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Santander chief quits (FT)

The chief executive of Banco Santander has resigned ahead of a decision by Spain’s financial regulator over whether a criminal conviction should see him banned from banking.

Alfredo Sáenz, 70, who alongside Santander executive chairman Emilio Botín is credited as the architect of the bank’s transformation from domestic lender to the eurozone’s biggest lender by value, will step down immediately to be replaced by Javier Marin, a 46-year-old director of its private bank and insurance arm.

S&P sees deepening house slump in Spain, France and Holland (Telegraph)

Spanish house prices are to fall a further 13pc by the end of next year as the authorities flood the market with a backlog of repossessed properties, Standard and Poor’s has warned

Leak at BP platform could have caused "major accident" (Reuters)

Oil major BP must review the way it handles risk and maintenance at its offshore oil platforms in Norway following a leak at a North Sea platform that could have caused a major accident, Norway's oil safety watchdog said on Monday.

Sina sells Weibo stake to Alibaba for $586m (FT)

China’s most popular social network has been valued at more than $3bn after Sina Corp sold an 18 per cent stake in its microblogging service Weibo to ecommerce group Alibaba for $586m.

Nasdaq-listed Sina said it had also given Alibaba the option to raise its ownership in Weibo to 30 per cent “at a mutually agreed valuation within a certain period of time”.

O2 and BT make new links with 4G deal (Telegraph)

O2 will pay BT hundreds of millions of pounds to bolster its network to meet a sharp rise in demand for mobile internet access that is expected to result from the introduction of 4G.

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Emmanuel Macron's French election victory may change less than most expect

The centrist is not the first to succeed from outside the traditional parties in the Fifth Republic.

Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French presidential election, and will face Marine Le Pen in the run-off.

The numbers that matter: Emmanuel Macron 24 per cent, Le Pen 21 per cent, François Fillon 19.9 per cent, Jean Luc Mélenchon 19.9 per cent and Benoît Hamon 6.3 per cent.

According to the polls - which came within 0.9 per cent of the correct result in the first round - Macron will easily defeat Marine Le Pen in the second round.

The single transferable take that compares Macron to Hillary Clinton and Le Pen to Trump ignores a few things. Not least his programme, the different electoral system and the fact that Macron is popular - the most popular politician in France, in fact. Jean Luc Mélenchon declined to back a candidate in the second round and will poll his supporters on who his leftist bloc should back. But it's not comparable to the feud between Bernie Sanders and Clinton - which, in any case, was overwritten. Most Sanders supporters backed Clinton in November. The big story of that election was that the American mainstream right backed Donald Trump despite his manifold faults.

The French mainstream right is a very different beast. Fillon has already thrown his weight behind Macron, warning against the "violence" and "intolerance" of the National Front and the "economic chaos" its programme would inflict. And to the extent that it matters, Hamon has also endorsed his former party colleague, saying that there is a difference between a "political adversary and an enemy of the Republic."

So, if he wins, has everything changed, changed utterly? That's the line in most of the papers this morning, but I'm not so sure. French politics has always been more fissiparous than elsewhere, with parties conjured up to facilitate runs for the Presidency, such as the Democratic Movement of perennial candidate, now Macron backer François Bayrou, and Mélenchon's own Left Party.

I'm dubious, too, about the idea that Macron is the first to succeed from outside the traditional centre-right and centre-left blocs in the history of the Fifth Republic. That honour surely goes to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a popular finance minister in a Gaullist administration, who ran on a independent centrist platform in 1974 - and won the presidency.

Giscard d'Estaing had no majority in the National Assembly and had to "cohabit" with his former colleagues on the Gaullist right. In the long run, far from upending the left-right pattern of French politics, he continued it. (Indeed, d'Estaing is now a member of the centre-right Republican Party.)

You don't have to look hard to see the parallels with Macron, a popular finance minister in a Socialist administration, running on an independent centrist platform and very likely to win, too.

France's underreported and under-polled legislative elections in June will give us an idea of the scale of the change and how lasting it may be. If, freed from the taint of Fillon's scandals, the French Republicans can win the legislative elections then talk of the "death of the traditional centre-right" is going to look very silly indeed.

Equally, while Hamon won the presidential nomination, the Socialist Party's legislative candidates are largely drawn from the party's right. If En Marche!, Macron's new party, can go from no seats at all to the largest group but are short of a majority their natural allies in getting through Macron's programme will be from the remains of the Socialists. Far from irrevocably changing the pattern of French politics, Macron's remarkable success may simply mark a period of transition in the life of the French Left.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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