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Russia’s Aeroflot plans $3 billion cash injection, said to eye big jet order

Under heavy pressure from Western sanctions and airspace bans, Russian state flagship airline Aeroflot plans to raise up to 185.2 billion roubles ($3 billion) in an emergency share issue, it said on Tuesday.

Aeroflot, controlled by the Russian state, said shareholders at its annual meeting had approved the issuance of 5.42 billion new shares that could be bought at a price of 34.29 roubles each under an open subscription.

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The airline also plans to order 300 aircraft from United Aircraft Corporation, which is majority owned by Rostec, Russia's state aerospace and defence conglomerate, the Vedemosti business newspaper reported.

The paper, citing two sources, said Aeroflot was eyeing the Irkut MS-21 medium-range plane, also known as the MC-21, which can carry more than 200 passengers and is due to enter service this year.

Aeroflot also wants the Sukhoi Superjet 100, Russia's main domestic-made passenger jet, which typically seats just under 100 passengers. A smaller number of orders would be made for the Tupolev Tu-214, which seats around 200 people, it said.

With passenger numbers still down by a third compared with pre-coronavirus levels at the start of the year, the company has since been severely hit by Western sanctions.

The European Union, United States, Britain and Canada have shut their airspace to Russian planes, cutting Aeroflot off from lucrative flights to Western markets.

Airbus and Boeing – which accounted for all but 10 of Aeroflot's 187-strong fleet at the start of 2022 – have halted the supply of aircraft parts and services to Russian carriers.

In response, Aeroflot opted to not pay dividends on its 2021 earnings and has not published first-quarter results for this year, shielding itself from having to reveal the financial toll of sanctions.

The $3 billion injection is set to come in part from Russia's National Wealth Fund (NWF) – the government's rainy-day fund that is being marshalled to help support key companies hit by sanctions – with the government promising to invest 107 billion roubles ($1.74 billion) in Aeroflot.

The Kremlin has said it will use the $198 billion NWF to prop up the economy through what is set to be a deep recession as well as plug the government's own deficit.

Putin ordered ministers on Tuesday to draw up new rules for how the NWF can be spent, suggesting guidelines could be relaxed to allow for more state funding to revive economic activity and potentially opening the doors to a flood of government-backed emergency investment.

During the pandemic, Moscow stepped in to buy 80 billion roubles ($1.3 billion) of Aeroflot shares using the NWF.

In its statement on Tuesday, Aeroflot did not provide details how much of the new share issue the state may buy. The finance ministry declined to comment.

The airline carried 2.2 million passengers in March 2022, including on its low cost airline, Pobeda – Russian for “victory”. That was down from 2.8 million in February, and less than half the 4.6 million carried in March 2019.

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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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