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FirstFT: Saudi Aramco becomes world’s most valuable company

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Saudi Aramco has overtaken Apple as the world’s most valuable company after higher oil prices pushed shares of the world’s biggest crude exporter to record levels, while a broader tech stock sell-off weighs on the iPhone maker.

The Saudi Arabian oil company’s market capitalisation on Wednesday was $2.426tn, exceeding Apple’s $2.415tn by just over $10bn.

It is the first time that Saudi Aramco has regained the top spot since 2020 and follows a broader sell-off in technology stocks since the start of the year.

Apple became the first company to hit a $3tn market cap in early January, although its shares have suffered in recent months as investors reassess lofty valuations in the tech sector in light of a reversal in monetary policy and worries that inflation will weaken consumers’ spending habits.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of the day’s news — Emily.

Coronavirus news digest

1. Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen arrested under national security law Hong Kong police have arrested the Chinese territory’s former most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Joseph Zen, and three other high-profile pro-democracy activists.

2. US inflation stays at 40-year high US consumer prices rose at an annual pace of 8.3 per cent last month, more than economists’ expectations and staying at a four-decade high, underscoring the urgency of the Federal Reserve’s push to stamp out inflation.

  • Go deeper: Inflation has hit its highest level in decades in many countries, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing up energy and food prices and squeezing households’ real incomes. See how your country compares on rising prices.

3. KKR approaches Blackstone for joint Toshiba bid The US private equity group has approached Blackstone to prepare a joint bid for Toshiba, setting the stage for a showdown with Bain Capital.

4. Russia signals plan to annex Kherson Local officials installed by Moscow in Kherson in southern Ukraine said they intended to ask President Vladimir Putin for the region to join Russia, in the clearest sign yet that the Kremlin plans to annex the province.

Protesters shout at Russian soldiers during a pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson in March. The protests have since fizzled out after troops violently dispersed them © AP

5. Global investment banks in China finally turn a profit All but one of the global investment banks in China finally managed to eke out a profit last year, according to figures reported by the banks and seen by the Financial Times. A regulatory shift by Beijing in the past two years has allowed western banks to take full control of their operations.

The day ahead

Asean summit The US will host the delayed Summit for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, where officials are set to evaluate the Asean-US Strategic Partnership. Leaders of two Asean nations, the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte and Myanmar’s junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, will not attend. (SCMP)

India April CPI data Last month’s consumer price index figures are set to be released on Thursday. The data come a day after India’s central bank said it was set to raise its inflation forecast next month, Bloomberg reported. (Bloomberg)

Foxconn Technology earnings The company’s results will give some indication of the extent of problems in the tech supply chain and whether Covid lockdowns in China will further undermine the situation, hitting consumer electronics manufacturers worldwide.

Join us in person or online at the FT Business of Luxury Summit on May 18-20 to hear from luxury leaders including British Vogue, Valentino, Ermenegildo and YSL.

What else we’re reading

Marcos myths lift dictator’s son to power in Philippines The Marcos family’s comeback has been decades in the making. Their campaign was aided by what researchers said was co-ordinated online promotion of false historical narratives. “Marcos folklore was seeded on social media and they waited for it to get traction,” said one professor of global digital media.

How SMBC Nikko fell from grace After an 18-month regulatory probe into alleged market manipulation during which one trader died after intense questioning, large clients have fled the tarnished Japanese brokerage. Business, morale and prospects at SMBC Nikko are “apocalyptically bad”, according to one veteran of the brokerage.

‘New management, same story’ at Peloton Tuesday’s results left analysts asking old questions of the connected fitness company: is Peloton’s long-term vision of the size of its potential market realistic, and is it even wise to be pursuing a mass-market strategy when it built its brand on the fanatical loyalty of a wealthy but far smaller group of customers?

Clues but few answers in childhood hepatitis mystery Scientists are mystified by a new form of hepatitis, which is thought to be afflicting more than 300 children across the world and might be causing a wider, undetected wave of milder liver damage. Lockdowns, adenoviruses, Covid-19 and exposure to dogs have all been blamed.

FT business books: May edition Addressing social class at work and navigating politics to get things done as well as a guide to “superior management effectiveness” — our Work & Careers team review this month’s top titles.

Try this

These electric chopsticks cut your salt intake. No, really. Japanese people consume about twice the amount of salt recommended. A new gadget purports to help.

© Reuters/Issei Kato

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