FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Microsoft is chasing a deal to buy all of TikTok’s global business, including the viral video app’s operations in India and Europe, according to five people with knowledge of the talks.

The US software company on Sunday said it was in negotiations with ByteDance, the Chinese owner of the app, to explore “a purchase of the TikTok service in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”.

But Microsoft has since also pursued a plan that would include all countries where TikTok operates. TikTok does not operate in China, and such a deal would not extend to its China-facing sister app Douyin.

Microsoft executives have sought to assuage the Chinese government as it seeks to avoid being caught in the crossfire between Beijing and Washington, two of the people said. The deal will test Microsoft’s decades of China experience.

With the US threatening a broad crackdown on Chinese tech companies with access to American data, additional tech companies with ties to China, like WeChat and Zoom, may have to pick sides. Meanwhile, Facebook shares rallied more than 6 per cent after Instagram, which the social network owns, launched its answer to TikTok — a short-video feature called Reels. (FT, SCMP, CNBC)

Coronavirus digest

The next virus pandemic is not far away, writes David Crow. Scientists say new diseases will jump from animals unless humans change the way they live. Follow our Covid-19 live blog for the latest.

In the news

Trump team outlines plan to crack down on US-listed Chinese groups The proposals would force Chinese companies to delist from US stock exchanges unless regulators get access to their audits.

Macron warns Lebanon on need for reform France’s president Emmanuel Macron warned the Middle Eastern country that it would continue to sink if the government did not push ahead with much-needed reforms as mounting public anger raged across Beirut over a blast that killed more than 130 people. A government investigation is under way, but decision makers are deflecting blame. (FT, Al Jazeera)

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (right) speaks with the crowd on a visit to the Gemmayze neighbourhood of Beirut © AP

China allows first commercial bank to go bankrupt in almost 20 years The country’s central bank has announced the first bankruptcy of a commercial lender in nearly two decades, authorising the liquidation of Baoshang Bank, a year after it seized control of the institution. Meanwhile, foreign ownership across China’s domestic bond market has set record levels this year. (FT)

Joshua Wong charged over banned Tiananmen vigil The pro-democracy activist and nearly two dozen other campaigners were charged with participating in an illegal assembly at the June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square. (Reuters)

Toyota defies coronavirus pandemic with quarterly profit The Japanese carmaker has become one of the few in the industry to eke out a quarterly profit, even as the coronavirus pandemic prompted plant closures and a collapse in sales. Aichi prefecture, where the company’s headquarters is located, is now under a state of emergency as virus cases spike. (FT, AP)

China crackdown on shadow banking sector prompts warning Beijing’s efforts to curb predatory lending to the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises could harm the sector rather than helping it by cutting off access to crucial finance, analysts have warned. (FT)

Boost for Trump’s election coffers Donald Trump’s presidential campaign raised a record $165m last month, outgunning Democratic rival Joe Biden. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pulled Trump posts on Wednesday over misinformation. Edward Luce urges Mr Biden to pick Kamala Harris as his running mate. (FT, Reuters)

New York attorney-general seeks to dissolve the NRA Letitia James has sued to dissolve the National Rifle Association, accusing its powerful leader, Wayne LaPierre, and a coterie of top executives of siphoning off millions of dollars from the formidable US gun lobbying group for their own benefit. The Washington DC attorney-general filed a parallel suit. (FT)

New York state attorney- general, Letitia James, speaks during a news conference to announce a suit to dissolve the National Rifle Association © REUTERS

The day ahead

China trade data July’s report comes out. Exports and imports returned to positive growth in June after four months of decline and this release will be closely watched to see if the momentum continues. US and Chinese trade officials have agreed to meet for talks on August 15. (FT, WSJ)

US non-farm payroll numbers An increase is expected when July data are released, even after a rise in initial jobless claims for two consecutive weeks. The pace of new applications for US unemployment aid slowed last week but remained above 1m. (FT)

What else we’re reading

What the US needs in the fight against Huawei In October 1907, as America’s banking system seemed about to collapse, New York financier JP Morgan stepped in to save the country’s economy. Without a modern-day Morgan to take charge, a poor response to 5G may well permanently weaken the American economy. (FT)

Judging each other is back with a vengeance Just as new parents respond viscerally to others behaving differently, so we are equally agitated by those taking a different approach to the virus, writes Robert Shrimsley. (FT)

© Lucas Varela

Keeping alive the memories of Hiroshima survivors On the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima, global non-proliferation efforts are faltering. And the ranks of atomic bomb survivors are “declining drastically” — their average age is over 83. In honour of the anniversary, read John Hersey’s original report in The New Yorker of the aftermath. (Economist, New Yorker)

How to close the gender pay gap Women will have to wait another 257 years for the global gender gap to close fully, the World Economic Forum predicted in December. The FT spoke with trailblazers in business, sport, acting and technology about pragmatic solutions to pay inequality. (FT)

Kremlin faces revolt in the regions Coinciding with a fall in president Vladimir Putin’s overall trust rating to historic lows this spring and an economy that has been largely stagnant since 2014, recent protests have revealed the Kremlin’s vulnerability to local unrest, and exposed its heavy-handed control of Russia’s 85 regions. (FT)

Choosing the right ETF With more than 8,000 exchange traded funds to choose from, even an experienced investor could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, a few simple steps can narrow the choice down to something more manageable, writes emerging markets reporter Steve Johnson. (FT)

India’s yogi tycoon angers critics with coronavirus ‘cure’ kit Baba Ramdev, a black-bearded yoga televangelist close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is pushing ahead with sales of coronavirus kits containing traditional ayurvedic remedies, despite official warnings against branding them as a cure for the disease. (FT)

How Boris Johnson lost control Seizing control is all very well but power is only useful alongside a notion of what to do with it. Since the UK prime minister got what he wished for, he has been lost, Philip Stephens writes. Mr Johnson is going presidential with a centralisation of Whitehall. (FT, Politico)

© Ingram Pinn/Financial Times

Video of the day

Beirut explosion: video analysis The FT’s Chloe Cornish, who was in the Lebanese capital when the blast occurred, asks where the city goes from here after the government declared a state of emergency.

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