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China hires Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs to advise on pipeline asset transfers: sources

HONG KONG/BEIJING (REUTERS) – Top Chinese energy firms have mandated investment banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to act as advisers for multi-billion dollar deals transferring oil and gas pipeline assets into a national energy infrastructure giant, four sources said.

Overseen by a government vice premier, underlining the project’s importance for Beijing, Beijing aims to complete the asset transfers and start operation of the new entity – valued by industry analysts at more than $40 billion – by the end of September, oil industry officials said.

“The timetable is a moving target but the goal was to complete the (asset) merger by end of July,” one person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

China announced in late 2019 that it would establish a National Oil and Gas Pipeline Company by combining pipelines, storage facilities and natural gas receiving terminals operated by China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

The new entity – also known as PipeChina – was conceived by Beijing to provide oil and gas producers neutral access to energy infrastructure, and in so doing boost non-state investment in exploration of oil and gas.

Morgan Stanley has been selected to advise Sinopec, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Goldman Sachs was selected for CNPC, two separate sources said.

It was not immediately clear if CNOOC had appointed an international adviser.

For the new pipeline group itself, China International Capital Corporation, or CICC, has been appointed as adviser, three separate sources said.

All of the people interviewed by Reuters requested anonymity because the matter was not public.

Sinopec declined to comment. PetroChina and CNOOC did not immediately comment.

On the banks side, Morgan Stanley declined to comment, as did Goldman and CICC.

According to some industry insiders, the transfer of some of the assets, such as the Shaanxi-Beijing gas trunk line project and natural gas receiving terminals that involve joint venture partners and minority stakeholders, may take longer to complete.

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CoreLogic rejects $7 billion takeover bid from investment firms

(Reuters) – Property data and analytics company CoreLogic rejected an unsolicited $7 billion takeover offer from two investment firms on Tuesday, saying it expected to earn more this year and would buy back more of its stock.

A consortium of Cannae Holdings Inc and Senator Investment Group last month proposed to buy the company for $65 per share. CoreLogic shares ended trading on Tuesday at $68.67.

“Given CoreLogic’s strong momentum, increasing margins, accelerating growth, and multi-faceted value-creation model, we are unanimous in our belief that CoreLogic will be able to deliver significantly more value to shareholders than this opportunistic proposal,” CoreLogic chairman Paul Folino said.

CoreLogic noted that Cannae and Senator purchased some shares for more than $68, calling it a sign the investment firms know it is worth more.

CoreLogic raised its full-year 2020 revenue forecast to between $1.84 billion and $1.88 billion from between $1.69 billion and $1.73 billion. Analysts on average expected revenue of $1.73 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The new financial guidance reflected market share gains and major new business wins as well as the latest estimates of housing market activity, the company said.

CoreLogic said it had boosted its share repurchase authorization to $1 billion. It also said it adopted a short-term shareholder rights plan which, if implemented, would prevent investors from acquiring 10% or more of its common stock, or 20% in the case of certain passive investors.

Cannae and Senator, which jointly hold an economic interest of roughly 15% in CoreLogic, said they would call a special meeting as early as July 28 to replace the company’s board if it did not engage in sale talks. CoreLogic said it was open to meeting with Cannae and Senator.

CoreLogic also said the acquisition offer raised “serious regulatory concerns” about overleaps with other companies in which Cannae chairman Bill Foley is involved.

Cannae and Senator said they were willing to provide a “hell or high water” commitment to take any action needed to secure regulatory approval.

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Brazil's Bolsonaro catches coronavirus, shrugs off health risks

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he tested positive for the novel coronavirus after months minimizing the severity of the pandemic and defying medical experts, even as the virus killed more than 65,000 people in his country.

The right-wing populist gave the news to reporters at his official residence standing just inches away from him, adding to criticism of his cavalier approach to the outbreak in Brazil, the world’s worst outside the United States.

Even as he announced his infection, the 65-year-old former army captain dismissed the dangers of the virus and credited unproven treatments for his mild symptoms, echoing his political role model U.S. President Donald Trump.

“If it weren’t for the test, I wouldn’t know the result. And it turned out positive,” he told the television cameras, adding he had started to feel sick on Sunday and grown worse on Monday, with a fever, muscle pains and exhaustion.

The president said he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19 that has been touted by Trump and some of his supporters and pro-government factions in Brazil as a potential cure.

Finishing the interview with three TV channels, Bolsonaro stepped back and removed his mask to reveal a smile, adding: “You can see from my face that I’m well and I’m calm.”

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Bolsonaro, like Trump, has blasted experts at the World Health Organization and voiced skepticism about the virulence of the virus, although the U.S. president has moderated his tone.

The Brazilian leader repeated his claim on Tuesday that the risks of COVID-19 were exaggerated and most Brazilians did not need to worry: “Be assured that for you the chance of something more serious is close to zero.”

With more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil, Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis has drawn criticism from public health experts as he fought state and city efforts to impose social distancing, arguing that the economic damage would be worse than the disease itself.

He has fired two health ministers during the pandemic, both trained doctors, and replaced them with an active-duty army general on an interim basis.

Asked about Bolsonaro’s health, a White House spokeswoman said “we wish him well and a speedy recovery.”

Brazilian financial markets retreated after the news on Tuesday, with Brazil’s currency swinging into negative territory and its main stock index falling as much as 1.7%. BRBY .BVSP

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Bolsonaro joins a short list of government leaders infected with the coronavirus, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, both of whom were treated in hospitals and needed extra oxygen.

His positive test looks set to spark a frantic period of contact tracing and tests for those who met Bolsonaro in recent days, including Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, lender Banco Bradesco (BBDC4.SA) Chairman Luiz Carlos Trabuco and planemaker Embraer (EMBR3.SA) CEO Francisco Gomes Neto.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro was also in close contact with U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman during July 4 celebrations, and pictures showed neither wearing a mask. The U.S. embassy said Chapman had tested negative, but would remain in quarantine.

After his diagnosis, Bolsonaro said he would keep working via videoconference and “rarely receive one person or another to sign a document.”

Pan American Health Organization director for communicable diseases Marcos Espinal wished Bolsonaro a “speedy recovery” but said his infection carried a message.

“The message is that this virus is unpredictable and does not respect race, class or people in power, despite security around any president,” Espinal said. “For Brazil, the infection of its president should reinforce the need to strengthen implementations of social distancing recommendations and the use of masks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.”

Bolsonaro has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

In March, he suggested in a televised national address that he was not concerned by the idea of contracting the coronavirus.

“With my history as an athlete, if I were infected by the virus, I would not have to worry. I would feel nothing or, at most, it would be a little flu or a little cold,” he said.

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Eric Joyce: Former Labour MP admits making indecent photo of child

Former Labour MP Eric Joyce has pleaded guilty to making an indecent photograph of a child.

The 59-year-old former shadow minister, who was MP in Falkirk, Scotland, between 2000 and 2015, has been ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

Joyce, of Worlingworth, Suffolk, admitted making an indecent photograph of a child between 7 August 2013 and 6 November 2018 at a pre-trial hearing at Ipswich Crown Court.

Judge Emma Peters said the single 51-second video, found on a device, “depicts a number of children”.

“Some are quite young, one is said to be 12 months old,” she said.

“Clearly a category-A movie.”

Joyce, who was a Labour MP for 12 years and an independent for his final three, was granted bail and the judge instructed that a report be prepared before he is sentenced on 7 August.

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U.S. envoy arrives in S.Korea as North Korea rejects talks

SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. envoy arrived in South Korea on Tuesday in an effort to renew stalled nuclear talks with North Korea, hours after it issued a statement saying it has no intention of sitting down with the United States and told South Korea to “stop meddling”.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who has led working-level talks with the North Koreans, landed at a U.S. military base south of Seoul, media reported, and was due to meet South Korean officials on Wednesday and Thursday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kwon Jong Gun, director general for U.S. affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, accused South Korea of misinterpreting a North Korean statement dismissing an “untimely rumour” about another summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korea said on Saturday it did not feel the need for a new summit, days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had offered to mediate between Kim and Trump, suggested the two leaders meet again before the U.S. elections in November.

“It is just the time for (South Korea) to stop meddling in others’ affairs but it seems there is no cure or prescription for its bad habit,” Kwon said in a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency.

“Explicitly speaking once again, we have no intention to sit face to face with the United States.”

Trump and Kim met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear programme. But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and subsequent working-level negotiations fell apart.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Kwon’s statement reflected lingering inter-Korean tension and North Korea’s view that nuclear issues should be discussed only with the United States.

“It also suggested that North Koreans would ditch the past concept of negotiations where the South played a broker role, and won’t return to the table without major U.S. concessions,” Yang said.

Biegun said last week there was time for both sides to re-engage and “make substantial progress” but the novel coronavirus pandemic would make an in-person summit difficult before the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 3.

The coronavirus complicated Biegun’s visit in a more personal way as well.

A newspaper reported that because of the outbreak, the envoy would not be visiting a Korean chicken soup restaurant that has been a regular stop on previous visits, and instead had arranged for the dish to be prepared at the U.S. ambassador’s residence.

Last month, North Korea abruptly raised tensions with South Korea and blew up a joint liaison office, just on its side of the border, before just as suddenly suspending plans for unspecified military actions.

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Coronavirus: Up to a third of Britons ‘wouldn’t use a vaccine for COVID-19’

A third of Britons have said they are either unsure or definitely wouldn’t use a vaccine for coronavirus, a poll has found.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), coincides with the release of a report by the same group into the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation online.

The poll found that members of the public who relied on social media more than traditional platforms for information were less likely to say they would get vaccinated.

The survey spoke to 1,663 people in Britain, with 6% saying they definitely wouldn’t get vaccinated.

But a further 10% said they would “probably not” while another 15% said they did not know, taking the numbers of those who may not get vaccinated against the deadly disease up to almost a third of those surveyed.

A total of 69% were likely to use a vaccine after 38% said they “definitely” would and another 31% declared they “probably” would.

With scientists predicting that more than three-quarters of the population would need to be vaccinated in order to have success in suppressing coronavirus, the findings could represent a threat to the ability to contain COVID-19.

CCDH said its polling results come amid a dramatic rise in the popularity of anti-vaccine social media pages and channels, with 7.7 million more social media users following such accounts since the outbreak of coronavirus.

The research group’s poll was carried out by YouGov between 24 and 25 June

The UK lost its measles-free status last year due to experiencing a fall in the number of parents ensuring their children were vaccinated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time that the UK was “suddenly going in the wrong direction” and that “people have been listening to that superstitious mumbo jumbo on the internet, all that anti-vax stuff”.

In its new report, titled The Anti-Vax Industry, the CCDH suggests the total following for anti-vax advocates and groups online is up to 57 million across both the US and UK.

It analysed more than 400 anti-vax Facebook groups and pages, YouTube channels, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The study found they were publishing false conspiracy theories, including that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had created the coronavirus pandemic, that vaccines cause COVID-19, and that tests for the coronavirus vaccine had caused women to become infertile.

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Mandy Moore Responds to Ryan Adams’ Public Apology

Over a year ago, Mandy Moore (along with multiple other women) accused her ex-husband Ryan Adams of emotional abuse. So, in light of the singer-songwriter having now penned an apology for his “harmful behavior,” Moore is once again opening up — this time to share some of her feelings surrounding Adams’ public mea culpa.

Adams’ letter ran in the Daily Mail on Friday, claiming that he had reflected on his past behavior and realized how wrong it had been. “Having truly realized the harm that I’ve caused, it wrecked me, and I’m still reeling from the ripples of devastating effects that my actions triggered,” he wrote. “There is no way to convince people that this time is truly different, but this is the albatross that I deserve to carry with me as a result of my actions.” Adams revealed that he has sought professional help in holding him accountable for his “harmful behavior.”

On Monday, Moore reacted to her ex-husband’s essay on NBC News’ Today, telling Hoda Kotb, “It’s challenging because I feel like in many ways I’ve said all I want to say about him and that situation, but I find it curious that someone would make a public apology but not do it privately.”

She elaborated, “I am speaking for myself, but I have not heard from him, and I’m not looking for an apology necessarily, but I do find it curious that someone would do an interview about it without actually making amends privately.”

Last year, Moore was one of the multiple women who came forward with allegations against Adams. According to the This Is Us actress, his abusive behavior included being excessively controlling, obsessive and emotionally manipulative. “Music was a point of control for him,” she told the New York Times. “He would always tell me, ‘You’re not a real musician, because you don’t play an instrument.’”

Adams also reportedly discouraged Moore from working with other producers or managers so that he had complete control over her music career. He then used that leverage against her, often not recording the songs they wrote together or booking time in the studio with her only to re-book her spot with other female artists.

“His controlling behavior essentially did block my ability to make new connections in the industry during a very pivotal and potentially lucrative time — my entire mid-to-late 20s,” she said. The two were married for six years, ultimately divorcing in 2016. She has since gone on to make new music and remarry.

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Uber scoops up Postmates for $2.65 billion in 'everyday' delivery push

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc on Monday said it would acquire Postmates Inc for $2.65 billion to expand its food delivery market share and significantly increase the business of supplying everyday goods at a time when the coronavirus has pummeled its core ride-hailing service.

The all-stock deal, still subject to regulatory approval, would give Uber a roughly 30% share of the U.S. food delivery market, trailing only rival DoorDash, which commands some 45%, according to analytics firm Second Measure.

Uber said both companies’ boards have approved the deal, for which Uber currently expects to issue some 84 million shares of common stock. Uber offered a premium of about 10% on Postmates’ last valuation of $2.4 billion. Its shares were up 5% at $32.24.

Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi on Monday told analysts the tie-up would allow Uber Eats to distinguish itself by delivering not only restaurant food, but everything from groceries to personal care and fashion items.

Uber has launched an option to send packages via its U.S. ride-hail drivers during the pandemic and teamed up with grocery stores in several countries. The acquisition allows it to expand into Postmates’ existing network in 4,200 U.S. cities.

“The vision for us is to become an everyday service,” the Uber CEO said.

Khosrowshahi said he expects the deal to create profitability for the Uber’s Eats unit, as well as some $200 million in cost saving synergies in about two years and additional efficiency gains through Uber’s smarter routing technology.

The tie-up comes after a month of frenzied merger talks in the industry as millions of Americans were marooned at home by the coronavirus crisis. Companies have traditionally tried to gain market share with costly promotions and driver incentives.

Uber’s original plan to acquire U.S. food delivery rival GrubHub, which commands a 23% market share, faltered over regulatory and other concerns. GrubHub was snatched up by Takeaway.com NV on June 11.

Even with a pandemic-induced increase in demand, Uber Eats recorded a $313 million adjusted EBITDA loss in the first quarter. Uber on Monday said Eats bookings have more than doubled in the second quarter, but the company declined to provide additional financial details, including on Postmates.

Khosrowshahi said some 30% of Postmates’ orders come from subscribers, a reliable customer segment Uber aims to expand with its own subscription service.

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Uber scoops up Postmates for $2.65 billion in food delivery push

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc said on Monday it would buy Postmates Inc in a $2.65 billion deal, looking to expand its reach into the food-delivery market as the coronavirus crisis upends its core ride-hailing business.

The move is just weeks after Uber walked away from a deal to buy U.S. online food delivery company GrubHub , which would have given Uber’s money-losing restaurant delivery service a leg up on market leader DoorDash. European food-ordering firm Takeaway.com NV scooped in to buy GrubHub in a $7.3 billion deal.

Food delivery businesses have seen orders surge as millions of Americans were marooned at home by the coronavirus crisis. Traditionally capital intensive businesses, however, they have also kept commissions low to fend off increased competition in the space.

Uber, which has been under pressure as ride-hailing services across the globe plummets because of lockdowns, offered a premium of about 10% on Postmates’ last valuation of $2.4 billion. Uber’s shares were up 4.5% in early trading.

“As more people and more restaurants have come to use our services, Q2 bookings on Uber Eats are up more than 100% year on year,” Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said.

After close, the deal is expected to generate about $200 million synergies in two years, Khosrowshahi said on a conference call, adding that the transaction should be profitable for Uber.

Uber currently estimates that it will issue about 84 million shares of common stock for 100% of the fully diluted equity of Postmates, the company said in a statement.

The boards of both companies have approved the transaction, and stockholders representing a majority of Postmates’ outstanding shares have committed to support the transaction, Uber added.

Postmates operates in 4,200 U.S. cities and delivers a host of products like sushi, coffee or a pair of jeans from restaurants and stores to customers’ doorstep. One of the many taglines reads – “Have chips but no guac? Postmate it.”

Founded in 2011, San Francisco-based Postmates accounted for 8% of the U.S. meal delivery market in May, with rival DoorDash leading with a 44% market share, according to analytics firm Second Measure.

Postmates raised $225 million last year, while Doordash raised $400 million from private investors at a valuation of $16 billion in June.

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Uber to buy Postmates in $2.65 billion stock deal, expands food-delivery reach

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc said on Monday it would buy Postmates Inc in a $2.65 billion deal, looking to expand its reach into the food-delivery market as the coronavirus crisis upends its core ride-hailing business.

The move is just weeks after Uber walked away from a deal to buy Grubhub, which would have given Uber’s money-losing restaurant delivery service a leg up on market leader DoorDash.

U.S. online food delivery company Grubhub agreed to be acquired in June by Just Eat Takeaway.com NV in a $7.3 billion deal.

Uber, which has been under pressure as ride-hailing services across the globe plummets because of lockdowns, offered a premium of about 10% on Postmates’ last valuation of $2.4 billion. Uber shares were up about 9% in premarket trading.

“As more people and more restaurants have come to use our services, Q2 bookings on Uber Eats are up more than 100% year on year,” said Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi.

Uber currently estimates that it will issue about 84 million shares of common stock for 100% of the fully diluted equity of Postmates, the company said in a statement.

The boards of both companies have approved the transaction, and stockholders representing a majority of Postmates’ outstanding shares have committed to support the transaction, it added.

Postmates operates in 4,200 U.S. cities delivering food and other products from restaurants and stores to customers’ doorstep. One of the many taglines reads – “Have chips but no guac? Postmate it.”

Founded in 2011, San Francisco-based Postmates accounted for 8% of the U.S. meal delivery market in May, with its biggest rival DoorDash leading with a 44% market share, according to analytics firm Second Measure.

Postmates in September raised $225 million in a private fundraising round. The company’s biggest rival, Doordash, raised $400 million from private investors at a valuation of $16 billion in June.

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