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President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday faced heckles and whistles from French farmers angry with reforms to their sector, as he arrived for France’s annual agricultural fair.

For over 12 hours, Macron listened and responded to critics’ rebukes and questions — only to return home to the Elysee Palace with an adopted hen.

“I saw people 500 meters away, whistling at me,” Macron said, referring to a group of cereal growers protesting against a planned European Union free-trade pact with a South American bloc, and against the clampdown on weedkiller glyphosate.

“I broke with the plan and with the rules and headed straight to them, and they stopped whistling,” he told reporters.

“No one will be left without a solution,” he said.

Macron was seeking to appease farmers who believe they have no alternative to the widely used herbicide, which environmental activists say probably causes cancer.

Mercosur warning

He also wanted to calm fears after France’s biggest farm union warned Friday that more than 20,000 farms could go bankrupt if the deal with the Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, which is the world’s top exporter of beef, plus Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) goes ahead.

Meanwhile, Macron was under pressure over a plan to allow the wolf population in the French countryside to grow, if only marginally.

“If you want me to commit to reinforce the means of protection … I will do that,” he responded.

And he called on farmers to accept a decision on minimum price rules for European farmers, “or else the market will decide for us.”

But it wasn’t all jeers and snarls for Macron at the fair.

He left the fairground with a red hen in his arms, a gift from a poultry farm owner.

“I’ll take it. We’ll just have to find a way to protect it from the dog,” he said, referring to his Labrador, Nemo.

It was a far cry from last year, when, as a presidential candidate not yet in office, Macron was hit on the head by an egg launched by a protester.


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Investor Warren Buffett says Wall Street’s lust for deals has prompted CEOs to act like oversexed teenagers and overpay for acquisitions, so it has been hard to find deals for Berkshire Hathaway.

In his annual letter to shareholders Saturday, Buffett mixed investment advice with details of how Berkshire’s many businesses performed. Buffett blamed his recent acquisition drought on ambitious CEOs who have been encouraged to take on debt to finance pricey deals.

“If Wall Street analysts or board members urge that brand of CEO to consider possible acquisitions, it’s a bit like telling your ripening teenager to be sure to have a normal sex life,” Buffett said.

Berkshire is also facing more competition for acquisitions from private equity firms and other companies such as privately held Koch Industries.

Sticking with guideline

Buffett is sitting on $116 billion of cash and bonds because he’s struggled to find acquisitions at sensible prices. And Buffett is unwilling to load up on debt to finance deals at current prices.

“We will stick with our simple guideline: The less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we must conduct our own,” Buffett wrote.

He said the conglomerate recorded a $29 billion paper gain because of the tax reforms Congress passed late last year. That helped it generate $44.9 billion profit last year, up from $24.1 billion the previous year.

Investors left wanting

Buffett’s letter is always well-read in the business world because of his remarkable track record over more than five decades and his talent for explaining complicated subjects in plain language. But this year’s letter left some investors wanting more because he didn’t say much about Berkshire’s succession plan, some noteworthy investment moves or the company’s new partnership with Amazon and JP Morgan Chase to reduce health care costs.

Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said he expected Buffett to devote more of the letter to explaining his decision to promote and name the top two candidates to eventually succeed him as Berkshire’s CEO. Buffett briefly mentioned that move in two paragraphs at the very end of his letter.

That surprised John Fox, chief investment officer at FAM Funds, which holds Berkshire stock.

“He didn’t say a lot about succession. I was expecting more,” Fox said.

Greg Abel and Ajit Jain joined Berkshire’s board in January and took on additional responsibilities. Jain will now oversee all of the conglomerate’s insurance businesses while Abel will oversee all of the conglomerate’s non-insurance business operations.

Bet pays off for charity

Buffett, 87, has long had a succession plan in place for Berkshire to ensure the future of the conglomerate he built even though he has no plans to retire. Until January, he kept the names of Berkshire’s internal CEO candidates secret although investors who follow Berkshire had long included Jain and Abel on their short lists.

Shanahan said it also would have been nice to read Buffett’s thoughts on why he is selling off Berkshire’s IBM investment but maintaining big stakes in Wells Fargo and US Bancorp.

But Buffett did offer some sage investment advice based on his victory in a 10-year bet he made with a group of hedge funds. The S&P 500 index fund Buffett backed generated an 8.5 percent average annual gain and easily outpaced the hedge funds. One of Buffett’s favorite charities, Girls Inc. of Omaha, received $2.2 million as a result of the bet.

Buffett said it’s important for people to invest money regularly regardless of the market’s ups and downs, but watch out for investment fees, which will eat away at returns.

Succeeding in the stock market requires the discipline to act sensibly when markets do crazy things. Buffett said investors need “an ability to both disregard mob fears or enthusiasms and to focus on a few simple fundamentals. A willingness to look unimaginative for a sustained period — or even to look foolish — is also essential.”

Buffett said investors shouldn’t assume that bonds are less risky than stocks. At times, bonds are riskier than stocks.

Berkshire owns more than 90 subsidiaries, including clothing, furniture and jewelry firms. It also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.


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Australia appears to be failing in its efforts to crack down on bribery, according to the latest survey conducted by Transparency International, a non-governmental organization based in Germany.

The group said developed countries – including Australia – appeared to be lagging in their efforts to combat corruption in the public sector.  It pointed to an inadequate regulation of foreign political donations in Australia, conflicts of interest in planning approvals, revolving doors and improper industry lobbying in large-scale mining projects.  

While Australia’s ranking is unchanged – it remains ranked 13th out of 180 countries – its corruption score has slipped eight points since the index started in its current form in 2012.

Concern about Australia’s ranking comes as debate continues about the need for a nationwide anti-corruption body similar to the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the state of New South Wales.  It was set up in 1989 and has scored many notable victories, including the jailing of corrupt state politicians.

Professor A.J. Brown, who leads a project called “Strengthening Australia’s National Integrity System” for Transparency International, says much more work needs to be done.

“We do not have a federal anti-corruption body amongst other things, so it is also about the fact that our track record in terms of government commitment to controlling foreign bribery or money laundering and some of the things that the private sector is also involved in internationally is not that strong.  We are moving but we have been moving very slow and very late, and not very comprehensively,” Brown said.

This year, New Zealand and Denmark were ranked highest in the Transparency International survey, the U.S. is ranked 16th, while South Sudan and Somalia were the lowest-ranked nations. The best performing region was Western Europe, while the most corrupt regions were Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The survey found that more than 6 billion people live in countries that are corrupt. Transparency International said most countries failed to protect the independence of the media, which plays a crucial role in preventing corruption.

 


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The heaviest, the largest, the most impactful —  those were the superlatives the Trump administration used to describe its latest sanctions against North Korea.

But were the Treasury Department designations of more than 50 companies and ships accused of illicit trading with the pariah nation really the toughest action yet by the U.S. and the wider world?

Probably not.

Here’s a look at how President Donald Trump and a top lieutenant described Friday’s sanctions to punish the North for its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles — and how they stack up against past economic restrictions that have been piled on Kim Jong Un’s government in response to its illegal weapons tests.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “The Treasury Department is announcing the largest set of sanctions ever imposed in connection with North Korea.”

Trump: “I do want to say, because people have asked, North Korea — we imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before.”

As for Trump’s blanket assertion, in sheer dollar terms, the U.S. has actually imposed much costlier restrictions on countries such as Iran, a far richer economy than North Korea’s. Washington and its allies cut off tens of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil exports and shut the country’s central bank out of the international financial system, among other steps, before eliminating those restrictions under a 2015 nuclear deal.

Correct on number

In terms of the number of entities targeted Friday, Mnuchin is probably correct about the history of sanctions on North Korea.

The department blacklisted “one individual, 27 entities and 28 vessels” located, registered or flagged in North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama and Comoros. That appeared to be the most companies or individuals designated by the U.S. at a single time. According to Mnuchin, there are now more than 450 U.S. sanctions against North Korea, about half of them levied in the last year.

But in purely economic terms, both Mnuchin and Trump are well wide of the mark.

The latest designations are primarily intended to crack down on North Korea’s evasion of wider-ranging sanctions adopted by the U.N. Security Council and the United States that are more economically significant.

Over the past year, the council has adopted three sets of sanctions banning North Korean exports of coal, iron ore, textiles, seafood products and other goods. If those measures are properly implemented, that would reduce the North’s export revenues by 90 percent from 2016 levels, or by $2.3 billion annually. Those sanctions are also heavily restricting North Korean fuel supplies. They capped refined oil imports at 500,000 barrels a year. That’s a reduction from the 4.5 million barrels North Korea imported in 2016.

It’s because of those draconian restrictions that North Korea wants to conduct trade on the quiet with “ship-to-ship” transfers that the U.S. is determined to stop. With Friday’s measures, Mnuchin said, the U.S. has gone after “virtually all their ships that they’re using at this moment.”

That’s certainly a significant increase in pressure on North Korea as its foreign trade diminishes. But the Treasury Department did not give an overall figure for how much revenue the North would be deprived of because of the latest actions, other than to say that nine of the newly blacklisted foreign vessels “are capable of carrying over $5.5 million worth of coal at a time.”

‘Underwhelming’ in scope

The conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation did not think much of the new steps.

“As impressive as the list is in length, it is underwhelming in its scope and fails to live up to the hype,” it said. “Like his predecessors, President Trump remains reluctant to go after Chinese financial entities aiding North Korea’s prohibited nuclear and missile programs.”

China is said to account for about 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade and be its main access point to the international financial system. Past U.S. sanctions that have targeted Chinese companies have probably had a much bigger impact on North Korea’s revenue streams.

In November, the Treasury Department blacklisted three Chinese companies that it said had “cumulatively exported approximately $650 million worth of goods to North Korea and cumulatively imported more than $100 million worth of goods from North Korea.”

An even bigger Chinese trading partner of the North was blacklisted in September 2016: Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co. According to a report by the U.S.-based research group C4AD and South Korea’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Hongxiang carried out imports and exports worth a total of $532 million in 2011-15. It had also supplied aluminum oxide and other materials that can be used in processing nuclear bomb fuel.


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Federal Reserve policymakers fretted on Friday that they could face the next U.S. recession with virtually the same arsenal of policies used in the last downturn and, with interest rates still relatively low, those will not pack the same punch.

In the midst of an unprecedented leadership transition, Fed officials are publicly debating whether to scrap their approach to inflation targeting, how much of its bond portfolio to retain, and how much longer they can raise interest rates in the face of an unexpectedly large boost from tax cuts and government spending.

After years of near-zero rates and $3.5 trillion in bond purchases all meant to stimulate the economy in the wake of the 2007-09 recession, the Fed has gradually tightened policy since late 2015. Its key rate is now in the range of 1.25 to 1.5 percent, and while the Fed plans to hike three more times this

year it has also forecast that it is about halfway to its goal.

That could leave little room to provide stimulus when the world’s largest economy, which is heating up, eventually turns around.

“We would be better off, rather than thinking about what we would do next time when we hit zero, making sure that we don’t get back there. We just don’t want to be there,” Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren told a conference of economists and the majority of his colleagues at the central bank.

Rosengren, one of only a few sitting policymakers who also served during the last downturn, said the expanding U.S. deficits could further erode the government’s ability to help curb any future recession. “With the deficits we are running up, it’s not likely [fiscal policy] will be helpful in the next

recession either,” he said.

Since mid-December, the Republican-controlled Congress and U.S. President Donald Trump aggressively cut taxes and boosted spending limits, two fiscal moves that are expected to push the annual budget deficit above $1 trillion next year and expand the $20 trillion national debt.

Overheating

That stimulus, combined with synchronized global growth, signs of U.S. inflation perking up, and unemployment near a 17-year low could set the stage for overheating that ends one of the longest economic expansions ever.

“We want more shock absorbers out there and really … the main shock absorber is the ability to reduce the fed funds rate, which means that you want to get to a higher inflation rate so that the pre-shock fed funds rate is 4 and not 2,” said Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at City University of New York.

In a speech to the conference hosted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Krugman said every recession since 1982 has been caused by “private sector over-reach” and not Fed tightening, as in decades past.

The conference’s main research paper argued the central bank should focus on cutting rates in the next recession and avoid relying on asset purchases that are less effective in stimulating investment and growth than previously thought.

In October the Fed began trimming some of its assets and it has yet to decide how far it will go. William Dudley, president of the New York Fed, told the conference that, to be sure, the ability to again purchase bonds if and when rates hit zero “seems like a good tool to have.”

The Fed’s approach to any economic slowdown would likely be to cut rates, pledge further stimulus, and only then buy bonds.

Rosengren and others dismissed the possibility of adopting negative interest rates, as some other central banks have done.

Yet five years of below-target inflation, combined with an aging population and slowdown in labor force growth, has sparked a debate over ditching a long-standing 2 percent price target.

Some see this month’s succession of Fed Chair Janet Yellen by Jerome Powell as ideal timing to consider new frameworks that could help drive inflation, and rates, higher. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, whom the White House is considering for Fed vice chair, told the conference the central bank could begin to reassess the framework later this year, though she added that the threshold for change should be high.


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European Union leaders staked out opening positions Friday for a battle over EU budgets that many conceded they are unlikely to resolve before Britain leaves next year, blowing a hole in Brussels’ finances.

At a summit to launch discussion on the size and shape of a seven-year budget package to run from 2021, ex-communist states urged wealthier neighbors to plug a nearly 10 percent annual revenue gap being left by Britain, while the Dutch led a group of small, rich countries refusing to chip in any more to the EU.

Germany and France, the biggest economies and the bloc’s driving duo as Britain prepares to leave in March 2019, renewed offers to increase their own contributions, though both set out conditions for that, including new priorities and less waste.

Underlining that a divide between east and west runs deeper than money, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized what he said were poor countries abusing EU funds designed to narrow the gap in living standards after the Cold War to shore up their own popularity while ignoring EU values on civil rights or to undercut Western economies by slashing tax and labor rules.

Noting the history of EU “cohesion” and other funding for poor regions as a tool of economic “convergence,” Macron told reporters: “I will reject a European budget which is used to finance divergence, on tax, on labor or on values.”

Poland and Hungary, heavyweights among the ex-communist states which joined the EU this century, are run by right-wing governments at daggers drawn with Brussels over their efforts to influence courts, media and other independent institutions.

The European Commission, the executive which will propose a detailed budget in May, has said it will aim to satisfy calls for “conditionality” that will link getting some EU funding to meeting treaty commitments on democratic standards such as properly functioning courts able to settle economic disputes.

But its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned on Friday against deepening “the rift between east and west” and some in the poorer nations see complaints about authoritarian tendencies as a convenient excuse to avoid paying in more to Brussels.

At around 140 billion euros ($170 billion) a year, the EU budget represents about 1 percent of economic output in the bloc or some 2 percent of public spending, but for all that it remains one of the bloodiest subjects of debate for members.

Focus on payments

The Commission has suggested that the next package should be increased by about 10 percent, but there was little sign Friday that the governments with cash are willing to pay that.

“When the UK leaves the EU, then that part of the budget should drop out,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who leads a group of hawks including Sweden, Denmark and Austria.

“In any case, we do not want our contribution to rise and we want modernization,” he added, saying that meant reconsidering the EU’s major spending on agriculture and regional cohesion in order to do more in defense, research and controlling migration.

On the other side, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said his priorities were “sufficient financing of cohesion policy” a good deal for businesses from the EU’s agricultural subsidies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there had been broad agreement that new priorities such as in defense, migration and research should get new funding and she called for a “debureaucratization” of traditional EU spending programs.

Summit chair Donald Tusk praised the 27 leaders — Prime Minister Theresa May was not invited as Britain will have left before the new budget round starts — for approaching the issue “with open minds, rather than red lines.” But despite them all wanting to speed up the process, a deal this year was unlikely.

Quick deal unlikely

Although all agree it would be good to avoid a repeat of the 11th-hour wrangling ahead of the 2014-20 package, many sounded doubtful of a quick deal even early next year.

“It could go on for ages,” Rutte said. He added that it would be “nice” to finish by the May 2019 EU election: “But that’s very tight.”

Among the touchiest subjects will be accounting for the mass arrival of asylum-seekers in recent years. Aggrieved that some eastern states refuse to take in mainly Muslim migrants, some in the west have suggested penalizing them via the EU budget.

Merkel has proposed that regions which are taking in and trying to integrate refugees should have that rewarded in the allocation of EU funding — a less obviously penal approach but one which she had to defend on Friday against criticism in the east. It was not meant as a threat, the chancellor insisted.

In other business at a summit which reached no formal legal conclusions, leaders broadly agreed on some issues relating to next year’s elections to the European Parliament and to the accompanying appointment of a new Commission for five years.

They pushed back against efforts, notably from lawmakers, to limit their choice of nominee to succeed Juncker to a candidate who leads one of the pan-EU parties in the May 2019 vote. They approved Parliament’s plan to reallocate some British seats and to cut others altogether and also, barring Hungary, agreed to a Macron proposal to launch “consultations” with their citizens this year on what they want from the EU.


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U.S. President Donald Trump has called a meeting early next week with key senators and Cabinet officials to discuss potential changes to biofuels policy, which is coming under increasing pressure after a Pennsylvania refiner blamed the regulation for its bankruptcy, according to four sources familiar with the matter.

The meeting comes as the oil industry and corn lobby clash over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a decade-old regulation that requires refiners to cover the cost of mixing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into their fuel.

Trump’s engagement reflects the high political stakes of protecting jobs in a key electoral state. Oil refiner Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), which employs more than 1,000 people in Philadelphia, declared bankruptcy last month and blamed the regulation for its demise.

Oil, farm state senators

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will include Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and potentially Energy Secretary Rick Perry, according to the four sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

One source said the meeting would focus on short-term solutions to help PES continue operating. PES is asking a bankruptcy judge to shed roughly $350 million of its current RFS compliance costs, owed to the EPA which administers the program, as part of its restructuring package.

The other sources said the meeting will consider whether to cap prices for biofuel credits, let higher-ethanol blends be sold all year, and efforts to get speculators out of the market.

Officials at the EPA, Agriculture Department, and Energy Department declined to comment. A White House official, Kelly Love, said she had no announcement on the matter at this time.

The offices of Cruz, Ernst and Grassley did not immediately return requests for comment.

The sources said the options moving forward would be constrained by political and legal realities that have derailed previous efforts at reform.

The Trump administration has considered changes to the RFS sought by refiners this year, including reducing the amount of biofuels required to be blended annually under the regulation or shifting the responsibility for blending to supply terminals, only to retreat in the face of opposition from corn-state lawmakers.

​Narrow options, broad resistance

The EPA is expected to weigh in officially in the coming weeks on request by PES to the bankruptcy judge to be released from its compliance obligations. But any such move would likely draw a backlash from other U.S. refiners, who have no hope of receiving a waiver.

Under the RFS, refiners must earn or purchase blending credits called RINs to prove they are complying with the regulation. As biofuels volume quotas have increased, so have prices for the credits, meaning refiners that invested in blending facilities have benefited while those that have not, such as PES, have had to pay up.

PES said its RFS compliance costs exceeded its payroll last year, and ranked only behind the cost of purchasing crude oil.

Other issues may have contributed to PES’ financial difficulties. Reuters reported that PES’ investor backers withdrew from the company more than $594 million in a series of dividend-style distributions since 2012, even as regional refining economics slumped.

Regulators and lawmakers have been considering how to cut the cost of the RFS to the oil industry.

In recent months, for example, the EPA has contemplated expanding its use of an exemption available to small refineries, a move that would likely push down RIN prices, but which both the oil and corn industries have said would be unfair.

Cruz last year proposed limiting the price of RINs to 10 cents, a fraction of their current value — an idea that was roundly rejected by the ethanol industry as a disincentive for new ethanol blending infrastructure investment.

Senator John Cornyn, also a Texas Republican, is preparing draft legislation to overhaul the RFS in Congress that would include the creation of a new specialized RIN credit intended to push down prices, but it too faces resistance from both the corn and oil lobbies.


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The U.S. Defense Department supports moves by the Commerce Department to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, although it would prefer a system of targeted tariffs rather than a global quota or a global tariff.

The Commerce Department on Feb. 16 recommended that President Donald Trump impose steep curbs on steel imports from China and other countries and offered the three options to the president, who has yet to make a decision.

The Defense Department said in a statement issued Thursday that it was concerned about the potential impact on U.S. allies of the proposed measures and said that was the reason it preferred targeted tariffs.

It recommended that while the tariffs on steel should proceed, the administration should wait before pressing ahead with the measures on aluminum.

“The prospect of trade action on aluminum may be sufficient to coerce improved behavior of bad actors,” the department said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week that Trump would have the final say on what measures to adopt.


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Saudi Arabia will stage more than 5,000 shows, festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, as it tries to shake off its conservative image in a drive to keep tourist dollars at home and lure in visitors.

The state wants to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas every year by Saudis seeking entertainment, lifting a ban on cinemas and putting on shows by Western artists.

U.S. rapper Nelly performed in Jeddah in December, albeit to a men-only crowd, and Greek musician Yanni played to a mixed-gender audience.

The gradual relaxing of gender segregation risks causing a backlash from religious conservatives, but public objections to a wider program of reforms have been more muted in recent months after several critics were arrested.

At an event to launch the 2018 entertainment calendar, Ahmed al-Khatib, chairman of the state-run General Entertainment Authority (GEA), said infrastructure investments over the next decade would reach 240 billion riyals ($64 billion), including an opera house to be completed around 2022.

That will contribute 18 billion riyals to annual GDP and generate 224,000 new jobs by 2030, the GEA said.

“The bridge is starting to reverse,” Khatib said, referring to the causeway linking Saudi Arabia with more liberal Bahrain where many Saudis flock for weekend getaways.

“And I promise you that we will reverse this migration, and people from Dubai, Kuwait and Bahrain will come to Saudi.”

However, on Thursday night, the Minister of Culture and Information said Khatib’s opera plans were an infringement of the role of the General Authority for Culture, a separate government body, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Economic hopes

The entertainment plans are largely motivated by economics, part of a reform program to diversify the economy away from oil and create jobs for young Saudis.

The Vision 2030 plan aims to increase household spending on cultural and entertainment events inside the kingdom to 6 percent by 2030 from 2.9 percent.

“We are bringing the most exciting and famous events to Saudi Arabia this year,” Khatib told Reuters in an interview, adding that state-sponsored entertainment events would be staged in 56 cities.

“We are creating new local events with local content,” he said. “Almost 80 percent of the calendar [events] are for families.”

Saudi Arabia lifted a 35-year ban on cinemas late last year, with plans for regional and global chains to open more than 300 movie theaters by 2030. The first cinemas are expected to start showing films in March.

Last year, the country announced plans to develop resorts on some 50 islands off the Red Sea coast and an entertainment city south of Riyadh featuring golf courses, car racing tracks and a Six Flags theme park.


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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday updated guidance to public companies on how and when they should disclose cybersecurity risks and breaches, including potential weaknesses that have not yet been targeted by hackers.

The guidance also said company executives must not trade in a firm’s securities while possessing nonpublic information on cybersecurity attacks. The SEC encouraged companies to consider adopting specific policies restricting executive trading in shares while a hack is being investigated and before it is disclosed.

The SEC, in unanimously approving the additional guidance, said it would promote “clearer and more robust disclosure” by companies facing cybersecurity issues, according to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, a Republican.

Democrats on the commission reluctantly supported the guidance, describing it as a paltry step taken in the wake of a raft of high-profile hacks at major companies that exposed millions of Americans’ personal information. They called for much more rigorous rule-making to police disclosure around cybersecurity issues, or requiring certain cybersecurity policies at public companies.

Commissioner Robert Jackson said the new document “essentially reiterates years-old staff-level views on this issue,” and pointed to analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers that finds companies frequently under-report cybersecurity events to investors.

The SEC first issued guidance in 2011 on cybersecurity disclosures.

“It may provide investors a false sense of comfort that we, at the Commission, have done something more than we have,” Commissioner Kara Stein, another Democrat, said in a statement. Significant breaches have included those at Equifax Inc. consumer credit reporting agency, and at the SEC itself.

The agency announced in September its corporate filing system, known as EDGAR, was breached by hackers in 2016 and may have been used for insider trading. The matter is under review.

The new guidance will mean that corporations disclose more information about cyberattacks and risks and take steps to ensure no insider trading can occur around those events, said several attorneys who advise businesses on the subject.

“This essentially creates a mandatory new disclosure category — cybersecurity risks and incidents,” said Spencer Feldman, an attorney with Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP.

Craig A. Newman, a partner with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, said the SEC guidance “makes clear that it doesn’t want a repeat of the Equifax situation.”


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