FirstFT: ‘I am prepared to speak’ to Putin about ending Ukraine


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US president Joe Biden has said he is “prepared to speak with” Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine if Russia’s leader shows an interest in bringing the nine-month conflict to an end.

“I am prepared to speak with Mr Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he is looking for a way to end the war,” Biden said, adding that he would only do so after consulting Nato allies.

The remarks, made at a press conference in Washington, DC, during a bilateral summit with Emmanuel Macron, president of France, mark the furthest Biden has gone in expressing an openness to discuss the war with Putin.

The US president said he had “no immediate plans” to contact Russia’s leader, adding that he had not seen any indications from Putin that he was willing to bring the war to an end.

“He hasn’t done that yet. If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and Nato friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind,” Biden said.

1. Blackstone limits withdrawals at $125bn property fund The US private equity group has limited withdrawals from its real estate investment fund following a surge in redemption requests and as concerns grow about the commercial property market’s long-term health. Blackstone approved only 43 per cent of redemption requests in the fund last month.

2. Ramaphosa’s presidency under threat South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa is under mounting pressure to resign after a parliamentary report concluded he abused his office in the fallout from the theft of more than $500,000 from his private game farm. Ramaphosa would not be “rushed” into a decision, his spokesperson said yesterday evening.

3. Inflation overwhelms Europe’s food banks Across Europe, food bank use is soaring as the highest inflation in a generation hits the region’s poorest. But with millions more people struggling to make ends meet, many organisations have been forced to shut their doors to new applicants.

A volunteer sorts food into crates in Bochum, Germany
A volunteer sorts food into crates in Bochum, Germany. More than a third of the country’s food banks have stopped taking new members © Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

4. Visa executives receive bonuses despite missing growth target The card company’s executives have received millions of dollars in bonuses this year despite missing a “transactions growth” target which the board said could have been met if not for the war in Ukraine. Chief executive Alfred Kelly received a $6.2mn bonus for 2022.

5. Defence start-up Anduril raises almost $1.5bn Established five years ago by Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, Anduril has raised nearly $1.5bn in the year’s second-biggest venture capital round in the US, marking a milestone for young tech companies trying to break into the notoriously difficult field of defence procurement.

How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

The days ahead

Economic data and earnings Germany publishes October trade balance figures and UK training consultancy Mind Gym releases first-half results today.

Prince William and Kate to meet Joe Biden The Prince and Princess of Wales are in Boston today for the Earthshot Prize ceremony. They are expected to meet US president Joe Biden at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library. (CBS)

Opec+ meeting Oil ministers and their allies will meet virtually on Sunday, a day before the European embargo on seaborne Russian crude goes into effect. Premium subscribers can read more about the conundrum facing Opec+ in this week’s Energy Source newsletter.

Join the FT’s top journalists in conversation with leaders in business and government, including the president of Argentina, Nato’s secretary-general, the US deputy attorney-general and many more at The Global Boardroom on December 7-9. Register free for your digital pass today.

What else we’re reading

Simon Schama: art versus the tyrants With the streets of China and Iran recently “alive with infuriated, chanting crowds, so tired of being institutionally deceived”, the historian reflects on how poetically charged words, images and music can be deployed as unlikely weapons. “Culture can do this because it can connect with human habits, needs and intuitions in ways that expose the inhuman hollowness of official propaganda,” he writes.

Simon Schama views Picasso’s ‘Guernica’
Simon Schama views Picasso’s powerful antiwar painting ‘Guernica’ © BBC/Oxford Films/Eddie Knox

Inside the Covid revolt in ‘iPhone City’ Managers at the world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, China, breathed a sigh of relief when local officials lifted a five-day lockdown on most of the city this week. But the troubles are far from over for Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn, which is struggling to staff assembly lines for the pre-holiday high season.

Incendiary claims about the UK census ‘do not reflect reality’ The latest tranche of data from the UK’s 2021 census, which includes figures on race and ethnicity, was promptly met with a volley of incendiary responses. But almost all of these claims are untrue, writes our chief data reporter John Burn-Murdoch.

Chart showing that second-generation immigrants to Britain show clear evidence of assimilating into the majority culture

What to expect from the Wirecard trial On Thursday, a German criminal court will start dissecting the collapse of disgraced payments company Wirecard. Three former senior managers, including chief executive Markus Braun, face charges of fraud, embezzlement and accounting and market manipulation in a trial that is expected to continue into at least 2024.

Football’s VAR is a lesson in flawed technology The use of video assistance technology in the World Cup provides an intriguing case study of how difficult it can be to achieve optimal product-market fit in a highly pressured environment that matters hugely to millions of fanatical followers, writes John Thornhill.

Holiday gifts

Yinka Ilori, Brendon Babenzien, Tata Harper, Jody Williams, Rita Sodi and others share their secrets for buying the best gifts for fashion, beauty and the home this holiday season.

New York-based designer Hillary Taymour
New York-based designer Hillary Taymour often gives her own brand’s clothing as gifts © Tonje Thilesen

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