June 22, 2024

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FirstFT: Citi pushes into China

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Good morning.

Citigroup is planning to deepen its involvement in China’s financial markets with the launch of an investment banking unit in the country — just as rivals grow more cautious there.

The large US bank intends to launch the wholly owned China-based unit by the end of the year, according to a person familiar with the situation. The business would expand Citi’s business in China, which already includes corporate lending and other banking services.

Citi’s plan to expand in China comes as it undergoes its largest restructuring in more than a decade under chief executive Jane Fraser. Citi is expected to provide more details on the restructuring when it announces results next week. Here’s what we know about Citi’s plans for China.

And here’s what I will be keeping tabs on today and over the weekend:

  • Economic data: The US and Canadian governments publish their latest labour market statistics. We also get data on the US services sector from the Institute for Supply Management and US factory orders for November.

  • Results: Corona owner Constellation Brands publishes results today.

  • Monetary policy: Richmond Fed president Thomas Barkin will deliver a speech before the Maryland Bankers Association First Friday Economic Outlook Forum.

  • Joe Biden: The US president will deliver a speech in Pennsylvania to mark the anniversary of the January 6 2021 riot when Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

  • Elections: Bangladesh kicks off a historic year for democracies when voting begins on Sunday. But critics say the South Asian country is sliding towards de facto one-party rule as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeks a historic fifth term.

Be more financially confident this year by signing up to our new six-part newsletter series with Claer Barrett, the FT’s consumer editor. Claer will guide you through managing a budget, buying a house, investing and saving for your retirement. Join here.

Five more top stories

1. Israel’s defence minister has said there should be “no Israeli civilian presence” in Gaza when its war with Hamas is over. Yoav Gallant said yesterday that Israel should retain “operational freedom of action” in the enclave and take any action needed to “ensure that Gaza will pose no threat to Israel”. But he said that once the fighting was over, civilian governance of the territory should be in the hands of the Palestinians.

  • Iran blasts: Isis has claimed responsibility for two bombings that killed almost 100 people in the deadliest attack in the Islamic republic for decades.

  • Red Sea: Houthi militants detonated a one-way unmanned surface vessel in the Red Sea yesterday, marking a defiant escalation by the Iran-backed rebel group a day after the US threatened a military response to such attacks.

  • Iraq: The US military has killed a high-ranking commander of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq after the faction conducted attacks on American personnel.

2. Eurozone inflation rose to 2.9 per cent last month, reversing six months of consecutive falls and raising questions over how soon the European Central Bank will start cutting interest rates. The annual rise of consumer prices in the 20 countries that share the euro in December was up from a more than two-year low of 2.4 per cent in November. Here’s what lies behind the rise in prices.

3. Fundraising by US venture capital firms hit a six-year low last year, dropping 60 per cent to $67bn. The sharp decline from 2022 ratchets up pressure on start-ups, which have endured a funding drought over the past 18 months. Here’s why VCs have struggled to raise new funds.

4. New York has sued 17 bus companies for bringing thousands of migrants to the city from the Mexican border at the behest of Texas governor Greg Abbott. In a lawsuit filed yesterday, the office of New York mayor Eric Adams said it was seeking $708mn in compensation from the companies. Here’s more on the lawsuit which alleges the companies acted in “bad faith”.

5. A record number of large healthcare companies filed for bankruptcy in the US last year, underlining the industry’s struggle with rising costs, falling patient numbers and tougher regulation. Eighteen companies with liabilities of more than $100mn, including radiotherapy and medical staffing services and a community hospital, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Read more on why there was an almost fivefold rise in healthcare sector bankruptcies last year compared with 2022.

How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

News in-depth

Sao Paulo
The central district of São Paulo contains an area known as Cracolândia (Crackland) © Ricardo Lisboa/FT

For some the decline of the centre of São Paulo resembles New York’s decay in the 1970s and 1980s. Once a commercial hub, the Centro neighbourhood is now largely seen as off-limits, with soaring crime and crumbling infrastructure. Like his predecessors, the current mayor of São Paulo, Ricardo Nunes, has a plan. Unlike them, however, he has resources to back it up. Can the city’s centre be revived?

We’re also reading . . . 

  • Global inequality: A convergence in the fortunes of rich and poor countries in the 2000s may have been the exception rather than the new rule, writes Soumaya Keynes.

  • War in Ukraine: The choices made by the democracies supporting Kyiv will be decisive in the outcome of this ongoing war, writes eastern Europe specialist Timothy Garton Ash.

  • Hassan Nasrallah: The pragmatism shown thus far by the leader of Hizbollah is being tested by the killing of a Hamas ally in the Lebanese militant group’s home turf.

Chart of the day

Bar chart of Top five spenders ($mn) showing China and Gulf countries spent heavily on Donald Trump's properties while he was US president

China spent $5.5mn at properties owned by Donald Trump while he was US president, according to a report published yesterday by congressional Democrats. Beijing was by far the heaviest spender at Trump hotels and apartments among 20 foreign governments, which also included Saudi Arabia, Congo and Malaysia. Here are the other key findings from the 156-page report.

Take a break from the news

With its blend of technology, citizen science and common sense, the nutrition service Zoe has reached cult status among its 130,000 users. By giving health advice that is not off the shelf but personalised like a social media feed, it offers a glimpse into the future of healthcare. Henry Mance spoke to its co-founder Tim Spector.

Tim Spector
Tim Spector in his north London home © Dan Burn-Forti

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Additional reporting by Tee Zhuo and Emily Goldberg

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