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Abu Dhabi fund offers to buy out investors fleeing China private equity

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Abu Dhabi fund offers to buy out investors fleeing China private equity

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The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is seeking to capitalise on western investors’ retreat from China by offering to buy at a discount their stakes in funds managed by Hong Kong-based PAG.

The move from Abu Dhabi’s main sovereign wealth fund, described by four people with knowledge of the matter, is a sign of how some Gulf investors are looking to snap up bargains as US-based investors cut their China exposure.

“It’s a transition from US investors who [previously] favoured China, towards Middle Eastern investors that don’t have the same concerns they do,” a person briefed on the plans said.

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PAG, in which Blackstone has a minority stake, built a reputation for offering global investors access to deals in China, using connections forged by its chair Weijian Shan, who has a seat on Alibaba’s board.

One of Asia’s biggest private equity groups, managing more than $55bn, its investors include state pension schemes in California, Texas, Florida and Iowa as well as investment funds in Canada, Australia and across Europe.

It has faced difficulties raising a new fund since Shan criticised Beijing in 2022. PAG filed for a $2bn initial public offering in 2022 in a deal that would have valued it at up to $15bn, but the listing has not materialised.

Four of PAG’s five largest deals since 2019 have been in China, according to figures from the London Stock Exchange Group. They include investments in Dalian Wanda’s shopping mall operator, Zhuhai Wanda, and online video platform IQIYI.

As of June last year, two of the funds that Adia is offering to buy stakes in — which were raised in 2015 and 2018 — had returned just 53 per cent and 13 per cent of the amounts investors had paid in, according to filings from Calstrs, a US teachers’ pension scheme. PAG’s first buyout fund, raised in 2012, had given investors 1.8 times the money they paid in by the same date.

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Buyout funds typically aim to hand back investors’ cash, plus returns, within a decade.

PAG, which invests across Asia including in credit and real estate as well as private equity, had raised roughly $3bn for its planned new fund by the beginning of this year, according to four people with knowledge of the situation. Two of those people said it previously told investors it aimed to close the fundraising by the end of 2023.

Its original target for the fund was $9bn, according to Reuters. It had raised just $2.2bn by March last year, according to filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under the deal, Adia — which has a long-standing relationship with PAG — would offer to buy investors’ stakes in PAG funds at a discount, in a transaction that the buyout firm would facilitate. The investors could choose whether to sell their stakes.

One PAG investor said the buyout group had brokered the Adia deal to provide a chance for others to exit because “they want [investors] who are committed to ongoing investment in China, which a lot of US and European [groups] are not”.

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Adia declined to comment. PAG did not respond to repeated requests to comment. In early March a PAG spokesman said it was “definitely incorrect” to say it had raised $3bn, adding: “We can’t give a number as yet because the fund hasn’t closed.” 

Pension funds and other investors in the US are increasingly wary of investing in China. Geopolitical tensions have triggered US restrictions on investments there while a crackdown from Beijing has made it harder to list Chinese companies overseas. 

A chunk of the money in two of the PAG funds is tied up in the Chinese industrial gases company AirPower Technologies, which PAG originally backed in 2017, the people said. PAG has agreed to sell AirPower, but regulators have not yet approved the sale, they added.

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Donald Trump trial opens with allegations he tried to ‘corrupt’ 2016 US election

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Donald Trump trial opens with allegations he tried to ‘corrupt’ 2016 US election

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Donald Trump attempted to “corrupt” the 2016 election when he directed his team to buy the silence of a porn actor who threatened to go public with claims of an extramarital affair, Manhattan prosecutors said during opening arguments in the first criminal trial against a former US president.

A lawyer for Trump, Todd Blanche, countered that his client was “cloaked in innocence” and had merely been trying to “protect his family, his reputation and his brand”. The 77-year-old former president was “not on the hook” for the way the payments were organised or recorded by his employees, with which he “had nothing to do”, Blanche added.

The competing narratives of the events that form the core of the “hush money” case against Trump came during the opening salvos of the first — and possibly only — criminal trial to proceed against the Republican nominee for president before November’s vote.

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As Trump sat feet away at the defence table in a cold Manhattan courtroom on Monday morning, silently glowering, the seven men and five women on the jury heard assistant district attorney Matthew Colangelo outline a “catch and kill” scheme allegedly orchestrated by the former president and his inner circle to buy the silence of porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Daniels had threatened to go to the press with her story of how she had a tryst with the then-reality television star in 2006, Colangelo said, a revelation that would have been all the more damaging to Trump’s campaign following the furore over the publication of an Access Hollywood tape, in which he was heard to be bragging about grabbing women’s genitals.

Trump went on to disguise the transactions behind the $130,000 payment, Colangelo added, because he “wanted to conceal his and others’ criminal conduct”. 

“This was a planned, co-ordinated, long-running conspiracy . . . to help Donald Trump get elected through illegal expenditures,” he said. “It was election fraud, pure and simple.”

Blanche said Trump was tackling a “sinister” attempt to embarrass him with false allegations, and had acted entirely lawfully in trying to suppress the story. “You will learn that companies do that all the time,” he told jurors, adding: “There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election — it is called democracy.”

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The start of the six-week trial comes just over a year after Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg brought the first criminal charges against a former US president, indicting Trump on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Like any criminal defendant, Trump must be in attendance every day, a requirement that he has complained will limit his campaigning ahead of November’s election. The court will break on Wednesdays if the case is proceeding on schedule, Judge Juan Merchan said last week.

Trump railed against the court and prosecutors on social media and once again denounced the case as a witch hunt on his way into the courtroom on Monday morning. “This is done as election interference, everybody knows it,” the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee for the White House told reporters. 

After opening arguments concluded, the court briefly heard from the prosecution’s first witness, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, who was allegedly involved in the “catch and kill” scheme by purchasing exclusive rights to anti-Trump stories — and then preventing them from being published.

Merchan adjourned early for the day due to the Passover Jewish holiday and to allow a juror to attend an emergency dental appointment.

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Last week, 12 jurors and six alternates were chosen from a pool of almost 200 New Yorkers from the borough of Manhattan, who were carefully vetted to ensure they did not harbour insurmountable bias towards Trump. All said they could be impartial in deciding the facts of the case, although some expressed distaste for his policies and persona.

The former president still faces criminal charges in three different courts over his alleged attempts to thwart the peaceful transition of power after the 2020 election, and over his retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida. It is unclear when the other criminal cases will go to trial.

Trump also faces a number of civil proceedings, and is appealing against a nearly half-billion dollar civil fraud judgment awarded to the New York attorney-general earlier this year. A judge on Monday declined to heed a request by the attorney-general to invalidate the $175mn bond Trump had posted in that case, in a reprieve for the former president.

Another milestone in Trump’s legal travails will be reached later this week, when the US Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether he can claim presidential immunity for acts that he has been charged with that took place while he was in office. The outcome of that challenge has no bearing over the New York case, which has been brought under state rather than federal law.

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Patriots' Robert Kraft pulls support for Columbia University amid antisemitic violence

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Patriots' Robert Kraft pulls support for Columbia University amid antisemitic violence

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New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft made it his mission to “stand up to Jewish hate” in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel and on Monday he went a step further.

Kraft announced he was pulling his support for Columbia University amid the antisemitic violence at the Ivy League school. He released a statement through his philanthropic organization, Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.

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Robert Kraft speaks during the Historic Roots of Black and Jewish Solidarity at 92NY on March 7, 2024, in New York City. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

“It was through the full academic scholarship Columbia gave me that I was able to attend college and get my start in life and for that I have been tremendously grateful,” Kraft’s statement read. “However, the school I love so much – the one that welcomed me and provided me with so much opportunity – is no longer an institution I recognize.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country. I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.

“It is my hope that Columbia and its leadership will stand up to this hate by ending these protests immediately and will work to earn back the respect and trust of many of us who have lost faith in the institution. It is my hope that in this difficult time, the Kraft Center at Columbia will serve as a source of security and safety for all Jewish students and faculty on campus who want to gather peacefully to practice their religions, to be together and to be welcomed.”

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Columbia University protestors

Protesters demonstrate near Columbia University on Feb. 2, 2024, in New York City. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Kraft’s foundation has been at the forefront of the fight against antisemitism – amplified further by the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel. The organization also had an ad during the Super Bowl.

LIVE UPDATES: ANTISEMITISM ON CAMPUS SURGES AS AGITATORS TAKE OVER

Students at Columbia University were told in an overnight statement that all classes will be held virtually on Monday as anti-Israel protesters have taken over the campus, its president announced.

Columbia University President Dr. Nemat “Minouche” Shafik said in a statement, posted in the early hours Monday morning, that she was “deeply saddened” by certain actions of agitators, who have formed an “encampment” on the campus and have riled students and faculty with anti-Jewish slogans and chants.

“I am deeply saddened by what is happening on our campus,” Shafik wrote. “Our bonds as a community have been severely tested in ways that will take a great deal of time and effort to reaffirm. Students across an array of communities have conveyed fears for their safety and we have announced additional actions we are taking to address security concerns. The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days. These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas.”

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Robert Kraft in Foxborough

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks to the press at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Jan. 11, 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

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“We need a reset,” she added. “To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday. Faculty and staff who can work remotely should do so; essential personnel should report to work according to university policy. Our preference is that students who do not live on campus will not come to campus.”

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.

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Rishi Sunak admits Rwanda deportations delayed until summer

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Rishi Sunak admits Rwanda deportations delayed until summer

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Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that his showpiece policy to transport asylum seekers to Rwanda will miss his original spring deadline.

But as he stepped up his bid to win final parliamentary approval of the plan, the UK prime minister vowed flights would leave “every month” until they had deterred undocumented migration across the Channel.

“The first flights will leave in 10-12 weeks,” Sunak said at a Downing Street press conference on Monday, indicating that he did not expect the first deportation flights of asylum seekers to leave for Rwanda until July.

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He had previously promised that the flights would begin in the spring, months ahead of the general election expected in the second half of this year.

The UK prime minister added that commercial charter planes and hundreds of trained staff were ready to take asylum seekers to Africa.

In a reference to the small boats that have ferried thousands of irregular migrants across to the UK, Sunak said that flights would leave “every month” over the summer “until the boats have stopped”. He added that an airfield had been identified for the purpose.

Migration is a highly charged political issue and as of late March this year more than 4,600 people had crossed the Channel in small boats.

Sunak said he would force MPs to sit on Monday — possibly into the night — until a stand-off with the House of Lords over Rwanda legislation was settled.

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He blamed Labour for holding up the legislation and delaying the start of deportation flights. Government insiders had hoped the Rwanda bill, which declares the African nation “safe” in a bid to fend off judicial challenges, would complete its parliamentary passage last week.

While the government can push the bill through the House of Commons, it does not have a majority in the Lords — and this has resulted in a protracted period of parliamentary “ping pong”. Peers have repeatedly amended the bill, and MPs have then overturned the changes.

Last week, peers approved two fresh amendments. One stated that Rwanda cannot be deemed a safe country until it fully implements an independent monitoring committee for its asylum system, while another would exempt some refugees — including Afghans — that have served alongside UK armed forces from falling within the scope of the scheme.

Sunak said the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was the “systematic deterrent” the government needed. 

“The only way to stop the boats is to eliminate the incentive to come by making it clear that if you arrive here illegally, you will not be able to stay and this policy does exactly that,” he said.

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“And be in no doubt about the choice that the country will face later this year. The Labour party have no plans, they will have no treaty bill and no flights to Rwanda, they are resigned to the idea that you will never fully solve this problem.”

Sunak said the number of crossings had dropped by a third last year after an agreement with the Albanian government, which had hugely reduced illegal Albanian migration. 

But he admitted there had been a spike in the number of vulnerable Vietnamese migrants paying criminal gangs to enter the country. “Vietnamese arrivals have increased tenfold and accounted for almost all the increase in small boat numbers we have seen this year,” he said. 

“We can’t keep reacting to the changing tactics of these gangs. The truth is, we need innovative solutions to address what is a global migration crisis to disrupt the business model of people-smuggling gangs,” he said. “And that means a systematic deterrent.”

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