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Hong Kong faces ‘tough balancing act’ in easing border rules, official says



Hong Kong faces a tough balancing act as the city aims to lift some border restrictions for international travelers starting next month, according to a government official. 

The Chinese territory intends to ease a travel ban on flights from nine countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and allow those travelers to quarantine in a hotel for seven days rather than 14. The changes will take effect on April 1.

“It’s very important that we have to cater to the needs of the international businessmen, but equally we also have a very large population in Hong Kong that needs the relaxation of the border restriction to the mainland of China, because that’s also a very important part of Hong Kong for family reunion and businesses as well,” Bernard Chan, convenor of the Executive Council, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. 

“So it’s a very tough balancing act,” he said, especially as China continues to see pockets of Covid outbreaks.

Hong Kong’s executive council is a cabinet-like body that advises the city’s chief executive.

China has been battling its worst Covid outbreak since early 2020, with local governments blaming the new omicron BA.2 variant for the current wave sweeping across the country. The biggest city Shanghai began a two-stage lockdown Monday.

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Hong Kong has stuck firmly to a “dynamic zero” coronavirus policy, like in mainland China, seeking to stamp out all outbreaks with sweeping restrictions and quarantine.

The city reported 7,685 new Covid infections on Monday and 168 deaths, according to official data, as the latest wave of omicron infections continues to abate.

Between March 22 and 28, an average of 4,217.4 cases were reported per day, a decline from the average of 8,704.4 cases per day reported in the previous 7-day period, according to government data.

Still, Hong Kong lags behind regional peers — especially rival financial hub Singapore, which said last Thursday it will lift nearly all border restrictions for vaccinated travelers starting next month.  

“As the rest of the world is opening up, we need to try to figure a way out,” said Chan. “Starting from April 1, we start to reduce the hotel quarantine time from 14 days to 7 days. Obviously, it’s not good enough, but still it’s a big improvement,” he added.

Covid impacts business hub status

According to a recent report from the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, the city’s zero- Covid strategy “has come at a very high cost for Hong Kong’s business community.”

The survey found 49% of the companies polled said they are considering relocating their offices fully or partially in the next 12 months.

Moreover, existing restrictions have hampered the corporate strategy or hiring plans for 2 out of 3 companies in Hong Kong, the report added.

Acknowledging “these are trying times” for Hong Kong, Chan said he remains confident the city will regain its status as a global business hub when the pandemic ends. 

“I do believe Covid will be over. It’s a matter of when it’s over,” he said. “Hong Kong still is very attractive being a center of the Greater Bay of China and the economy of China continues to grow. I think people will come back.”

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Boeing to slash about 2,000 white-collar jobs in finance and HR, report says



Boeing expects to slash about 2,000 white-collar jobs this year in finance and human resources through a combination of attrition and layoffs, the planemaker confirmed to Seattle Times newspaper on Monday.

Last month, the Virginia-based company announced it would hire 10,000 workers in 2023, but some support positions would be cut.

Back then Boeing acknowledged it will “lower staffing within some support functions” – a move meant to enable it to better align resources to support current products and technology development.

“Over time, some of our corporate functions have grown quite large. And with that growth tends to come bureaucracy or disparate systems that are inefficient,” the newspaper quoted Mike Friedman, a senior director of communications at Boeing as saying. “So we’re streamlining.”

Boeing did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. 

Last year, Boeing said it plans to cut about 150 finance jobs in the United States to simplify its corporate structure and focus more resources into manufacturing and product development.

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Trump appeals sanctions for ‘frivolous’ suit against Hillary Clinton



presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton attend campaign rallies in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, October 10, 2016 and Manchester, New Hampshire U.S., October 24, 2016 in a combination of file photos.

Mike Segar | Carlos Barria | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump and one of his lawyers said Monday they are appealing nearly $1 million in sanctions imposed on them for what a federal judge called their “frivolous” lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen other defendants.

The court filing about the appeal came days after a lawyer for Trump and his attorney Alina Habba told the judge in the case they were willing to put up a bond of $1,031,788 to cover the costs of the sanctions while the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit considered the matter.

In imposing those sanctions Jan. 19, Judge John Middlebrooks said in an order, “We are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose.”

Trump’s suit, which sought $70 million in damages, accused Clinton, former FBI officials, the Democratic National Committee and others of conspiring to create a “false narrative” that Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign against Clinton were colluding with Russia to try to win the election that year.

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Middlebrooks in September dismissed the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and barred Trump from refiling the complaint.

He later ordered Trump and Habba to pay more than $937,000 in sanctions.

Middlebrooks in his sanctions order called Trump “a mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process,” and a “prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries.”

A day after Middlebrooks issued that order, Trump voluntarily dropped another lawsuit he had pending before the same judge against New York Attorney General Letitia James. That suit was related to James’ pending $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump and his company in Manhattan state court.

Jared Roberts, the lawyer for Trump and Habba, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC about the appeal.

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Nissan to buy up to 15% stake in Renault EV unit under reshaped alliance



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Nissan and Renault on Monday unveiled details of their redesigned alliance, with the Japanese car maker committing to buy a stake of up to 15% in Renault’s electric vehicles unit Ampere.

The alliance junior partner Mitsubishi Motors will also consider investing in Ampere, which Renault aims to list, the companies said in a statement.

“Nissan’s intention is to invest up to 15% in Ampere, Renault Group’s EV & Software entity in Europe, with the aim to become a strategic investor,” the statement said ahead of a presentation in London.

The companies had already announced that under the deal to revive their long-standing alliance the French carmaker would reduce its stake in its Japanese partner to 15% from around 43% now.

Renault will transfer 28.4% of Nissan shares into a French trust, making the two more equal partners in the alliance.

Sources close to the matter said the agreement aimed to make the alliance freer and more balanced for the next 15 years.

The partnership will produce synergies from joint projects in Europe, India and Latin America, and the companies will work together in Renault’s flagship EV business, electronics and solid-state batteries. 

Renault will have flexibility to sell the Nissan shares held in the trust but “it has no obligation to sell the shares within a specific pre-determined period of time,” the statement on Monday said.

When it does sell, “Nissan would benefit from a right of first offer, to its or the benefit of a designated third party.”

The two companies last month announced a sweeping remake of their 24-year-old automaking alliance, which was thrown into disarray by the ouster of its architect and former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, amid financial scandal.

That announcement came after nearly four months of intense talks complicated by concerns about the sharing of intellectual property as Renault sought tie-ups with companies outside their alliance.

Renault’s board approved the deal on Sunday night, according to a source. Nissan’s board also approved it early on Monday, the source said.

Investors and analysts will be looking for more clarity on how the trust in which Renault will place the bulk of its Nissan stake will operate.

“There is absolutely no word about what’s going to happen to those shares in the trust,” said CLSA analyst Christopher Richter. “It seems they’re all avoiding the issue of Nissan buying them back which I think would be the best thing for all parties involved.”

Richter said Renault’s brand is not seen as being a strong brand, so it may be tough for the French carmaker to raise money for Ampere.

“I wonder once this thing goes into the market how much money you would really raise, he said. “That’s why I think they’re going to push Nissan to pay too much.”

The unequal relationship between the two carmakers had long been a source of friction among Nissan executives.

While Renault bailed out Nissan two decades ago, it is the smaller automaker by sales.

CLSA’s Richter said that the revamped alliance could enable Nissan and Renault to work together on R&D, shared costs and a few shared products “with a little bit less rancor and acrimony between them,” but added that Honda and General Motors <GM.N> have built a partnership that includes jointly developing lower-cost EVs together without any need for a capital relationship.

“One almost wonders what’s the point of them having any stake in either one, any stake at all,” Richter said.

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