FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Oracle has entered the race to acquire TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned short video app that President Donald Trump has vowed to shut down unless it is taken over by a US company by mid-November, people briefed about the matter have said.

The tech company co-founded by Larry Ellison had held preliminary talks with TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, and was seriously considering purchasing the app’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the people said.

Oracle was working with a group of US investors — including General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital — that already owned a stake in ByteDance, the people added.

Microsoft has been the lead contender to buy TikTok since it publicly said in early August that it had held discussions to explore a purchase of the app’s US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand businesses. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

  • Wall Street’s benchmark stock index struck an all-time high on Tuesday, rallying more than 50 per cent from the darkest days of the coronavirus crisis.

  • China’s share of global exports fell three percentage points last year, according to a new study.

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans fear it will be unsafe to send children back to school this year, according to our latest poll. Universities are scrambling to deal with outbreaks.

  • The axe initially fell on workers in retail and hospitality, but white-collar workers are increasingly being hit hard as the pandemic drags on.

  • The World Health Organization has urged wealthier member states to join its Covid-19 vaccine facility by the end of the month, amid fears it may not raise enough money to fund the global inoculation programme. (FT, AP)

In the news

US postal service delays cutbacks over election fears Louis DeJoy, a donor to Donald Trump who was appointed postmaster-general this year, has reversed course on controversial cost-cutting measures after Democrats claimed that they would hinder postal voting in the November election. Mr DeJoy will testify before the Senate on Friday. (FT, Politico)

Democrats say the postal service cuts could delay ballots and other essential deliveries © REUTERS

Former CIA officer charged with spying for China Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was arrested in a sting operation on charges that he spied for China over the course of more than a decade, US officials said on Monday. The arrest comes one month after the Trump administration closed down China’s consulate in Houston, claiming it was a spy hub. (FT)

Michelle Obama declares Trump unfit for presidency The former first lady derided Donald Trump in an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night as the party attempted to present a broad base of support for Joe Biden’s candidacy. Tonight’s line-up includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jill Biden, Bill Clinton and more. (FT, CNN)

Michelle Obama said the Trump administration had spread ‘chaos and division’ © REUTERS

‘No evidence’ Hizbollah was behind Rafiq Hariri murder A decade-long international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri has found no evidence that the leaders of Iran-backed paramilitary group Hizbollah were responsible for his killing, nor any “direct evidence” implicating the Syrian regime. (FT)

Asia chipmaker stocks dive after Huawei ‘death sentence’ Billions of dollars in market value was lopped off Asia’s listed chipmakers after the US announced new sanctions on Huawei, which have caused the global chip and smartphone industries to brace for severe disruption. (FT)

Putin warns western leaders over ‘meddling’ in Belarus Vladimir Putin warned Europe not to interfere in Belarus, as EU leaders queued up to urge the Russian leader to help steer the former Soviet republic out of its political crisis. Belarus’s security apparatus stands behind President Alexander Lukashenko as protests grow. (FT, AP)

Senate panel: Trump campaign’s Russia ties posed ‘grave’ threat The 2016 Trump campaign’s Russian contacts posed a serious counter-intelligence threat, lawmakers concluded in a bipartisan report. The report also found evidence that a “Russian intelligence officer” connected to Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort may have aided the Kremlin’s operation to leak Democratic emails. (AP)

SoftBank’s spree The Japanese investment group has bought into US tech companies, building a $1bn stake in Amazon in addition to holdings in Alphabet, Tesla and Netflix. A new equity raising brought retail trading. Elsewhere in the tech world, investor Kevin Hartz has joined the Spac boom with a new investment vehicle. (NAR, FT)

The day ahead

US Federal Reserve minutes The minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s July meeting are out on Wednesday. Fed chair Jay Powell sent a very clear signal after the meeting that the Fed would not waver from its plans to support the nascent economic recovery that has progressed haltingly since May.

UK consumer price index Data for July are due on Wednesday, when investors anticipate inflation will edge up to 0.6 per cent. However, some analysts warn this upward trend will be shortlived with the UK in danger of soon entering a brief period of deflation for the first time in five years. (FT)

What else we’re reading

China’s widening wealth gap The contrast between lower and higher-income Beijing residents is stark — and highlights China’s unbalanced two-speed economic recovery. While the nation’s wealthier citizens have so far emerged largely unscathed financially from the pandemic, many on low incomes are struggling. (FT)

Why tech can’t close the diversity gap Companies have been trying to improve diversity among new hires for years. The problem may be getting people to stay, writes Elaine Moore. Being a minority of one in a team or being asked to take on the extra work of representing a company that wants to demonstrate its diversity is wearing. (FT)

India’s pandemic response leans into pseudoscience There’s a troubling official tolerance of pseudoscience in India. And stars are perpetuating the problem. Amitabh Bachchan, one of the country’s largest Bollywood stars with unparalleled reach, promoted homeopathic and pseudoscientific home remedies for coronavirus. (Atlantic)

Making peace with Biden When Joe Biden clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, one of his first tasks was to broker a truce with Bernie Sanders and his supporters, writes Lauren Fedor. On Monday night, that deal appeared to be intact. Kamala Harris’ nomination as Biden’s running mate, however, has added to New Delhi’s unease writes Amy Kazmin. (FT)

Joe Biden, left, has tried to court Bernie Sanders and his supporters while refusing to adopt some of their most cherished policies © REUTERS

Donald Trump and Joe Biden are failing to inspire Gen Z, which could mean lower turnouts, writes Patti Waldmeir. See how the two candidates are doing in the national polls.

100th anniversary of the 19th amendment The story of the suffrage movement usually starts at New York’s Seneca Falls in 1848. But the history of US women winning the right to vote is much more nuanced than just one moment in time. The labour movement also played a prominent role in mobilising women, then and now. (NYT, 19th*)

US interest in German space start-ups is not rocket science The US is touting tantalising opportunities for German space start-ups: Nasa funding and access to launch pads in Virginia have been mentioned. But Germany needs to do more to support its homegrown industry if it wants to retain talent, writes Elisabeth Braw. (FT)

Buffett’s tin hat It is a bit alarming to find Warren Buffett making the same trades as everyone else, Robert Armstrong writes. The Oracle of Omaha built his reputation on running into financial burning buildings. So why is Berkshire Hathaway selling off bank shares and betting on gold? (FT, WSJ)

Warren Buffett at the virtual Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders’ meeting in May © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

FT Weekend Festival

China is flexing its muscles from Hong Kong to the Himalayas. At this year’s digital FT Weekend Festival (September 3-5) the FT’s chief economics commentator Martin Wolf and a panel of speakers ask: has Beijing given up on the west — and how should it respond? Book here

FT Conversations

A look at what readers are talking about in the comments of ‘The decoupling of the US and China has only just begun’:

“China wants all the benefits of a global free market with the right to operate the social repressions of a prewar fascist state. Had it been democratic, China might have been a friendly but competitive rival like the EU, sharing with the US the same respect for democracy and the rule of law. To understand the difference, imagine if Europe was building artificial islands in the Mediterranean to deprive North African states of their fishing and mineral rights, putting its Roma minority in prison camps, and arbitrarily imposing its security apparatus on neighbouring Norway.” — rb88217

Thank you for reading. Send your recommendations and feedback to [email protected]

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