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EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING : Fed Uncertainty Weighs -2-

08/26/2021 | 06:11am EST

The French construction-and-media conglomerate said it has upgraded its 2021 forecast on the back of its strong first-half performance. Bouygues now expects sales and current operating profit to come very close to 2019's level this year, which compares with previous expectations of sales and earnings well above 2020 but without reaching pre-pandemic's levels. It also expects its 2021 current operating margin to reach 2019's level.

UK Car Manufacturing Hurt in July by Chip Shortages, Summer Shutdowns and 'Pingdemic'

U.K. car manufacturing fell 38% in July, the first drop since February, as global chip shortages, the 'pingdemic' and summer shutdowns hurt production, an industry body said Thursday.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that a total of 53,438 cars drove off the production lines in July compared with 85,696 in July 2020. Production for the first seven months of 2021 was 18% higher at 552,361.

British Land Redeploying Proceeds From Asset Sales Into Acquisitions

British Land Co. said Thursday that it is redeploying proceeds raised from recent sales of mature assets into acquisitions and value-accretive development opportunities.

The FTSE 100 real-estate company said it has recently sold or is under offer on around 160 million pounds ($220.2 million) of assets, in line with its strategy to realize value from more mature and noncore assets.

Delivery Hero Confirms Guidance Despite Bigger Loss

German online food-delivery service Delivery Hero reported Thursday that its first-half net loss widened to EUR913.6 million from a loss of EUR447 million last year.

Adjusted Ebitda also widened to a loss of EUR350.8 million from last year's loss of EUR319.8 million.

Dollar Shave Club Hires Neutrogena Executive Kerry Sullivan as CMO

Dollar Shave Club said Wednesday it has hired Kerry Sullivan as its new chief marketing officer.

Ms. Sullivan had most recently been general manager and vice president of marketing at Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena, where she held various posts since 2003. At Dollar Shave Club, she succeeds Kristin Harrer, who joined the VF Corp. footwear and apparel brand Vans as its global CMO in April.

Europe Braces for Immigration Surge as Afghans Flee Taliban

PARIS-Europe's largest nations have airlifted more than 9,000 Afghans out of their country in recent weeks and are bracing for the possibility that hundreds of thousands more will arrive, in what would be a major test of the region's ability to absorb another wave of immigrants from the Muslim world.

Officials are determined to avoid a repeat of the chaos of the last major migrant wave in 2015, when more than 1.3 million people from Syria, Afghanistan and other nations poured into Europe, fueling social and political upheaval across the continent.

Iran's Parliament Confirms Conservative as Top Diplomat

Iran's parliament confirmed an experienced diplomat trusted by the country's hard-liners as its new foreign minister as the government prepares for a possible return to nuclear negotiations in coming weeks.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is expected to closely follow the line set by Iran's conservative new President Ebrahim Raisi, who has said he wants to restore the 2015 nuclear deal while resisting U.S. efforts to negotiate a wider agreement that might limit Iran's influence across the Middle East.

U.K. Accounting Watchdog Fines EY $3 Million Over Stagecoach Audit

The U.K.'s accounting watchdog sanctioned Ernst & Young LLP and a former partner at the firm for failings in its 2017 audit of transportation company Stagecoach Group PLC.

The Financial Reporting Council on Wednesday fined EY GBP2.2 million, or $3.02 million, for what it called serious deficiencies in the audit. The Big Four firm failed to collect sufficient evidence and challenge the material assumptions underpinning Stagecoach's financial statements, the FRC said. The agency didn't allege financial misstatements by the company, it said.

European Sleeper Trains Make a Comeback

We all know the romanticized version of what it was like to tour Europe on sleeper trains: chance encounters with exotic strangers, late-night border crossings, and diner cars where mysterious passengers nursed cocktails and ate poulet de Bresse while rumbling across the Dauphine alps.

The reality-2 a.m. whistle-stops, sketchy compartment companions, and a suite of funky smells and sounds that made the actual sleeping part a monumental effort-wasn't quite that glamorous. (Sorry, Agatha Christie.) So when the rise of low-cost airlines in the 1990s gave travelers a faster way to get to European destinations, demand for night trains fell and operators started abandoning routes around 2005.

Covid-19 Vaccinations Rise as Delta Variant Spreads, Pfizer Receives Full FDA Approval

As the highly contagious Delta variant spreads through the U.S., Covid-19 vaccination rates have picked up, particularly in states hit hard by recent surges. But just 51.5% of the total population and 60.3% of those 12 years and older are fully vaccinated, as mutations lead to more infectious versions of the coronavirus, and the number of daily shots in arms remains below spring highs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's move to give the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine full approval could boost those numbers.

The Pfizer vaccine was first cleared by regulators in December on an emergency-use basis for people 16 years and older, and in May it was authorized for children as young as 12. On Monday, it became the first Covid-19 vaccine to gain full FDA approval for those 16 years and older.

GLOBAL NEWS

Delta Variant's Spread Clouds Outlook for Emerging-Market Debt

The spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 across Asia is weighing on emerging-market debt in the region.

In recent months, investors have been demanding higher returns on bonds from Southeast Asian nations with relatively low vaccination rates that have reported sharp increases in Covid-19 cases. Governments in the region have imposed fresh lockdowns or social-distancing restrictions that are slowing their economic recoveries, and are spending more to help their citizens and businesses.

Derby's Take: Economists Don't Expect Powell Taper Announcement This Week

It's pretty unlikely Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will announce in his speech Friday that the central bank is officially ready to start pulling back on its asset-buying stimulus effort, economists reckon.

Mr. Powell is set to speak on Friday at 10 a.m. ET as part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's annual Jackson Hole economic symposium. The event was moved last week to an all-online format because of the rising risks around the coronavirus pandemic.

Bank of Korea Raises Rate After 15 Months at Record Low

South Korea's central bank raised its base interest rate on Thursday after 15 months of keeping it at a record low, signaling it would further dial back its easy-money policy amid an economic recovery.

The rate increase makes the Bank of Korea the first major central bank in Asia to start withdrawing stimulus measures that were put in place because of the pandemic.

Humanitarian Efforts in Afghanistan Get OK From Treasury, Bypassing Sanctions on Taliban

The U.S. Treasury Department has given humanitarian organizations a green light to provide aid to Afghanistan, easing concerns that antiterrorism sanctions on the Taliban could prevent the country from getting the food and other supplies it needs to stem a growing economic crisis, according to people familiar with the matter.

Treasury's nod, which came in private conversations this week, is a response to pressure from aid groups and banks eager for assurance they won't be punished for undertaking humanitarian relief or handling the associated financial transactions. It is unclear whether the informal guidance has fully addressed their concerns, as prominent coalitions of aid groups have asked the Treasury Department to issue formal waivers.

U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Nearly Doubled in August as Some States Ask for Resources

U.S. Covid-19 hospitalizations have surpassed 100,000 for the first time since January, nearly doubling since the start of August.

While the figure remains below the country's winter peak, hospitals in some parts of the U.S. are straining under the load, and officials in states including Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Idaho have requested extra personnel and resources.

Write to paul.larkins@dowjones.com

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This article is a text version of a Wall Street Journal newsletter published earlier today.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

08-26-21 0610ET

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