ratcheting down gas deliveries to several European countries.

Across the continent, countries are preparing blueprints for emergency rationing that involve caps on sales, reduced speed limits and lowered thermostats.

As is usually the case with crises, the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the harshest effects. The International Energy Agency warned last month that higher energy prices have meant an additional 90 million people in Asia and Africa do not have access to electricity.

Expensive energy radiates pain, contributing to high food prices, lowering standards of living and exposing millions to hunger. Steeper transportation costs increase the price of every item that is trucked, shipped or flown — whether it’s a shoe, cellphone, soccer ball or prescription drug.

“The simultaneous rise in energy and food prices is a double punch in the gut for the poor in practically every country,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, “and could have devastating consequences in some corners of the world if it persists for an extended period.”

Group of 7 this past week discussed a price cap on exported Russian oil, a move that is intended to ease the burden of painful inflation on consumers and reduce the export revenue that President Vladimir V. Putin is using to wage war.

Price increases are everywhere. In Laos, gas is now more than $7 per gallon, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com; in New Zealand, it’s more than $8; in Denmark, it’s more than $9; and in Hong Kong, it’s more than $10 for every gallon.

Leaders of three French energy companies have called for an “immediate, collective and massive” effort to reduce the country’s energy consumption, saying that the combination of shortages and spiking prices could threaten “social cohesion” next winter.

increased coal production to avoid power outages during a blistering heat wave in the northern and central parts of the country and a subsequent rise in demand for air conditioning.

Germany, coal plants that were slated for retirement are being refired to divert gas into storage supplies for the winter.

There is little relief in sight. “We will still see high and volatile energy prices in the years to come,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

At this point, the only scenario in which fuel prices go down, Mr. Birol said, is a worldwide recession.

Reporting was contributed by José María León Cabrera from Ecuador, Lynsey Chutel from South Africa, Ben Ezeamalu from Nigeria, Jason Gutierrez from the Philippines, Oscar Lopez from Mexico and Ruth Maclean from Senegal.

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West Seeks a More Effective Way to Tighten Sanctions on Russia

Credit…Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russia missed a deadline for making bond payments on Sunday, a move signaling its first default on international debt in more than a century, after Western sanctions thwarted the government’s efforts to pay foreign investors. The lapse adds to efforts to seal Moscow off from global capital markets for years.

About $100 million in dollar- and euro-denominated interest payments failed to reach investors within a 30-day grace period after a missed May 27 deadline. The grace period expired Sunday night.

A formal declaration of default would need to come from bondholders because ratings agencies, which normally declare when borrowers have defaulted, have been barred by sanctions from reporting on Russia. The Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee, a panel of investors that rules on whether to pay out securities linked to defaults, hasn’t been asked to make a decision on these bond payments yet.

But it appeared that the payments had not reached bondholders’ accounts as of Sunday night, as required by the bonds’ contracts. On Monday, Russia’s finance ministry said that it had made the payments in May and that they had been transferred to Euroclear, a Brussels-based clearinghouse, but subsequently blocked from reaching bondholders.

Russia is rejecting the default declaration, on the grounds that it has made efforts to pay. Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, told reporters on Monday that the statements about default were “absolutely illegal.”

“The fact that Euroclear withheld this money, did not transfer it to the recipients, it is not our problem,” Mr. Peskov said. “In other words, there are no grounds to call this situation a default.”

The finance ministry added that the actions of foreign financial institutions were beyond its control and that “it seems advisable for investors to contact the relevant financial institutions directly” over the payments.

Euroclear declined to comment.

“We can expect Russia to stick to its alternative narrative: The default isn’t a default, we tried and it isn’t our fault,” said Tim Samples, a legal studies professor at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business and an expert on sovereign debt, adding that Russia also hasn’t submitted to jurisdiction in foreign courts. Still, “that has to be a bit humiliating, even for a country that can survive and maintain a war on its hydrocarbon revenues,” he said.

The risk of default emerged in late February after Russia invaded Ukraine and sanctions were imposed to sever the country from international financial markets. In late May, Russia tried to navigate tightening sanctions that cut off its access to American banks and bondholders by sending the payments to a Moscow-based institution. But ultimately, the funds didn’t make it all the way to bondholders’ accounts because of far-reaching American and European sanctions.

News of Monday’s apparent default showed “just how strong” international sanctions against Russia have been, a senior U.S. administration official said in a background briefing for reporters at the Group of 7 summit in Germany, highlighting the “dramatic” effect on Russia’s economy.

This default is unusual because it’s a result of economic sanctions blocking transactions, not because the Russian government has run out of money. Moscow’s finances remain resilient after months of war, with nearly $600 billion in foreign currency and gold reserves, though about half of that is frozen overseas. And Russia continues to receive a steady influx of cash from sales of oil and gas. Still, a default would be a stain on the country’s reputation that will linger in investors’ memories and probably push up its borrowing costs if it is able to tap international capital markets.

Unlike other major defaults in recent history, such as in Greece and Argentina, this default is expected to have a relatively small impact on international markets and Russia’s budget. For one thing, Russia has already lost access to international investors, traditionally the worst consequence of default.

“The only clear negative outcome of the default is that the external market will be effectively closed for the ministry of finance,” said Sofya Donets, an economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. “But it’s already closed.”

The head of Russia’s central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said this month that there wouldn’t be any immediate consequences of a default because there had already been an outflow of investors and a drop in the value of Russia’s assets. The central bank is more concerned about inflation, most recently at about 17 percent, and supporting the economy through a “large-scale structural transformation” after an exodus of foreign companies and imports.

The Western sanctions alone are expected to block Russia from large parts of international capital markets for a long time. Regardless, Russia has been reluctant to give up its reputation as a reliable borrower, which was hard won after its economic collapse in 1998, when the government defaulted on ruble-denominated bonds amid a currency crisis.

Last month, Russia insisted that it had fulfilled its debt obligations by sending funds to its payment agent in Moscow, the National Settlement Depository. Since then, the depository has fallen under European sanctions, further restricting Russia’s ability to pay bondholders. The finance minister, Anton Siluanov, has accused the West of artificially manufacturing a default and has threatened legal action against U.S. authorities.

This is Russia’s first major default on foreign debt since 1918, soon after the Bolshevik Revolution.

On Wednesday, President Vladimir V. Putin signed a decree saying that future payments to holders of debt denominated in dollars or euros would be made through Russian financial institutions and that the obligations would be considered met if paid in rubles and converted. Most of the bond contracts don’t allow for payment in rubles.

Over the following two days, nearly $400 million in dollar-denominated debt payments were due from bonds that had 30-day and 15-day grace periods. The finance ministry said it had sent the payments, in rubles, using the new procedure laid out by the presidential decree. But it remains unclear how foreign investors will gain access to the funds.

Overseas investors held about half of Russia’s $40 billion in outstanding foreign-currency debt at the end of last year. As the risk of default grew this year, PIMCO, the investment management firm, saw the value of its Russian bond holdings decline by more than $1 billion, and pension funds and mutual funds with exposure to emerging market debt have also experienced declines.

But exposure to Russian assets is limited in the United States and Europe because sanctions imposed since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 have discouraged investors who didn’t want the geopolitical risk.

By international standards, Russia doesn’t have that much debt. Its public debt was only about 17 percent of gross domestic product last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, one of just a handful of countries with debt ratios under 25 percent. The United States, whose assets are in demand among global investors and deemed low risk, has a debt ratio of 125 percent of G.D.P.

Russia’s low debt levels are partly a result of “this new geopolitical era” since the annexation of Crimea, Ms. Donets said. “But it’s also a product of the default of 1998,” she added, when “the ministry of finance was burned badly.” Since then, the ministry has not been that active in issuing new foreign-currency debt, she said.

Russia hasn’t relied on borrowing from international investors for its budget. The finance ministry hasn’t issued dollar-denominated debt since 2019, when U.S. sanctions barred American banks from buying the debt directly. It last issued euro-denominated debt in May 2021.

Instead, Russia has depended on its oil and gas exports, and those dollar revenues that went into reserves and grew the national wealth fund.

“Why would you borrow and pay additional rates when you are a country that is accumulating oil funds, accumulating in hard currency, a country which has $600 billion in reserves?” Ms. Donets said.

The war hasn’t changed that calculation. Russia’s current account surplus, a broad measure of trade and investment, has soared as revenues from energy exports jumped, capital controls stopped investments fleeing and sanctions slashed imports. It has helped push the ruble to its highest level in seven years.

If Russia does issue more debt, it will lean on local banks and residents in the short term to buy ruble-denominated bonds.

Russia “will have no access to the capital markets until the war stops and the sanctions are lifted,” said Richard Portes, an economics professor at the London School of Business.

The long-term consequences of a default are unclear because of the unusual nature of the financial breach. But it’s possible to envision a future where Russia is able to sell debt on international markets again, analysts say, if the war ends and Russia’s geopolitical ambitions change. Without Mr. Putin and with hundreds of billions of dollars in international reserves unfrozen, it could return to markets.

“Capital market access can be restored very quickly,” Mr. Portes said. “Once Russia is back in good political graces and sanctions are lifted.”

“If it’s not a political pariah, it won’t be an economic pariah,” he added.

Reporting was contributed by Ivan Nechepurenko, Andrés R. Martínez, Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport.

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G7 to hike sanctions on Russia, nears oil price cap deal

  • G7 to announce new Russia sanctions on Tuesday – U.S. official
  • G7 to work with other countries, private sector on oil price cap
  • Japan tries to cut zero-emission vehicles goal from G7 statement

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany, June 27 (Reuters) – The Group of Seven rich democracies will commit on Tuesday to a new package of coordinated actions meant to raise pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine, and will finalise plans for a price cap on Russian oil, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

The announcement came as the White House said Russia had defaulted on its foreign sovereign bonds for the first time in decades – an assertion Moscow rejected – and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke virtually with G7 leaders meeting at an alpine resort in southern Germany. read more

Zelenskiy asked leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies for a broad range of military, economic and diplomatic support, according to a European official.

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G7 nations, which generate nearly half the world’s economic output, want to crank up pressure on Russia without stoking already soaring inflation that is causing strains at home and savaging the global south.

The price cap could hit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest while actually lowering energy prices.

“The dual objectives of G7 leaders have been to take direct aim at Putin’s revenues, particularly through energy, but also to minimize the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world,” the U.S. official said on the sidelines of the annual G7 summit.

G7 leaders would also make an “unprecedented, long-term security commitment to providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support as long as it takes”, including the timely provision of advanced weapons, the White House said in a fact sheet.

Western sanctions have hit Russia’s economy hard and the new measures are aimed at further depriving the Kremlin of oil revenues. G7 countries would work with others – including India – to limit the revenues that Putin can continue to generate, the U.S. official said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the five leaders of guest nations joining the G7 for talks on climate change, energy, health, food security and gender equality on the second day of the summit.

“Since it is a mechanism that could benefit third countries more than Europe,” one EU official said. “These countries are asking questions about the feasibility, but in principle to pay less for energy is a very popular theme.”

TARGETING RUSSIAN GOLD, DEFENCE SECTOR

A U.S. official said news that Russia defaulted on its foreign sovereign bonds for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 showed how effective Western sanctions have been.

“This morning’s news around the finding of Russia’s default, for the first time in more than a century, situates just how strong the actions are that the U.S., along with allies and partners, have taken, as well as how dramatic the impact has been on Russia’s economy,” the official added.

The Kremlin, which has the funds to make payments thanks to rich energy revenues, swiftly rejected the U.S. statement, accusing the West of driving it into an artificial default. read more

New sanctions planned by the G7 countries will target Moscow’s military production, crack down on its gold imports and target Russian-installed officials in contested areas. read more

The G7 leaders would task their governments to work intensively on how to implement the Russian price cap, working with countries around the world and stakeholders including the private sector, the official said.

The United States said it would also implement sanctions on hundreds of individuals and entities adding to the more than 1,000 already sanctioned, target companies in several countries and impose tariffs on hundreds of Russia products. read more

The agencies involved would release details on Tuesday to minimize any flight risk, a second senior administration official said.

The Ukraine crisis has detracted attention from another crisis – that of climate change – originally set to dominate the summit. Activists fear Western nations are watering down their climate ambitions as they scramble to find alternatives to Russian gas imports and rely more heavily on coal, a dirtier fossil fuel, instead.

Japan is also pushing to remove a target for zero-emission vehicles from a G7 communique expected this week, according to a proposed draft seen by Reuters. read more

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Sarah Marsh, Additional Reporting by Angelo Amante, Phil Blenkinsop; Editing by Thomas Escritt, Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ukraine pleads for air defence as Russia turns sights on Lysychansk

  • This is not an accidental hit, Zelenskiy says of strike on mall
  • Russian attack on frontline eastern city kills eight: Ukraine
  • G7 leaders promise nearly $30 billion in new aid for Kyiv

KREMENCHUK, Ukraine, June 27 (Reuters) – Russian missiles struck a crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as Moscow fought for control of a key eastern city and Western leaders promised to support Kyiv in the war “as long as it takes”.

More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall in the city of Kremenchuk, southeast of Kyiv, Zelenskiy wrote on Telegram. At least 16 people were killed and 59 injured, Ukraine’s emergency services said. Rescuers trawled through mangled metal and debris for survivors.

“This is not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping centre,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an evening video address, adding there were women and children inside. He said the death count could rise.

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Russia has not commented on the strike, which was condemned by the United Nations and Ukraine’s Western allies. But its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of a June 28-30 summit of the NATO military alliance.

“One should wait for what our Ministry of Defence will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already,” Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.

As night fell in Kremenchuk, firefighters and soldiers brought lights and generators to continue the search. Family members, some close to tears and with hands over their mouths, lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers had set up a base.

Kiril Zhebolovsky, 24, was looking for his friend, Ruslan, 22, who worked at the Comfy electronics store and had not been heard from since the blast.

“We sent him messages, called, but nothing,” he said. He left his name and phone number with the rescue workers in case his friend is found.

The United Nations Security Council will meet Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack on the shopping mall. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the attack was “deplorable”.

Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, gathered for their annual summit in Germany, condemned what they called an “abominable” attack.

“We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack,” they wrote in a joint statement tweeted by the German government spokesperson. “Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account.”

Dmyto Lunin, governor for Poltava which includes Kremenchuk, said it was the most tragic day for region in more than four months of war.

“(We) will never forgive our enemies … This tragedy should strengthen and unite us around one goal: victory,” Lunin said on Telegram.

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and street fighting.

Russian artillery was pounding Lysychansk, its twin across the Siverskyi Donets River. Lysychansk is the last big city still held by Ukraine in the eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital Kyiv early in the war.

A Russian missile strike killed eight and wounded 21 others in Lysychansk on Monday, the area’s regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. There was no immediate Russian comment.

Ukraine’s military said Russia’s forces were trying to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Reuters could not confirm Russian reports that Moscow’s troops had already entered the city.

‘AS LONG AS IT TAKES’

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security. The war has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and laid waste to cities.

During their summit in Germany, G7 leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, said they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s government and its ally Belarus.

“Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, sovereign, independent territory,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC.

The United States said it was finalising another weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air-defence systems – arms that Zelenskiy specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link on Monday. read more

In his address to the G7 leaders, Zelenskiy asked again for more arms, U.S. and European officials said. He requested help to export grain from Ukraine and for more sanctions on Russia.

The G7 nations promised to squeeze Russia’s finances further – including a deal to cap the price of Russian oil that a U.S. official said was “close” – and promised up to $29.5 billion more for Ukraine. read more

“We will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” a G7 statement said.

The White House said Russia had defaulted on its external debt for the first time in more than a century as sweeping sanctions have effectively cut the country off from the global financial system.

Russia rejected the claims, telling investors to go to Western financial agents for the cash which was sent but bondholders did not receive. read more

The war has created difficulties for countries way beyond Europe’s borders, with disruptions to food and energy exports hitting the global economy. read more

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Angus MacSwan, Nick Macfie and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Catherine Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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G7 aims to raise $600 bln to counter China’s Belt and Road

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany, June 26 (Reuters) – Group of Seven leaders pledged on Sunday to raise $600 billion in private and public funds over five years to finance needed infrastructure in developing countries and counter China’s older, multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road project.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders relaunched the newly renamed “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment,” at their annual gathering being held this year at Schloss Elmau in southern Germany.

Biden said the United States would mobilize $200 billion in grants, federal funds and private investment over five years to support projects in low- and middle-income countries that help tackle climate change as well as improve global health, gender equity and digital infrastructure.

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“I want to be clear. This isn’t aid or charity. It’s an investment that will deliver returns for everyone,” Biden said, adding that it would allow countries to “see the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies.”

Biden said hundreds of billions of additional dollars could come from multilateral development banks, development finance institutions, sovereign wealth funds and others.

Europe will mobilize 300 billion euros ($317.28 billion) for the initiative over the same period to build up a sustainable alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative scheme, which Chinese President Xi Jinping launched in 2013, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the gathering.

The leaders of Italy, Canada and Japan also spoke about their plans, some of which have already been announced separately. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were not present, but their countries are also participating.

China’s investment scheme involves development and programs in over 100 countries aimed at creating a modern version of the ancient Silk Road trade route from Asia to Europe.

White House officials said the plan has provided little tangible benefit for many developing countries.

U.S. President Joe Biden attends a working lunch with other G7 leaders to discuss shaping the global economy at the Yoga Pavilion, Schloss Elmau in Kuren, Germany, June 26, 2022. Kenny Holston/Pool via REUTERS

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian defended the track record of BRI when asked for comment at a daily briefing in Beijing on Monday.

“China continues to welcome all initiatives to promote global infrastructure development,” Zhao said of the G7’s $600 billion plan.

“We believe that there is no question that various related initiatives will replace each other. We are opposed to pushing forward geopolitical calculations under the pretext of infrastructure construction or smearing the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Biden highlighted several flagship projects, including a $2 billion solar development project in Angola with support from the Commerce Department, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, U.S. firm AfricaGlobal Schaffer, and U.S. project developer Sun Africa.

Together with G7 members and the EU, Washington will also provide $3.3 million in technical assistance to Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal as it develops an industrial-scale flexible multi-vaccine manufacturing facility in that country that can eventually produce COVID-19 and other vaccines, a project that also involves the EU.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also commit up to $50 million over five years to the World Bank’s global Childcare Incentive Fund.

Friederike Roder, vice president of the non-profit group Global Citizen, said the pledges of investment could be “a good start” toward greater engagement by G7 countries in developing nations and could underpin stronger global growth for all.

G7 countries on average provide only 0.32% of their gross national income, less than half of the 0.7% promised, in development assistance, she said.

“But without developing countries, there will be no sustainable recovery of the world economy,” she said.

($1 = 0.9455 euros)

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Mark Porter, Lisa Shumaker and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Blackstone Completes Acquisition of Crown Resorts in the Firm’s Largest Investment to Date in Asia

MELBOURNE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Blackstone (NYSE: BX) today announced that real estate funds and private equity funds managed by Blackstone (“Blackstone”) have completed the acquisition of Crown Resorts Limited (“Crown”) in the largest transaction to date for the firm in Asia Pacific. The transaction comprises three premium resort and casino properties in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Blackstone will work with the management team at Crown and its thousands of dedicated employees, as well as their representatives from the United Workers Union and other partner unions, to transform these properties into world-class entertainment destinations and continue Crown’s transformation to operate at the highest standards of compliance, governance, and integrity.

As one of Australia’s largest entertainment groups, Crown makes a major contribution to the Australian economy. Crown’s core businesses include two of Australia’s leading integrated resorts, Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth, as well as Sydney’s latest premium hotel resort and dining precinct at Crown Sydney.

Alan Miyasaki, Head of Real Estate Acquisitions Asia, Blackstone, said: “We are thrilled to become the new owner of Crown, bringing our expertise in hospitality to help the company achieve its full potential as a leading travel and leisure company. We first invested in Crown two years ago, seeing the tremendous underlying potential of the company and its people. We look forward to working with the teams at Crown and applying our experience in owning and operating marquee hospitality brands around the globe with the highest levels of ethics and integrity to create something unique for employees, local communities, and visitors.”

Chris Tynan, Head of Real Estate Australia, Blackstone, said: “This is a great opportunity that plays to Blackstone’s strengths – investing significant capital and resources to rebuild Crown into an iconic destination for travel and leisure that everyone can be proud of. Blackstone has built a strong Australian presence over the last 12 years. We look forward to supporting the local economy, creating jobs, and attracting visitors to Crown’s exceptional properties.”

Steve McCann, Crown Resort’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Today, Crown emerges as part of the Blackstone family, which is the start of a new era for this great company and its 20,000 team members. Over recent times, Crown has undergone immense transformation, and we know under Blackstone’s ownership, we will realize our vision to deliver world-class entertainment experiences and a safe and responsible gaming environment.

Australian tourism has entered a recovery phase, and we believe this trend will continue. Crown’s suite of outstanding assets has built a loyal customer base over the past 28 years, and we are excited about the opportunities ahead of us as we revitalize Melbourne and Perth and celebrate the addition of Sydney. With Blackstone’s investment and expertise, we’re confident Crown will cement its place on the global stage as one of the world’s leading owners and operators of integrated resorts,” he said.

Blackstone has built a strong track record in the wider hospitality, travel, and leisure sectors. The firm completed the sale of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas this year, after transforming the property into one of the most vibrant destinations on the Las Vegas Strip. During its 8-year ownership, Blackstone implemented significant operational changes, developed best-in-class management team, and invested significant capital to renovate 3,000 guest rooms and enhance F&B offerings. In addition, Blackstone owned Hilton Hotels Corporation for 11 years, during which it helped double the size of the company to more than 5,300 properties and 400,000 employees worldwide. Its other recent investments in these sectors include the acquisition of an 8-hotel portfolio across Japan’s top tourist destinations; acquisition of Bourne Leisure, a premier British holiday company; and joint acquisition of Extended Stay Hotels.

About Crown Resorts

Crown Resorts is one of Australia’s largest entertainment companies, owning and operating a suite of world-class integrated resorts. Its property portfolio includes three award-winning resorts in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, as well as London’s prestigious Crown Aspinalls, a high end, boutique casino in the West End.

For 25 years, Crown Melbourne has been Australia’s leading luxury integrated resort and casino, offering guests a range of exceptional entertainment and event experiences; premium hospitality, dining, spa and retail; and gaming. Crown Perth is Western Australia’s only integrated resort and casino, and features a combined 1188 hotel-room capacity, expansive lagoon and private pools, and 33 bars and restaurants. Crown’s newest property, Crown Sydney, opened in December 2020 setting a new standard in luxury hotel and dining experiences. Crown Sydney is the tallest building in New South Wales, and features 349 hotel rooms and villas, 13 signature restaurants, a VIP, members only casino which is due to open shortly, two pools, a spa, and Crown’s first ever luxury serviced apartment offering.

As one of Australia’s largest hospitality employers, Crown’s properties support the employment of a diverse mix of over 20,000 people.

About Blackstone

Blackstone is the world’s largest alternative asset manager. We seek to create positive economic impact and long-term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, and the communities in which we work. We do this by using extraordinary people and flexible capital to help companies solve problems. Our $915 billion in assets under management include investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, infrastructure, life sciences, growth equity, opportunistic, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds, all on a global basis. Further information is available at www.blackstone.com. Follow @blackstone on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Ukraine News: Civilians Are Urged to Flee Russian-Occupied Areas in South

Credit…Nariman El-Mofty/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said during a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday that a veteran prosecutor known for investigating former Nazis would lead American efforts in tracking Russian war criminals.

Mr. Garland’s visit, part of scheduled stops in Poland and Paris this week, was intended to bolster U.S. and international support in helping Ukraine identify, apprehend and prosecute Russians involved in war crimes and other atrocities.

His overseas travel comes at a particularly tense moment in his tenure at the Justice Department, on a day of dramatic congressional testimony about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that prompted many Democrats to renew their call for him to prosecute former President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Mr. Garland met for an hour with Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, in the village of Krakovets, about a mile from the border with Poland, to discuss the technical, forensic and legal support that the United States could provide, department officials said.

“The United States is sending an unmistakable message” to those who have committed atrocities, Mr. Garland said: “There is no place to hide.”

“We will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” he added.

After the meeting, Mr. Garland said he was tapping Eli Rosenbaum, the former director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, to create a war crimes accountability team that would work with Ukraine and international law enforcement groups.

Mr. Rosenbaum, 67, is best known for his work for the World Jewish Congress in the 1980s investigating the hidden history of Kurt Waldheim, a former United Nations secretary general whose army unit was implicated in war crimes against Jews and Yugoslavian partisans during World War II.

His work, during a 36-year career in the department, and in stints outside government, earned him the nickname “Nazi hunter” from historians, a sobriquet he dislikes.

In the department’s criminal division, Mr. Rosenbaum has also been instrumental in the prosecution and deportation of Nazis living in the United States and Jews who committed atrocities against their own people in concentration camps. In recent years, his portfolio has taken on a broader mission, as former Nazis die off, and now includes a wider array of human rights cases, at home and abroad.

The new team will include Justice Department staff members and outside experts. In addition to offering assistance to Ukrainian officials, the department said in a statement that Mr. Rosenbaum would investigate “potential war crimes over which the U.S. possesses jurisdiction, such as the killing and wounding of U.S. journalists covering the unprovoked Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

This line of work is, in a sense, part of Mr. Rosenbaum’s family business. His father, Irving, escaped Dresden in 1938, the year of the Kristallnacht attacks against Germany’s Jewish population, joined the U.S. Army, eventually served in an intelligence unit that interrogated German soldiers — and collected information at the Dachau concentration camp.

Mr. Rosenbaum was set to retire before Mr. Garland asked him about a week ago to lead the new unit. He agreed immediately, according to a senior Justice Department official with knowledge of the exchange.

The department is also assigning additional personnel to expand its work with Ukraine and other partners to counter Russian use of illicit financial methods to evade international sanctions — detailing a Justice Department expert to advise Ukraine on fighting kleptocracy, corruption and money laundering, officials said.

“We will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” added Mr. Garland, whose own family immigrated to the United States after fleeing antisemitic pogroms in Eastern Europe in the early 1900s.

After stopping in Poland, Mr. Garland flew on to Paris, where he was scheduled to join the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, in a series of bilateral meetings with European counterparts to discuss efforts to combat terrorism and carry out a strategy of holding Russia accountable for its brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Garland and Ms. Venediktova last met in May in Washington.

In April, Mr. Garland and the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, said they would work with investigators and prosecutors in Ukraine, a signal that the Biden administration intended to follow through on its public condemnation of atrocities committed by Russian forces that have been documented during the war.

His team has also been working with the State Department to provide logistical support and advice to Ms. Venediktova and the leaders of other ministries in Ukraine.

“We’ve seen and have determined that a number of war crimes have been committed by Russia’s forces,” Beth Van Schaack, the State Department’s ambassador at large for global criminal justice, said at a briefing in Washington last week.

“What we are seeing is not the results of a rogue unit,” she added, “but rather a pattern and practice across all the areas in which Russia’s forces are engaged.”

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Drivers’ Lawsuit Claims Uber and Lyft Violate Antitrust Laws

A group of drivers claimed on Tuesday that Uber and Lyft are engaging in anticompetitive practices by setting the prices customers pay and limiting drivers’ ability to choose which rides they accept without penalty.

The drivers, supported by the advocacy group Rideshare Drivers United, made the novel legal argument in a state lawsuit that targets the long-running debate about the job status of gig economy workers.

For years, Uber and Lyft have argued that their drivers should be considered independent contractors rather than employees under labor laws, meaning they would be responsible for their own expenses and not typically eligible for unemployment insurance or health benefits. In exchange, the companies argued, drivers could set their own hours and maintain more independence than they could if they were employees.

ballot measure in California that would lock in the independent contractor status of drivers. The companies said such a measure would help drivers by giving them flexibility, and Uber also began allowing drivers in California to set their own rates after the state passed a law requiring companies to treat contract workers as employees. Drivers thought the new flexibility was a sign of what life would be like if voters approved the ballot measure, Proposition 22.

Drivers were also given increased visibility into where passengers wanted to travel before they had to accept the ride. The ballot measure passed, before a judge overturned it.

The next year, the new options for drivers were rolled back. Drivers said they had lost the ability to set their own fares and now must meet requirements — like accepting five of every 10 rides — to see details about trips before accepting them.

bears little relationship to what drivers earn.

Whatever the case, courts in California could be more sympathetic to at least some of the claims in the complaint, the experts said.

gas prices have soared and as competition among drivers has started to return to prepandemic levels.

“It’s been increasingly more difficult to earn money,” said another plaintiff, Ben Valdez, a driver in Los Angeles. “Enough is enough. There’s only so much a person can take.”

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Russia’s Blockade of Ukraine Is ‘War Crime,’ Top E.U. Official Says

LONDON — The Russian blockade that has stopped Ukraine from exporting its vast storehouses of grain and other goods, threatening starvation in distant corners of the globe, is a “war crime,” the European Union’s top foreign policy official declared Monday.

The remarks by the official, Josep Borrell Fontelles, were among the strongest language from a Western leader in describing the Kremlin’s tactics to subjugate Ukraine nearly four months after it invaded, and with no end to the conflict in sight.

Before Russian forces began pounding Ukraine in February, it was a major exporter of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer. But the Black Sea blockade — along with Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian farmland and its destruction of agricultural infrastructure — has brought exports to a near standstill. The latest blow came Monday, when, Ukrainian regional authorities said, a Russian missile razed a food warehouse in Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest Black Sea port.

arriving in Luxembourg for a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers. “Millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering hunger. This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made the same point in a remote address to the African Union on Monday. Moscow has deep ties to many African countries, which have been reluctant to criticize the invasion.

similar announcement on Sunday by Germany, Europe’s biggest economy. Denmark said it was also activating a plan to deal with looming shortages of gas that had been supplied by Russia.

The developments came as Russia, far from feeling the pain of lost fuel sales, found a savior in China, which reported on Monday that it was now the biggest buyer of Russian oil.

considering a suspension of fuel taxes to ease the strain on consumers.

NBC News, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said that the two Americans, Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, were “soldiers of fortune” who had been engaged in shelling and firing on Russian forces and should be “held responsible for the crimes they have committed.”

The sanctions imposed on Russia also played a role on Monday in an escalating confrontation with Lithuania, a member of both the European Union and NATO.

The Russian authorities threatened Lithuania with retaliation if the Baltic country did not swiftly reverse its ban on the transportation of some goods to Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Lithuania and Poland. Citing instructions from the European Union, Lithuania’s railway on Friday said it was halting the movement of goods from Russia that have been sanctioned by the European bloc.

Mr. Peskov told reporters the situation was “more than serious.” He called the new restrictions “an element of a blockade” of the region and a “violation of everything.”

small town of Toshkivka in Luhansk Province, part of the eastern region known as Donbas. That is where Russian forces have concentrated much of their military power as part of a plan to seize the region after having failed to occupy other parts of the country, including Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, in northern Ukraine.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Russian forces had broken through the Ukrainian front line in Toshkivka, about 12 miles southeast of the metropolitan area of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Those are the last major cities in Luhansk not to have fallen into Russian hands. As of Monday, it remained unclear whether Russia had made any further advance there.

But Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had intensified shelling in and around Kharkiv, weeks after the Ukrainians had pushed them back, suggesting that Moscow still had territorial ambitions beyond Donbas.

“We de-occupied this region,” Mr. Zelensky said in an address to a conference of international policy experts in Italy. “And they want to do it again.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from London, Andrew Higgins from Warsaw, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Druzhkivka, Ukraine, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Reporting was contributed by Valerie Hopkins and Oleksandr Chubko from Kyiv; Dan Bilefsky from Montreal; Monika Pronczuk from Brussels; Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong; Stanley Reed from London; and Zach Montague from Rehoboth Beach, Del.

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Two Trends Slowing Housing Market Normalization, According to First American Potential Home Sales Model

SANTA ANA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a premier provider of title, settlement and risk solutions for real estate transactions and the leader in the digital transformation of its industry, today released First American’s proprietary Potential Home Sales Model for the month of May 2022. The Potential Home Sales Model measures what the healthy market level of home sales should be based on economic, demographic, and housing market fundamentals.

May 2022 Potential Home Sales

Chief Economist Analysis: Market Potential for Existing-Home Sales down 10.5 percent year over year, but remains 2.5 percent above pre-pandemic level of May 2019

“The market potential for existing-home sales in May fell 2 percent to 5.62 million at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR), compared with last month, and is 10.5 percent lower than one year ago,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “Yet, the market potential for home sales remains 2.5 percent higher than May 2019, before the pandemic hit.

“Home purchase demand is declining as mortgage rates rise alongside still-strong house price appreciation. While a decline in demand may reduce the pace of sales and lead to an increase in inventory, existing homeowners are less inclined to sell their homes as mortgage rates rise,” said Fleming. “Historically, nearly 90 percent of total inventory is existing-home inventory, and existing homeowners are staying put. Increasing the supply of homes for sale is key to slowing house price growth and restoring balance to the housing market.”

Existing Homeowners, the Immovable Object

“The amount of time a typical homeowner lives in their home increased 2 percent from one year ago, and 0.4 percent compared with last month, which was the largest month-over-month increase since August 2020 and contributed to a loss of 15,500 potential home sales compared with last month,” said Fleming. “Since existing homeowners supply the majority of the homes for sale, and homeowners are staying put longer, the housing market faces an ongoing supply shortage.

“Before the housing market crash in 2007, the average length of time someone lived in their home was approximately five years. During the aftermath of the housing market crisis between 2008 and 2016, the average length of time someone lived in their home grew to approximately eight years,” said Fleming. “The most recent data shows that the average length of time someone lives in their home reached a historic high of 10.6 years in May 2022.”

Two Trends Limiting Housing Supply and Housing Market Normalization

“Two trends are locking homeowners in place, preventing much-needed housing supply from reaching the market and helping tilt the market toward buyers. Many existing homeowners are rate locked-in to historically low, sub-3 percent mortgage rates, and now that rates are rising, there is a financial disincentive to sell their homes and buy a new home at a higher mortgage rate,” said Fleming. “The golden handcuffs of low mortgage rates prevent more supply from reaching the market.

“Seniors choosing to age in place, rather than downsize or move to another home, further limits housing supply. A 2019 study from Freddie Mac shows that if adults born between 1931-1959 behaved like earlier generations, they would have released nearly 1.6 million additional housing units to the market by 2018,” said Fleming. “As seniors continue to choose to age in place, there will be fewer existing homes available for sale. And, with many of these senior homeowners also locked into historically low mortgage rates and sitting on historically high levels of equity, it’s more likely they will renovate the home they currently own than list their home for sale and move.”

What Does it all Mean for the Housing Market?

“A moderation of house price growth will signal that balance is returning to the housing market. Yet, more housing supply is critical to meaningful moderation in house price appreciation. While rising mortgage rates will continue to cool demand, it will also keep existing homeowners locked into their homes,” said Fleming. “You can’t buy what’s not for sale — and existing homeowners have little incentive to relieve the supply pressure, keeping a lid on housing market normalization.”

Next Release

The next Potential Home Sales Model will be released on July 19, 2022 with June 2022 data.

About the Potential Home Sales Model

Potential home sales measures existing-homes sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate based on the historical relationship between existing-home sales and U.S. population demographic data, homeowner tenure, house-buying power in the U.S. economy, price trends in the U.S. housing market, and conditions in the financial market. When the actual level of existing-home sales are significantly above potential home sales, the pace of turnover is not supported by market fundamentals and there is an increased likelihood of a market correction. Conversely, seasonally adjusted, annualized rates of actual existing-home sales below the level of potential existing-home sales indicate market turnover is underperforming the rate fundamentally supported by the current conditions. Actual seasonally adjusted annualized existing-home sales may exceed or fall short of the potential rate of sales for a variety of reasons, including non-traditional market conditions, policy constraints and market participant behavior. Recent potential home sale estimates are subject to revision to reflect the most up-to-date information available on the economy, housing market and financial conditions. The Potential Home Sales model is published prior to the National Association of Realtors’ Existing-Home Sales report each month.

Disclaimer

Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page are those of First American’s Chief Economist, do not necessarily represent the views of First American or its management, should not be construed as indicating First American’s business prospects or expected results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2022 by First American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a premier provider of title, settlement and risk solutions for real estate transactions. With its combination of financial strength and stability built over more than 130 years, innovative proprietary technologies, and unmatched data assets, the company is leading the digital transformation of its industry. First American also provides data products to the title industry and other third parties; valuation products and services; mortgage subservicing; home warranty products; banking, trust and wealth management services; and other related products and services. With total revenue of $9.2 billion in 2021, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2022, First American was named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Great Place to Work® and Fortune Magazine for the seventh consecutive year. More information about the company can be found at www.firstam.com. 

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