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Ukraine presidential favorite Zelensky skips live TV debate

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko holds a news conference at Olympiskiy Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Kiev, Ukraine. Zelensky, a television comedian making his first run for political office, challenged President Poroshenko to a debate at the stadium ahead of the April 21 vote, but due to a disagreement over dates, Zelensky did not show up to the event organized by Poroshenko.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko holds a news conference at Olympiskiy Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Kiev, Ukraine. Zelensky, a television comedian making his first run for political office, challenged President Poroshenko to a debate at the stadium ahead of the April 21 vote, but due to a disagreement over dates, Zelensky did not show up to the event organized by Poroshenko.

The favorite to win Ukraine’s presidential election this weekend caused a stir on Sunday by skipping a live televised debate with incumbent Petro Poroshenko – but even that isn’t expect to damage his chances of winning the upcoming final round of voting.

Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and actor and the favorite to win a run-off round in the election this coming Sunday, had agreed to face the more seasoned politician and incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a televised debate from Kiev’s Olympic Stadium but the pair had disagreed on a date.

That left Poroshenko to speak on his own for 45 minutes while standing next to an empty lectern for his political opponent. Zelensky had not said that he was going to attend the debate, instead agreeing to attend a televised debate on Friday, April 21.

It’s not the first bizarre episode in an election race that has enlivened Ukrainians who appear to have tired of the country’s old political guard.

Zelensky accepted Poroshenko’s invitation to hold debates with three conditions, one of them being that both candidates take live drug and alcohol tests to, as Zelenksy put it, “show the Ukrainian people that neither is an alcoholic or drug addict.”

Experts say Zelenksy’s “no-show” has not affected the likelihood that he will become president at a final run-off vote next on April 21.

“I still cannot see Poroshenko winning – he (Zelensky) is just too far ahead,” Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, told CNBC on Monday. “Poroshenko’s negative ratings are just too high. He lost this election months ago,” Ash added.

Unsurprisingly, Poroshenko used his uninterrupted platform on Sunday to criticize an absent Zelensky and his apparent lack of concrete manifesto.

“If he hides from people again, if he is afraid, we will invite him again. We will invite him every day to every live show for the whole country to see who it is going to elect for the next five years,” Poroshenko told the audience Sunday, according to news reports.

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Italy’s deputy PM Di Maio says country won’t change its economic path

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Luigi Di Maio, Leader of 5-Star Movement (M5S) leaves the parliament after a new day of meetings for the formation of the new government on April 26, 2018 in Rome, Italy.

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Luigi Di Maio, Leader of 5-Star Movement (M5S) leaves the parliament after a new day of meetings for the formation of the new government on April 26, 2018 in Rome, Italy.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, told CNBC his country will not change course despite fears of ballooning debt and struggling growth.

Last week, Italy’s anti-austerity government cut its 2019 growth forecast to 0.2% from a previous forecast of 1%.

The country also raised its 2019 deficit to 2.4%, breaking a commitment given to the European Commission last year to stick to just over 2%. The government also predicted public debt would hit a fresh record high of 132.6% of gross domestic product (GDP).

After the announcement, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said “We could again have problems with Italy.”

Speaking to CNBC’s Dan Murphy in Dubai on Monday, Di Maio said he still had faith in his government’s plan to reject austerity measures preferred by lawmakers in Brussels.

“We are not going to change path.We are on this path for growth and we want to further improve Italian production compared to the the past,” he said.

The 32-year-old said Italy’s attempts to improve its economy had to be looked at in the context of the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China as well as Britain’s drawn out exit from the European Union.

“When we forecasted 1% GDP growth, Germany forecasted to grow by 1.9%, now Germany is fighting to achieve 0.5% growth. So our targets are positive, compared to other European nations. We are not resigned to zero percent growth and we are passing a series of laws to boost growth in Italy,” he said.

The deputy prime minister added that while there had been some losses in value to Italian banks at the end of 2018, the volatility in markets had passed and he didn’t think there was a risk for Italian lenders at the moment.

“We are a country of savers, we have a lot of private savings and this is very important for our economy. So, in general, I don’t see any risk for the Italian banks, for the euro zone, and for Europe.”

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Thousands of activists block London roads to demand action on climate change

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Environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion kick-off a day of action in Parliament Square with a colourful display of flags and banners, demanding creation of Citizens Assembly to propose effective ways for the UK to become carbon-neutral by 2025, on 15 April, 2019 in London, England.

Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

Environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion kick-off a day of action in Parliament Square with a colourful display of flags and banners, demanding creation of Citizens Assembly to propose effective ways for the UK to become carbon-neutral by 2025, on 15 April, 2019 in London, England.

Extinction Rebellion wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday outlining their demands and asking for face-to-face talks, warning that they will escalate their disruptive actions over the coming weeks unless the government acts.

“Make no mistake, people are already dying,” the letter states. “In the majority world, indigenous communities are now on the brink of extinction. This crisis is only going to get worse Prime minister, you cannot ignore this crisis any longer. We must act now.”

Organisers of the protests circulated legal advice to anyone planning to attend, requesting they refrain from using drugs and alcohol, and asking them to treat the public with respect.

London’s police have advised people travelling around London in the coming days to allow extra time for their journey in the event of road closures and general disruption.

The disruption follows similar action last November when thousands of protesters occupied five central London bridges. Police arrested 85 people that day.

Rowan McLaughlin, 47, a teacher, said this week’s protests were more important that the huge pro and anti-Brexit protests in London recently.

“In Europe, out of Europe, it makes no difference if we have no liveable habitat,” he said. “We’re just going to get bigger and more annoying until the government speaks to us.”

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citgroup earnings q1 2019 beat estimates, but revenue falls

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Citigroup reported mixed first-quarter results on Monday, saying its earnings were boosted by share buybacks while revenues fell amid a sharp decline in equities trading.

Here’s how the company’s results measured up to analyst forecasts:

  • Earnings: $1.87 per share vs $1.80 expected by Refinitiv
  • Revenue: $18.576 billion vs $18.634 billion forecast
  • Fixed-income, currencies and commodities trading revenue: $3.452 billion vs $3.05 billion expected by StreetAccount
  • Equities trading: $842 million vs $930 million
  • Investment banking revenue: $1.354 billion vs $1.2 billion forecast

The bank repurchased $4.06 billion in shares in the first quarter and returned $1.08 billion to shareholders through common-stock dividends.

“Our earnings reflect the progress we are making to improve our return on and return of capital,” CEO Michael Corbat said in a release. “We remain committed to executing our strategy and continuing to make steady progress towards our financial targets.”

Citigroup’s earnings for the quarter were 11% higher on a year-over-year basis. However, the company’s overall revenue fell 2% following a sharp slowdown in its equity trading business.

Equity-trading revenue fell 24% in the first quarter. Citigroup said the drop reflected “lower market volumes and client financing balances.” The sharp decline was partially offset by a 20% revenue surge in investment banking revenue.

Citigroup shares fell 1% after the banking giant released its results.

Also Monday, Goldman Sachs reported first-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates but revenue dropped 13%.

Citigroup shares have been on fire this year, rallying nearly 30% in that time period. The stock is also outperforming peers like J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

On Thursday, Citi announced the retirement of President Jamie Forese, who was considered a potential successor to Corbat.

J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo both reported quarterly earnings on Friday that topped analyst expectations.

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