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EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING : Stocks Waver on Virus -2-

08/17/2021 | 06:08am EDT

BT Group PLC said Tuesday that it has appointed Adam Crozier as its next chairman and that he will step down as chairman at online fashion retailer ASOS PLC as a result.

Mr. Crozier, a former chief executive of ITV PLC and Royal Mail PLC, will join BT's board as an independent nonexecutive director and chairman-designate with effect from Nov. 1 and will become chairman with effect from Dec. 1, when current BT Chairman Jan du Plessis will retire, the British telecommunications group said.

Lagardère's Hachette Book Group Buying Workman Publishing for $240 Million

The drumbeat of consolidation in the book publishing industry continued Monday when Lagardère SCA's Hachette Book Group agreed to acquire Workman Publishing for $240 million in a deal expected to close this fall.

Workman generated $134 million in revenue in 2020, up more than 12% from the prior year, according to Lagardère, which didn't release profit figures. Workman, which publishes across an array of genres, is best known for such series as "What to Expect" and "Brain Quest."

Taliban Conquest of Afghanistan Scrambles the Diplomatic Map

The ascent of the Taliban has redrawn the diplomatic map for the U.S. and its rivals as they compete to shape the future of Afghanistan.

China and Russia already are moving to build ties with the Taliban and have hosted Taliban officials even before the U.S. military completed its troop withdrawal. In recognition of Beijing and Moscow's expanding influence in Kabul, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers on Monday.

A Taliban Leader Emerges: Hunted, Jailed and Now Free

The new face of Afghanistan's Taliban rulers owes his freedom to the U.S.

In 2001, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, tried to arrange the group's surrender to the new U.S.-backed Afghan government. It was rejected. He spent most of the past decade under arrest in Pakistan.

GLOBAL NEWS

U.S. Retail Sales Likely Fell in July as Automobile Purchases Weakened

Spending at U.S. retailers likely fell in July, amid cooling auto purchases and signs of some pullback in consumer demand as Covid-19 cases tied to the Delta variant rose, economists say.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimate the Commerce Department will report Tuesday that retail sales-a measure of purchases at stores, at restaurants and online-fell by 0.3% last month compared with June. Excluding autos-a category where supply-chain issues have limited available inventory-sales are estimated to have risen by 0.2%.

Derby's Take: Kashkari Wants to Kill the Dots, Overhaul FOMC Statement

Minneapolis Fed leader Neel Kashkari believes the way the U.S. central bank communicates its policy choices to the world is in need of some reform.

In the transcript of an interview with a Bloomberg podcast published Monday, the central banker took aim at two things: The policy statement announcing the outcome of Federal Open Market Committee meetings, and a quarterly chart of interest rate projections commonly referred to as the dot plot.

Some Private-Equity Firms Ditch the Status Quo in Secondary Deals

Secondhand sales of private-equity assets are on the rise, but some investors face fewer choices on how they can participate in those deals.

Investors in private-equity funds increasingly are losing the option to remain on existing economic terms when a fund manager seeks to extend its hold on one or more fund assets through a secondary deal. Typically, private-equity firms that sought these deals, often referred to as general partner-led secondaries, have offered investors a chance to retain their stake in the assets being recapitalized on the same terms that they received when the private-equity firm first backed the deal, often referred to as the status quo option.

China's State Council Vows to Promote Steady Consumption Growth

China's State Council said it would promote steady growth in consumption and boost effective investment by using local government debt, after July's economic data fell short of expectations.

China's major economic indicators including consumption, investment and factory production were weaker than expected in July, according to official data released Monday. Floods and outbreaks of the Covid-19 Delta variant reined in activity and dampened demand.

Biden Administration Expected to Call for Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shots

WASHINGTON-The Biden administration is expected to announce that Americans who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should receive a booster shot to ensure continued protection, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The booster shot would be administered eight months after the second dose of the vaccine was received, the people said.

Banks Weigh Alternatives to Libor Replacement as Companies Seek Longer-Term Rates

Some big banks are evaluating if the reference rate that is backed by regulators as the best replacement for the scandal-plagued London interbank offered rate is the only option for companies, or if they should offer other rates.

Many large U.S. financial institutions are providing the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, to corporate borrowers as part of the transition away from Libor.

Taliban Conquest of Afghanistan Scrambles the Diplomatic Map

The ascent of the Taliban has redrawn the diplomatic map for the U.S. and its rivals as they compete to shape the future of Afghanistan.

China and Russia already are moving to build ties with the Taliban and have hosted Taliban officials even before the U.S. military completed its troop withdrawal. In recognition of Beijing and Moscow's expanding influence in Kabul, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers on Monday.

Kabul Under Taliban Control: Checkpoints, Beatings, Fear

On their first day in control of Kabul, Taliban fighters commandeered streets and searched the homes and offices of government officials and media outlets, spreading fear and menace across the Afghan capital.

Armed militants erected checkpoints throughout the city of six million people, imposed a 9 p.m. curfew and took over army and police posts. Fighters, many grinning in victory, rode through the streets in captured U.S. and Afghan military vehicles flying the Taliban's white flag.

Biden Defends Afghanistan Pullout Amid Bipartisan Criticism

President Biden said he stands "squarely behind" his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, speaking from the White House Monday as he drew bipartisan criticism over the swift collapse of the government and the ensuing chaos.

He acknowledged that the Taliban took control of the country more quickly than he expected and that the U.S. exit has been "far from perfect," although he took little responsibility for that. He called the images of desperate Afghans at Kabul's international airport trying to flee their country gut-wrenching.

In Covid-19 Vaccination Push, Latin American Nations Are Catching Up to the U.S.

As vaccinations in the U.S. have slowed significantly from their peak, they have risen sharply in Latin America, with a host of countries now inoculating against Covid-19 at a far higher rate than their richer neighbor to the north.

The progress in Latin America is built on two factors that have gotten little attention: In many countries, people are eager to get vaccinated and largely trust vaccines, more so than in many richer countries, including the U.S.

Write to paul.larkins@dowjones.com

Write to us at newsletters@dowjones.com

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This article is a text version of a Wall Street Journal newsletter published earlier today.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

08-17-21 0607ET

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