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Italy set to support China’s Belt and Road program, FT report says

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Railway workers inspect a Kenya Railways Corp. freight train before departure from the port station in Mombasa, Kenya, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. 

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Railway workers inspect a Kenya Railways Corp. freight train before departure from the port station in Mombasa, Kenya, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. 

Italy is planning to officially announce its support for China‘s Belt and Road Initiative this month, the Financial Times reported Wednesday. It would be the first endorsement by a G-7 nation, the report pointed out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s regional infrastructure investment program is widely seen as Beijing’s attempt to expand its influence globally through the construction of a network of land and maritime routes across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Critics say that through the project, China forces developing nations to take on high debt burdens while benefiting Chinese companies which are often state-owned.

In the last few months, Malaysia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone have either canceled or stepped back from their prior commitments to Belt and Road projects.

Italy’s undersecretary in the economic development ministry, Michele Geraci, told the Financial Times his country is in negotiations to sign a memorandum of understanding in support of the program. The plan is to sign in time for Xi’s visit by the end of March, Geraci said in the article.

“We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world,” he added in the report.

Such public support would come at a critical time in China’s relations with the U.S. and the European Union, of which Italy is a founding member.

Xi is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump by the end of March to clinch a deal to end their trade impasse. This week, the EU Council adopted its first-ever framework of rules on foreign direct investment, amid a rise of Chinese investments in the region and concerns about protection of key technologies.

Garrett Marquis, White House National Security Council spokesperson, told the FT that the U.S. is skeptical of the benefits to Italy from an endorsement of the Chinese initiative, and urged allies and partners to increase the pressure on Beijing to align its global investments with international practices.

A representative from the Italian embassy in Beijing was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Read the full story in the Financial Times here.

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal-scoring heroics sends Juventus shares soaring

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Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus acknowledges the fans as he celebrates after winning the Italian Supercup match between Juventus and AC Milan at King Abdullah Sports City on January 16, 2019 in Jeddah.

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Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus acknowledges the fans as he celebrates after winning the Italian Supercup match between Juventus and AC Milan at King Abdullah Sports City on January 16, 2019 in Jeddah.

“This was why Juventus brought me here,” remarked Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo after he dragged his side back from a two-goal deficit and into the Champions League quarter-finals.

He may have been referring to his goals on the soccer field, but the knock-on effect will no doubt please the owners of his current employers Juventus.

Following the result, the club’s share price rose sharply Wednesday, opening 20 percent higher and was still up by 17 percent at 2:30 p.m. London time.

Ronaldo’s impact in Tuesday night’s win — a stunning hat-trick against Atletico Madrid — earned the Italian champions about 10.5 million euros ($11.8 million) in additional payments for making the last eight of the Champions League. It last won Europe’s premier club soccer competition in 1996.

That cash is added to the 9.5 million euros the Italian club received for reaching the last 16.

Juventus are controlled by Exor, the investment holding of Italy’s Agnelli family, which owns nearly 64 percent of the soccer team.

The Turin-based club paid 100 million euros to Spanish club Real Madrid to secure Ronaldo’s transfer last summer. In the 24 hours following the deal being announced, Juventus had sold over half a million replica shirts with Ronaldo’s name and number seven.

He turned 34 years old in February, but has just over three years to run on his current Juventus contract, which pays him 30 million euros a year.

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Lawmakers set to shape the future with no-deal vote

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May said after her loss Tuesday that a “no deal” remains the default unless a withdrawal agreement is ratified. Meanwhile, a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday that the second rejection had “significantly increased” the risk of a damaging “no-deal” divorce, according to Reuters.

“We regret the outcome of tonight’s (Tuesday’s) vote,” the spokesman said. “On the EU side, we have done all that is possible to reach an agreement … Should there be a U.K. reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will consider it and decide by unanimity,” he added.

Wednesday’s vote will take place at 7:00 p.m. London time and this will be a “free vote” with the government not urging its politicians to keep no deal on the table. Some lawmakers believe it’ll be unwise to take a no-deal scenario out of the equation as it could give the EU the upper hand in negotiations. Some also see it as the purest form of Brexit and will reject Wednesday’s parliamentary motion.

Ahead of the vote, the government announced the country would slash tariffs on a range of imports from outside the European Union should lawmakers opt to leave without a deal.

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E.ON targets steady profits in 2019 ahead of Innogy deal

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German energy firm E.ON forecast on Wednesday largely stable operating earnings for 2019, expecting rising profits at its networks and renewables units to offset a decline in retail, where fierce competition is squashing margins.

E.ON, which is taking over Innogy’s grid and customers businesses as part of an asset swap with Innogy’s owner RWE, said adjusted earnings before interest and tax would come in at between 2.9 billion and 3.1 billion euros ($3.3 billion to $3.5 billion) this year, compared with 3 billion euros in 2018.

The networks and renewables group said it lost about 100,000 retail customers in 2018, far fewer than the 810,000 lost by Innogy, which is battling with a client exodus in Britain following billing issues and the arrival of small competitors.

E.ON said it was confident of securing regulatory approval for the takeover of Innogy’s customer portfolio of 21.73 million, which is subject to further investigation by the European Commission.

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