10 things you need to know before European markets open

Good morning! Here’s what you need to know.

1. British Prime Minister Theresa May should make the EU firm offers by next week to break the deadlock in Brexit talks if she wants an orderly withdrawal, Michel Barnier said. Barnier said he was wondering why there was still “major uncertainty” on all key issues.

2. UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank by assets, said it would propose to shareholders to remove a 5% cap on voting rights, as it moves to strengthen its governance. The bank will also ask shareholders to approve the mandatory conversion of its saving shares into ordinary shares and the empowerment of the board to present its own list of candidates for the election of directors.

3. Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s top cocoa producers, plan to create a buffer stock of beans to exert more influence over world prices. The two West African neighbours produce over 60% of the global supply of the chocolate ingredient but have been hit hard by a sharp drop in world prices cause mainly by a glut resulting from bumper crops this season.

4. The US government is going after a New York man for allegedly operating a bitcoin Ponzi scheme. The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Nicholas Gelfman, a Brooklyn resident and head trader at Gelfman Blueprint, a New York-based firm, “fraudulently solicited” $US600,000 from 80 clients in a bitcoin Ponzi scheme.

5. Lufthansa is set to pick up a large part of insolvent rival Air Berlin, with easyJet also still in the running for assets, Reuters reported. Air Berlin’s creditors met on Thursday to discuss offers for Germany’s second largest airline and agreed the carve-up.

6. Chinese regulators are moving forward to shut down bitcoin trading in the country, but one executive says traders have a way to work around a ban. The Wall Street Journal’s Steven Russolillo and Chuin-Wei Yap reported that bitcoin traders can still exchange their coins via messaging apps such as WeChat, the largest in China with over 900 million users.

7. French businesswoman and heiress of cosmetics giant L’Oreal Liliane Bettencourt, 94, died, her daughter said on Thursday. The Bettencourt family, which founded L’Oreal, has a 33% stake in the company.

8. Australia’s Macquarie has overtaken Goldman Sachs to break into the top three banks for commodities business. The rise of Macquarie marks a huge shake-up in commodity banking, typically dominated by elite US and European institutions until tough regulations forced withdrawals after the global financial crisis.

9. Chinese search engine Baidu announced a 10 billion yuan ($US1.52 billion) autonomous driving fund as part of a wider plan to compete with rivals. The “Apollo Fund” will invest in 100 autonomous driving projects over the next three years, Baidu said.

10. Japan’s Nikkei share average fell in choppy trade early on Friday, moving away from two-year highs as rising geopolitical tensions over North Korea sapped risk appetite. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho as saying he believes the North could consider a hydrogen bomb test on the Pacific Ocean of an unprecedented scale.

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