FirstFT: Today’s top stories

The world’s leading economies are close to agreeing a set of principles that would revolutionise the taxation of multinationals after France and Germany threw their support behind a new US approach.

Talks on how to make it difficult for international companies to shift profits round the world to minimise tax have been stuck at the OECD for years, but are progressing rapidly, according to several governments.

On Monday, the US set out plans for a global minimum corporation tax; on Tuesday, European countries backed the proposal but made it clear the Joe Biden administration’s ambition would need to be accompanied by a deal to enable them to tax part of technology giants’ global profits.

Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, removed blanket opposition to such a compromise in February, and on Tuesday the French and German finance ministers indicated that the US was on the verge of supporting it. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

  • North Korea has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics, citing the pandemic. The decision dashed Seoul’s hopes of rekindling inter-Korean relations at the event.

  • The Moderna vaccine will be rolled out for the first time in the UK to residents in west Wales from Wednesday.

  • Most advanced economies will emerge from the pandemic with little lasting damage, but a stark difference is expected among emerging economies, the IMF warned.

  • Joe Biden directed US states to make all adult residents eligible for a vaccine from April 19. The White House said it will not introduce mandatory federal vaccine passports.

  • UK aviation chief executives have called for a travel corridor with the US to be opened as soon as next month.

Follow our live blog for the latest Covid-19 news and sign-up for our Coronavirus Business Update email.

In the news

Greensill reassured staff before collapse Lex Greensill told employees that his company enjoyed “enormous” liquidity just three weeks before the finance firm collapsed into insolvency. The Australian financier at the centre of a growing corporate and political scandal reassured staff in mid-February that a crucial set of funds at Credit Suisse was robust. (FT)

Goldman Sachs propped up Deliveroo IPO price Goldman Sachs bought about £75m in Deliveroo shares to prop up trading in the UK food delivery group after investors shunned its market debut, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. (FT)

The share purchases, in combination with the ‘overallotment; reserved for stabilising the IPO, meant that Goldman Sachs should have booked a profit from Deliveroo’s declining share price © Reuters

EU to investigate Sputnik vaccine trials The EU drug regulator will launch an investigation next week into whether clinical trials of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine contravened ethical and scientific standards. Some military servicemen and state employees involved in trials of the jab said they were pressured to participate. (FT)

Singapore’s Grab set to list in NY in biggest Spac merger South-east Asia’s most valuable start-up is set for the largest merger between a private business and a blank cheque company in a deal that will value the SoftBank-backed technology group at about $35bn. (FT)

SoftBank invests in robotics group The Japanese group has struck a $2.8bn deal for a 40 per cent stake in Norwegian warehouse automation company AutoStore, in the latest addition to its web of investments in ecommerce and robotics. (FT)

US considers Beijing Winter Olympics boycott The Biden administration has floated the idea with allies of boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest against the persecution of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.

Chinese figure skater Xu Jingyu performs during a test event for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing © AP

Israel’s president invites Netanyahu to form government President Reuven Rivlin admitted on Tuesday that no party leader had “a realistic chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the Knesset” — but indicated that it was his legal obligation to ask someone to do so. (FT)

Alexei Navalny ‘seriously ill’ in prison The most prominent opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin has contracted symptoms of a respiratory illness in prison. Olga Mikhailova, Navalny’s lawyer, said he was in “quite bad condition” after losing some feeling in both his legs from severe back and nerve pain and developing a cough and a 38.1C temperature. (FT)

The day ahead

Fed meeting minutes Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting on monetary policy will be released on Wednesday, giving investors further insight into debates about the trajectory of the economic recovery and the recent rise in US borrowing costs. (FT)

South Korea mayoral elections Rival parties made the final appeals to voters in Seoul and Busan on the eve of Wednesday’s elections. The results are expected to signal public opinion ahead of next year’s presidential poll. (Yonhap)

What else we’re reading

Can Japan innovate its way out of a climate and energy crisis? Japan has encouraged the development of solid-state batteries, which it hopes will eventually become the standard. Much nearer is the prospect of cars running on hydrogen, the fuel source that is a cornerstone of Japan’s plan for a carbon-neutral future — but it has industry detractors. (FT)

Diagram showing the Toyota Mirai's hydrogen fuel cell drive train

Brexit ignites united Ireland debate Arguments about Northern Ireland’s constitutional future are raging with renewed intensity as post-Brexit stresses and the possibility of an independent Scotland have reopened questions of identity and allegiance that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement tried to push into the distant future. (FT)

A turning point in Africa’s ignored war More than one hundred insurgents laid waste to Mozambique’s coastal town of Palma at the end of last month. Thousands fled the violence. French energy group Total has suspended work at a gas plant despite authorities’ claims order has been restored. (FT)

Jordan’s royal sibling feud spills open Long-running resentment and suspicion between Jordan’s King Abdullah and his younger brother sparked palace turmoil over the weekend, when Prince Hamzah was accused of a conspiracy to destabilise the country. The feud within one of the Arab world’s most respected royal families has been years in the making. (FT)

Australian parliament’s #MeToo moment “It is the most unsafe workplace in the country,” said one woman of Australia’s parliament. Six weeks after a former legislative staffer accused a senior colleague of raping her in the defence minister’s office, thousands of women are sharing their stories and demanding change. (NYT)

Meet our journalists: Chris Nuttall

Chris Nuttall is an assistant editor on the FT’s tech desk in London and the creator and lead writer of our daily #techFT newsletter — sign up here.

What’s an interesting fact we should know about you? I’ve been reporting on tech since the birth of the world wide web, opting for a safer place to be than the war zones I was covering previously, with stints as a correspondent in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Kashmir and Haiti.

Tell us about your newsletter, #techft: From Apple to Alibaba, robotics to regulation, Silicon Valley to Shenzhen, #techFT brings you news, comment and analysis on the big companies, technologies and issues shaping this fastest moving of sectors from specialists based around the world. We also cover the latest gadgets and big tech events and provide data on the performance of the top companies.

Have you ever considered going tech free? Not as long as I’m working, I’m afraid. I’m always striving to achieve Inbox Zero and honing my ways of dealing with email. Even on holiday, I get satisfaction from catching up and cutting down.

Who are your journalistic heroes? In roughly chronological order, William Cobbett, Woodward and Bernstein, Sir Harold Evans and Ryszard Kapuściński. I’m also a big fan of the documentary essayists Chris Marker and Adam Curtis, whose latest series, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, I’m currently enjoying on BBC iPlayer.

Podcast of the day

Will having a baby break my finances? Jenny and her partner are planning to have a baby, but beyond forking out for nappies and a pushchair, she has no idea how much becoming a parent will cost. Claer Barrett talks to Tobi Asare, founder of parental finance blog My Bump Pay, and Maike Currie, FT columnist and investment director at Fidelity International, in the latest episode of Money Clinic. (FT)

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