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Coronavirus latest: Global coronavirus cases exceed 700,000

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Via Financial Times

Australia tightens scrutiny of foreign takeovers

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

The Australian government has tightened its scrutiny of foreign takeovers over concerns overseas companies could buy up strategic assets on the cheap during the coronavirus crisis.

It follows warnings from two government MPs that distressed companies in the aviation and freight sectors could become vulnerable to takeovers by state-owned enterprises from authoritarian regimes, including China.

Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s Treasurer, said on Monday all foreign investment and takeover proposals would now be scrutinised by the government’s foreign investment review board to protect the national interest. However, he denied the measures were aimed specifically at China, noting Beijing was only the fifth-largest overseas investor in Australia last year while the US was the largest.

“These are extraordinary times and we have seen the value of Australian companies, indeed companies right around world, be severely diminished because of the coronavirus and we don’t want predatory behaviour that is not in the national interest occurring,” Mr Frydenberg told Australian radio.

The temporary changes to regulations will apply to existing and new investment proposals. Previously, most foreign takeovers and investments proposed by private companies were not considered by the Australian government unless they were worth more than A$1.1bn.

Richard McGregor, analyst at Lowy Institute, said the new measures were no doubt made with Beijing’s state-owned enterprises in mind, especially as conspiracy theories are swirling about how China is using the crisis as an opportunity to assert its influence.

“But vultures come in many forms, and I think this will end up applying to lots more companies than just those from China,” he said.

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Signs of slowdown in countries’ death rates and growth of cases

Steve Bernard in London

Every day the Covid-19 virus is infecting an increasing number of people. However, the rate of growth in countries is starting to slow.

Among countries with more than 5,000 cases, this is most visible in Spain, which two weeks ago had a growth rate above 40 per cent per day on average and has seen this number fall to about 15 per cent.

The US continues to see increases above 25 per cent per day, but have fallen from recent highs of nearly 40 per cent. Iran, one of first countries to see a major outbreak outside of China, has started to see an increase again in recent days, edging back up to nearly 10 per cent.

The same also looks to be true with deaths.

Among countries with more than 100 deaths, this slowing down is most visible in Spain, which two weeks ago had a growth rate above 50 per cent per day on average, and has seen this number fall to about 20 per cent.

Global coronavirus cases exceed 700,000

Steve Bernard in London

The total number of cases worldwide has surpassed 700,000 on Sunday as an additional 44,279 people were confirmed to have contracted coronavirus.

The US has so far added 9,516 cases in the past day to about 133,000, with 21 states still to report their numbers.

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