WHO cautions against imposing travel restrictions due to new variant

GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday cautioned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions linked to the new B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19, saying they should take a “risk-based and scientific approach”.

“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a U.N. briefing in Geneva. “The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures.”

The WHO, which has convened an experts’ meeting on Friday to evaluate whether it constitutes a variant of interest or a variant of concern, will share further guidance for governments on action they can take, he said.

It will take a few weeks to understand the variant’s impact, and researchers are working to determine how transmissible it is and how it will affect therapeutics and vaccines, he added.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)

Lithuania says it may close Belarus border crossings over migrant smuggling

By Andrius Sytas

VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuania may close border crossing points with Belarus if migrants continue to be smuggled into its territory on trucks, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Friday.

“We have decided to increase checks on vehicles crossing into Lithuania. If we see this trend increasing, we will be very seriously considering closing border crossing points with Belarus,” she said during a visit near the border.

Four Iraqi migrants were found hiding in a consignment of peat in a Belarusian-registered truck at the Medininkai crossing on Thursday afternoon. The Lithuanian border guard service said Belarus had refused to take them back.

The European Union has accused Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the bloc in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over President Alexander Lukashenko’s crushing of protests against his disputed re-election last year. Belarus denies this.

Lukashenko told migrants near the border with Poland on Friday that Belarus would help them to return home if they wanted to but would not force them.

Bilotaite said there could be up to 15,000 migrants in Belarus trying to find a way into the European Union, including up to 2,000 at the Lithuanian border.

“Until they are returned home we cannot be calm,” Bilotaite said. “Lukashenko is unpredictable, we can expect anything from him, so we must be ready for all outcomes.”

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Terje Solsvik, Jan Harvey and Kevin Liffey)

Greek private sector bank deposits stable in October

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek private sector bank deposits were almost unchanged in October after rising for eight consecutive months, central bank data showed on Friday.

Business and household bank deposits stood at 173.689 billion euros ($195.16 billion) at the end of October, compared to 173.701 billion euros in September, Bank of Greece data showed.

Greek banks have seen deposit inflows increase since the beginning of the year. Lockdowns to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic put a dent in consumer spending but the reopening of the economy earlier this year led to a strong rebound.

The economy grew strongly in the second quarter of the year, beating forecasts, with its annual expansion rate hitting 16.2% as consumer spending and investments picked up.

($1 = 0.8900 euros)

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas)

Swiss expect slower economic growth as pandemic returns

By John Revill

ZURICH (Reuters) -The Swiss economy grew by a weaker-than-expected 1.7% during the third quarter, the government said on Friday, as it braces for a further downturn from the widening COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing supply chain shortages.

Growth between July and September, before the recent surge in coronavirus cases, decelerated from the 1.8% increase during the second quarter, and was below the 2.0% estimate in a Refinitiv forecast. [S8N2NQ00T]

A worsening situation at home, increased restrictions abroad and the difficulty for companies to get parts and raw materials because of jammed supply chains, means economic development is likely to decelerate further during the fourth quarter.

The catch-up effect from previous months is also starting to fade, said Ronald Indergand, an economist at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which released the figures on Friday.

“There are significant headwinds, particularly related to the pandemic development in other countries which have triggered new lockdowns and also if Switzerland would substantially tighten its own restrictions,” Indergand told Reuters.

Earlier this week, the government decided to hold off on new national restrictions, instead appealing to common sense and local measures to stem the rise in cases.

So far, the Swiss economy had recovered relatively well, with GDP now 1% higher in the third quarter than in fourth quarter of 2019, SECO said.

The government agency is due to give its latest forecasts for 2021, 2022 and 2023 on Dec. 9. Previously it has forecast economic growth of 3.2% for 2021 and 3.4% in 2022.

Big risks remain, particularly related to the pandemic, Indergand said. Supply chain problems are expected to weigh for a few more quarters.

“We think the recovery is going to continue in 2022, but it’s going to be bumpy,” said Indergand. “Up to this current moment, I don’t think we have to revise our forecast down massively, but the risk is clearly downward for 2022.”

(Reporting by John Revill, editing by Silke Koltrowitz and Barbara Lewis)

Google makes pledges on browser cookies to appease UK regulator

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) – Google has pledged more restrictions on its use of data from its Chrome browser to address concerns raised by Britain’s competition regulator about its plan to ban third-party cookies that advertisers use to track consumers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating Google’s plan to cut support for some cookies in Chrome – an initiative called the “Privacy Sandbox” – because it is worried it will impede competition in digital advertising.

Alphabet Inc’s Google has said its users want more privacy when they are browsing the web, including not being tracked across sites.

Other players in the $250 billion global digital ad sector, however, have said the loss of cookies in the world’s most popular browser will limit their ability to collect information for personalising ads and make them more reliant on Google’s user databases.

Google agreed earlier this year to not implement the plan without the CMA’s sign-off, and said the changes agreed with the British regulator will apply globally.

Google had addressed some remaining concerns, the CMA said on Friday, including commitments around reducing access to IP addresses and clarifying internal limits on the data that it could use.

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We have always been clear that Google’s efforts to protect users’ privacy cannot come at the cost of reduced competition.”

He added: “If accepted, the commitments we have obtained from Google become legally binding, promoting competition in digital markets, helping to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguarding users’ privacy.”

Google said in a blog that is was “determined to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox is developed in a way that works for the entire ecosystem”.

The CMA said it would consult on the new commitments until on 17 December.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Huw Jones; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Barbara Lewis)

Cambodia releases endangered royal turtles in revival bid

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodian conservationists released 51 critically endangered royal turtles back into the wild on Friday, in a drive to bolster a species thought to be extinct two decades ago.

Also known as the southern river terrapin, the large river turtles are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species, and the European Union is helping to fund the revival programme in Cambodia https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-turtles-idUKKBN22W1S3.

The turtles, collected between 2006 and 2015 immediately after hatching and reared in a conservation centre, were released into the Sre Ambel river in Cambodia’s coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.

“With the increasing number of adults in the wild through this release, we do hope that this species will breed in the wild and that annual nests will increase in the next few years,” Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ken Sereyrotha said.

The turtles, 31 females and 20 males between 6 and 15 years old, are implanted with a microchip and have an acoustic transmitter attached to their shells.

The royal turtle was believed extinct in Cambodia until 2000 due to sand dredging, illegal fishing, and loss of habitat. It was designated the country’s national reptile in 2005.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by John Geddie and Giles Elgood)

Croatia restricts travel rules due to new COVID-19 variant

ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia will restrict the travel rules from several countries due to the new coronavirus variant, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic told reporters on Friday.

“We will ban arrivals from some countries or impose a quarantine of 14 days with obligatory testing,” he said.

He said the measure, which refers to the arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Hong Kong, would be formally taken later on Friday.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

Russia investigates complaint against Netflix over LGBT content

(This Nov. 25 story corrects to clarify complaint process in lead/headline)

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is investigating a complaint against Netflix after the public commissioner for protecting families accused the streaming company of violating Russian law on “gay propaganda”, the Vedomosti daily reported.

The commissioner, Olga Baranets, complained to the Interior Ministry that Netflix was in breach of a 2013 law that bans disseminating “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations” among Russians under the age of 18 when broadcasting LGBT-themed series with a 16+ label.

Her appeal is being considered by the Moscow department of the Interior Ministry, Vedomosti cited a source as saying in a report published late on Wednesday.

Netflix declined to comment. The U.S. company could face a fine of up to 1 million roubles ($13,400) or a temporary suspension of its service if found to have violated the law, Vedomosti said.

Russia’s legislation has been condemned by rights groups. In 2017 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Russian gay propaganda law breached European treaty rules, violated the right to freedom of expression and discriminated against LGBT people – a ruling Moscow called unjust.

The newspaper quoted a source close to Netflix as saying the company had earlier this month checked its offering of series and films about the lives of members of the LGBT community and found none with a 16+ label.

Moscow is clamping down on foreign technology companies in particular, which critics characterise as an attempt by the Russian authorities to exert tighter control over the internet.

Vedomosti this month reported that Russian authorities were discussing changes to how online streaming services are regulated.

($1 = 74.6250 roubles)

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow, Editing by Timothy Heritage/Andrew Osborn)

Tunisia navy rescues 487 migrants from overloaded boat

TUNIS (Reuters) – The Tunisian navy rescued 487 migrants on Friday from an overloaded boat that ran into difficulty in rough seas in the Mediterranean as they tried to reach Europe.

The vessel was carrying migrants from Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan, Ethiopia and the Palestinian territories. The navy said they included 13 woman and 93 children.

In recent months, several drowning incidents have occurred off Tunisia, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings from Tunisia and Libya towards Italy.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

The migrants were taken to the port of El Kitf in Ben Guerdane.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alison Williams)

Myanmar threatens jail for buyers of bonds issued by opposition

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling military threatened on Friday to arrest citizens who invest in bonds offered by a shadow government, warning of lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in what it called “terrorist” financing.

The National Unity Government (NUG), an alliance of pro-democracy groups, ethnic minority armies and remnants of the civilian government overthrown by the military, said this week it had raised $9.5 million in the first 24 hours of its bonds sale https://reut.rs/32jvPxw.

The NUG says the proceeds from the zero-interest bonds will fund its “revolution” against the military in response to its Feb. 1 coup and bloody suppression of protests. It has not said how the funds would be used.

Zaw Min Tun, the junta’s spokesman, said the NUG has been outlawed as a “terrorist organisation”, so those providing funding faced serious charges.

“Action can be taken under terrorism charges with heavy sentences for those financing the terrorist groups,” he told a regular televised news conference

“If you buy the money bonds, it falls under that (provision).”

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which led to strikes and protests and a severe military crackdown on activists. It also led to the formation in several regions of militia forces allied with the NUG, some backed by armed ethnic groups.

More than 1,200 civilians have been killed in protests and thousands detained since the coup, according to activists cited by the United Nations.

International pressure on the junta is intense.

The regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations blocked junta leader Min Aung Hlaing from a summit meeting last month over his failure to cease hostilities, allow humanitarian access and start dialogue, as agreed with the group.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who addressed the summit, also rebuked the regime.

The bonds went on sale on Monday to mainly Myanmar nationals overseas in denominations of $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000, with two-year tenures.

The NUG did not disclose how many buyers took part in the sale, which requires participants to transfer funds to an account in the Czech Republic.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by)

Italy’s antitrust regulator fines Google, Apple over data use

ROME (Reuters) -Italy’s antitrust regulator has fined Alphabet’s Google and iPhone maker Apple 10 million euros ($11.2 million) each for “aggressive practices” linked to the commercial use of user data.

The authority said in statement the two tech groups did not provide “clear and immediate information” on how they collect and use the data of those who access their services.

Both Google and Apple said they disagreed with the antitrust’s decision and that they would appeal it.

The watchdog said that when users set up their account with Google, the system was designed in such a way that the terms and conditions on data usage were set up to be accepted.

In the case of Apple, users do not have a choice on the issue, the antitrust regulator added.

“We provide industry-leading transparency and control to all users, so they can choose what information to share or not, and how it’s used,” Apple said in a statement, describing the regulator’s view as “wrong”.

Google said in a statement it followed “fair and transparent practices to provide users with useful services, as well as provide clear information on their use”.

The fine is the maximum amount the watchdog can apply in these cases, the regulator said.

($1 = 0.8903 euros)

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Additional reporting by Elvira Pollina and Maria Pia Quaglia; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Ageing ‘vortex’ could calm inflation excitement :Mike Dolan

By Mike Dolan

LONDON (Reuters) -Fear of inflation is back in vogue and tops nearly every 2022 investment outlook into year-end, but ageing populations and falling fertility rates from Berlin to Beijing may knock it off the catwalk yet again.

With headline and core inflation rates at their highest in decades, squeezing real incomes as economies recover from the conronavirus pandemic, debates rage about a return to the 1970s or even 1920s and strategists model scenarios from ‘stagflation’ to ‘growthflation’.

Global fund manager surveys this month still identify inflation as the biggest ‘tail risk’, far more than China’s stability, COVID-19 or asset bubbles.

It’s back in the public zeitgeist too – Google trends show more searches for ‘inflation’ worldwide than at any point in the 17-year history of its search data – making it politically sensitive for leaders from U.S. President Joe Biden down.

Faced with its persistence for months, central banks seem to have quietly dropped a mantra that the post-pandemic spike in prices will be ‘transitory’ and now look set to return more quickly to pre-COVID monetary settings.

Many mega-trend analyses suggest it may be more than just base effects and bottlenecks as lockdowns lift, with some warning of ‘greenflation’ as climate fears accelerate moves to more sustainable energy before much of the new infrastructure is in place. And after a decade of electoral shocks fuelled by voter unease at stagnant household incomes, fairness and inequality has moved government agendas as some aim to redress the balance.

What’s more, fractious geopolitical trends between the West on one hand and China and Russia of the other raise fears of a rollback in the supply-chain trade globalisation that helped keep goods prices low for the past 20 years.

‘DEMOGRAPHIC VORTEX’

But one mega trend that still cools talk of overheating ahead is ageing demographics and falling per capita incomes, which the pandemic likely accelerated rather than reversed.

U.S. birth rates, for example, have been falling steadily for a decade. At 1.64 per woman, they are now far below the 2.1 replacement rate necessary to keep the population stable – a rate last seen in 2007. That decline picked up in 2020 after the pandemic hit, analysts at Washington’s Brookings think tank say, and confounded early predictions of a mini lockdown baby boom.

But rapid ageing due to falling births and longer lifespans is a worldwide phenomenon — most clearly in Japan, Germany, Italy and Britain — it is most pronounced in China where the Beijing had to rapidly abandon its one-child policy.

“The Global Demographic Vortex”, a recent report by U.S. economist Eric Basmajian grabbed attention in financial markets.

He argues this ageing would “act as a vacuum, sucking resources from the prime-age workers through taxation or debt-financed transfers, forcing central banks to hold rates at the zero-bound or quickly return after another failed attempt to combat rising inflation.”

But his main point is that comparisons between today’s supply-side driven inflation and that of the 1970s are way wide of the mark given the radically different demographic backdrop.

Between 1960 and 1985, the United States saw some of the most positive demographics in its history, largely due to the post-World War Two baby boom.

Basmajian showed that the 20-year rolling change in the U.S. age-dependency ratio – workers as a share of retirees and children – explained almost all of the long-term inflation trends of the past 50 years.

Societe Generale strategist Albert Edwards, long-time market bear and cautionary voice on a deflationary “Ice Age”, said this data shows demographics are set to reach “maximum deflationary pressure” in the decade ahead.

The counterview, outlined in a recent book by economists Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan, is that demographic trends themselves could spur inflation by boosting workers’ wage bargaining power and cutting excess savings.

And others talk of the quick rebound from the pandemic and myriad government supports lifting birth rates again and stabilising the dire 2020 readings at least.

But the evidence from Japan, the country furthest down the ageing tunnel, points to a very different outcome where even in the midst of all the current angst, inflation remains dormant.

Analysts at Fathom Consulting this week highlighted the correlation between falling birth rates in Japan over the past 60 years and falling expectations of per capita economic growth over future decades – suggesting the latter led to the former to amplify a hit to overall output by reducing numbers of workers.

“It looks like a similar effect might now be playing out in China, potentially aggravating the growth slowdown there in years to come,” they concluded.

Whether you are a believer or not, 2022 may prove to be the year when we find out.

(by Mike Dolan, Twitter: @reutersMikeD; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Carmakers get inventive as global chip crisis bites

By Christina Amann

MUNICH (Reuters) – Whether buying computer chips directly from manufacturers, reconfiguring cars, or producing them with parts missing, automakers are having to get creative to cope with the global shortage of semiconductors.

The shortage, due to supply problems and a surge in demand for consumer electricals during the pandemic, has hit the auto industry hard, with millions of vehicles worldwide not being produced because important parts are missing.

With the problem lasting longer than initially expected, manufacturers including Daimler and Volkswagen have had to rethink production strategies.

Car manufacturers usually buy parts from major suppliers such as Bosch and Continental, which in turn buy from suppliers further down the chain.

In some cases that has led to a lack of transparency, said Ondrej Burkacky, a senior partner at McKinsey.

“There was the fallacy of thinking that you had a choice between two suppliers, but the truth is that they both had the chips made in the same foundry,” he said.

That is now changing, according to Daimler Purchasing Manager Markus Schäfer.

The German maker of Mercedes-Benz cars has set up a direct line of communication with all chip suppliers, including wafer producers in Taiwan, he said at the IAA auto show in September.

Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess speaks of “strategic partnerships” his company has entered into with manufacturers in Asia.

Chip suppliers need to be treated differently given their strategic importance to the industry, said Stefan Bratzel from the Center for Automotive Management.

“You have seen the problems that arise when you treat the chip companies like other suppliers and stop the calls,” he said.

McKinsey’s Burkacky said carmakers should consider direct investments in production, or longer contracts with terms of more than 18 months.

“Not much of that has been implemented yet,” he added.

‘MORE RESILIENT’

In the meantime, vehicle developers are doing their part to help manufacturers manage the supply crunch.

Annette Danielski, chief financial officer of Volkswagen’s trucking unit Traton, said the company was trying to clear some space on the motherboards of control systems.

“If we change the software, we can use fewer semiconductors and achieve the same functionality,” she said. “That sometimes takes a long lead time because the regulatory authorities intervene, but there are areas where you can change something quickly.”

Daimler relies on new designs for control units. Rather than using one specific chip, these are designed to work with an alternative that can be used in the event of delivery problems, the company’s head of purchasing Schäfer said.

Tesla is considered the model for this.

The company reprogrammed software within three months so that other less scarce chips could be used, enabling the U.S. electric carmaker to weather the crisis better than many others.

General Motors has said it will work with chip manufacturers like Qualcomm, STM and Infineon to develop microcontrollers that combine several functions previously controlled by individual chips.

“We are trying to create an ecosystem that is more resilient, more expandable and always available,” a company spokesperson said.

PRIORITISING

Some carmakers are stockpiling – or what BMW calls “hole shoring.”

The whole car is built except for a missing part, and can then be completed relatively easily when it shows up.

Other automakers are also using this strategy. Sometimes vehicles are delivered without certain functions controlled by chips.

Semiconductors are also conserved for high-quality vehicles, like electric cars, while customers face even longer wait times for low-priced combustion engines.

That strategy is slowly reaching its limits. Volkswagen recently had to temporarily stop the production of electric cars in its Zwickau plant in Germany.

How well these coping strategies work is not yet clear.

“The bill will be presented in mid or late 2022, when you can see who came out of the crisis well and who did not make it so well,” said McKinsey’s Burkacky.

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Mark Potter)

UK Black Friday volume of payment transactions up 5.4% vs 2019 -Barclaycard

LONDON (Reuters) – The volume of Black Friday payment transactions in Britain as of 0900 GMT was up 5.4% versus 2019 and up 21.4% on 2020, initial data from Barclaycard showed on Friday.

Barclaycard processes 1 pound ($1.33) in every 3 pounds spent on credit and debit cards in the United Kingdom.

($1 = 0.7508 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Costas Pitas)

Volkswagen sees Europcar deal as attractive, quashes hopes for higher bid

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Volkswagen is convinced that its 2.9 billion euro ($3.3 billion) offer for France’s Europcar, made as part of a consortium, fairly reflects the firm’s value, a senior executive said, pouring cold water on hopes for a higher bid.

“With a takeover premium of 30-40%, depending on the reference point, we have presented a very attractive offer,” Christian Dahlheim, Volkswagen’s head of group sales and one of the main architects of the deal, told Reuters.

Volkswagen, along with asset manager Attestor Limited and Dutch mobility group Pon Holdings BV, is offering 0.50 euro per share in Europcar, which could be topped up by 0.01 euro per share if 90% of shareholders take up the bid.

Shares in Europcar currently trade at 0.508 euros apiece.

Under the offer, first announced in July and launched on Friday, Europcar investors have at least until Dec. 30 to tender their shares.

Investors representing 68% of Europcar’s shares have already agreed to tender their stock, which would give the consortium control over the car rental group under French takeover laws.

“We will enter the mobility sector in the short-term. The acquisition of Europcar is clearly our preferred option,” Dahlheim said.

The consortium, Green Mobility Holding, is still targeting a squeeze-out to faster implement its strategic plans for the company, he said.

It plans to capitalise on Europcar’s vast international network in more than 140 countries, including a fleet of around 350,000 vehicles, as a way to sell lucrative mobility services.

“We are buying Europcar because we believe that we can develop it towards a good basis for an expanded mobility offer,” Dahlheim said, adding he expected European antitrust authorities to approve the transaction at the beginning of next year.

Investments for future growth will be funded from Europcar’s cash flows, Dahlheim said.

($1 = 0.8897 euros)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

COVID-19: Japan tightens border controls for arrivals from six countries

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will tighten border controls for people arriving from six African nations from midnight (1500 GMT on Friday) after a new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant was detected in South Africa.

Those arriving from South Africa, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho will be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine period in government-determined accommodation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

(Reporting by Kantaro Komiya, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

France says several police injured during unrest in Martinique and Guadeloupe

PARIS (Reuters) – French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday that several members of the police force had been injured as a result of civil unrest during protests against COVID-19 protocols on France’s Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

“In Guadeloupe and Martinique, our security forces as well as journalists have been the target of attacks and have been fired upon. Several members of the police forces have been injured,” Darmanin on his Twitter account said.

Authorities on the Caribbean island of Martinique ordered a curfew on Thursday after protesters looted shops and set up burning barricades as demonstrations against COVID-19 protocols spread across France’s overseas’ territories.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Alison Williams)

Novo Nordisk says lower insulin prices in China dent 2022 outlook

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Novo Nordisk on Friday forecast its sales growth would slow by about 3% in 2022 because of lower prices and a drop in insulin sales volumes in China, denting the Danish diabetes drug maker’s share price.

The forecast comes after Novo received results from China’s Volume Based Procurement (VBP) tender, which covers insulin sold at Chinese hospitals.

“Novo Nordisk currently expects an estimated negative impact on global sales growth of around 3% in 2022 as a result of reduced prices and reduced volumes of insulin sold in China,” it said in a statement.

Novo shares were down 2% at 1012 GMT on the Copenhagen blue chip index, which was down 1.1%, after earlier falling by nearly 5%.

“By agreeing to lower prices for insulin in China, Novo now has to find out how they can sell more of their innovative products,” Sydbank analyst Soren Lontoft Hansen said, adding that Novo’s new forecast was a bit less negative than expected.

Novo’s sales in China of its new, innovative GLP-1 drugs, used to treat diabetes and obesity, rose 64% in the first nine months of 2021, even though Novo has lost market share within that product segment.

Insulin accounts for 75% of Novo’s sales in China, a market that accounts for 12% of Novo’s total sales.

“It is not a very big sensation that the turnover in China is under pressure,” Nordnet analyst Per Hansen said in a note.

Novo will provide a financial outlook for 2022 when announcing full-year results on Feb 2.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard, additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alexander Smith)

Roche shareholders approve deal to buy Novartis’s $20.7 billion stake

ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche shareholders voted overwhelmingly on Friday to support the $20.7 billion deal to buy Novartis’s nearly one third voting stake, the Swiss drugmaker said.

Roche held an extraordinary general meeting to settle matters related to its plan to disentangle the two pharma companies, both based in Basel, who had been linked by the investment for two decades.

Shareholders approved the audited statutory interim financial statements of the company as of 31 October 2021 with a majority of 100.00%, Roche said.

They also backed the plan to cancel the 53.3 million shares bought, with a majority of 99.85%.

Therefore, the corporate law requirements for the repurchase have been satisfied, Roche said. The closing of the repurchase transaction is expected to take place in early December 2021.

“Today’s resolutions of the Extraordinary General Meeting are in the best economic and strategic interest of Roche,” said Roche Chairman Christoph Franz. “As a result, we will be even better positioned to make a contribution to the health of people around the world.”

Novartis agreed earlier this month to sell 53.3 million Roche bearer shares for $388.99 (356.93 Swiss francs) per share, a price that reflected the volume-weighted average of the Roche non-voting equity certificates over the 20 trading days to Nov. 2.

The repurchase was conditional upon the approval by shareholders of a capital reduction by cancellation of the repurchased shares and of the interim financial statements prepared for the transaction.

Novartis’ involvement started in 2001, when Swiss activist investor Martin Ebner, known for orchestrating the merger that created banking giant UBS, offered his Roche stake to its cross-town rival out of frustration over rebuffed proposals.

Roche Chairman Franz said earlier this month that the deal would give his company more strategic flexibility, as Roche could now make plans without needing the approval of Novartis.

(Reporting by John Revill, editing by Silke Koltrowitz)

Turkish opposition figure says he was detained for ‘political espionage’

ANKARA (Reuters) – Metin Gurcan, a founder of the Turkish opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), said on Friday he had been detained over “political espionage” and that police were raiding his house.

Gurcan, a retired member of the Turkish Armed Forces, helped establish the Deva Party with Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister and minister under President Tayyip Erdogan Erdogan. Gurcan is also a prominent defence analyst.

“I am being detained on charges of political espionage. The police are in the house… They are searching. I am shocked. I want your help,” Gurcan said on Twitter, without elaborating.

Turkish police were not immediately available for comment.

Speaking in Istanbul, Babacan said his party backs Gurcan and its lawyers would provide him with support “until the end”, adding they were seeking more details.

“If the move today is political in nature, or if the target is a particular stance against our party, an attempt to mask the grave economic conditions in the country, I would like to state that such attempts will never deter the Deva team,” he said, in reference to a historic slide in the lira this week.

The lira https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/erdogan-unbowed-by-critics-leaving-little-stopping-liras-collapse-2021-11-24 has plunged to all-time lows and lost as much as 25% of its value since the beginning of last week over concerns about aggressive interest rate cuts backed by Erdogan.

Polls show support for Deva, founded in March 2020, around 2%, while support for Erdogan and his AK Party are at multi-year lows. Turks have cited economic mismanagement among the key factors.

Deva and other opposition parties have called for urgent elections amid the lira meltdown, but the government has said presidential and general elections would be held as planned in June 2023.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Barbara Lewis)