HK01 said the new patients were linked to eateries, taxis drivers and an elderly care centre.

The report said the tightening of social distancing measures was expected to apply to cinemas, karaoke lounges and performance venues. The number of people allowed to be sitting at a table in a restaurant would be capped at eight, HK01 said.

An infectious disease expert from the University of Hong Kong Ho Pak Leung has called on the government to act promptly and put in place strict measures as the Covid-19 situation appeared to be returning to what it was in March, the height of the second wave of infections.

He was quoted by RTHK as saying that there was a good chance the recent spike was caused by loopholes in the system like quarantine exemptions for some groups.

He urged people to order takeaways instead of dining out and to disinfect seat belts and buckles when getting into a taxi and to lower the windows of the vehicle on both sides to allow air to circulate.

Health authorities on Wednesday said Hong Kong recorded 24 confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which 19 were local. The rest were imported. As of Wednesday, Hong Kong had 1,323 confirmed patients, of whom seven had died.

Health officials have expressed fears of a wide community outbreak after cases emerged in different areas of the city, including on Hong Kong island, Mong Kok and Tsuen Wan.

About half of the new local cases reported on Wednesday were linked to an elderly care home in Tsz Wan Shan. The remaining ones were linked to restaurants in Choi Hung and Jordan.

The spike in cases comes after three weeks when the numbers were tapering off.

Meanwhile, United Airlines has extended its suspension of flights to and from Hong Kong in the light of new testing protocols for crew arriving in the Asian financial hub.

American Airlines Group also cancelled plans to resume services from Dallas/Fort Worth.

Hong Kong updated its Covid-19 prevention and control measures this week, requiring all air crew members arriving at the city’s airport from Wednesday to provide throat saliva samples at a government facility nearby.

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World News

ECB will be as innovative as needed with policy tools, Villeroy says

PARIS (Reuters) – The European Central Bank is prepared to get more innovative with its monetary tools if necessary, ECB Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Thursday.

“To fulfil its price stability mandate over time, the Eurosystem will keep as long as necessary interest rates very favourable and liquidity very abundant,” Villeroy, who is also head of the French central bank, said.

“And it will remain ready to be as innovative as necessary about its instruments,” he added, writing in an annual letter to the French president.

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Sports

Cycling: Chris Froome to leave Team Ineos at the end of the season

LONDON (REUTERS, AFP) – Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will leave Team Ineos at the end of the season, the team said in a statement on Thursday (July 9).

“Chris’ current contract comes to an end in December and we have taken the decision now not to renew it. We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be the case to put an end to recent speculation and allow the Team to focus on the season ahead,” general manager Dave Brailsford said.

Froome, 35, said: “It has been a phenomenal decade with the team (previously Team Sky). We have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories.

“I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team Ineos.”

More to follow…

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