FirstFT: US and Germany to send tanks to Ukraine

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In a significant policy shift, both Berlin and Washington are planning to send advanced tanks to Ukraine, marking a major breakthrough in western efforts to bolster Kyiv’s fight against the Russian armed forces.

People familiar with the matter confirmed yesterday that the US was preparing to announce that it would deliver M1 Abrams tanks while Germany would send Leopard 2 tanks, though they would not confirm the number. Berlin is also set to give the green light to Warsaw’s request to send some of Poland’s Leopards to Ukraine.

An official announcement could come as early as later today, after days of intense discussions between the US and Germany.

The decision is a notable shift for German chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had long hesitated to provide Ukraine with heavy armour, fearing that it would increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and Nato. He also stressed Germany would only act in concert with its allies, principally the US.

However, the clamour for tanks had become impossible to ignore with growing domestic political pressure in both countries. The front line in the war has barely budged in recent weeks and Kyiv has argued western tanks would help it to regain the initiative, reconquer occupied territory and deter a renewed Russian offensive expected in early spring.

1. Murdoch scraps Fox and News Corp merger Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch has scrapped a proposal to combine Fox and News Corp after his attempt to bring the two halves of his media empire back together was resisted by shareholders. In addition, News Corp is also in advanced talks to sell its 80 per cent share of digital property group Move to rival CoStar, valued in the “low billions” of dollars.

2. Microsoft offers downbeat outlook Demand for cloud services fell noticeably last month as customers grew more cautious in the face of the economic slowdown, Microsoft reported yesterday. Signs of softening demand after an otherwise surprisingly strong final quarter led the software giant to issue a downbeat forecast for the current quarter, adding to the nervous mood on Wall Street as the tech earnings season starts.

3. Investors push German fusion start-up to move to US Marvel Fusion, one of the few European start-ups trying to deliver zero-carbon fusion power, is being pushed by investors to move to the US as American officials attempt to lure clean-energy businesses with about $370bn in tax breaks and subsidies. The investor pressure is partly because of the $1.4bn that the US government has earmarked for its domestic fusion industry.

4. Apple beefs up smartphone services Apple is taking steps to separate its mobile operating system from features offered by Google parent Alphabet, making advances around maps, search and advertising. The two Silicon Valley companies have been rivals in the smartphone market since Google acquired the Android operating system in the 2000s, which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs called “a stolen product”.

5. Activists close in on Salesforce Elliott Management confirmed it has built a multibillion-dollar stake in Salesforce, joining fellow activist Starboard Capital, which disclosed a position in the company late last year. Jeff Ubben, former head of ValueAct, also owns a stake through his new fund Inclusive Capital. The pile-in from three activist investors shows how far Salesforce’s star has fallen since its pandemic peak, with the company shedding about $170bn from its valuation.

The day ahead

Economic data Both South Africa and Canada will release monetary policy committee rate decisions. The National Bank of Belgium releases its business climate survey, while Ifo publishes its January report on the business climate in Germany.

Inflation figures The UK, Spain and Sweden issue inflation updates. Use our global inflation tracker to see how your country fares.

Amazon strike Amazon workers will strike in the UK for the first time at a warehouse in Coventry over a 50p per hour pay rise offer.

Convention of the North The annual meeting starts in Manchester to discuss the opportunities and challenges for the North of England. Speakers include levelling-up secretary Michael Gove and his Labour party opposite Lisa Nandy.

Africa food summit The African Development Bank, the Senegalese government and the African Union Commission host a food summit on the theme Feed Africa: Food Sovereignty and Resilience.

Portugal airline strike Cabin crew at Portugal’s TAP airline begin strike action running until next Tuesday, seeking better working conditions and higher pay.

Corporate results Tesla, which has been cutting prices of its electric vehicles to bolster demand, releases fourth-quarter results. French rail group Alstom, Dutch chipmaker ASML, AT&T, CMC Markets, easyJet, Givaudan, IBM, Kimberly-Clark, Levi Strauss, Lonza, Raymond James, Tod’s, JD Wetherspoon and Woodside Energy also report.

  • 🎧 Listen: In a recent episode of the Behind the Money podcast, the FT’s Richard Waters answers whether Tesla’s golden age of growth is over.

To coincide with the publication of Martin Wolf’s new book, ‘The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism’, join him and other thought leaders online for a subscriber-exclusive event on January 31. Register for free here.

What else we’re reading

From Iraqi oilfields to Tory HQ: Nadhim Zahawi’s story The chair of the UK Conservative party is due to publish his memoirs later this year. But the final chapter will need a major rewrite, with Zahawi the focus of a tax scandal. Mixing business and politics is nothing new, however, for the Baghdad-born politician.

How will the new machine learning era affect you? ChatGPT, a query-answering and text-generating system released at the end of November, has burst into the public consciousness in a way seldom seen outside the realm of science fiction. It is the most visible of a new wave of so-called “generative” artificial intelligence systems that can produce content to order, threatening not just jobs but a surge of misinformation.

Images returned by AI generator Midjourney after being given simple prompts
Images returned by AI generator Midjourney after being given simple prompts © Midjourney

Opinion: Are corporate villains really being held to account? There is a growing willingness to back up civil or regulatory penalties related to corporate wrongdoing with a criminal threat, writes Helen Thomas, but a proliferation of offences that aren’t prosecuted seems unhelpful to everyone.

China’s palace politics: Xi loyalists compete for power Chinese leader Xi Jinping will use the March lianghui — the joint sessions of China’s rubber-stamp parliament and political advisory body — to confirm a batch of appointments to critical roles. The promotions will mark the completion of Xi’s consolidation of power, but also signal the emergence of a new set of factions among his acolytes and loyalists.

What I learnt in my days on the mountain in Davos At the World Economic Forum last week, the general mood on the economy in the high-income countries was one of great optimism about the near-term future. Yet these optimists may be getting ahead of themselves, writes the FT’s Martin Wolf.

Line chart of Central bank policy rates (%) showing Central bank tightening of monetary policy probably has a way to go

Take a break from the news

Cult favourite Everything Everywhere All at Once has been nominated for 11 Oscars, maxing out the list for this year’s awards. Here are the rest of the nominations announced from Los Angeles yesterday.

Michelle Yeoh in ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’
Michelle Yeoh in ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ © David Bornfriend

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