Shares in workplace software company UiPath rose on their Wall Street debut on Wednesday after one of the largest initial public offerings in the sector. The
Romania-founded, New York-based company, a leader in the fast-growing business of task automation, closed its first trading day at 69 US dollars, up 23 per cent, giving the company a market capitalisation of 35.8 billion US dollars. The IPO brought in 530 million US dollars in new capital, but UiPath settled for a lower initial valuation than in its last funding round two months ago. It sold shares at 56 US dollars apiece, higher than the company’s marketed range of 52-54 US dollars but below the 62.28 US dollars set in February.
Czechia on Thursday ordered 63 more Russian diplomats to leave the country, further escalating a dispute between the two nations over the alleged involvement of Russian spies in a blast at an ammunition depot in 2014. Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek said Russia must reduce the size of its embassy in Prague to correspond with the level of Czech representation in Moscow, which shrank to a skeleton staff after Russia on Sunday ordered out 20 Czech diplomats. The latest expulsions come amid high tension between Prague and Moscow following Czech allegations last weekend that Russian military intelligence was behind the 2014 explosion in which two people were killed.
Hungary, the country that still has the world’s highest per capita death rate from Covid-19, said this week that the virus has “peaked”, according to the country’s chief medical officer. Hungary reported 1,645 new infections on Tuesday, the lowest level in almost two months. The number of patients being treated in hospitals has dropped by a third from the end of March and those on ventilators fell below 1,000 for the first time since mid-March, according to the latest data. “Our pandemic data are improving, we’re seeing slight drops after reaching a plateau,” Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller said at a briefing. Hungary recorded an average 180.9 deaths per million people in the seven days through April 18.
Polish government is planning to nationalise dozens of coal plants and use public money to keep them running to allow state-owned energy companies to invest in greener alternatives, it was announced this week. The proposal by the country’s ministry of state assets is part of negotiations between the government and energy companies to restructure the ailing coal sector. Under the plan, 70 lignite coal units, which generated more than half of Poland’s electricity in 2020, will be purchased by the state and handed over to a single state-run National Energy Security Agency (NABE). In a statement, the ministry said this would enable a “gradual and long-term transformation of the power sector” by replacing coal with low-carbon and green sources. In 2020, Poland’s share of electricity generated from coal dropped below 70% for the first time.
Romanian start-up, FintechOS, announced on Tuesday that it had raised 60 million US dollars in a Series B funding round led by venture capital firm Draper Esprit. The funds will be primarily used to cement the company’s position in Europe and the UK and fuel international expansion to target financial institutions in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and North America, FintechOS said in a statement. The company, a global technology provider for banks, insurers and other financial services companies, plans to open new offices in the US, Dubai, and Singapore, along with the addition of 120 new staff members resulting in a 40 per cent increase in overall headcount.
Croatian railway infrastructure operator HZ Infrastruktura said this week that it had received 15 bids in its tender for the reconstruction of the Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railway – an investment estimated at 2.04 billion kuna (269.4 million euros). A consortium made of China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group and China Railway No. 4 Engineering Group submitted the lowest bid of 1.29 billion kuna, HZ Infrastruktura said in a statement on Monday. The highest offer, of 2.9 billion kuna, was placed by Serbia’s Rading, which is bidding alone. A total of seven companies and eight consortia submitted bids in the tender for the revamp of the Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railway, part of the Rijeka-Zagreb-Budapest branch of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Mediterranean corridor.
Ukraine’s president this week warned that his country is “ready for war” should Russian military forces stationed along the border between the two countries launch an invasion into Ukrainian territory. Volodymyr Zelensky made the comments during a recorded address to Ukrainians on Tuesday evening while calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him for a peace summit in Donbas, a region where Ukraine’s military has battled Russian-backed separatists since 2014. “Does Ukraine want war? No. Is it ready for it? Yes,” Zelensky said. Russia on Thursday ordered some troops stationed close to Ukraine back to their permanent bases, but said that they should leave their weapons behind for another exercise later this year.
European Council President Charles Michel has declared
Georgia’s political crisis “over” despite the main opposition party refusing to join an EU-mediated deal. Michel was in the capital, Tbilisi, on April 20, a day after Georgia’s ruling party and part of the opposition agreed a compromise to end months of political crisis in the Caucasus country. Georgia was plunged into political crisis after the ruling Georgian Dream party won parliamentary elections in October, in a vote the opposition said was unfair and fraudulent. The opposition has since boycotted the new parliament. While several opposition parties have now agreed to enter parliament, the largest opposition group, the United National Movement has refused to do so until its chairman, Nika Melia, is released from pre-trial detention.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev this week threatened to use force to establish a “corridor” through southern
Armenia in order to connect western Azerbaijan with the autonomous Nakhchivan Republic. “The creation of the corridor fully meets our national, historical and future interests. We will be implementing it whether Armenia wants it or not,” Aliyev said during an interview with Azerbaijani state TV. Aliyev’s statements sparked outrage in Armenia, with foreign ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan saying: “these comments do serious harm to regional peace and stability, and reveal the false nature of Azerbaijan’s recent peace statements.”
North East Europe
Estonian identity verification firm Veriff has raised 69 million US dollars in Series B funding from a round led by IVP and Accel. Founded in 2015, Verifff has raised a total of $92.3 million across six funding rounds. The firm offers automated verification software it claims is powered by machine learning algorithms. Veriff says it will use the new funding to keep building on its presence in the US, and work on improving its ability to provide accurate identity verification.
Lukiškės Prison, an early 20th-century former jail in the
Lithuanian capital Vilnius, will be turned into an entertainment and arts venue under new plans drawn up by the Lithuanian government. Turto Bankas, a state-owned property company, is inviting private businesses to register their interest in a project to convert the prison complex, which is located next to the Lithuanian parliament, into a “multifunctional centre of art, culture, and education”. The jail, which closed in 2019, is currently leased to an events business and recently served as a shooting location for series four of Netflix’s Stranger Things.
South East Europe
Albanians head for the polls on April 25 in a parliamentary election that is likely to see the Socialist party of Prime Minister Edi Rama returned to office for a third term. While the gap between the Socialists and main opposition party, the Democrats, has narrowed over the course of the election campaign, Rama’s party still hold a ten point lead in most opinion polls. Both the Socialists and the Democratic party have put economic recovery at the heart of their political programmes, promising major investment in infrastructure.
US President Joe Biden this week called on the
Kosovo government to continue dialogue on normalising relations with
Serbia, noting that any agreement between the countries should focus on mutual recognition. In a letter to the new president of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, Biden noted that Washington will continue to support efforts to ensure lasting peace through productive dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia and, ultimately, a comprehensive normalisation agreement that should focus on mutual recognition. Biden called the normalisation of relations with Serbia necessary for Kosovo to realise its potential and full integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Serbia’s EXIT Festival, one of the largest live music events in Europe, usually attended by more than 200,000 people, is set to go ahead as planned this summer, Miloš Vučević, the mayor of Novi Sad, confirmed this year. Vučević, who is also a member of Serbia’s National Health Committee fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic, said that this year’s festival – set to take place from July 8 to 11 at the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad – “will be a symbol of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”. Headliners at the festival include David Guetta, DJ Snake, Tyga, Eric Prydz, Four Tet, Paul Kalkbrenner, and Nina Kraviz.
Albania this week opened its second international airport, at Kukes in the northeast of the country. The first passenger flight to land at the airport was an Air Albania service from the country’s capital, Tirana. According to Albania’s transport minister, Belinda Balluku, international flights will commence on June 17, initially serving destinations in Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Until now, Mother Theresa Airport in Tirana had been Albania’s only international airport.
Skopje, one of the most polluted cities in Europe, will become the first city in the Western Balkans to introduce a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system thanks to a loan of up to 70 million euros from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support a major transformation towards sustainable transport and address urgent environmental needs in the capital of
North Macedonia. The new urban transport system will see the creation of priority bus lanes to be serviced by a fleet of energy efficient or hybrid buses delivering fast, comfortable and cost-effective public transport.
Kazakh Minister of the Economy Aset Irgaliyev said this week that the country’s growth forecast for 2021 had been revised upwards from 2.8 to 3.1 per cent, based on the World Bank’s prognosis that the global economic growth will increase from 1.6 to five per cent. “The growth has already improved from -4.5 per cent in January to -1.6 per cent in the first quarter,” said Mr Irgaliyev, who added that he expects the value of Kazakh exports to increase this year by more than 10 billion US dollars compared with 2020, to 52.2 billion US dollars.
Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power is set to receive a 50 million US dollars loan from the OPEC Fund for International Development to build and operate a combined-cycle gas-turbine at a power plant in Sirdarya,
Uzbekistan, currently being upgraded at a total cost of around one billion US dollars. Located near the border with
Tajikistan, the 1.5GW plant will replace an ageing thermal power facility, lowering operating costs as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Once completed, the plant is expected to meet 15 per cent of Uzbekistan’s total power demand and eight per cent of the country’s installed power capacity.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is teaming up with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to support small private-sector companies in
Tajikistan, which invest in green technology solutions, and to create new opportunities for women-led small businesses. A financial package of four million US dollars organised by the EBRD will be provided to Arvand Bank, which serves almost 100,000 clients through 72 branches and customer service outlets across Tajikistan including in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, a high altitude area, which occupies almost half of the country’s territory and where the presence of financial institutions is limited.
Malaysia’s state-owned oil giant Petronas is ready to start production from its Garagol Deniz West field in the
Turkmenistan area of the Caspian Sea, the firm announced this week. The company is expecting its first oil from the field in August 2021 with a targeted production rate of 6,700 barrels per day. Output from the field is expected to peak at 10,000 barrels of oil per day and 35 million cubic feet per day of gas.
Four patients are being treated in hospitals in the
Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, after consuming a toxic root that had been promoted by President Sadyr Japarov as an “effective” cure to treat Covid-19. Doctors said on April 21 that Duishon Abdyldaev, 63, was being treated for poisoning with aconite root at the National Cardiology and Therapy Center, while three other patients whose identities were not disclosed were being treated for poisoning with the highly toxic root at the toxicology department of the Bishkek Trauma and Orthopedic Centre.
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