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Lebanon has yet to give IMF figure for financial losses, central bank governor says

Lebanon has yet to give the IMF its estimate of losses in the financial system as discussions on the issue continue, but is working hard to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Fund by year-end, governor Riad Salameh told Reuters on Tuesday.

Disagreements in Lebanon over the size of the losses and how they should be distributed torpedoed IMF talks last year. The central bank, banks and political elite rejected figures set out in a government plan that was endorsed by the IMF at the time.

The issue has obstructed attempts to chart a way out of the crisis that has devastated Lebanon since 2019, sinking the currency by more than 90 percent, causing poverty to skyrocket and leading many Lebanese to emigrate.

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Speaking in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference, Salameh also said the bank had $14 billion of available liquidity in its reserves, and reiterated denials of wrongdoing as judicial authorities in France and Switzerland investigate money laundering allegations against him.

Salameh said an IMF program was essential for Lebanon to exit the crisis, noting the external financing it would unlock and discipline that would impose reforms.

Therefore the central bank would accept the figures for the losses as decided by the government, he said.

“We are, at this stage, still in the process of gathering the data that is requested by the IMF and the issue of the losses – the number of these losses – are not going to be a hurdle for these negotiations, at least from the side of the central bank,” he said.

Asked whether there was agreement yet on who will bear the burden of the losses – such as depositors, bank shareholders, the government and the central bank itself – Salameh said no decision had been taken “because we don't have yet the final figures that are agreed with the IMF for the total losses”.

Last year, several sources said Salameh dug in his heels over the losses which the previous government's plan suggested were in the $90 billion range. Ruling parties and commercial banks also objected to the figures, saying they were too big.

Asked when the figure would be ready, Salameh said Prime Minister Najib Mikati had set a deadline for signing the IMF memorandum of understanding by the end of 2021, which the government and central bank were working “very hard to achieve”.

Funding needs

Salameh became Banque du Liban (BDL) governor in 1993 and managed a pegged exchange rate that underpinned the import-dependent economy from 1997 until the meltdown.

As Lebanon's currency sunk, the reserves were depleted as BDL provided dollars at heavily subsidized exchange rates to finance imports including fuel, food and medicine.

Salameh noted that this policy had now been largely phased out – the only imports for which dollars are being provided at subsidized rates today are medicines for some chronic illnesses and wheat, while BDL sells dollars for gasoline imports at a small discount to the market exchange rate.

“Our expectation is that if we stay on this model, for the next 12 months … the BDL will have to fund $2.5 billion,” he said. BDL might recoup $300-$500 million from its foreign exchange platform, Sayrafa, in that timeframe, he said.

The reserves were recently boosted by the sale of over $1 billion of IMF Special Drawing Rights.

Salameh is being investigated by authorities in four European countries, including the Swiss inquiry over alleged “aggravated money laundering” at BDL involving $300 million in gains by a company owned by his brother, Raja Salameh.

Last week, he said he had ordered an audit of transactions and investments that had been the focus of media reports and this had shown no public funds were used to pay fees and commissions to the company owned by his brother. Raja Salameh has not publicly commented on the accusation.

Salameh gave the prime minister a copy of the audit last week but declined to provide Reuters with one. “In this report, it is clear that there was no embezzlement or money laundering on my side or under my guidance at the central bank,” he said.

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Ryanair cabin crew in Spain announce 12 new days of strikes in July

Spain-based cabin crew at Ryanair plan to strike for 12 days this month to demand better working conditions, the USO and SICTPLA unions said on Saturday, raising the prospect of travel chaos as the summer tourist season gets under way.

The announcement came on the final day of the crews’ current strike, which began on Thursday and forced Ryanair to cancel 10 flights in Spain on Saturday.

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Cabin crew will strike on July 12-15, July 18-21 and July 25-28 across the 10 Spanish airports where Ryanair operates, the unions said in a statement.

“The unions and crew of Ryanair … demand a change of attitude from the airline,” they said in a statement, calling for Ryanair to resume negotiations on working conditions.

The unions also urged the government “not to allow Ryanair to violate labor legislation and constitutional rights such as the right to strike.”

Airline workers across Europe have been staging walkouts as the sector adapts to a resumption of travel after pandemic lockdowns.

Spain-based cabin crew at easyJet are striking for nine days this month for higher pay. The airline cancelled five flights from Spain on Saturday.

Workers at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport went on strike on Friday and into Saturday, forcing the cancellation of about 10 percent of flights.

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Tesla braces for delayed delivery due to China plant shutdown

Tesla Inc. is expected to announce quarterly production and delivery figures this weekend that will likely be among the worst of the year – and break its multi-quarter streak of record-setting results – due largely to an extended shutdown of its factory in Shanghai.

The electric vehicle maker may have delivered more than 261,000 vehicles globally during the three months ended in June, according to nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, ending a two-year stretch of consecutive quarterly gains.

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Tesla handed over more than 310,000 vehicles in the first three months of the year, more than any previous quarter.

“We cut our second-quarter deliveries estimate by 65,000 to 245,000 units, reflecting a prolonged Covid 19-related shutdown and logistical challenges in the Shanghai factory,” wrote Emmanuel Rosner of Deutsche Bank in a research note to clients. “Recall that during the first-quarter call, CEO Elon Musk had provided directional guidance of sequentially flat deliveries for the quarter but the situation in China worsened subsequently,” only improving in early June.

Shares of Tesla rose 1.2 percent to close trading Friday at $681.79, but the stock is down about 35 percent so far this year.

Deliveries are one of the most closely watched metrics at Tesla. They underpin the Austin, Texas-based company’s financial results and are widely seen as a broad barometer of consumer demand for EVs amid a wider shift away from the internal combustion engine.

Many large automakers will announce US sales results Friday but Tesla, which reports global totals, hasn’t specified a release date.

Dan Levy, an analyst with Credit Suisse, reduced his delivery estimate for the period to 242,000 units. “In aggregate, we believe the Shanghai shutdown accounted for about 90,000 units of lost production in the second quarter,” Levy wrote in a note to clients.

Tesla makes the Model S, X, 3 and Y vehicles at its plant in Fremont, California. It also produces Models 3 and Y at a factory near Shanghai. The company has begun delivering the first Model Ys from its new plant near Berlin and held a “Cyber Rodeo” event for 15,000 people in April to celebrate a new factory in Austin.

‘Money Furnaces’

However, both Berlin and Austin have been slow to ramp up production, with Musk warning in a late May interview that both plants are “gigantic money furnaces.”

Analysts and investors are also worried that the price hikes automakers are imposing to combat soaring raw material costs will weigh on demand. Tesla had boosted its sticker prices by as much as $6,000 a car earlier this month, according to Electrek.

A stronger-than-expected delivery number could provide a boost to Tesla’s stock, which is down more than 35 percent this year amid wider market concerns about rising energy costs, inflation and a potential recession.

Musk shares many of those concerns and is in the process of laying off 10 percent of Tesla’s salaried work force while pushing others to return to the office.

Earlier this week, Tesla laid off roughly 200 people on its Autopilot team, mostly hourly employees who worked as data annotation specialists.

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Regulator urges Germans to prepare for possible gas shortage

Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy called on residents Saturday to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.
Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10 percent to 15 percent,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
Mueller said residents and property owners need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready. He said families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter – or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”
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The appeal came after Russia reduced gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month, as European Union countries scramble to refill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.
Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The company said equipment getting refurbished in Canada was stuck there because of Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
German leaders have rejected that explanation and called the reductions a political move in reaction to the European Union’s sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine.
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister and responsible for energy, has warned a “blockade” of the pipeline is possible starting July 11, when regular maintenance work is due to start. In previous summers, the work has entailed shutting Nord Stream 1 for about 10 days, he said.
The question is whether the upcoming regular maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will turn into “a longer-lasting political maintenance,” the energy regulator’s Mueller said.
If the gas flow from Russia is “to be lowered for a longer period of time, we will have to talk more seriously about savings,” he said.
According to Mueller, in the event of a gas supply stoppage, private households would be specially protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.
“I can promise that we will do everything we can to avoid private households being without gas,” he said, adding: “We learned from the coronavirus crisis that we shouldn’t make promises if we’re not entirely sure we can keep them.”
He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming to Germany at all.”
Also on Saturday, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter as a response to a possible supply shortage.
“We could then greatly reduce the temperature in the offices, while our employees could heat their homes to the normal extent,” Henkel CEO Carsten Knobel told daily newspaper Rheinische Post.
Earlier this month, Habeck activated the second phase of Germany’s three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies, warning that Europe’s biggest economy faced a “crisis” and storage targets for the winter were at risk.
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