SINGAPORE (Apr 15): “The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange.” — Lenín Moreno, Ecuador’s president, on the decision to allow UK police to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces accusations of rape. Assange has called Ecuador’s embassy in London home since 2012.
UK and EU agree to delay Brexit until Oct 31
With less than 48 hours before Britain’s scheduled departure, the European Union agreed on a “flexible extension” of Brexit until the end of October, avoiding a devastating cliff-edge divorce but settling none of the issues that have plunged British politics into chaos, dysfunction and recrimination.
Speaking after five hours of talks at an EU summit in Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk said that until the Oct 31 deadline, what happens will be in the hands of the UK. The UK can ratify the withdrawal agreement and leave, it can change strategy, or it can decide to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit.
Tusk said the UK will remain a friend of the EU and ended his press conference with an address to “our British friends”: “Please, do not waste this time.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK would still aim to leave the EU as soon as possible. She said “the choices we now face are stark, and the timetable is clear”. She acknowledged the “huge frustration” that the UK had not yet left the EU.
May, who indicated her willingness to step down, repeatedly ducked questions about her future as prime minister after having previously said she would not accept an extension beyond June 30. She simply insisted that the UK “can still leave on May 22 and not hold those European parliamentary elections” if parliament passes the withdrawal deal.
Israel’s Netanyahu wins re-election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election on April 10, with religious-rightist parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority.
With more than 99% of votes counted — ballots cast by soldiers at military bases will be tallied over the next two days — Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party looked likely to muster enough support to control 65 of the Knesset’s 120 seats and see him being named as head of the next coalition government.
It would be Netanyahu’s fifth term as premier, making him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Netanyahu, who is likely to be indicted on bribery and fraud charges, is expected to try to persuade his coalition partners to pass a law granting him immunity from prosecution.
The election underscored that the dream of a Palestinian state is more remote than ever, as is the chance that the US will help create it.
Lyft shares hit new low as Uber IPO looms
Shares of recently listed ride-hailing company Lyft fell to a fresh low and closed almost 11% lower on April 10 on news that its larger rival Uber Technologies was close to filing its own IPO.
On their ninth day of trading, Lyft shares clocked their lowest closing price since the company went public on March 29. The stock closed at US$60.12, which was 16.5% below its IPO price of US$72.
Reuters reported that Uber would seek to sell around US$10 billion ($13.5 billion) worth of stock in an IPO. It is expected to make public its IPO prospectus on April 11 (after this paper had gone to print), giving investors the opportunity to compare the two companies more closely.
Uber had hinted at its expectations for the IPO in information provided to holders of its convertible debt, saying its shares have a potential price range of US$48 to US$55 apiece. That would give it a valuation of between US$90 billion and US$100 billion. The range could tighten or change, depending on market conditions and investor demand as its listing nears.
Astronomers deliver first photo of black hole
Astronomers captured the first image of one of the most mysterious entities in the cosmos.
A black hole is a cosmic abyss so deep that not even light can escape it. This one was found in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, roughly 55 million light years away.
Locking down an image of M87’s supermassive black hole at such a distance is comparable to photographing a pebble on the Moon.
The image, showing a dark circle surrounded by a lopsided ring of light, illustrated a finding that shocked Albert Einstein when his equations predicted it in the early 20th century: that space-time can collapse when too much matter or energy is concentrated in one place.
The M87’s black hole was immortalised by a far-flung network of eight radio telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona, Spain, Mexico, Chile, and the South Pole, spanning six mountains and four continents.
Knit together, they formed a virtual observatory some 12,000km across — roughly the diameter of Earth — that observed the galaxy on and off for 10 days in April 2017. The image emerged after two years of computer analysis.
The research was conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope project, an international collaboration involving about 200 scientists that started in 2012.
Chinese companies linked to space telescopes and optical lenses bucked broader market declines after scientists released the image. Phenix Optical surged by the 10% daily limit in Shanghai to the highest since June. Zhejiang Southeast Space Frame jumped as much as 10%, while Shanghai Moons’ Electric, whose products are used in China’s Fast radio telescope project, climbed more than 4% before paring gains.
Oil companies invest in carbon removal
An electric fan can make people feel cooler on a steamy day, but could fans moderate the planet’s rising temperatures? Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies would like to find out.
Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and the Australian mining giant BHP this year have invested in Carbon Engineering, a small Canadian company that claims to be on the verge of a breakthrough in solving a critical climate change puzzle: removing carbon already in the atmosphere.
At its pilot project in Squamish, an old lumber town about 50km north of Vancouver, the company is using an enormous fan to suck large amounts of air into a scrubbing vessel designed to extract carbon dioxide. The gas can then be buried or converted into a clean-burning — though expensive — synthetic fuel.
Chevron and Occidental, which have each taken seats on Carbon Engineering’s board, refused to disclose their investments. Carbon Engineering says it raised a total of US$68 million in its most recent funding round to expand the pilot project and develop its first commercial plant.
Singapore remains second priciest housing market, after Hong Kong
Singapore ranks second among the most expensive residential property markets worldwide, while Hong Kong maintains its top position, according to research released on April 11 by CBRE.
However, property prices in Singapore are relatively more affordable at about half the price of those in Hong Kong on a per square foot basis. Average price growth in Singapore was also at a low 1.1%, outpaced by Hong Kong (5.5%) and Shanghai (11.2%), the third most expensive city.
An average residential property in Hong Kong costs US$2,091 psf; in Singapore, it would cost US$1,063 psf; in Shanghai, it would cost US$714 psf. These three cities have introduced cooling measures to keep prices under control.
This is the fifth annual Global Living report by CBRE. It compares property markets across 35 key cities across the world, including Shenzhen, Bangkok, Dubai, Rome and Lisbon.