Asos billionaire loses three children in Sri Lanka attacks

Asos billionaire loses three children in Sri Lanka attacks

Three of the four children of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen died in the Sri Lanka bombing attacks, a spokesman has confirmed to the BBC. Newslight

The family were visiting the country over the Easter holiday. The names of the children have not been made public.

Mr Holch Povlsen owns the international clothing chain Bestseller.

He is also the biggest single shareholder in clothing giant Asos and is the UK’s largest private landowner, according to the Times newspaper.

“Unfortunately, we can confirm the reports,” a Bestseller spokesman said in an email. “We ask you to respect the privacy of the family and we therefore have no further comments.”

Mr Holch Povlsen has a large property portfolio in Scotland, where he owns about a dozen estates including Aldourie Castle. He bought them through his company Wildland, which describes itself as a “landscape-scale” conservation project.

Glenfeshie Lodge
The Holch Povlsen’s own several Scottish properties, including Glenfeshie Lodge

“It is a project that we know cannot be realised in our lifetime, which will bear fruit not just for our own children, but also for the generations of visitors who, like us, hold a deep affection the Scottish Highlands,” Mr Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne say on the website.

“We wish to restore our parts of the Highlands to their former magnificent natural state and repair the harm that man has inflicted on them.”

Victims unidentified

The death toll in the Sri Lanka attacks is now at 290, following a series of blasts at churches and luxury hotels on Sunday. Police have arrested 24 people, but no-one has claimed responsibility.

The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including many Christians who died at Easter services.

Authorities say they believe 36 foreign nationals are among the dead, with most still unidentified at a Colombo mortuary.

The international victims include:

  • At least five British citizens – including two with joint US citizenship
  • Three Danish citizens
  • One Portuguese citizen and six Indian nationals
  • Two engineers from Turkey, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu
  • Two Chinese nationals, according to the China Daily
  • Two Australians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said
  • One person from the Netherlands
  • One person from Japan, according to Japanese media citing government sources

Carlos Ghosn: Former Nissan boss hit with fresh charge

Carlos Ghosn

Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn has been indicted by prosecutors in Japan on a fresh charge of aggravated breach of trust.

It is the fourth charge brought against Mr Ghosn and relates to the alleged misuse of company funds.

The 65-year-old is in detention in Tokyo and his lawyers are expected to apply for bail.

Mr Ghosn, who denies any wrongdoing, has said the allegations are a result of a plot against him.

He was first arrested in November and spent 108 days in custody. While out on bail pending a trial, the former auto boss was re-arrested in Tokyo on 4 April.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Ghosn made a multi-million-dollar payment to a Nissan distributor in Oman, and that as much as $5m (£3.8m) was funnelled to an account controlled by Mr Ghosn.

The company he once ran, Nissan, has filed its own criminal complaint against Mr Ghosn, accusing him of directing money from the company for his own personal enrichment.

Mr Ghosn was first charged with under-reporting his pay package for the five years to 2015.

In January, a new charge claimed he understated his compensation for another three years. He was also indicted on a fresh, more serious charge of breach of trust.

The fall from grace for the industry titan has attracted global attention. The case has also put a spotlight on fighting within the carmaker alliance and on Japan’s legal system.

Mr Ghosn was the architect of the alliance formed between Japan’s Nissan and French carmaker Renault, and brought Mitsubishi on board in 2016.

He is credited with turning around the fortunes of Nissan and Renault over several years.

Earlier this month Mr Ghosn said the allegations were a plot and conspiracy against him, accusing Nissan executives of “backstabbing”.

National Enquirer sold to US magazine distributor


Newstand with National Enquirer closest to camera
The newspaper has gained a reputation for outlandish celebrity coverage

The owner of US tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer has agreed to sell the title to magazine distributor James Cohen.

American Media Inc (AMI) said it would sell the title and two of its sister publications to Mr Cohen.

The tabloid has been embroiled in high-profile scandals involving US President Donald Trump and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The sale terms were not disclosed but the Washington Post reported a sale price of $100m (£77m).

In a statement, AMI said it had reached an agreement in principle with Mr Cohen to sell the title’s US and UK editions, along with the Globe and National Examiner.

“The sale of these brands shows their vitality in today’s newsstand marketplace where they continue to generate nearly $30 million in profit annually,” AMI chief executive David Pecker said.

Mr Cohen’s family built the Hudson chain of airport newsstands. The family now owns US magazine and book distributor Hudson News Distributors.

“Year after year, the Enquirer has continued to be one of the best-selling and most profitable newsstand titles,” Mr Cohen said.

He said he plans to boost the National Enquirer’s video and documentary collaborations, as well as its theme park business.

High-profile scandals

The National Enquirer is best known for its outlandish celebrity gossip and crime coverage.

Last year the publisher admitted to helping Mr Trump’s presidential campaign bury a report about an alleged extramarital affair with a former Playboy model.

Federal prosecutors announced in December that AMI had admitted paying Karen McDougal $150,000 for a “catch and kill” on her story in the run-up to the 2016 election.

In February, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused its owners of trying to blackmail him over lewd photographs.

He said AMI wanted him to stop investigating how they had obtained his private messages.

Earlier this month the publisher announced it was looking for a buyer for the 93-year-old title.

The tabloid was originally founded as The New York Evening Enquirer back in 1926, when it was distributed as a broadsheet on a Sunday.

At its peak it had a weekly circulation of millions, but the internet has had a huge impact on sales.

Last year it was announced circulation had dropped to about 265,000 – 18% down in one financial year.

The Elizabeth Line had been due to open in December 2018

Santorini deaths: London teachers killed in buggy crash

Crossrail could be delayed until 2021, according to a senior source associated with the project to build a new railway underneath central London.

The east-west route, officially called the Elizabeth Line, will run between Reading and Shenfield in Essex and had been due to open in December 2018.

Crossrail said testing of the trains and signalling was “progressing well”.

But sources told the BBC this phase – known as dynamic testing – was “proving more difficult than was first thought”.

The source said: “It all depends on how dynamic testing goes between now and the end of this year.”

“The last quarter of this year will be a critical period for the testing.”

Signalling software

Once dynamic testing is complete then trial runs will commence. This will effectively be a simulation of the timetable in real time.

The source said, with the current state of the project in mind, a “best case scenario” would be the new Elizabeth Line opening in spring 2020.

A “middle probability case” would be the summer of next year.

“A worst case is the spring of 2021.”

Map showing the Crossrail route

Two other senior rail sources say this assessment is credible. It also tallies with one of the conclusions in a report written by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee which was published earlier this month.

However, there is still uncertainty over when the scheme can be delivered because work to match a new signalling system in the 13-mile stretch of tunnel with software on the new trains is still ongoing.

On top of the trains and signalling, all of the new stations along the route are incomplete.

Paddington and Bond Street are the furthest behind.

A delay to the project only first became public in the summer of last year, just weeks before the railway was supposed to open in December 2018.

Presentational grey line

What is Crossrail?

Construction workers work on a section of train track inside a Crossrail tunnel, beneath Stepney in east London in 2016

Crossrail is a new railway that will run beneath London from Reading and Heathrow in the west through central tunnels across to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Construction began in 2009 and it is Europe’s biggest infrastructure project – it had been due to open in December 2018 although last summer that was pushed back to autumn 2019.

It has been officially named the Elizabeth Line in honour of the Queen and will serve 41 stations.

An estimated 200 million passengers will use the new undergound line annually, increasing central London rail capacity by 10% – the largest increase since World War Two.

Crossrail says the new line will connect Paddington to Canary Wharf in 17 minutes.

Presentational grey line

Roger Ford at Modern Railways magazine said he believed the failure to come clean about the delay was symptomatic of how politically sensitive the project was.

Both Transport for London and the Department for Transport are joint sponsors.

“It was probably a situation where people don’t report upwards for fear of getting shot.”

He said he believed “everyone is to blame” and the fact that the new management had taken several months to assess the scale of the delay “shows how bad it was”.Media captionA drone’s-eye view of a flight through Crossrail’s tunnels in 2015

If there is a further significant delay it will almost inevitably cost more money.

In 2010 the budget for Crossrail was scaled back slightly to £14.8bn.

But when the initial delay became public last year that figure rose to £17.6bn.

Much of that additional money has been lent to Transport for London by the government. Whitehall officials insist London will ultimately have to cover the extra cost, not UK taxpayers elsewhere.

In a statement, Crossrail said London needed the line to be “completed as quickly as possible and brought into service for passengers”.

“We are working very hard to finalise our new plan to deliver the opening at the earliest opportunity and we will be providing more details later this month.”

Bombardier which manufactured the trains for Crossrail did not wish to comment on reports that the testing of the trains and signalling was not going to plan.

Siemens Mobility is responsible for the signalling. When contacted by the BBC, it referred inquiries to Crossrail.

JP Morgan: Is Wall Street’s first female boss a step closer?

Wall Street could soon welcome its first-ever female chief executive after JP Morgan announced that finance boss Marianne Lake will take over running its consumer lending business.

The promotion means that Ms Lake could be a potential successor to chief executive Jamie Dimon.

At the same time, she will be replaced as finance chief by Jennifer Piepszak.

Ms Lake has been seen as a contender to lead Wells Fargo, the scandal-hit bank that is searching for a new boss.

JP Morgan is the largest US bank measured by total assets.

The changes emerged days after Mr Dimon and a number of other Wall Street bank chief executives failed to answer a congressional question on whether their “likely successor will be a woman or a person of colour”.

The bank bosses were appearing in front of the House Financial Services Committee, but Mr Dimon later told investors during a conference call with analysts about JP Morgan’s first quarter results that he didn’t understand the question.

He said: “We don’t comment on succession plans. That’s a board-level issue. But also I was confused by the question ‘likely’ without a timetable.

“We have exceptional women. And my successor may very well be a woman and it may not. And it really depends on the circumstance. And it might be different if it’s one year from now versus five years from now.”

Ms Lake, who was born in the US but moved to the UK when she was an infant, began working at JP Morgan in 1999. In her new role, she will oversee its credit card, mortgage lending and car finance business.

UK’s biggest money manager warns on climate catastrophe

The world is facing a climate catastrophe and businesses around the world must address it urgently or face the ultimate sanction for a public company, shareholders who refuse to back them any more.

That is not a message from an environmental action group but from the largest money manager in the UK, Legal & General Investment Management, which manages £1 trillion worth of UK pension fund investments.

Its climate warning was the top of a list of concerns about the way companies are run.

Other red lights included the level of executive pay, lack of diversity in senior corporate roles, the role (and cost) of political lobbying and the poor quality of the financial information provided by auditors.

Legal & General insist that it is not just virtue signalling.

The company voted against the re-election of nearly 4,000 directors in 2018 – an increase of 37%. That included votes against over 100 board chairs on the basis of gender diversity alone.

Legal & General’s director of corporate governance, Sacha Sadan, said it was getting tougher with company boards and managements.

“2018 was a record year for us as we continued to engage with companies on a broad range of issues, using our voting power to influence change on behalf of our clients. The increased figures reflect the higher standards we expect companies to adhere to”

A Carillion sign at a building site in the West Midlands
Carillion collapsed last year

The collapse last year of construction and services company Carillion, which continued to pay out high salaries, shareholder dividends and get a clean bill of health from its auditors until just months before its sudden liquidation caused widespread outrage and shone a light on the standard of company stewardship in the UK.

A recent report from a committee of MPs was sceptical about asset managers’ appetite and ability to raise the quality of company management.

The business select committee chair said last month: “We do not have confidence in institutional investors in exercising their stewardship functions. We cannot rely on shareholders to exert pressure.”

Legal & General admit they too have made mistakes.

Lesson learnt

In 2012, the company voted in favour of a pay formula for the chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon that saw Jeff Fairburn awarded a pay packet of £100m Mr Sadan told the BBC it had learnt its lesson. “Since then we insist that maximum pay outs are capped.”

The VERY best way for investors to exert pressure is to sell their shares – or not become shareholders of misbehaving companies in the first place.

Plenty of fund managers argue they are trying to “reform from within” while happily accepting bumper dividend pay outs from companies in some of the most controversial sectors – such as oil and tobacco.

Legal & General insist they are prepared to do that and last year issued a list of companies whose shares they decided to dump. The list of eight included Russian oil company Rosneft, the China Construction Bank and Subaru.

Legal & General say that all eight of those on the “black list” have been in touch to try and get themselves off it. Proof positive, say L&G, that their brand of shareholder engagement – or disengagement – really works.

Many in the UK might find that argument more convincing if the list of no-go investments included companies closer to home that would REALLY feel the cold shoulder of the UK’s biggest money manager.

Mr van Beurden
Shell boss Ben van Beurden’s pay more than doubled last year

For example, Royal Dutch Shell is the UK’s biggest dividend payer by miles – offering investors a tempting 5.8% return on their money. Legal & General say they were successful in moving the chief executive’s performance targets to be based on safety and environmental improvements rather than raw profit. They were less successful in tackling the sheer amount he pocketed last year – a colossal £17m.

Asset managers are effectively the “masters of the universe” when it comes to telling companies how to behave as they have to vote on their investors behalf. But they have powerful customers of their own to answer to.

Increasing numbers of pension fund trustees are seeking assurances that their employees’ retirement contributions are not finding their way into embarrassing or inappropriate investments. The Church of England was not thrilled to find out its pension scheme was invested in the now defunct high cost credit company Wonga.

More recently – and more importantly – was the decision by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund to divest itself of some of its fossil fuel investments (paradoxically perhaps – the source of all the money in the first place).

But what these examples show is that the savers and citizens, on whose behalf this money is managed, are becoming more aware – and more willing to object – about how that is done.

Jet Airways cancels international flights as crisis deepens

Jet Airways appears to have suspended all its international flights, raising fresh fears about the Indian airline’s survival.

This comes after the carrier on Thursday grounded 10 more planes over unpaid fees to leasing firms.

Carriers in India must maintain a fleet of least 20 aircraft to continue to operate international services.

The airline, saddled with more than $1bn (£765m) in debt, is seeking a financial lifeline to avoid collapse.

Various India media reported on Friday that Jet Airways had cancelled all international flights, which include services to Europe and Asia.

In a statement on Thursday, Singapore’s Changi Airport said Jet Airways had “suspended its services to and from Singapore until further notice”.

All Jet Airways’ international flights scheduled to depart on Friday from Delhi – to Singapore, London, Amsterdam and two to Kathmandu – are cancelled, the airport website says.

And according to the official website for London’s Heathrow airport, Jet Airways’ Friday flights to Mumbai and Delhi will not operate.

Jet Airways is India’s largest private carrier and owes money to employees and suppliers.

In recent weeks it has grounded aircraft and cancelled thousands of flights – disrupting passengers locally and around the world – as its financial strains grew.

The airline has more than 100 aircraft in its fleet, and flies on 600 domestic and 380 international routes.

In a statement to the Mumbai Stock Exchange late Thursday, Jet Airways said an “additional 10 aircraft have been grounded due to non-payment of amounts outstanding to lessors”.

The airline did not respond to BBC requests for comment on the size of its current fleet or operations.

Several local media reported the airline is now operating 14 planes.

They also reported that India’s aviation ministry may review the regulations setting the fleet cap that could allow the airline to resume international services.

Financial lifeline

The cash-strapped airline is chasing fresh investors to keep flying.

A consortium of investors led by the State Bank of India (SBI) took control of the airline in March.

The group is searching a new investor to acquire a stake of up to 75% in Jet Airways. The deadline for bids had been extended to Friday, according to reports.

UK economy grows faster than expected ahead of Brexit

Stockpiling by manufacturers ahead of Brexit helped the UK economy grow by 0.3% in the three months to February.

The Office for National Statistics pointed to manufacturers “changing the timing of their activities” as the UK’s exit from the EU approaches.

Although growth was stronger than the 0.2% many economists forecast, Rob Kent-Smith, head of GDP at the ONS, said growth “remained modest”.

On a monthly measure, the economy grew by 0.2%, faster than the 0% forecast.

The 0.3% rise in the three months to February, was the same as the three months to January, after previous estimate was revised higher.

“Services again drove the economy, with a continued strong performance in IT. Manufacturing also continued to recover after weakness at the end of last year with the often-erratic pharmaceutical industry, chemicals and alcohol performing well in recent months,” said Mr Kent-Smith.

chart

Output in production and manufacturing rose for the second month in a row, with manufacturing at its highest level since April 2008, the ONS said.

The ONS said production industries expanded by 0.2% in the three months to February 2019. This was the first positive three-month growth since October 2018.

Impact of stockpiling

It said there had been external evidence “that some manufacturing businesses have changed the timing of their activity as we approached the original planned date for the UK’s departure from the European Union”.

“Although the ONS does not routinely collect detailed data on the reasons behind the behaviour of businesses, as part of our survey validation we have found some qualitative evidence that supported this view but were unable to quantify its impact,” it added.

The ONS pointed to a closely-watched survey by IHS Markit/CIPS which showed UK factories were stockpiling goods for Brexit.

Presentational grey line
UK economy grows faster than expected ahead of Brexit
Brexit: Cake factory would grind to halt without cream cheese

Lola’s Cupcakes is one company which decided it needed to build up stocks of essential items ahead of Brexit.

In its case, it was cream cheese.

Asher Budwig, managing director, said the company had identified the ingredient as one at risk from Brexit. Others might have been chocolate or butter.

There would be “no cheese cakes, no decorations on cupcakes” if ferries stopped getting through ports, he told BBC.

The company bought £35,000 of stock – that does not include storage costs – through its supplier which obtains the product from Germany.

“They [the supplier] spoke to the factory in Germany, they produced a lot more, ten times what we would normally go through in a given week,” he said.

“It’s being held down in Somerset,” he said.

Presentational grey line

Month-on-month growth in the industrial production sector was 0.6% in February, with manufacturing increasing 0.9%, the ONS said.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the activity in this sector was the main reason the economy had grown more quickly than expected.

He said this might be “due to a temporary boost to production which will unwind” in the second quarter of the year.

Construction output also rose faster than expected, perhaps because of the warmer than usual weather in February, he added.

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, also highlighted these areas as the main surprises in the data.

Rate rises

But she said: “Growth does not appear to have been significantly boosted by stockpiling ahead of Brexit.”

Instead, she said that while businesses have been stockpiling it is because they have been importing more. Imports rose by 5.3% in the three months to February while exports rose just 0.8%, according to the ONS.

She said: “Admittedly, the Brexit chaos may have sapped the economy of its momentum in March, as that is when the Brexit uncertainty has been greatest.

“All told, though, the solid growth rate in the three months to February should ease immediate fears of the economy stalling or contracting in the first quarter and provides support to our view that the economy is well placed to cope with whatever Brexit throws up next,” she said.

Mr Tombs said he was revising up his forecast for growth in the first quarter to 0.4% from 0.3%, which indicates annual growth of between 1.8% and 2%. This could point to a rate rise from the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

“So the data, together with strong wage growth, put renewed pressure on the MPC to follow through on its commitment to an ‘ongoing tightening of monetary policy’, despite continued Brexit uncertainty,” he said.

Fiat to pool with Tesla to avoid EU fines’

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Tesla have drawn up a plan to avoid the former having to pay fines for violating EU emissions rules, the FT has reported.

The paper says that under the deal the cars of electric automaker Tesla will be counted as part of the FCA fleet.

It will let the Italian carmaker offset carbon dioxide emissions from its cars against Tesla’s, by bringing down its average figure to a permissible level.

FCA said it would “optimise the options for compliance the regulations offer”.

The carmaker continued: “FCA is committed to reducing the emissions of all our products… the purchase pool provides flexibility to deliver products our customers are willing to buy while managing compliance with the lowest cost approach.”

There is no indication of the specific amount that FCA has agreed to pay Tesla.

Last year FCA, which has been lagging behind rivals in the manufacture of electric vehicles, said it planned to spend €9bn (£7.75bn; $10.1bn) over four years to develop electric cars which complied with global emissions standards.

Under EU rules, carmakers can join with rival companies to form so-called open pools but none have done so until now.

FCA applied to form an emissions pool with Tesla, and also Alfa Romeo, in February.

Toyota and Mazda have also applied to the EU to form an emissions pool, as have Citroen, Peugeot, and Opel.

The MCAS system explained

Ethiopian Airlines crash: Boeing reduces 737 production

Boeing is temporarily cutting production of its best-selling 737 airliner in the continuing fall-out from crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Production will drop from 52 planes a month to 42 from mid-April, Boeing has said in a statement.

The decision is a response to a halt in deliveries of the 737 Max – the model involved in the two accidents.

The plane is currently grounded as preliminary findings suggest its anti-stall system was at fault.

An Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crashed only minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa in March, killing all 157 people on board.

The same type flown by the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed into the sea only five months earlier, shortly after taking off from Jakarta. That accident claimed the lives of 189 people.

In both cases, preliminary findings showed the pilots had wrestled with the anti-stall system, known as MCAS, which caused the planes to nose-dive repeatedly.

A report from the Ethiopian authorities issued on Thursday said the pilots of flight ET302 “repeatedly” followed procedures recommended by Boeing before the crash.

What did the Boeing the statement say?

“We now know that the recent Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft’s MCAS function. We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it,” the statement from Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said.

He repeated that Boeing was making progress on updating the MCAS software and finalising new training for Max pilots.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, 4 April 2019
The Boeing CEO promises to fix the problem

“As we continue to work through these steps, we’re adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in Max deliveries, allowing us to prioritise additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the Max to flight,” he said.

Current employment levels would be maintained, the statement said, and a new committee is being set up to look at “policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes we build”.

What difficulties has Boeing faced?

The 10 March crash of Ethiopian Airlines ET302 led to airlines round the world grounding their 737 Max aircraft.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was one of the last major regulators to order the grounding of the Max, leading some to accuse it of being too close to Boeing.

Questions are being asked about why the planes were not grounded earlier.

Deliveries of the Max were halted, leading to an excess of the planes needing storage.

After the statement, Boeing shares fell just over 1% in after-hours trading to $387.14 (£333).

How have victims reacted?

Boeing apologised on Thursday saying it was “sorry for the lives lost” in both accidents. But this has failed to satisfy many relatives who questioned why Boeing did not act earlier to take the planes out of service.

The chief pilot’s father, Dr Getachew Tessema, told the BBC the apology was “too little, too late”.

Dr Getachew Tessema, the father of the pilot of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max, Captain Yared Getachew, speaks to the BBC, 5 April 2019
Dr Tessema blames Boeing

Yared Getachew, 29, had more than 8,000 hours of flying experience when he was killed.

“I am very proud about my son and the other pilot, both of them,” he told the BBC’s Emmanuel .

“To the last minute they struggled as much as they could but unfortunately they were not able to stop it.

“I don’t regret that he was a pilot. He died in the course of his duty.”

Dr Tessema levels the blame squarely at Boeing, questioning why the company did not stop the 737 Max flying after the Indonesia crash.

“Why did they let them fly? Because they were in competition. They want to sell more. Human life has no meaning in some societies.”

Relatives of an American passenger who died in the Ethiopian crash, 24-year-old Samya Stumo, filed the first lawsuit against Boeing on Thursday in Chicago.

MCAS graphic

Donald Trump urges US Fed to cut interest rates

Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on the US Federal Reserve by calling for the central bank to cut interest rates.

The US President claimed that the Fed has “really slowed us down” in terms of economic growth, adding that “there’s no inflation”.

Mr Trump made the comments as data showed a sharp rebound in new jobs growth during March.

US firms added 196,000 jobs last month, compared to 33,000 in February.

Mr Trump said: “I think they should drop rates and get rid of quantitative tightening. You would see a rocket ship.”

The Fed has raised interest rates four times since Jerome Powell took over as chairman in February last year.

Mr Powell was appointed by Mr Trump but the president has frequently criticised the Fed chairman for increasing rates.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Mr Trump told Mr Powell in a recent phone call: “I guess I’m stuck with you.”

Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve
US President Donald Trump appointed Jerome Powell as chairman of the Federal Reserve

The Fed had been forecast to raise interest rates a further two times this year. However, it has since said it is now taking a “patient approach” to interest rates.

Last month, it indicated that it did not expect to raise interest rates for the rest of 2019.

amid slower economic growth.

Mr Trump said earlier this week that he would nominate the former boss of Godfather’s Pizza to the Fed’s board of governors.

Herman Cain, 73, ran to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and is a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Along with Mr Cain, Mr Trump also intends to nominate Stephen Moore, who advised the president during his election campaign, to join the Fed’s board of governors.


The politicisation of the Fed

By New York business correspondent, Michelle Fleury

With his picks of Herman Cain and Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, Donald Trump appears to be politicising America’s central bank.

Their candidacy marks a shift from the president’s first few nominees to America’s central bank. They were more traditional candidates and were more or less greeted with bipartisan approval.

By contrast, Cain and Moore appear to have been picked less for their experience and more for their loyalty to the President and have therefore provoked a great deal of political criticism.

Donald Trump has been openly critical of recent Fed policy, heckling Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Twitter.

The President favours lower interest rates and switching from quantitative tightening to quantitative easing.

Economist Stephen Moore has been openly critical of the Fed. While Herman Cain, the former boss of Godfather’s Pizza and who has worked at the Kansas City Federal Reserve has often stated his anachronistic view that the US should return to the gold standard.

If their nominations go through, they would be in a position to promote his view that the economy can grow much faster without overheating.

For investors, it would raise fears about the independence of America’s central bank.


While new jobs figures for March beat forecasts – analysts had been expecting growth of between 170,000 and 180,000 roles – earnings data showed that the annual rate of wage increases slowed to 3.2% in March, down from 3.4% in February.

Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “Overall, these data won’t change anyone’s mind about whether the Fed ultimately will have to hike this year.

“The payroll gain is welcome but one month does not prove that the trend remains close to 200,000, and doves will point to the modest average hourly earnings gain as evidence that the Fed’s ‘patient’ stance is justified.”

Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, said it was a “mixed report” with highlights including an upwards revision to the 20,000 new jobs initially reported in February.

But he said: “The average hourly earnings was a big disappointment.”

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate remained at 3.8% for a second month.

The healthcare sector saw jobs rise, but the retail and manufacturing sectors both saw declines.

Some 6,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing, the first decline in the sector since July 2017.

Car companies have been cutting thousands of jobs, including General Motors which is cutting about 14,000 workers.

Jeff Bezos: World’s richest man agrees $35bn divorce

The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his wife MacKenzie have agreed a record-breaking divorce settlement of at least $35bn (£27bn).

Ms Bezos keeps a 4% stake in the online retail giant, worth $35.6bn on its own.

Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in Seattle in 1994, a year after the couple married, and Ms Bezos was one of its first employees.

Both parties tweeted positive comments about the other in the wake of the announced settlement.

The two did not provide any further financial details about the settlement.

The Amazon shares alone will make Ms Bezos the world’s third-richest woman while Jeff will remain the world’s richest person, according to Forbes.

Jeff Bezos, 55, and MacKenzie, 48, a novelist, married in 1993 and have four children.

Ms Bezos’ tweet is her first and only one since joining the microblogging website this month. In it she stated that she was “grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage to Jeff with support from each other”.

Mr Bezos tweeted: “I’m so grateful to all my friends and family for reaching out with encouragement and love… MacKenzie most of all.”

The tweet concluded with: “She is resourceful and brilliant and loving, and as our futures unroll, I know I’ll always be learning from her.”

Prior to the settlement, Mr Bezos held a 16.3% stake in Amazon. He will retain 75% of that holding but Ms Bezos has transferred all of her voting rights to her former husband.

She will also give up her interests in the Washington Post newspaper and Mr Bezos’ space travel firm Blue Origin.

Amazon is now vast online retail business. Last year, it generated sales of $232.8bn and it has helped Mr Bezos and his family amass a fortune of $131bn, according to Forbes magazine.

Ms Bezos is a successful novelist who has written two books, The Testing of Luther Albright and Traps. She was taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison at Princeton University, who once said of her pupil that she was “one of the best students I’ve ever had in my creative-writing classes… really one of the best”.

Mr Bezos is reportedly in a relationship with former Fox TV host Lauren Sánchez.

After Mr Bezos and his wife announced in January that they would part, a US tabloid magazine published details, including private messages, of an extramarital affair with Ms Sánchez.

Mr Bezos has accused the publisher of the magazine, American Media Incorporated, of blackmail. The publisher denies the claim.

The divorce deal dwarfs a previous $3.8bn record set in 1999 by art dealer Alec Wildenstein and his wife Jocelyn, who became well-known for her cosmetic surgery.

Former Barclays traders Carlo Palombo and Colin Bermingham have been convicted of Euribor rate-rigging

Former Barclays traders jailed over Euribor rate-rigging

Two traders have been jailed after being convicted of conspiring to rig the Euribor global interest rate.

Colin Bermingham, 62, and Carlo Palombo, 40, both former Barclays traders, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud.

Mr Bermingham received a five year jail term, while Mr Palombo was jailed for four years.

Another trader, Sisse Bohart, has been acquitted.

The sentences bring to an end the biggest trial so far for rigging interest rates – in this case the Euribor benchmark used to fix the interest rates of millions of euro-denominated loans.

Lisa Osofsky, director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “These men deliberately undermined the integrity of the financial system to line their pockets and advance the interests of their employers.

“We are committed to tracking down and bringing to justice those who defraud others and abuse the system.”

Euribor is a key euro benchmark borrowing rate, underpinning about $180tn of financial products, and the accuracy of the rate is important to maintaining trust in the financial system.

Every day, one trader at each bank would estimate the interest rate he or she thought the bank would have to pay to borrow cash from other banks, based on the rates banks were paying that morning.

The estimates would be submitted to the European Banking Federation (EBF), based on current market transactions. Those submissions would then be averaged and a rate would be published.

In the 1990s and 2000s, traders routinely requested that the submissions be tweaked up or down by tiny amounts to suit their banks’ commercial interests. Banks typically had trading positions or investments that would benefit from higher or lower submissions.

The traders’ defence has been that this was normal commercial practice. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says it is corrupt.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Michael Gledhill echoed controversial remarks by Mr Justice Cooke, who presided over the first interest rate rigging trial in 2015 of former UBS trader Tom Hayes, saying he wanted “a message sent out to the world of banking”.

“Those convicted of manipulating interest rates will face substantial custodial sentences,” he said.

Mr Hayes was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which was reduced on appeal to 11 and a half years.

Judge Gledhill said it was difficult to understand why Mr Bermingham had become involved in conspiracy, because there was no personal gain to him from accepting requests from traders to put in higher or lower submissions.

But, he added: “Part of the answer lies in a desire to help Barclays prosper, and perhaps it is something to do with the desire to be respected by others. Whatever the reasons, you have been convicted of being knowingly and dishonestly involved in this conspiracy.”

A second trial

Mr Bermingham, Mr Palombo and Mr Bohart were tried a second time by the SFO, after a jury failed to reach a majority verdict in an earlier trial in 2017.

Ahead of that trial, Christian Bittar, a former Deutsche Bank trader, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud.

Another former Barclays trader, Philippe Moryoussef, attended earlier hearings but decided not to attend the trial, with his lawyer saying he could not be confident of a fair trial.

Former Barclays trader Philippe Moryoussef
Former Barclays trader Philippe Moryoussef, centre, was sentenced to eight years in jail in absentia

He was convicted in his absence and is now a fugitive from British justice.

Both Mr Palombo and Mr Bermingham were convicted by majority verdicts, with two jurors against a guilty verdict in both cases.

Carlo Palombo’s lawyer John Hartley said Mr Palombo and his family were devastated by the outcome.

“Mr Palombo started at Barclays as a junior trader and was taught by his management from an early stage about making requests of the submission desk,” said Mr Hartley in a statement.

“He gave evidence during the trial that this was an ordinary course of business at the bank and there was never an issue of any of his actions being dishonest at that time and that he had received no training on Euribor submissions. No senior members of management were on trial.”

In BBC Panorama programme “The Big Bank Fix” in 2017, the BBC revealed a secret recording which implicated the Bank of England in a practice called “lowballing”.

Lowballing occurred during the 2008 financial crisis, when banks artificially lowered their estimates for Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) – the dollar and sterling equivalent of Euribor.

In a statement to the BBC, the Bank of England said Libor was unregulated at the time.

At the 2016 trials, the SFO said it was investigating lowballing. However, after years of investigation, no prosecution has been mounted.

Libor submissions defence

Mr Hayes’s case is now with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) amid growing doubts about the safety of his conviction. The evidence against him also consisted of “trader requests” to put in higher or lower libor submissions.

Former UBS trader Tom Hayes
Former UBS trader Tom Hayes was jailed in 2015 for allegely rigging Libor

His defence in 2015 was that there were a range of potential submissions, based on the slightly differing interest rates banks were paying to borrow money on any given morning.

Requests to raise or lower it within that range were legitimate, his lawyers argued. Prosecutors dismissed the notion of a range.

However, in 2017, at the trial of Barclays traders for rigging rates, John Ewan, the former Libor manager at the British Bankers Association, agreed requests for higher or lower submissions within a range could be acceptable. The two defendants in that trial, Ryan Reich and Stelios Contogoulas, were acquitted.

The trial of Palombo and Bermingham heard similar evidence from Helmut Konrad, a retired banker who helped set up Euribor in 1999, who told the court in 2018 it was “okay” for banks to submit a rate from a number of options that were equally good, even if one rate would be more profitable for the bank.

At this year’s trial, he told the court “as long as we’re talking about the range of permissible rates, it’s fine”.

Mr Hartley said Mr Palombo was considering an appeal.

Ethiopian Airlines crash: ‘Pitch up, pitch up!’

Details have begun to emerge of the final moments of an Ethiopian Airlines flight which crashed three weeks ago.

An anti-stalling system on the plane, a Boeing 737 Max, has been blamed for the disaster which killed all 157 people on board.

Soon after take-off – and just 450ft (137m) above the ground – the aircraft’s nose began to pitch down.

One pilot, according to the Wall Street Journal, said to the other “pitch up, pitch up!” before their radio died.

The plane crashed only six minutes into its flight.

‘Catastrophic failure’

The Wall Street Journal – which says it’s spoken to people close to the ongoing investigation – says the information it has “paints a picture of a catastrophic failure that quickly overwhelmed the flight crew”.

Leaks this week from the crash investigation in Ethiopia and in the US suggest an automatic anti-stall system was activated at the time of the disaster.

The Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight-control feature was also implicated in a fatal crash involving a Lion Air flight in Indonesia last October.

The Boeing 737 Max went down shortly after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

A woman lies on the coffin during a memorial service for the Ethiopian passengers and crew who perished in the Ethiopian Airways crash
All 157 passengers and crew on board were killed during the crash earlier this month

An investigation of the Lion Air flight suggested the anti-stall system malfunctioned, and forced the plane’s nose down more than 20 times before it crashed into the sea.

The Ethiopian authorities have already said there are “clear similarities” between the Lion Air incident and the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The airline and authorities have refused to comment on leaks from the investigation.

Concerns about the Boeing 737 Max have led to a worldwide grounding of the plane.

System update

Boeing has redesigned the software so that it will disable MCAS if it receives conflicting data from its sensors.

As part of the upgrade, Boeing will install an extra warning system on all 737 Max aircraft, which was previously an optional safety feature.

Neither of the two planes that were involved in the fatal crashes carried the alert systems, which are designed to warn pilots when sensors produce contradictory readings.

The aircraft update is designed to ensure the MCAS will no longer repeatedly make corrections when a pilot tries to regain control.

Boeing is also revising pilot training to provide “enhanced understanding of the 737 MAX” flight system and crew procedures.

Red cross team work amid debris at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines
Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the accident, which took place just minutes after the plane took off from Bole Aiport in Ethiopia

Earlier this week, Boeing said that the upgrades were not an admission that the system had caused the crashes.

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the accidents, but a preliminary report from Ethiopian authorities is expected within days.

Boeing has tried to restore its battered reputation, while continuing to insist the 737 Max is safe.

Lyft valued at $24bn ahead of share market debut

Shares in taxi-hailing firm Lyft have been priced at $72 amid strong demand, valuing the firm at $24.3bn (£18.6bn).

That makes it the largest company to go public since China’s Alibaba in 2014. Lyft’s shares will start trading on the tech-dominated Nasdaq index on Friday.

The flotation values the combined stake of founders Logan Green and John Zimmer at $1bn. Drivers will be given $1,000, to be taken as cash or shares.

Lyft’s main rival, Uber, is expected to sell its shares publicly this year.

Technology-based firms Pinterest, Slack, and Postmates, are also scheduled to make their market debuts this year.

Earlier in the week, Lyft increased the indicative price range for its share offer to $70-$72 a share, up from $62-$68 previously.

Presentational grey line

Analysis:

By Emmanuel justice, correspondent

Lyft’s stock sale is a big moment for the tech industry.

Shares in the ride-hailing company were priced at $72 a piece. This was at the high end of expectations. It suggests a strong appetite from investors ahead of the company’s first day of trading as a public company.

For a firm that is not yet profitable, it provides validation of its business model, one that has established it as the number two player in the US.

Wall Street is clearly eager to take part in the massive growth in the ride-sharing industry. That bodes well for Lyft’s rival, Uber, which looks set to make its debut soon on the New York Stock Exchange.

But there are risks, including regulatory uncertainty as well as the fierce competition likely to emerge as the autonomous vehicle market develops.

And given its dual-class share structure (Lyft is keeping voting control), investors are buying a little piece of a company in which they will have almost no say.

Presentational grey line
Logan Green
Logan Green – who co-founded Lyft with John Zimmer

Lyft was launched in 2012 by technology entrepreneurs Mr Zimmer and Mr Green, three years after Uber was founded.

It remains the smaller company, with a limited international presence. Uber is expected to be valued at about $120bn when it goes public.

However, Lyft’s profile has risen over the last few years, as its larger rival has been hit by controversy surrounding its aggressive corporate culture and data collection practices.

Lyft now accounts for about 39% of the ride-share market in the US, up from about 22% in 2016, the company says.

Its revenues doubled in 2018 to reach $2.2bn, compared with $1.1bn in 2017, according to its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, its losses also increased. The company lost $911m in 2018, up from $688m in 2017.

Iceland’s Wow airline stops flying

Iceland’s Wow airline has stopped flights and says passengers needing to travel should book with other airlines.

Its website says: “Wow Air has ceased operation. All Wow Air flights have been cancelled.”

The carrier, which had been in funding talks with investors, flew from London Stansted and Gatwick in the UK.

It said some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, and it would publish information on those when it becomes available.

Wow said passengers covered by various protected booking methods, including booking by credit card or through a European travel agent, should try to get their money back from them.

Otherwise it says they could be entitled to some compensation from Wow, “including in accordance with European regulation on Air Passenger Rights”, or, in case of a bankruptcy, claims should be filed to the administrator or liquidator.

Wow was founded in 2011 by chief executive, Skuli Mogensen. It started flights in 2012 and grew to employ 1,000 people, carrying 3.5 million passengers last year in its 11 aircraft.

Founder of Wow Air and chief executive Skuli Mogensen with cabin crew
Founder of Wow Air and chief executive Skuli Mogensen with cabin crew

It operated both short and long haul routes, flying to Copenhagen and Alicante in Europe and Washington and Boston in the US.

A number of airlines have run into financial trouble recently.

Earlier this year, Germany’s Germania filed for bankruptcy Low-cost carrier Norwegian underwent a major fund raising, blaming rising fuel prices and currency fluctuations for its troubles.

The UK’s struggling Flybe was taken over earlier this month, for just one penny a share.

Even giant budget airline Ryanair reported its first quarterly loss since March 2014 last month.

Defunct airline timeline

Have you been affected by these cancellations? Get in touch by emailing

Debris from Ethiopian Airlines flight 302

Boeing announces fixes for its 737 Max aircraft

Boeing has issued changes to controversial control systems linked to two fatal crashes of its 737 Max planes in the last five months.

But it’s still not certain when the planes, that were grounded worldwide this month, will be allowed to fly.

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the accidents.

As part of the upgrade, Boeing will install as a standard a warning system, which was previously an optional safety feature.

Neither of the planes, operated by Lion Air in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines, that were involved in the fatal crashes, carried the alert systems, designed to warn pilots when sensors produce contradictory readings.

Boeing said in future airlines would no longer be charged extra for that safety system to be installed.

Upgrade

The plane-maker has also issued an upgrade to the software that has been linked to the crashes.

The Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), designed to keep the plane from stalling, reacts to sensors which detect whether the jet is climbing at too steep an angle.

But an investigation of the Lion Air flight last year suggested the system malfunctioned, and forced the plane’s nose down more than 20 times before it crashed into the sea killing all 189 passengers and crew.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says there are similarities between that crash and the Ethiopian accident on 10 March.

Boeing has redesigned the software so that it will disable MCAS if it receives conflicting data from its sensors.

In a briefing to reporters Boeing said that the upgrades were not an admission that the system had caused the crashes.

Oversight

The FAA itself also came under scrutiny on Wednesday.

At a Senate hearing to discuss airline safety, senators questioned the FAA’s acting head Daniel Elwell about the regulator’s practice that involves employees of a plane manufacturer in the process of inspecting, testing and certifying the company’s own aircraft.

The practice was described by one senator, Richard Blumenthal, as leaving “the fox guarding the henhouse”.

Mr Elwell denied that it was “self-certification” arguing that the FAA “retains strict oversight authority” of the process. He said that the practice was used “globally” including by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Mr Elwell added that if the FAA were unable to delegate these tasks to planemakers, it would have to recruit 10,000 more employees, costing the regulator an additional $1.8bn.

Mourners attend a mass funeral for victims of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines flight
Mourners attend a mass funeral for victims of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines flight

The FAA was also criticised for being the last safety regulator to ground the Boeing aircraft following the Ethiopian Airline crash on 10 March.

Calvin Scovel, inspector general of the Department of Transportation, who also appeared before Congress, said: “Other safety regulators around the world decided in their role as safety regulators, they needed to drive risk to zero and they did that by grounding the aircraft.”

However, Mr Elwell said the FAA wanted to wait until they received relevant information before they made a decision.

“We may have been the last country to ground the aircraft, but the United States and Canada were the first countries to ground the aircraft with data for cause and purpose,” he said.

Mr Elwell said that he was “confident” in the MCAS system and that pilots were trained in how to deal with a situation where a plane drops suddenly.

However, when asked about how he would have handled a plane that dropped 21 times in a matter minutes as the Lion Air flight in Indonesia did before it crashed last October, Mr Elwell, a trained pilot, said: “I’d have to get back to you on the specific.”

Timetable

Earlier, announcing the package of cockpit upgrades, Boeing said a final version of the software would be submitted to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) by the end of the week.

But it added that airlines would have to install the new software, give feedback on its performance, and train pilots before the changes could be certified and the planes passed safe to fly again.

Artists impression of a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane
There is no timetable for the Boeing 737 Max plane to return to operations

A joint investigation by the US National Transportation Safety Board, France’s aviation investigative authority BEA and Ethiopia’s Transport Ministry is expected to release a preliminary report into the Ethiopian crash this week.

A Boeing official said: “Following the first incident in Indonesia we followed the results of the independent authorities looking at the data, and, as we are always looking to ways to improve, where we find ways to improve, we make those changes to make those improvements.”

Road safety: UK set to adopt vehicle speed limiters

Speed limiting technology looks set to become mandatory for all vehicles sold in Europe from 2022, after new rules were provisionally agreed by the EU.

The Department for Transport said the system would also apply in the UK, despite Brexit.

Campaigners welcomed the move, saying it would save thousands of lives.

Road safety charity Brake called it a “landmark day”, but the AA said “a little speed” helped with overtaking or joining motorways.

Safety measures approved by the European Commission included intelligent speed assistance (ISA), advanced emergency braking and lane-keeping technology.

The EU says the plan could help avoid 140,000 serious injuries by 2038 and aims ultimately to cut road deaths to zero by 2050.

EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said: “Every year, 25,000 people lose their lives on our roads. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error.

“With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when safety belts were first introduced.”

What is speed limiting technology and how does it work?

Under the ISA system, cars receive information via GPS and a digital map, telling the vehicle what the speed limit is.

This can be combined with a video camera capable of recognising road signs.

The system can be overridden temporarily. If a car is overtaking a lorry on a motorway and enters a lower speed-limit area, the driver can push down hard on the accelerator to complete the manoeuvre.

The car will not brake automatically when the speed limit is reduced, but will give the driver a visual warning instead. It is the driver’s responsibility to obey the warning.

How soon will it become available?

It’s already coming into use. Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot-Citroen, Renault and Volvo already have models available with some of the ISA technology fitted.

However, BBC business correspondent Theo Leggett says there is concern over whether current technology is sufficiently advanced for the system to work effectively.

In particular, many cars already have a forward-facing camera, but there is a question mark over whether the sign-recognition technology is up to scratch.

Other approved safety features for European cars, vans, trucks and buses include technology which provides a warning of driver drowsiness and distraction, such as when using a smartphone while driving, and a data recorder in case of an accident.

The new measures also include improvements to the direct vision of bus and truck drivers and the removal of blind spots.

How has the idea been received?

The move was welcomed by the European Transport Safety Council, an independent body which advises Brussels on transport safety matters.

But it said it could be several months before the European Parliament and Council formally approve the measures.

UK statistics show more than 1,700 people are killed on UK roads every year, while Brake says speed is a contributory factor in about a quarter of all fatal crashes.

Brake’s campaigns director, Joshua Harris, said: “This is a landmark day for road safety.

“These measures will provide the biggest leap forward for road safety this century.”

The UK’s Department for Transport said: “We continuously work with partners across the globe to improve the safety standards of all vehicles. These interventions are expected to deliver a step-change in road safety across Europe, including the UK.”

What do critics say?

The AA thinks the system might have the unintended consequence of making drivers more reckless, not less.

AA president Edmund King said there was no doubt that new in-car technology could save lives, adding there was “a good case” for autonomous emergency braking to be fitted in all cars.

“When it comes to intelligent speed adaptation, the case is not so clear,” he said. “The best speed limiter is the driver’s right foot.

“The right speed is often below the speed limit – for example, outside a school with children about – but with ISA, there may be a temptation to go at the top speed allowed.”

Mr King added: “Dodgem cars are all fitted with speed limiters, but they still seem to crash.”

Airbus secures multi-billion dollar jet order from China

Airbus has secured an order from China for 300 jets, in a deal estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars.

An agreement to purchase A320 and A350 XWB aircraft was signed during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Paris.

The order is part of a package of deals signed during Mr Xi’s visit to Europe.

It comes as rival Boeing has grounded all of its 737 Max jets after two fatal crashes.

Airbus said in a statement it signed an agreement with China Aviation Supplies Holding Company covering the purchase by Chinese airlines of Airbus aircraft including 290 A320 planes, and ten A350 XWB jets.

The deal is worth an estimated 30bn euros ($34bn; £26bn), according to reports.

“We are honoured to support the growth of China’s civil aviation with our leading aircraft families – single-aisle and wide-bodies,” Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Guillaume Faury said in a statement.

Mr Faury is due to become Airbus’s new chief executive in April.

“Our expanding footprint in China demonstrate our lasting confidence in the Chinese market and our long-term commitment to China and our partners.”

The deal will likely be a blow for Boeing, under pressure after two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max 8 jets in five months.

Many countries banned the aircraft from their airspace after an Ethiopian Airlines crash earlier this month. Boeing later grounded its 737 Max fleet as investigations into the cause of the disaster continue.

Mr Xi kicked off his European tour last week in Italy, where it became the first developed economy to sign up to China’s global Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron

But other European countries and the United States have expressed concern at China’s growing influence.

BA flight lands in Edinburgh instead of Düsseldorf by mistake

A British Airways flight destined for Düsseldorf in Germany has landed in Edinburgh by mistake, after the flight paperwork was submitted incorrectly.

The passengers only realised the error when the plane landed and the “welcome to Edinburgh” announcement was made.

The plane, which started at London’s City Airport, was then redirected and landed in Düsseldorf. WDL Aviation ran the BA flight through a leasing deal.

BA said it was working with WDL to find out why it filed the wrong flight plan.

“We have apologised to customers for this interruption to their journey and will be contacting them all individually,” BA said in a statement.

BA flight route map

On its final flight on Sunday, the plane flew to Edinburgh and back so it seems that someone at WDL mistakenly repeated the same flight plan for the next day, according to BA.

When the crew arrived at London City airport on Monday it is thought that they saw Edinburgh on the flight plan from the day before and followed the old flight route.

German firm WDL said it was “working closely with the authorities to investigate how the obviously unfortunate mix-up of flight schedules could occur”.

“At no time has the safety of passengers been compromised. We flew the passengers on the flight with number BA3271 to Düsseldorf after the involuntary stopover in Edinburgh,” it said.

BA declined to say how many passengers were affected by the mistake.

Presentational grey line

‘The toilets were blocked’

Sophie Cooke, a 24-year-old management consultant, travels from London to Düsseldorf each week for work.

She said when the pilot first made the announcement that the plane was about to land in Edinburgh everyone assumed it was a joke. She asked the cabin crew if they were serious.

The pilot then asked passengers to raise their hands if they wanted to go to Düsseldorf.

Everyone raised their hands.

“The pilot said he had no idea how it had happened. He said it had never happened before and that the crew was trying to work out what we could do.”

Sophie said the plane sat on the tarmac at Edinburgh for two-and-a-half hours, before flying onto Düsseldorf.

“It became very frustrating. The toilets were blocked and they ran out of snacks. It was also really stuffy,” she said.

It is hugely unusual for passengers to board a flight and then arrive at the wrong destination – and it presents lots of uncomfortable questions about procedure and standards.

The flight was operated by a German aviation business on behalf of BA. Do they follow the same operational protocols that BA passengers would expect?

Why wasn’t a passenger announcement made before take-off saying “the weather in Edinburgh is fine and the flight will last one hour”. If it had, they could have saved a lot of complication.

For the passengers involved, will they get compensation for the delay? And ultimately – what does this do for trust in BA that such a mistake can be made?

Presentational grey line

Passengers complained about the error on Twitter, with one person called Son Tran saying it felt “like an honest mistake”.

BA responded saying it did not “currently have any information” as to why the flight had gone to the wrong place.

The airline said its customer service team in Düsseldorf had met all the passengers on arrival and would follow up with them “in due course”.


Were you on the flight? Tell us about your experiences by emailing, bbcnewslight@mail.com