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Brexit is casting a shadow over the British economy. Despite the Bank of England still basing its forecasts on an orderly, or smooth, Brexit process, Governor Mark Carney’s confidence is starting to fade. That was the message from the governor, who faced the media after the BOE voted 6-2 to hold interest rates at a record low of 0.25 percent. The bank lowered its forecasts for wages and economic growth for the next two years. — Andy Reinhardt
Macron’s mess. Emmanuel Macron set out with a mission to simplify labor law and pare back workers’ rights. But the French president is being attacked for his choice of labor minister, Muriel Penicaud, who typifies the kind of capitalism that riles the French Left. As a human resources director at Danone in the 1990s, she cut 900 jobs and made €4.8 million in salary, plus €1.2 million in stock options.
Battery boom. German executives are preparing to announce the site for a lithium-ion battery plant that will rival Tesla’s Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada. The 34 gigawatt-hour battery factory, backed by a consortium of 17 German companies and the government, will break ground in 2019 and reach full capacity in 2028. Lithium-ion batteries will likely power millions of German plug-in cars in coming years.
Opening up. Qatar, isolated from its neighbors under a Saudi-led boycott, has approved a landmark law with the potential to transform Gulf societies. The law would grant permanent residency status to some of the foreigners who make up the majority of the population, allowing them many of the rights and privileges of one of the world’s most generous welfare states. The move would be the first in the Gulf region, where the privileges of nationals have been zealously guarded.
Meanwhile… In other Qatar news, the Gulf state’s closed in on the $263 million purchase of Brazilian superstar Neymar for its French soccer proxy, Paris St-Germain. Needless to say the sum would be a world record for a footballer. It’s being seen a soft power fightback by the Gulf state, facing ongoing diplomatic isolation in the region.
On notice. Russia warned that ties with the U.S. could worsen after President Donald Trump signed a law that could keep sanctions in place for years. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on Facebook that the Trump administration “has shown its complete” weakness, and accused Trump of caving in to pressure. Russia has already ordered the U.S. to slash staff at its diplomatic mission and now says it could take further “counter-measures.”
Before and after. It’s hard to overstate how important Banco Espirito Santo was to Portugal. Since the collapse of the country’s largest and most storied private lender in 2014, its ubiquitous name has disappeared from buildings and football shirts, and a smaller bank called Novo Banco has been carved out of its assets. Members of its founding dynasty are scrambling to salvage their family’s name and honor. But most Portuguese just want to move on.
Hot lodging. The super-hip, must-visit Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg has earned its place over the past decade as one of the world’s greatest urban revitalization stories. But until now, it has lacked a hotel worthy of the international jet set. Now, with the newly-opened Hallmark House, Maboneng offers a trendy place for out-of-towners to sleep and hang out.
Compiled by Andy Reinhardt and Leila Taha