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Iranian fast-boats stopped tug boat salvage mission

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WASHINGTON — In the wake of an attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Iranian military fast-boats prevented privately owned tug boats from salvaging one of the damaged vessels, two U.S. officials aware of the situation told CNBC.

The latest conflict from the world’s most important oil choke point brought oil prices up about 1% on Friday and as much as 4% the day prior on renewed fears of conflict in the Middle East leading to global oil supply disruptions.

America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks without citing specific evidence as to why Tehran was responsible.

“Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted,” Pompeo said Thursday. “No economic sanctions entitle the Islamic Republic to attack innocent civilians, disrupt global oil markets and engage in nuclear blackmail.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards drive speedboats in front of an oil tanker at the port of Bandar Abbas 

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday that if Iran were to block the Strait of Hormuz, “it’s not going to be closed for long,” but did not elaborate on what potential steps the U.S. would take in response. “They’re not going to be closing [the strait],” Trump reiterated during a telephone interview with Fox News.

Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the strait in response to a U.S. decision to end waivers on reimposed sanctions for companies that export oil from Iran. The Strait of Hormuz is a gateway for almost a third of all seaborne crude oil.

In an exclusive interview with CNBC on Friday, Trump’s energy secretary called Iran the “bad neighbor in the neighborhood.”

“Iran should be thinking about how do we maintain our market share, how do we act like good neighbors, how do we continue to be a part of the global community instead of these obvious acts of treachery in the Strait of Hormuz,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry said.

At the Pentagon, acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan called the matter an “international problem,” adding that his role would be to “set the conditions for diplomacy.” He added that he was in close coordination with U.S. Central Command to verify whether forces in the region had necessary resources and support for their missions.

In a statement Friday, the board of directors for Frontline Ltd. said that all 23 crew members of the Front Altair oil tanker were unharmed and that the cause of the explosion is unknown. “The incident will be thoroughly investigated by the Company along with third parties, including governmental officials, to determine the cause,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Japanese owner of one of the oil tankers said the vessel was damaged by a projectile, not by a mine, which is what U.S. officials assessed as the source of the blast.

“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” Yutaka Katada, president of Kokuka Sangyo, said at a press conference Friday. “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship,” he said, adding that a projectile landed above the waterline.

On Thursday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement that the Japanese oil tanker, Kokuka Courageous, had an “unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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Nearly 200 CEOs say shareholder value is no longer a main objective

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Jamie Dimon, CEO, JP Morgan Chase, speaking at the Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit, December 6, 2018.

Janhvi Bhojwani | CNBC

Shareholder value is no longer the main focus of some of America’s top business leaders.

The Business Roundtable, a group of chief executive officers from major U.S. corporations, issued a statement Monday with a new definition of the “purpose of a corporation.”

The reimagined idea of a corporation drops the age-old notion that corporations function first and foremost to serve their shareholders and maximize profits. Rather, investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting outside communities are now at the forefront of American business goals, according to the statement.

“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” said the statement signed by 181 CEOs. “We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.”

The conscience of Wall Street has been at the forefront of American business and politics recently as issues about economic equality and fair business practices dominate the 2020 election stage and the overall news cycle.

The Business Roundtable,  founded in 1972, has put out many statements on the principles of corporate governance since the late 1970s. It said this new definition “supersedes” past statements and outlines a “modern standard for corporate responsibility.”

“The American dream is alive, but fraying,” Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase and chairman of Business Roundtable, said in a press release.

Along with Dimon, the statement received signatures from chiefs including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Dennis A. Muilenburg of Boeing and GM’s Mary Barra.

“Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans,” said Dimon.

Another one of the signatures is from BlackRock chief Larry Fink, who has previously called on CEOs to reevaluate the purpose of a corporation, specifically the “inextricable link” between purpose and profit.

“Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them,” Fink wrote in his 2019 annual letter to shareholders. “As divisions continue to deepen, companies must demonstrate their commitment to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity.”

Fink said that fundamental economic changes and the failure of the U.S. government to provide lasting solutions has forced society to look to companies for guidance on social and economic issues, such as environmental safety and gender and racial equality.

Here is the full Business Roundtable statement.

Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation

Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.

Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation and providing essential goods and services. Businesses make and sell consumer products; manufacture equipment and vehicles; support the national defense; grow and produce food; provide health care; generate and deliver energy; and offer financial, communications and other services that underpin economic growth.

While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to:

  • Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
  • Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
  • Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.
  • Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
  • Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.

Each of our stakeholders is essential. We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities and our country.

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US grants Huawei another 90 days to buy from American suppliers: Ross

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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R) and other Trump Administration officials sit down with Chinese vice ministers and senior officials for trade negotiations in the Diplomatic Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 30, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday the U.S. government will extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies so that it can service existing customers, even as nearly 50 of its units were being added to a U.S. economic blacklist.

The “temporary general license,” due to expire on Monday, will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, he told Fox Business Network Monday, confirming an expected decision first reported Friday by Reuters. He also said he was adding 46 Huawei affiliates to the Entity List, raising the total number to more than 100 Huawei entities that are covered by the restrictions.

Ross said the extension was to aid U.S. customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.

“We’re giving them a little more time to wean themselves off,” Ross said.

Shortly after blacklisting the company in May, the Commerce Department initially allowed Huawei to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers.

Huawei did not immediately comment Monday.

The extension, through Nov. 19, renews an agreement continuing the Chinese company’s ability to maintain existing telecommunications networks and provide software updates to Huawei handsets.

Asked what will happen in November to U.S. companies, Ross said: “Everybody has had plenty of notice of it, there have been plenty of discussions with the president.”

When the Commerce Department blocked Huawei from buying U.S. goods earlier this year, it was seen as a major escalation in the Sino-U.S.trade war.

The U.S. government blacklisted Huawei, alleging the Chinese company is involved in activities contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.

As an example, the blacklisting order cited a pending federal criminal case concerning allegations Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. Huawei has pleaded not guilty in the case.

The order noted that the indictment also accused Huawei of deceptive and obstructive acts.

At the same time the United States says Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied.

Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without additional special licenses.

Many Huawei suppliers have requested the special licenses to sell to the firm. Ross told reporters late last month he had received more than 50 applications, and that he expected to receive more. He said on Monday that there were no “specific licenses being granted for anything.”

Out of $70 billion that Huawei spent buying components in 2018, some $11 billion went to U.S. companies including Qualcomm, Intel, and Micron Technology. Intel declined to comment on Monday.

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The world’s largest all-electric ferry completes maiden voyage

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An all-electric ferry capable of carrying roughly 30 vehicles and 200 passengers has completed its maiden voyage.

Toward the end of last week, the e-ferry Ellen crossed waters between the ports of Soby and Fynshav, which are located on the islands of Aero and Als in the south of Denmark.

The ship is powered by a battery system with a capacity of 4.3 megawatt hours, which was supplied by Switzerland-headquartered energy storage firm Leclanche.

In a statement last week, Leclanche said the e-ferry Ellen, which it described as the world’s biggest all-electric ferry, was expected to be fully operational in the next few weeks. Leclanche CEO Anil Srivastava described the ship as “the precursor to a new era in the commercial marine sector.”

He added that over the course of one year the ferry would stop the release of 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 2.5 tons of particulates and 1.4 tons of sulfur dioxide.

The development of electric ferries like the Ellen comes at a time when the International Maritime Organization is preparing to introduce new regulations relating to sulfur oxide emissions, as efforts are made to tackle pollution in the sector. In January 2020, the IMO will ban shipping vessels using fuel with a sulfur content higher than 0.5%, compared to levels of 3.5% at present.

“This project demonstrates that today we can replace fossil fuel thermal drives with clean energy, and thus contribute to the fight against global warming and pollution for the well-being of our communities,” Leclanche’s Srivastava said.

According to those behind the e-ferry project, which has received funding from the European Union, the Ellen is able to sail as much as 22 nautical miles (approximately 25.3 miles) between charges.

It is the latest example of innovative technologies powering larger-scale forms of transport. In September 2018, European railway manufacturer Alstom launched what it described as the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train.

The French business said that the Coradia iLint used fuel cells that turn hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. In terms of speed, the train can travel up to 140 kilometers per hour.

CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report 

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