(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Wednesday.
Clinical trials of one of the most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccines, which is being developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University, were "paused" after a volunteer developed an unexplained illness. A spokesperson for the AstraZeneca vaccine said in a statement Tuesday that "we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee. This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials." The company said that in large trials, illnesses will sometimes happen by chance but must be reviewed independently. AstraZeneca didn't offer further details, but medical news site Stat News, which first reported the volunteer's illness, quoted a source saying it had involved a "serious adverse reaction" to the vaccine.
Kosmos Energy has entered an agreement with a unit of Royal Dutch Shell to farm down a portfolio of exploration assets for up to USD200 million. Shell's unit BV Dordtsche Petroleum Maatschappij will acquire Kosmos's participating interest in blocks offshore Sao Tome & Principe, Suriname, Namibia and South Africa. The consideration consists of an upfront cash payment of USD100 million, plus contingent payments of USD50 million payable upon each commercial discovery from the first four exploration wells drilled across the assets, capped at USD100 million in total. Three of the four wells are currently planned for 2021. Following completion of the farm out agreement, Kosmos will retain an exploration portfolio with over six billion barrels of gross resource potential in the US Gulf of Mexico and west Africa. Kosmos also expects to realise USD125 million in savings over the next two years as a result of the Shell deal.
Ryanair Holdings has reduced its annual passenger target to 50 million, Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told Reuters in an interview. Ryanair in July had guided to 60 million passengers in its current financial year, ending in March. In the 2020 financial year, Ryanair carried 149 million passengers. O'Leary said Ryanair is now guiding for 50 million passengers for the full year to the end of March, though added that "at the moment the way governments are handling it the risk is to the downside". The CEO told Reuters that fares will also be "aggressively down", and he thinks winter of 2020 "will essentially be a write-off".
Computacenter reported profit growth for the first half, amid an increased demand due to Covid-19 pandemic, and said that it has agreed to buy Pivot Technology Solutions in Canada. Revenue for the first half of 2020 rose 1.5% to GBP2.46 billion from GBP2.43 billion year-on-year, while pretax profit grew by 43% to GBP72.4 million from GBP50.8 million. First half adjusted pretax profit totalled GBP74.6 million, up 39% year-on-year. The IT services firm said significant reductions in spend from industrial customers was offset by new business within the government and financial services sector. Separately, Computacenter said it has agreed to buy Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Pivot Technology Solutions. Computacenter will pay CAD2.60 cash for each Pivot share, the deal worth CAD105.8 million - nearly USD80 million or GBP62 million - based on the firm's 40.7 million shares.
The FTSE 100 bounded ahead on Wednesday, helped as the pound continued to soften on Brexit tensions. AstraZeneca shares were down 1.3%. Wall Street was pointed to a higher start, rebounding from Tuesday's sell-off, which hit tech stocks the hardest. The tech-rich Nasdaq is called up 1.8% on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 is pointed up 0.7% and the Dow Jones up 0.5%.
FTSE 100: up 0.9% at 5,983.56
FTSE 250: down 0.3% at 17,569.62
AIM ALL-SHARE: down 0.5% at 947.82
GBP: lower at USD1.2947 (USD1.3030)
EUR: lower at USD1.1773 (USD1.1796)
GOLD: firm at USD1,928.64 per ounce (USD1,926.32)
OIL (Brent): higher at USD40.27 a barrel (USD39.54)
(changes since previous London equities close)
ECONOMICS AND GENERAL
Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as the UK government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a press conference on Wednesday to announce the change in the law after the number of daily positive Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000. The legal limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 30 people to six. It will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors â€“ including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants. Gatherings of more than six people will be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where the gathering is for work or education purposes. Exemptions will also apply for weddings, funerals and Covid-secure organised team sports, with a full list to be published by the government before Monday. Some 2,420 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were recorded in Britain as of 9am on Tuesday, following the 2,988 reported in the UK on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.
Controversial legislation which would override elements of UK Prime Minister Johnson's Brexit deal with Brussels and breach international law will be published on Wednesday. Downing Street had insisted changes in the Internal Market Bill were simply "limited clarifications" to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if they failed to secure a free trade deal with the EU. But Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis provoked a furious reaction when he confirmed to MPs on Tuesday that the legislation would breach international law in a "very specific and limited way". The Bill, which will be tabled on Wednesday afternoon, is intended to ensure Northern Ireland can continue to enjoy unfettered access to markets in the rest of the UK. Lewis said the powers the government was taking would enable ministers to "dis-apply" the EU legal concept of "direct effect" â€“ which requires the enforcement of EU law â€“ in "certain, very tightly defined circumstances". Meanwhile, the latest round of talks on a post-Brexit trade deal continue in London between the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK's Lord Frost.
Chinese inflation moderated in August, data showed, as a slowdown in the surging price of pork tempered food costs. The consumer price index hit 2.4%, in line with forecasts and below the previous month's reading, as pork saw its slowest increase in a year, while analysts said the easing could also be attributed to a high base comparison. Dong Lijuan at the National Bureau of Statistics, which released the figures, said pork supplies had improved but noted that the cost of other meats also rose, "affected by factors such as rising feed costs, recovery in demand, and rising pork prices". The price of pork, a staple in China, has been soaring for more than a year after the country's pig herds were ravaged last year by African swine fever, which forced the culling of at least a million animals. The meat's price rose 53% on-year in August, a slowdown from the 86% surge in July and more than 100% earlier in 2020.
US President Donald Trump will announce further troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan in the next few days, a senior administration official said Tuesday. The official told reporters traveling with the president to expect an announcement Wednesday on Iraq, and on Afghanistan in the coming days. During a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi in August, Trump said American troops would leave Iraq but gave no timetable. The talks between the pair came with attacks on American targets by pro-Iranian fighters on the rise and the Iraqi government facing calls to expel the roughly 5,000 US troops deployed in the country as part of anti-jihadist efforts. The US military withdrew from Iraq in late 2011, leaving a small mission attached to the US embassy.
Copyright 2020 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.