Live Blog

Jennifer Lawrence
September 2, 2014, 9:42pm
Apple shares went up by nearly one per cent to a new record today, after the company confirmed that there was no security system breach when celebrities had intimate photos taken from their iCloud accounts. 
 
In a statement, it said that the thefts happened after the perpetrators deduced their login credentials as part of a “very targeted attack on user names”.
 
"When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilised Apple’s engineers to discover the source," the company said.
 
"After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet. 
 
“None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved."
 
Apple shares reached a record high of $103.74 following the announcement.
 
Nude photographs of around 20 celebrities, including actress Jennifer Lawrence, were published by an anonymous user on the picture-sharing website 4chan. There was speculation that a flaw in Apple's software enabled users to locate missing iPhones, because it had allowed hackers to try logging in with an unlimited number of passwords. 
 
Apple and America's FBI have launched a probe into matter.
Vladimir Putin
September 2, 2014, 8:39pm
Russia has upped its game in the race to become a space superpower. 
 
Today, President Vladimir Putin announced that he was hastening Russia's efforts to build a multi-billion dollar spaceport in the East of the country. 
 
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has relied on the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to send missions into space, but by speeding up construction of the spaceport Putin hopes to rid Russia of its dependence on former Soviet Union republics once and for all.
 
"Our own space infrastructure and modern network of cosmodromes will allow Russia to strengthen its standing as a leading space superpower and guarantee the independence of space activities," he said at Vostochny, near Russia's border with China.
 
"In the future, the capacity of the cosmodrome will be expanded ... to be used to realise program to explore the Moon, Mars and other space objects.”
 
But he added that Russia is not progressing as fast as it should be. He said that double the number of workers were needed at the construction site, and that construction was three months behind where it should be at this point. 
 
Around 100bn roubles have already been pumped into the spaceport's construction, and a further 50bn have been set aside to carry the project through 2015. This is a sizeable sum when considering the negative impact that Western sanctions are having on Russia's economy. 
 
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that even though the county was going through financial difficulties, it would continue to pursue its investment in space. "Despite the decrease in budgetary funds and the pressure on Russia from sanctions, this plan is unchangeable,” he said. 
 
It is not the first step taken by Russia this year to establish itself in the space industry. In July, it launched its first new design of space rocket built entirely within post-Soviet Russia's borders.
 
A race to send tourists into space?
 
In 2011, the US built what has been described as “the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport" in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico. It's users include Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and UP Aerospace. 
 
The UK has followed suit and is planning to complete the build of its first commercial spaceport by 2018, in anticipation of an increase in demand for space tourism and a growing space plane industry. Government officials predict there will be orbital launches from it within the next 15 years, and expect the UK's space tourism market to be worth $65m each year by 2030.
 
With its dedication to becoming a major player in the space industry, perhaps Russia will be next to jump on the space tourism bandwagon.
Premier League net spend
September 2, 2014, 7:40pm
The Premier League’s net spend of £438m in this summer’s transfer window is a new record, as clubs splashed the cash like never before.
 
In total clubs spent a massive £889m on new players and earned £451m through player sales.
 
Manchester United topped the spending charts, shelling out £169m on new signings, while it was Southampton who earned more money than anyone else - raising over £100m through player sales.
 
Our interactive graph below shows that the Red Devils recorded the biggest net spend in the league while Saints recorded the biggest net profit.
 
Explore all the data in our graph which contains the net spend over the last five seasons for all 20 of the current Premier League clubs.
 
Drag the left hand left-hand ticker marked "Season" in order to see specific seasons over the last five years, and use the drop down menu marked "Club" on the right hand side of the graph to filter your view to specific clubs. 

 

*All data courtesy of the excellent transfermarkt.co.uk

Pro-Russian militants
September 2, 2014, 7:22pm
As the crisis in the east of Ukraine continues to harm the nation's economy, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that a much bigger international bailout will be needed than was originally planned. 
 
In a review of the already agreed $16.7bn standby facility, the fund described the figure as being built on “totally unrealistic assumptions”, and said that if fighting continued at its current level throughout 2015 an extra $19bn would be needed. It added that Ukraine now faced “heightened geopolitical tensions and deepening economic crisis”.
 
A worsening of the conflict between the two sides and a natural gas shut-off by Russia were listed as two of the main causes of economic instability.“Intensification of the conflict in the east and escalation of the gas dispute with Gazprom, two of the key risks identified at the time of the programme request, have materialised,” the IMF said. 
 
It added that if the political situation continues to deteriorate in the Donetsk and Lughansk regions, the recession could be worse than was originally predicted. These two areas alone make up almost a sixth of the country's economic output.
 
As would be expected, the decline in economic activity is much steeper in the eastern parts of Ukraine. By the end of 2014, annual GDP is expected to have gone down by 15-20 per cent in this region. This is a much larger fall than is projected for other parts of the country. 
 
Ukraine’s economy would contract by 6.5 per cent this year if tensions do continue to escalate as the IMF predicts, making it one of the worst performing economies in the world.
Graziano Pelle
September 2, 2014, 7:02pm
After a record-breaking transfer window in which £889m was spent by Premier League teams, Southampton stand out as a club apart.
 
The excessive fees, star names and lavish splurges may have stolen the headlines yesterday, yet while the rest of the league was busy racking up a total net spend of £438m, Saints made a healthy profit of £40.9m - one of the biggest overall earnings a Premier League side has ever made in a single transfer window.
 
In fact, Southampton were one of just two sides to have made come out of this summer’s window in profit, the other being Swansea who made a comparatively miniature £2.5m.*
 
In contrast, Manchester United recorded a jaw-dropping net spend of £135.6m, while Arsenal and Liverpool had totals in excess of £50m. 
 
 
At one stage earlier in the summer, things had looked pretty desperate for Saints. Players who had formed an integral part of their impressive first two seasons back in the top flight formed an orderly queue out of the exit door. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren followed each other to Liverpool while defenders Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw joined Arsenal and Manchester United respectively. On top of that, manager Mauricio Pochettino left for Tottenham.
 
 
Yet while the jarring loss of so many familiar faces naturally caused consternation, Southampton accumulated a massive £105m in transfer fees - more than any other club and around £20m more than second highest earners Chelsea. 
 
Encouragingly for the St. Mary’s faithful, Canadian chairman Ralph Krueger has not been afraid to reinvest that money back into the squad. In fact, Southampton actually recorded the fifth-highest transfer spend in the Premier League this summer. Only Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal spent more on new recruits.
 
 
In early August Krueger insisted that the club would emerge out of the 1 September in a strong position.
 
 
Our goal is to finish this transfer window where you can say, ‘Actually they’ve got a plus now. They are a stronger team than they were before’
 
My message to the fans would be that they went through a hard time but there are good times ahead.
 
Amid the bluster and bombast of transfer deadline day, Southampton quietly secured the loan signing of Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid and finalised the £10m capture of Senegalese striker Sadio Mane from Red Bull Salzburg. Alderweireld is a defender who appeared at this year’s World Cup and in the Champions League final, while Mane has a goal-scoring record greater than one in every other game.
 
Good times ahead? With £40m in the bank and a hungry new squad at manager Ronald Koeman’s disposal, there is no reason to believe Krueger won’t be proved right.
 
Continue exploring our data with our interactive graph showcasing the net spend of every all 20 of this season's Premier League clubs:
 
 
*All data courtesy of the excellent transfermarkt.co.uk
Macondo oil well on fire
September 2, 2014, 5:43pm

For those living in New Orleans and the cities around it, the six months between the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico well and it being declared officially "sealed" may have seemed like an age - but that was nothing compared to the length of the ensuing legal wrangles.

Now Halliburton, the BP contractor which was partially blamed for the 2010 disaster, has finally reached an agreement to pay $1.1bn (£660m) to settle its lawsuits. The money will be paid in three installments into a trust, which will be used to compensate property owners and commercial fisheries along the affected coastline.

The deal includes settlements related to an agreement BP struck with businesses in the area - although Halliburton added it had already set aside $1.3bn for legal costs. The final sum is still awaiting approval by the Louisiana District Court. 

Shares in the company climbed in early trading, before falling 0.9 per cent in mid-afternoon.

Islamic State
September 2, 2014, 5:21pm
Fighters from a militant Islamic group in Afghanistan have said they would consider joining forces with the Islamic State (IS).
 
The Hezb-e-Islami group is allied to the Taliban, and its commander Mirwais told the BBC that if IS can prove a true Islamic caliphate, they would link up with it.
 
Referring to IS by its Arabic acronym Daish, he said: "We know Daish and we have links with some Daish members. We are waiting to see if they meet the requirements for an Islamic caliphate.
 
"If we find they do, we are sure that our leadership will announce their allegiance to them. They are great mujahideen. We pray for them, and if we don't see a problem in the way they operate, we will join them."
 
Hezb-e-Islami is notorious for its brutality, to the extent its activities have alienated even the Taliban themselves in the past.
 
Under current plans, Nato will have withdrawn all its forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year. But Mirwais said the group would continue to fight the Afghan government.
 
"Our struggle was mainly against the Americans, and thank God they were forced to run away. But we will continue to fight until we establish an Islamic state," he said.
 
If Taliban and IS forces do link up, this could lead to serious consequences. The Taliban is currently fighting government forces at 14 different front lines across Afghanistan, and if combined with IS the threat posed by them throughout the region would be significantly increased. 
 
This would be exacerbated by the current instability in Afghanistan following a disputed presidential election in June. There is currently no confirmed winner, and an audit of eight million votes is now taking place. 
 
Abdullah Abdullah, one of the election candidates, said today he will back out of the election process entirely unless changes are made to make the auditing process fairer.
 
"We will give one day to the international community to review and assure that the vote auditing and the political negotiations are moving forward properly. ... If our demands are not met and the auditing is not conducted legitimately and the political talks without honesty, then we will withdraw from both processes," his spokesman said. 
 
Mark Cutifani
September 2, 2014, 4:39pm

Shares in Anglo American, the world's largest platinum miner, jumped 2.6 per cent this afternoon after its chief executive said the company is open to takeover offers.

In an interview, Mark Cutifani said his job is "to create value" - adding that "if somebody sees value, then there's a conversation to be had". 

I'm not anti. I'm very open. I'm not scared by it.

A takeover would be a drastic departure from the strategy of former chief executive Cynthia Carroll, who stepped down in February last year. In 2009 she rebuffed an approach from Xstrata (which has since itself merged with Glencore).

Like rivals including BHP Billiton, which last month spun off dozens of assets into a new company in order to focus on higher-margin businesses, Anglo has said it will sell some of its assets, including older, deep-level platinum mines. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, in which the interview appeared, Cutifani is targeting return on capital employed of at least 15 per cent by 2016, from 10 per cent in the first half of this year. "It is an imperative we have to get to. We've got to be doing better than that number," he said.

But by all accounts, it will be a long, hard slog. Although shares are up 17.5 per cent this year, the company reported in July that quarterly platinum production had dropped 40 per cent after a five-month strike at one of its mines in South Africa. 

Saudi police station
September 2, 2014, 3:43pm
A Saudi security official confirmed today that police have arrested 88 men suspected of plotting to carry out attacks both inside and outside the kingdom.
 
They are thought to be part of an al-Qaeda ring “on the verge of carrying out operations” according to the country's interior ministry. 
 
Three of the men are from Yemen, one's nationality has not yet been identified, and the rest are from Saudi Arabia itself. Prior to the arrests, they were being monitored for a number of months.
 
Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said the arrests were made over the past several days and that Saudi forces "are serious in tracking down" anyone who joins a terrorist group.
 
Hi did not divulge any details of the alleged plots, but he said 59 of the men had previously been imprisoned for similar offences.
 
"It is unfortunate that some of those who had completed their sentences and were released by court orders returned to their previous ways," he said.
 
In Saudi Arabia it is illegal for citizens to fight as militants abroad, and King Abdullah warned over the weekend that extremists could attack western countries if a strong international response to terrorism was not launched. 
 
His comment refers to the increasing threat posed by the Islamic State (IS). Saudi Arabia has increased its security measures in response to advances made by the extremist group in northern Iraq and Syria.
House of Fraser
September 2, 2014, 3:37pm
The sale of department store House of Fraser to Chinese conglomerate Nanjing Xinjiekou has gone through today – with Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley retaining his 11 per cent stake. 
 
The deal values the business at around £480m – probably more than it would have valued at, had chairman Don McCarthy gone through with his original plans to float it. 
 
Ashley unexpectedly acquired his stake in the business back in April, as talks with the Chinese buyers were taking place. He bought it from retail entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, who said he liked the “certainty of cash now” - a move which resulted in House of Fraser sending legal letters to both men.  
 
However this does not seem to have affected the ultimate sale of 100 per cent of the preferred ordinary shares and B ordinary shares, and 89 per cent of the A ordinary shares and preference shares of House of Fraser's parent company Highland Group Holdings. 
 
Ashley, who acquired the stake through Sports Direct subsidiary West Coast Capital, does not have a position on the board.  According to a statement released today, Nanjing Cenbest offered to acquire his shareholding on the same terms as the main acquisition “but no agreement was finalised”.
 
Yuan Yafei, chairman of Sanpower Group, the largest shareholder of Nanjing Cenbest, said:
We are delighted to have completed the purchase of House of Fraser today. It is an unprecedented transaction and the largest acquisition of a foreign retailer by a Chinese listed company... We are excited to tap the significant opportunities that House of Fraser has in China, where the brand has very strong growth potential.
We are looking forward to bringing international brands to China through House of Fraser, providing Chinese consumers with premium fashion products. We are extremely confident House of Fraser will become a leading global department store and will serve as a bridge for premium brands between China and Europe.
McCarthy, who stands down as of today, added: 
The acquisition by Nanjing Cenbest will move House of Fraser to the next stage of its development as a leading international, multi-channel retail group with a premium fashion offering.
Nanjing Cenbest was advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and House of Fraser by Reorient Group.

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