FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

Grab, south-east Asia’s most valuable start-up, is set for the largest merger between a private business and a blank-cheque vehicle in a deal that will value the SoftBank-backed technology group at about $35bn. 

Singapore-based Grab, whose offerings include ride-hailing and financial services, could finalise an agreement to list in New York via one of Altimeter Capital’s special purpose acquisition companies as soon as this week, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The merger would be with one of the US investment firm’s two Altimeter Growth Spacs and would come after Grab’s board agreed to a preliminary deal last month.

The agreement has been held up as a crucial first test for south-east Asian unicorns that are preparing to go public this year. Founded in 2012, Grab offers access to a regional consumer market of more than 655m people across countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

  • The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, will resume exports of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in June but only if domestic coronavirus cases decline.

  • Japan’s service industry has borne the economic brunt of the government’s Covid-19 strategy. Osaka declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as it hit a new daily high of 878 Covid-19 cases.

  • The G20 has extended its offer of temporary debt relief to low-income countries in the latest effort to ward off a pandemic-induced debt crisis in the developing world.

  • The UK changed its guidance over the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, recommending that people aged 18-29 be offered alternative jabs after the European Medicines Agency announced a link between rare blood clots in the brain and the AstraZeneca jab. The Moderna vaccine from today will be rolled out for the first time in the UK to residents in west Wales. (FT, Straits Times)

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In the news

Chinese private equity targets record fundraisings Chinese private equity funds are targeting record fundraising this year as global investors boost their exposure to the country despite deep tensions with the US and heightened regulatory scrutiny of China’s technology groups. (FT)

Turkey summons China ambassador over Uyghur treatment Ankara has summoned China’s ambassador over a tweet that targeted Turkish politicians critical of the treatment of the Uyghur minority, in a rare show of displeasure with Beijing. (FT)

An anti-China protest by Uyghurs in Istanbul last month. The diplomatic dispute is Ankara’s most public rebuke of China in more than a decade as it has sought closer ties with Beijing © Sedat Suna/EPA/Shutterstock
An anti-China protest by Uyghurs in Istanbul last month. The diplomatic dispute is Ankara’s most public rebuke of China in more than a decade having sought closer ties with Beijing © Sedat Suna/EPA/Shutterstock

CVC makes $20bn offer for Toshiba Luxembourg-based CVC Capital Partners has made a $20bn offer for Toshiba, the 145-year-old conglomerate, in what could result in Japan’s biggest buyout. News of the offer sent Toshiba shares up 18 per cent on Wednesday. (FT)

  • Commentary: If the deal is finalised, the transformative blow will be to the Tokyo Stock Exchange, when one of its biggest household names would be taken private. Humiliations do not come much bigger, writes Leo Lewis. (FT)

Biden willing to negotiate on US corporate taxes Joe Biden said he is open to compromise on his $2tn infrastructure plan amid a backlash from businesses over a proposed $2.5tn increase in corporate taxes to fund it. Meanwhile, the IMF proposed a temporary “solidarity” tax on pandemic winners and the wealthy to reduce social inequality. (FT)

King of Jordan says attempt at sedition contained King Abdullah said on Wednesday he had quashed an attempt at sedition, as his half-brother Prince Hamzah remained out of view along with 18 others arrested over the weekend. The feud within one of the Arab world’s most respected royal families has been years in the making. (FT)

Fed officials saw inflation risks as ‘broadly balanced’ Federal Reserve officials said the danger of unexpectedly high inflation was roughly equal to that of unexpectedly sluggish inflation, shrugging off fears of a rapidly overheating economy after Joe Biden’s $1.9tn fiscal stimulus. The rise in US government spending will boost the world’s largest economy over at least the next two years, said the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase. (FT)

China co-operates with EU green investment standards China’s central bank has revealed that it is co-operating with the EU to converge green investment taxonomies across the two markets, aiming to implement a jointly recognised classification system for the environmental credentials for businesses by the end of this year. (FT)

US weighs Beijing Winter Olympics boycott The Biden administration has floated the idea of a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest against the persecution of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province. However, the state department backed away from the idea on Wednesday. (FT, CNBC)

Chinese figure skater Xu Jingyu performs during a test event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing
Chinese figure skater Xu Jingyu performs during a test event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing © AP

The day ahead

Holocaust Remembrance Day At a Holocaust ceremony on the eve of the April 8 day of commemoration, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a nuclear deal with Iran that “threatens our destruction, will not obligate us,” speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. (Haartez)

ECB meeting minutes released Minutes of the last European Central Bank Governing Council meeting are set to be released on Thursday. At the meeting on March 11 the central bank promised to accelerate its bond-buying programme. (FT)

What else we’re reading

The case for the next generation of batteries Solid-state batteries are safer and use fewer raw materials than lithium-ion batteries that drive the modern world. Are they the answer to technology’s power problem and a threat to Tesla’s dominance? (FT)

Biden should reverse course on China The US administration is making a strategic mistake in carrying on with Donald Trump’s hardline policies towards China, writes Kishore Mahbubani, distinguished fellow at the National University of Singapore. A fear of being seen as “soft” on China stands in the way of real economic and diplomatic progress. (FT)

Burnout: the next health crisis? Both the coronavirus pandemic and arduous work hours are taking their toll. This series provides analysis of one of the biggest problems facing businesses and their employees and includes personal stories and tips on how to avoid it. (FT)

How Ken Griffin rebuilt Citadel’s ramparts In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Citadel was on the brink of collapse. Today, after navigating the market fallout from the pandemic, the Chicago-based hedge fund has cemented its position as one of the industry’s titans. (FT)

Ken Griffin © FT montage; Reuters
Ken Griffin © FT montage; Reuters

The world’s wealthiest Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person for the fourth year running, according to Forbes’ annual billionaires list. Four people on the list top $100bn or more in network. Explore the list here. (Forbes)

Covid has upended the out-of-office email. Hooray! Unusual out-of-office messages Pilita Clark has seen over the past 12 fraught months tell a story of a year of working life that no one expected to start, and which sometimes seems as if it will never end. The humble auto-reply has come into its own now that time off really has to mean time off. (FT)

Video of the day

How Covid has strained the world’s ports The FT’s Trade Secrets editor Claire Jones says few places of business have faced the pressures of the pandemic quite as much as the world’s ports. (FT)

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