FirstFT: Today’s top stories | Financial Times

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Exclusive: Metals magnate Sanjeev Gupta restructured his business empire last year in an attempt to maximise the amount of UK taxpayer-backed loans he could draw on through the government’s coronavirus lending scheme.

Companies affiliated with Gupta drew hundreds of millions of pounds of loans via Greensill Capital, which tapped the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, a government programme set up at the height of the pandemic to help companies weather the crisis.

Documents seen by the Financial Times showed that Gupta incorporated new entities last year to further split up his empire with the sole purpose of securing more taxpayer-backed loans through Greensill.

The collapse last month of Greensill, Gupta’s main lender, has left his GFG Alliance, which employs 35,000 people at metalworks stretching from Wales to Australia, battling for survival.

Private equity firm General Atlantic is borrowing €300m from Goldman Sachs at a double-digit interest rate in order to repay a controversial loan from Greensill, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Former prime minister David Cameron and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are set to be called to give evidence to parliamentary inquiries into the Greensill affair. The scandal has laid open the UK’s opaque lobbying rules, with calls for reform of ministerial and civil servant appointments oversight. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

  • The UK has moved closer to making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory for care workers in England.

  • Leaving the middle seat free on aircraft could help cut the risk of exposure by more than 50 per cent, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — read more on our live blog.

  • India’s Covid-19 cases hit a record on Wednesday ahead of Mumbai’s lockdown.

  • A group of 175 former world leaders and Nobel laureates urged the US to suspend vaccine patents to boost global inoculation rates.

  • Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine pause will last another week. Tim Harford explains why we shouldn’t worry about rare jab blood clots. (FT, Reuters)

Covid-19 vaccines show governments can be forces for good, writes Gillian Tett. Sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update email newsletter, delivered three times a week.

In the news

Coinbase valued at $76bn Investors valued Coinbase at $75.9bn on its Nasdaq debut on Wednesday, the first listing of a leading cryptocurrency exchange and a moment of validation for the digital asset class some 12 years after the creation of bitcoin. (FT)

“What we hope is it just brings a lot more transparency to this industry, and a lot more focus,” — Alesia Haas, Coinbase chief financial officer

Hedge funds’ best start in 15 years Hedge funds have generated returns of 4.8 per cent in the first three months of the year, the best first quarter since 2006, according to data group Eurekahedge, after having navigated the GameStop short squeeze and the collapse of family office Archegos Capital. Funds are revising the way they monitor risk following the retail investor attack. (FT)

Data from HFR showed hedge funds made 6.1% in the first three months of the year, which would mark the strongest first-quarter gain since 2000 © FT montage

Gangs blamed for N Ireland violence Belfast’s worst spate of sectarian violence in years is being stoked by criminal gangs and anonymous social media users, making it harder to control than the paramilitary-led clashes of Northern Ireland’s past, local leaders and security analysts told the FT. (FT)

Darktrace IPO filing contradicted Mike Lynch role claim In 2018, the cyber security company told the FT that billionaire Mike Lynch, who has been charged with fraud in the US, had left its advisory council. But the company’s stock market registration document this week said the Autonomy founder remained until March 2021, complicating its potential £3bn float. (FT)

Biden to end ‘America’s longest war’ in Afghanistan Joe Biden said US troops would start their final withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1, declaring it “time to end America’s longest war”. Some Afghans are asking what the drawdown will mean for modest gains towards democracy and women’s rights. (FT, NYT)

Ex-officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright to face manslaughter charge Kim Potter, the former police officer who shot and killed a young black man in a Minneapolis suburb at the weekend, was charged with second-degree manslaughter, a prosecutor said. (FT)

Protesters have turned out for the past three nights to denounce the shooting of Daunte Wright, 20, on Sunday © Scott Olson/Getty Images

Wall Street boom powers US bank profits JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo reported higher than expected profits on Wednesday, fuelled by breakneck growth in investment banking fees, buoyant capital markets and lower credit costs due to an improving economy. (FT)

Corporate America pledges to fight voting restrictions Hundreds of the biggest US companies including Amazon, Apple, BlackRock and Goldman Sachs along with top executives and leading law firms have pledged to fight state efforts to restrict voting rights. (FT)

Bernard Madoff dies The investment manager who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history has died aged 82 at a federal prison in North Carolina where he was serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2009. In 2011, Madoff spoke to the FT from behind bars. Here are three lessons for investors from Madoff’s scheme. (FT)

Prosecutors pegged the size of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme at $64.8bn, the largest such fraud in history
Prosecutors pegged the size of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme at $64.8bn, the largest such fraud in history © Jin Lee/Bloomberg

The day ahead

Earnings Bank of America, PepsiCo, Citigroup, Charles Schwab, BlackRock, TSMC, US Bancorp and Oxford BioMedica report earnings on Thursday. AppLovin, the mobile ad tech company and video game publisher, is set to IPO. (FT)

Norway AstraZeneca decision Oslo is set to announce whether it will permanently suspend the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after at least four deaths of women under 54. (FT)

Economic data Germany, France and Poland have consumer price indices for March. Investors will learn whether another round of stimulus payments that reached US households in March sent sales jumping after falls in February. US industrial production is also set to bounce back for March. (FT, WSJ)

Deliveroo trading update The food delivery company will deliver its first quarter trading update two weeks after its disappointing London IPO. (FT)

What else we’re reading

Nuclear talks intensify Tehran power struggle Iran has weathered the most extensive sanctions in its history, costing the economy at least $200bn. But the regime has been emboldened by surviving the pressure of Donald Trump’s policy, with hardliners seeking to ram home the political advantage over their reformist rivals. (FT)

Investors brace for momentum and value to collide The strength of the recent rally in cheap stocks could trigger a rare shift in equity market dynamics that some investors expect will fuel the gains of financial and energy companies. (FT)

Line chart of Relative returns year-to-date (%) showing Value stocks are finally enjoying a renaissance

How Jack Ma fell foul of Xi Jinping China’s most outspoken billionaire has gone silent. Since Chinese president Xi Jinping unexpectedly called off the blockbuster public offering of Ant Group, Ma’s payments and lending business, five months ago, the Alibaba founder has made a single public appearance. Here’s how he fell from grace.

  • While the fintech is suffering a “rectification” by Chinese regulators, Ma’s ecommerce flagship Alibaba appears to have escaped tougher punishment. (FT)

Johnson’s strategy to save the Union Whether you call Boris Johnson’s strategy for dealing with the existential aftershocks of Brexit muddling through or the more muscular “toughing it out”, it is underrated as a political approach. The future of the UK following may depend on his success, writes Robert Shrimsley. (FT)

Robert Shrimsley: ‘There is no grand approach to managing Brexit’s aftershocks, which may see Scotland cede and Ireland reunite’
Robert Shrimsley: ‘There is no grand approach to managing Brexit’s aftershocks, which may see Scotland cede and Ireland reunite’ © Ellie Foreman-Peck

Hong Kong crackdown moves into the classroom Beijing is extending its crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement into schools with a curriculum that will force teachers to warn students against “subversion” and “foreign interference”. The FT spoke to more than a dozen teachers, parents and administrators about their fears that the national security law will establish wholesale censorship. (FT)

Hong Kong principals have already ordered libraries to weed out books deemed politically incorrect and teaching materials will be vetted
Hong Kong principals have already ordered libraries to weed out books deemed politically incorrect and teaching materials will be vetted © Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty

Podcast of the day

Britain’s unhealthy legacy of empire Gideon Rachman talks to Sathnam Sanghera about his book Empireland and the legacy of racism and nostalgia that Britain has yet to come to terms with. (FT)

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