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UK Energy Increases

Millions across the UK will see energy costs increase starting tomorrow, as the cap on domestic energy bills for typical households will be guaranteed at an average of 2,500 pounds ($2,870) annually for the next two years. The guarantee was announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss to replace the original price cap, set by industry regulator Ofgem, of 3,549 pounds ($4,189).

Households will also receive a 400-pound reduction in their energy bills, spread over six months, as part of the 150B-pound ($162B) public support package. In comparison, the average UK energy bill last year was 1,971 pounds ($2,182). About 85% of UK households use gas boilers for heat, with the war in Ukraine helping drive gas prices prices up by 400% over the past year.

The news comes as many citizens are already struggling to afford essentials due to rising inflation, with year-over-year inflation running at a 40-year high of 9.9%. The Bank of England announced Wednesday it would purchase long-term UK bonds over the next two weeks to ease bond market concerns.

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Florida Assesses Damage

At least 12 people have been reported dead, with hundreds remaining unaccounted for, as Florida officials began assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Ian yesterday. Authorities expect the number of fatalities to rise, with thousands of residents in areas that remain difficult to access.

The system arrived as a powerful Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon, bringing high winds, torrential rain, and record storm surge as it passed over the central peninsula. More than 2 million people were without power as of this morning. See photos of the aftermath here.

Fort Myers and towns along the peninsula’s Gulf Coast suffered the brunt of the damage, with heavy flooding swamping the city and high winds having collapsed a causeway connecting Sanibel Island to the mainland. Early estimates suggest the cost of the storm will be in the tens of billions. 

Ian weakened as it moved across the state—but strengthened again once reaching the Atlantic Ocean. It is expected to make landfall in South Carolina today as a Category 1 hurricane.

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Annexation Begins

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to formally sign orders today annexing four territories in the east and south of Ukraine, a move anticipated since occupying Russian forces oversaw referendums over the weekend. The declaration will make the regions part of Russia under Russian law but has been condemned as illegitimate by Ukraine and the West.

The Kremlin reported each area—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson (see map)—voted to support the move by tallies of 99%, 98%, 93%, and 87%, respectively. Western officials called the results rigged, noting armed troops accompanied election officials to collect ballots door-to-door. Still, analysts say Russia may use the move as a pretext to escalate the conflict as fighting moves into what the Kremlin would likely consider sovereign Russian land. 

Separately, NATO joined EU officials in describing damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines as sabotage—though investigating the alleged attack may prove challenging. 

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‘A Deliberate Act’ of Sabotage

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Damage to the Nord Stream pipelines observed Monday was likely a deliberate act of sabotage, European Union officials alleged yesterday. Officials did not explicitly name who they believed caused the damage to the separate pipes, triggered by multiple underwater explosions on the same day in international waters between Poland and Denmark (see map). Some European leaders individually pointed to Russia, though both lines are majority owned and operated by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom.

The 750-mile pair of steel-and-concrete pipes lie under the Baltic Sea and can deliver over 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Russia to Germany (see construction). Russia had cut supply via Nord Stream 1 since August amid the war in Ukraine, while Nord Stream 2 never began operation as a result of sanctions. Both were filled with methane prior to the damage, now currently leaking into the atmosphere.

The statement came as Russia pushed forward with its attempt to formally annex four occupied territories of Ukraine’s east and south following Kremlin-led referendums.

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Porsche Goes Public

Volkswagen-owned sports carmaker Porsche begins publicly trading today in what is Germany’s second-largest initial public offering, behind Deutsche Telekom’s $13B IPO in 1996. The IPO is also the third biggest in Europe, valuing Porsche at about $73B. Porsche expects to raise more than $9B. A portion of the funds may be used toward investments in electric vehicles, observers say.

Approximately 114 million shares, or 12.5% of Porsche’s total 911 million shares—an ode to its popular 911 sports car—are for sale to the public at about $80 per share. The sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Norway, along with Baltimore, Maryland-based mutual fund firm T. Rowe Price, have together committed to taking up as much as $3.5B of the IPO. Volkswagen bought Porsche in 2012 after a takeover struggle between the two automakers. Last year, Porsche earned nearly $4B in profit on revenue of $32B.

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