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EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING : Stocks Struggle Amid -2-

06/21/2021 | 06:16am EDT

In an email to UMG employees, CEO Lucian Grainge called the investment a "strong validation." The deal-previously reported on by The Wall Street Journal-follows a 20% stake investment by Chinese internet giant Tencent and comes days before Vivendi shareholders will vote on the potential listing of 60% of UMG shares on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange.

Wm. Morrison Supermarkets Rejects $7.65 Bln Clayton Dubilier & Rice Offer Proposal

Wm. Morrison Supermarkets PLC said Saturday that it has rejected a 5.54 billion-pound ($7.65 billion) possible cash offer by Clayton Dubilier & Rice LLC as it "significantly undervalued" the company and its future prospects.

The U.K.'s fourth largest grocer by market share said it had received a 230 pence a share proposal from the U.S. private equity company on June 14 which it rejected on June 17.

Telenor, Axiata Sign Deal for Previously Announced Merger of Malaysian Businesses

Norwegian telecom provider Telenor ASA and Malaysian operator Axiata Group Bhd. said Monday they have successfully concluded due diligence and signed an agreement on the proposed merger of their Malaysian mobile operations, Celcom Axiata Bhd. and Digi.

The companies in April said they were in advanced talks on a proposed merger.

Terrorist Attacks, Immigration Debates Push French Voters Rightward, Boosting Le Pen

L'ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE, France-Wedged between river tributaries in southeastern France, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known for its cobblestone streets and its sun-dappled outdoor market.

But ahead of local elections this month, the debate in this small town, and in others across France, has centered on the fallout from the beheading of a schoolteacher near Paris last fall by a Chechen refugee as well as the slaying of churchgoers in Nice weeks later by a Tunisian migrant.

Iran's New Hard-Line President Poised for Pivotal Role in Nuclear Talks

When Iranian diplomats resume talks with Western officials to revive a battered nuclear deal, one name will stand out on the list of individuals Tehran wants removed from the U.S. sanctions list: Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's president-elect.

The 60-year-old hard-line judge, who won Friday's presidential election in Iran, was sanctioned two years ago by the Trump administration for his close ties to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. As Iran's president-elect, Mr. Raisi has emerged in a pivotal role that could determine the fate of the 2015 multination accord.

U.K. Home Prices Continue to Rise But Pace Is Slowing

U.K. house prices are continuing to rise to new highs though at a slower pace than recent months, according to new data from property portal Rightmove PLC.

The average price of property coming to the market between May 9 and June 11 rose by 0.8%, or GBP2,509 ($3,494), a more modest climb than the preceding month's 1.8% but still pushing the national average to a record high of GBP336,073 for the third consecutive month. The portal measured 125,582 prices across the U.K. over the period.

U.S. Military to Withdraw Hundreds of Troops, Aircraft, Antimissile Batteries From Middle East

WASHINGTON-The Biden administration is sharply reducing the number of U.S. antimissile systems in the Middle East in a major realignment of its military footprint there as it focuses the armed services on challenges from China and Russia, administration officials said.

The Pentagon is pulling approximately eight Patriot antimissile batteries from countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, according to officials. Another antimissile system known as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad system, is being withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, and jet fighter squadrons assigned to the region are being reduced, those officials said.

GLOBAL NEWS

Chinese Junk Bonds Flash Warning Signs

Yields on Chinese junk bonds have jumped to levels last hit during the tail end of last year's market turbulence, signaling growing investor concern about defaults.

Last week, the yield on an ICE BofA index of Chinese junk bonds in dollars topped 10% for the first time since May 2020. It closed Friday at 9.93%. In contrast, the equivalent index for global sub-investment grade debt ended the week at 4.57%. That was only 0.04 percentage point off a trough hit three days earlier, which was the lowest yield in a data set that goes back to 1997. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

Climate Fight Brews as SEC Moves Toward Mandate for Risk Disclosure

WASHINGTON-The Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to require public companies to disclose more information about how they respond to threats linked to climate change-and businesses are gearing up for a fight.

The SEC's new chairman, Biden administration appointee Gary Gensler, has said climate-related disclosure is a top priority, and President Biden plans to meet Monday with top financial regulators to discuss the issue. The SEC has already sought industry input, much of which arrived last week, for a rule proposal that could be issued by October.

Breaking Up Japan Inc.'s Love Affair With Itself

Japan's corporate-governance reform has been a long, often painful process. But there has been some recent progress on one perennial complaint: massive cross-holdings that empower management and tend to weigh on returns.

Nonfinancial companies on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's first section booked 610 billion yen ($5.3 billion) of gains from sales of securities for the six months ending in March, a 92% year-over-year rise, according to Goldman Sachs. And 137 companies reduced such cross-shareholdings in the fiscal year ending in March, a 59% increase from a year earlier, noted the bank.

Turbocharged U.S. Economy Attracts Foreign Investors

The extraordinary recovery of the U.S. economy is likely to make the country the world's top destination for overseas investment this year and next, according to new United Nations projections, with foreign businesses drawn by the prospect of a rapid and sustained rebound in consumer spending and the Biden administration's multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plans.

According to U.N. figures published Monday, overseas investments by businesses around the world fell by a third in 2020 from the previous year. The U.S. recorded a 40% fall in investment but narrowly held on to its long-held position as the top destination ahead of China. The U.N. in January estimated that the U.S. had lost the top slot.

China Tweaks Deposit Rate Rules to Guide Funding Costs Down

China has tweaked the mechanism to determine the upper limits on banks' deposit rates, leading to a reduction of longer-term funding rates, as competition for stable sources of deposits has intensified.

The Self-Disciplinary Mechanism for the Pricing of Market-Oriented Interest Rates, backed by China's central bank, said Monday that it has changed how to determine the ceilings on deposit rates by adding certain basis points to the government-set benchmark rate.

Economy Week Ahead: U.S. Existing-Home Sales, German Business Confidence

Tuesday

U.S. existing-home sales fell in April from the prior month as record-high prices deterred potential buyers. But April sales remained 51.7% higher than the same month a year before. Economists expect another decline in May.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Could Lose Gas-Tax Rise, Senator Says

WASHINGTON-A proposed infrastructure spending plan may be hammered out without a measure raising the gasoline tax, a key Republican lawmaker said Sunday, suggesting the removal of an obstacle to a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure plan pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), one of the lead Republicans in the group, said a higher gasoline tax may not be in the final package, citing opposition from the Biden administration.

Tight Labor Market Returns the Upper Hand to American Workers

Low-wage workers found something unexpected in the economy's recovery from the pandemic: leverage.

Ballooning job openings in fields requiring minimal education-including in restaurants, transportation, warehousing and manufacturing-combined with a shrinking labor force are giving low-wage workers perks previously reserved for white-collar employees. That often means bonuses, bigger raises and competing offers.

Facebook, Alphabet Keep Rising; Apple, Netflix Fade

Big tech stocks are going their own ways in 2021.

It is a far cry from last year, when the so-called FAANG stocks took a commanding role in a market driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Natural-Gas Glut Has Evaporated, Driving Prices Higher

Natural-gas prices are starting the summer air-conditioning season nearly twice as high as they were a year ago.

Demand for the fuel is picking up as the world's economies reopen and as Americans dial down their thermostats for what is expected to be a hot summer. Meanwhile, U.S. producers have stuck to the skimpy drilling plans they sketched out when prices were lower, eliminating the glut that was keeping them depressed.

Ethiopia's Nobel Prize-Winning Leader Faces Election as War Rages in Tigray

Ethiopia's election was meant to be the crowning moment for Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a popular recognition of his efforts to break open one of Africa's most entrenched one-party states and liberalize its tightly controlled economy.

Instead, the country of 110 million people headed to the polls Monday in turmoil, fighting a bloody civil war in the northern province of Tigray and escalating ethnic uprisings elsewhere that are reverberating across the strategic Horn of Africa region.

Tokyo Olympics to Allow Spectators at Summer Games

TOKYO-The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will include up to 10,000 Japanese spectators at each event, organizers said, despite advice by leading doctors that the Games would be safer without crowds.

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

06-21-21 0615ET

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