More pain for Boeing, UK targets 'Big Tech' and Bitcoin drops
Louise Greenwood
Europe;United Kingdom

"While the National Transportation Safety Board investigation is ongoing, we recommended suspending operations of the 69 in-service and 59 in-storage 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines." While Boeing was accused of being slow to act on the grounding of its troubled 737 Max, no chances are being taken with this latest scare over the 777.  

The statement from the company came as residents of a Denver suburb found debris from United Airlines flight 328 bound for Hawaii had broken off and landed on the street outside their homes, leading to some astonishing images going viral on social media. 

This latest blow for Boeing comes as the firm is still recovering from a terrible 2020, when the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fallout of the 737 Max affair contributed to a record annual loss of nearly $12 billion.

Elsewhere, as Australia prepares to pass its News Media and Digital Platforms Bill, vowing there will be no backdown in its dispute over revenue sharing for content with Facebook, the UK becomes the latest nation to warn of a new "get-tough" approach to "Big Tech." 

Apple has again toppled Samsung from the top spot as the world's biggest smartphone maker. But with disappointing sales for the Apple 12 mini, telecoms analysts ask for how long it can stay there.

Is it up? Is it down? It's getting hard to keep track of Bitcoin's fluctuations on the markets these days. But recent endorsement from the likes of PayPal and Tesla hasn't been enough to stop 8 percent being shaved of the value of the virtual currency in European trading. We can only wonder what the response may be if a standard currency did the same!  

And finally, aside from recent problems for Boeing's super jumbos, figures show demand for the kind of planes we travel in was changing even before the pandemic. The message is, squeeze in tight for a return to single-aisle travel in the years ahead. 

Read on for this and more of the day's business news in full.

Louise Greenwood,

Digital business correspondent 

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Source: Reuters. Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. /Lindsey Wasson

Source: Reuters. Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. /Lindsey Wasson


U.S. plane giant Boeing has advised airlines around the world to ground dozens of its 777 aircraft after one of the jets suffered an engine failure mid-flight. The plane was forced to return to Denver airport on Saturday with 231 passengers on board. In response, America's United Airlines said it would immediately halt all flights by its fleet of 24 Boeing 777 planes, while Japan Airlines and rival domestic carrier Nippon said they, too, would cease flying 777s using the PW4000 engines. Korean Air has said it will mothball the six it has in current operation. 

Debris from United Flight 328 bound for Honolulu was found scattered over a nearby residential area after the plane returned to Denver airport. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a failure in the right-hand engine was at fault. The FAA says meetings with Boeing at the weekend "concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades ... used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes." Europe's EASA aviation regulator has said it is requesting information on the cause of the incident to determine an appropriate response.

In a separate incident, two people were injured after pieces of a Boeing cargo plane broke off and fell on a town in the Netherlands on Sunday. The flight from Maastricht to New York's JFK airport was diverted and made an emergency landing in Liege, Belgium, after an engine fire broke out on the Boeing 747-400 freighter plane over the town of Meerssen, according to the Dutch authorities. 

Boeing has already recorded a slump in worldwide sales, with the grounding of its bestselling 737 Max planes following two deadly crashes before the pandemic killed a total of 346 passengers and crew.

Elsewhere, IAG the parent company of British Airways, has raised an extra $3.4 billion to help see it through the COVID-19 pandemic. IAG is to defer $630 million of pension deficit contributions for the period between October 2020 and September 2021 to help conserve cash, putting up property assets as security. IAG, which also owns Spain's Iberia and Vueling carriers and Ireland's Aer Lingus, is estimated to be spending $248 million a week to maintain operations through the current disruption to global aviation that has brought some rivals close to collapse. Last April it scrapped its dividend to shareholders. In a statement, the firm said it "continues to explore other debt initiatives to improve further its liquidity." 

OiI prices are rising again on continued bad weather in the U.S., with Brent crude up 55 cents to $63.46 a barrel in early trading. Goldman Sachs has raised its price forecast by $10, to $70 a barrel by the second quarter. Meanwhile the OPEC+ group of major producing nations is due to meet to discuss output policy in early March, with signs that key members Russia and Saudi Arabia are at odds over whether to make cuts or increase global supply.

UK competition regulators are warning "Big Tech" firms that it is considering a series of antitrust inquiries into their practices. In an interview, Andrea Coscelli, boss of the Competition and Markets Authority, said official investigations into the business practices of Google and Amazon were under consideration, as part of post-Brexit regulatory changes . The warning from the CMA comes as governments around the world step up scrutiny of the big tech platforms. Last October, the U.S. Department of Justice launched its biggest lawsuit yet against Google over alleged anti-competitive practices in its search and advertising business, while the stand-off between Australia and Facebook over payment for access to domestic news content continues. 

Australia will not alter legislation obliging tech providers to pay domestic news outlets for their content, a senior lawmaker has said. Canberra is nearing  a final vote on whether to pass controversial proposals into law. Simon Birmingham, Australia's minister for finance, told Australian radio the News Media and Digital Platforms Bill "meets the right balance" on revenue sharing. Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough as Australia's senate begins its third reading of the bill.

Apple is once again the world's biggest smartphone maker, overtaking rival Samsung for the first time in five years. Global handset sales have declined overall during the pandemic, but Apple still managed to sell almost 80 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, amid strong global sales, especially of its Apple XR 2018 that still has the lowest list price of its current models.

German sporting goods giant Adidas is to resume dividend payments to shareholders after suspending payouts last year. The dividends are being made as a condition for a government-backed loan to get the firm through the ongoing slump in trading with stores closed. Adidas is to pay a dividend of $3.63 per share for 2020, in a deal valued at $709.9 million.

China has replaced France as Germany's second-largest export market. The EU's biggest economy sold more than $100 billion worth of goods to China last year, while exports to France dropped 15 percent during the pandemic. China was the world's only major economy to grow in 2020.

More than half of UK employers say they intend to recruit new staff in the next three months, according to new research. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says British firms have the strongest hiring intentions since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, with 56 percent firms surveyed planning to hire in the first three months of 2021. Healthcare, finance and insurance, and education are the strongest sectors. On Monday, the UK government announced plans for easing the third national COVID-19 lockdown.   

Japan's SoftBank is set to see another boost to its flagship $100 billion Vision Fund, with the upcoming flotation of Korean e-tailer Coupang. Vision Fund has built up a 37 percent stake in Coupang after an initial investment in 2015 of $2.7 billion. Its listing on the New York markets in the next few months is expected to be the biggest for an Asian firm since Alibaba first went public in 2014. SoftBank has recovered from a series of high-profile losses since its launch in 2017, reporting a $13 billion gain in the value of investments in the three months to December. 

Bitcoin fell sharply on Monday after surging to a record high over the weekend. The virtual currency was down 8.2 percent during early European trading, falling back to around $53,000, after hitting new highs of $58,354 a day earlier. Rival cryptocurrency Ether fell 7 percent to $1,798 after also hitting record new highs. Traders have described the changes as technical and not tied to any particular news event.

Mark Carney, former head of the UK and Canadian central banks, has joined the board of U.S. digital payments company Stripe, just days after it was reported to be planning a funding round valuing the firm at more than $100 billion. Stripe, which offers digital payment and business banking products to merchants, is planning an ambitious roll-out across Asia, taking in China, India and Japan. The firm said it would benefit from Carney's "extensive experience of global financial systems and governance" in his long career at central banks and on Wall Street.

The insurance market Lloyd's of London is to take on an archivist to examine company records for historical links to the slave trade. Last year, Lloyd's apologized for its "shameful" role in the transatlantic slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries, where it provided insurance for slave ships traveling from West Africa to the Americas. Lloyd's has a vast archive of items from the period, including paintings, swords and furniture. The new recruit will carry out research "to ascertain what artefacts and objects link to African and Caribbean history (specifically slavery and abolition)," according to the job advert.



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The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency is in the Iranian capital, Tehran, for talks on the country's nuclear program. Rafael Grossi is planning to limit inspections of its nuclear sites. 

On Friday, the U.S. acknowledged for the first time it's willing to have direct talks on a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. CGTN Europe spoke to Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Middle East security and nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University and a former Iranian ambassador to Germany and asked whether he was surprised the new U.S. president hadn't made Iranian nuclear talks a priority.

Actually, it is a big surprise not only to Iranians, to the international community, to the US allies and even to many Democrats in Washington they are all surprised why Joe Biden has had so much delay (on this) , despite his very clear message that he would join the Iran nuclear deal after the election. However, I believe the problem is within the Biden administration. My understanding is that President Biden was serious about going fast and straight, but there is a dispute within his team. One camp says we should go back to JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) the nuclear deal correctly, precisely and quickly … (But) there is another camp saying that we need to use the leverage from sanctions and we need to negotiate with Iran on regional issues also. Therefore, we should be sure if we return to JCPOA, Iran would be ready to negotiate to discuss the regional issues. Practically, they are putting a condition and precondition and this they know Iran would never accept. 


In the longer term the United States can rejoin the deal, or did the Trump administration's actions erode any credibility or trust? 

It is really important to understand that despite 35 years of hostilities, animosities between Tehran and Washington, the Iran nuclear deal was the first issue that Iran and the U.S. had direct high-level negotiations on and they could manage through negotiation and diplomacy. It was not only bilateral, it was unilateral, it was international, five other big powers, China, Russia, Europe were there, and the United Nations Security Council passed the resolution. And for three years, Iran fully complied with zero failure and it was the U.S. who failed. Therefore, this has left a very, very bad experience to Iran that you really cannot trust the U.S., even if today you agree with Biden, no one knows whether the next presidency, the next president, the next administration, again, would violate and would withdraw or not. That's why here a big mistrust has been created because of Trump's withdrawal and now because of Biden's delay.


How successful have America's sanctions on Iran been and at what cost for Iran's political leadership?

I would say the maximum pressure policy of Trump and the unprecedented sanctions have imposed hundreds of billions of dollars of cost to Iran. Definitely it had a huge cost for Iran, no doubt about it. But if Trump or even Biden's objective is to put pressure in order to get concessions from Iran on nuclear, I believe Trump lost both. First, Iran never came to a negotiation table because of pressures on sanctions. Second, Iran increased the level of enrichment from 5 percent to 20 percent and [there was] a lot of other advancement on the nuclear side. And third in the region, the conflict expanded between Iran and the U.S., and the regional U.S. allies. Therefore, all objectives practically were completely counterproductive.


And finally, troubled U.S. aerospace giant Boeing has suffered another setback with the voluntary grounding of its 777 aircraft, the world's largest twin-jet plane. Analysts estimate that demand for "wide-body" aircraft, that can accommodate up to 11 passengers abreast, was falling in favor of single-aisle, "narrow-body" aircraft even before COVID-19. Now, airlines around the world are rethinking their order books.


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