Mike Ashley blasts Debenhams for not accepting his £40m investment
Sport Direct’s Mike Ashley has written a curtly worded letter to the boss of Debenhams, claiming the department store “has zero chance of survival” if it fails to accept his £40m investment.
He already owns 29% of Debenhams, making him its biggest shareholder, and offered the cash to “save” the business in exchange for 10% of its shares.
In the letter addressed to CEO Sergio Bucher, which was published by The Daily Telegraph, he says he’s “not surprised by the predictable negative response” but is “concerned” the board doesn’t appreciate the position Debenhams is currently in and says he’s “extremely frustrated” the retailer doesn’t want his “help”.
He refers to the snub as “blow-your-brains-out stuff”.
Debenhams issued a statement saying it welcomed Sports Direct’s proposal it could not accept it as presented “as the offer came with conditions that could affect the interests of other stakeholders”, adding “it has invited Sports Direct to engage as part of our broader refinancing process”.
Martin Glenn to step down from FA
The Football Association’s CEO Martin Glenn has confirmed he will be stepping down at the end of the 2018/19 season after four years in the role.
Since taking over in 2015, the former marketer has helped the FA increase revenue by 40%, enabling the organisation to invest a record £127m for the year to 31 July 2017.
Under his watch, both the England men’s and women’s teams have reached a World Cup semi-final. He has also driven the FA’s attempts to increase diversity in the sport and a change to the English football fixture schedule, which will see a winter break introduced from next season.
His tenure has not been without controversy though, including the failed attempt to sell Wembley Stadium and his appointment of Sam Allardyce as England manager, which ended after just one game.
FA chairman Greg Clarke credits Glenn with “leading a senior management team that has transformed our organisation”, adding he leaves it “fit for purpose, more diverse, internationally respected and ready to progress to the next level”.
Glenn joined the FA from his position as CEO of United Biscuits. He is also the former CEO of Birds Eye and PepsiCo UK & Ireland. He began his career as a marketer working at businesses including Cadbury, Mars and Walkers.
Twitter ordered to reveal identity of fake Wetherpoons accounts
Twitter has been ordered to reveal the identity of two fake JD Wetherspoon accounts, the high court has ruled.
The parody accounts, @Wetherpoon_UK and @SpoonsTom, each have thousands of followers and tweet a combination of fake updates about the pub chain, such as the fact it would be boycotting the national poppy appeal “due to the ever expanding multiculturalism of our clientele”, and responses to consumers who mistakenly believe they are contacting the real company.
Twitter, which did not oppose the application, has until mid-January to comply.
World Obesity Federation calls for clampdown on junk food ads aimed at kids
The World Obesity Federation has today released a dossier of evidence calling for greater regulation around advertising to children, in particular a clampdown on junk food ads that target kids online in games, apps and social media.
It claims “powerful targeting techniques” that track children’s online behaviour, including browsing history, location, preferences, ‘likes’ and emotions are being used to persuade children buy food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS), which is are fuelling the obesity crisis.
It suggests food marketing is disproportionately skewed towards junk food, further adding to the problem.
The research it has collected also suggests it is much harder for parents to track and moderate the content kids are exposed to online compared to traditional channels such as TV.
It has called for a number of measures, including: the introduction of digital marketing regulations on ads that target teenagers “who are more prone to vulnerable emotional connections”; the regulation all forms of digital marketing towards children, including social networking sites, emails, texts, ‘advergames’ and other apps; and a move to identify which HFSS foods and drinks should be subject to regulations through transparent and consistent nutrient profiling.
It also wants to adopt statutory regulations that are legally binding as opposed to self-regulation “which distorts the market”, and to take a child-first approach that “puts the best interests of children at the forefront of policy-making”.
Hannah Brinsden, head of policy at World Obesity, says: “Of the 53 countries in Europe, only half have taken any steps to limit marketing of HFSS foods to children, eight years after the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations were published. Of these, few countries have regulated and even fewer have addressed digital marketing. Meanwhile, evidence shows that introducing restrictions would reduce purchase and intake of these HFSS foods, and thus contribute to reducing BMI and millions in cost savings.
“Children are particularly exposed to the effects of food and beverage marketing as they can be deliberately targeted at moments when they are at their most vulnerable, exploiting their emotions. It’s time for governments to seize the moment and develop statutory regulations to safeguard children from the unrestricted power of junk food advertising.”
Google ups transparency of its removal of illegal YouTube content
Google is extending its quarterly report which monitors the removal of abusive content on YouTube to include additional data such as channel removals, the number of comments removed and the policy reason why a video or channel was removed.
The tech giant introduced the YouTube Community Guidelines Enforcement Report in April as it looks to increase transparency of the platform. It uses both human reviewers and technology to monitor content and in 2017 started applying more advanced machine learning tech following The Times investigation which revealed brands were advertising against unsavoury or illegal.
From July to September 2018, Google removed 7.8 million videos, 81% of which were first detected by machines. Of those detected by machines, 74.5% had never received a single view.
It says in September, more than 90% of the channels and 80% of the videos were removed for violating its policies on spam or adult content.
More than 90% of the videos uploaded in September and removed for violent extremism or child safety had fewer than 10 views.
Google has also introduced measures to limit and remove abusive comments, using a combination of smart detection technology and human reviewers to flag and remove, as well as allowing creators to moderate comments on their videos.
From July to September more than 224 million comments were removed for violating its community guidelines, which it says represents “a fraction of the billions of comments posted on YouTube each quarter”.
Thursday, 13 December
Gambling industry will ban ads during live sports
The gambling industry has agreed to ban TV adverts during live sporting events.
The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling, a collective body for the sector’s trade associations, says the “whistle-to-whistle” ban will come into force in the summer of 2019.
The restrictions will effectively stop betting advertisements from being shown in commercial breaks during televised live sports. This does not apply to horse and greyhound racing programmes which are seen as intrinsically linked to gambling.
Adverts beginning five minutes before and after pre-watershed live sport will be banned with the inclusion of highlights shows and repeats. The new measures will also mean gambling companies will be unable to sponsor pre-watershed programmes.
John Hagan, chair of the IGRG, says: “We believe that these new voluntary TV measures, which have been approved by the trade associations representing every sector of the gambling industry, will drastically reduce the amount of gambling advertising on television and they complement the strict controls that already govern gambling companies around advertising on digital platforms,”
The move was supported by minister for media and sport Jeremy Hunt and Tom Watson, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party.
The news comes after The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which has members including Bet365, William Hill, Betfred, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power, denied that a deal had been reached last week, arguing that “there is no agreement on any proposals yet let alone an announcement” after changes were reported.
90% of marketers want Britain to retain access to a ‘digital single market’ after Brexit
The majority of marketers want Britain to retain access to a ‘digital single market’ after Brexit according to a report by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), released today (Thursday, 13 December).
The report found that 90% of marketers want Britain to keep the digital marketing policy, an increase from 78% in May 2018.
The digital single market, which affects digital marketing, ecommerce and telecommunications, is under threat with the Prime Minister rejecting freedom of movement in her proposed Brexit deal.
The report finds 51% of marketers are concerned there will be a financial impact to their organisations if the free flow of data between the UK and the EU is stopped due to Brexit. Just 25% of marketers are unconcerned.
Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA, says: “The challenges of a no-deal Brexit would be very complicated for British businesses, as the disruption to the free flow of data between the UK and EU would be very damaging and costly.”
He adds: “Although larger organisations may have the resources to implement standard contract clauses to be able to continue data transfers in a no-deal Brexit scenario, SMEs will be seriously disadvantaged by the administrative burden. Furthermore, marketing service providers offering cloud-based service solutions are already opening data centres in the EU to service their European customers as a part of their contingency planning.”
The research also finds 78% of marketers believe the UK should continue to adhere to the existing GDPR legislation after Brexit.
Procter & Gamble buys health and beauty company for people of colour
Procter & Gamble (P&G) is expanding its multicultural business by buying Walker & Company Brands, a business tailored to people of colour.
The company, founded by CEO Tristan Walker in 2013, has spent the past five years developing products and services in beauty specifically designed for people of colour.
Walker says: “Having access to P&G’s outstanding technology, capabilities and expertise helps us to further realise that vision, giving us the power to scale and bring new products to people of colour, while staying true to our mission and continuing to nurture the loyal community we’ve worked hard to build.”
The company has a number of brands including premium hair care collection, FORM Beauty, developed for women with textured hair.
Alex Keith, CEO of P&G Beauty, adds: “We have tremendous respect for the work Tristan Walker has accomplished and we are excited to welcome Walker & Company to the P&G family.
“The combination of Walker & Company’s deep consumer understanding, authentic connection to its community and unique, highly customised products and P&G’s highly-skilled and experienced people, resources, technical capabilities and global scale will allow us to further improve the lives of the world’s multicultural consumers.”
Hamleys bans slime toys as nearly half fail to meet safety standards
Children’s toy store Hamleys has banned one of its slime toys after five out of 13 “slime” and putty toys failed EU safety standards.
Consumer group Which? tested the toys from a range of online and high street children’s retailers, including those from Hamleys, and found that nearly half were over the EU safety limit for the chemical boron.
The EU safety limit on boron is 300mg/kg for slime and 1,200mg/kg for putty, with overexposure leading to skin irritation, diarrhoea, vomiting and cramps in the short term.
Frootiputti, manufactured by Goobands and for sale in Hamleys, was found to have four times the permitted limit.
Hamleys says as a “precautionary measure” it has removed all Goobands Frootiputti from stores while it investigates but argues the products are actually putty and therefore meet the EU standard.
Superdry blames second profit warning on cold weather
Superdry shares crashed by more than a third after the retailer issued its second profit warning in less than two months.
The retailer blamed unseasonably warm weather in November for its £11m loss in underlying profits and warned of a potential repeat in December.
The brand also blamed a “lack of innovation” in part for the poor results and now expects its full-year underlying profits to be between £55m and £70m, a sharp decrease compared with the market forecast of £87m.
The news has fuelled former chief executive and founder of the retailer James Dunkerton to continue speaking out against the company arguing he fundamentally disagrees with the direction.
Dunkerton resigned from the board in March. He originally cited a wish to spend more time on his other interests but it has emerged he left because he had disagreed with a new strategy introduced by chief executive officer Euan Sutherland.
Sutherland said yesterday Superdry was moving into children’s wear in a bid to increase sales. The innovation has been received well by its wholesale partners according to Sutherland who says “had been crying out for Superdry kidswear”.
Wednesday, 12 December
Channel 4 marketing boss Dan Brooke leaving to start own agency
Channel 4’s marketing boss Dan Brooke is leaving the broadcaster after eight years to start his own agency with a focus on helping companies be mission and purpose driven.
Brooke has had two stints at Channel 4. He originally worked at the broadcaster between 1998 and 2005, when he was head of marketing and development for Film4 before being promoted to managing director of digital channels.
He left in 2005 to join Discovery Networks UK as managing director and was also MD of indie production company Rare Day. He rejoined Channel 4 in 2010 in the new position of director of marketing and communications, reporting to the CEO at the time David Abraham.
During his tenure, Brooke has been responsible award-winning campaigns including ‘Superhumans’ for the Paralympics, as well as leading the broadcaster’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Alex Mahon, Channel 4 CEO, says: “Dan has made a huge and far-reaching contribution to the life and success of Channel 4 over many years. I’d like to thank Dan personally for the support and advice he has offered me in my first year and, on behalf of the whole organisation, wish him the very best with his future plans.”
Brooke adds: “I have enjoyed every day of my time at Channel 4, during both stints at this spectacular company. The people are the best in the business and their passion for Channel 4’s mission is infectious and inspiring. I will miss them and it and will be rooting hard for Alex and her talented team deep into the future: Long Live Channel 4!”
WPP rebrands to focus on ‘creative transformation’
WPP is rebranding as it looks to draw a line under the previous era of Sir Martin Sorrell and look to the company’s future under Mark Read.
The rebrand replaces WPP’s old plain black-on-white logo with a dynamic dot pattern that aims to communicate its new positioning of “creative transformation”. Created by WPP agencies Superunion and Landor, it will be used across all touchpoints, including interior office signage, posters and print marketing materials, and online platforms such as the WPP website.
The move comes after Read revealed WPP’s new strategy yesterday, which will result in the loss of 3,500 jobs and the company shutting or merging close to 200 of its offices. The changes come amid concerns that WPP’s structure has become unwieldy as clients demand more agility from their agency partners and as WPP struggles to communicate its point of difference in an increasingly crowded industry.
The changes will incur a £300m restructuring charge over the next three years but will ultimately save the company £275m a year by the end of 2021. At least half of that will be reinvested in the business, including to hire 1,000 creative staff as the company looks to refocus on its roots.
Coca-Cola to slow pace of acquisitions in 2019
Coca-Cola will not repeat the high rate of acquisitions it made in 2018 next year as it focuses on integrating the businesses it bought this year, including UK coffee chain Costa.
Coca-Cola made six deals in 2018 as it turned to deal-making to fuel growth. But CEO James Quincey told CNBC it now needs to focus on “absorbing” the companies it has bought.
“We’ve got to absorb the ones we’ve invested in in 2018 but experience will tell you that they just don’t come up at that sort of rhythm,” he says. “As we lean forward into a broader portfolio, we’re starting to get the growth people want us to start riding, and I think that’s coming through in the stock.”
Shares of Coca-Cola are up 7% so far this year, ahead of the broader market amid increased volatility in the US stock market. However, revenue growth is yet to match this. The deal for Costa is expected to close in the first half of 2019, with Quincey saying Coke’s primary focus will be on coffee rather than retail.
Verizon takes $4.6bn hit on value of Oath digital ad business
Verizon will take a $4.6bn goodwill impairment charge in the fourth quarter as its Oath business unit, which includes Yahoo, AOL and assorted technology holdings, struggles to compete in the digital ad market with Facebook and Google.
The charge almost eliminates the $4.8bn goodwill balance Verizon carried after it acquired and merged Yahoo and AOL in 2015 and 2016, according to AdExchanger. Verizon’s digital ad business has been hit by the parent company’s focus away from media and towards 5G, while Oath did not gain access to Verizon data.
In recent weeks, a number of high-profile execs have left Oath including CEO Tim Armstrong, as well as Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam. The decision to write down Oath’s value was made after a strategic review held by incoming Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.
“Verizon’s media business, branded Oath, has experienced increased competitive and market pressures throughout 2018 that have resulted in lower than expected revenues and earnings,” Verizon says in a SEC 8-K filing. “These pressures are expected to continue and have resulted in a loss of market positioning to our competitors in the digital advertising business.”
Dixons Carphone swings to huge £440m loss
Dixons Carphone has slumped to a first half pre-tax loss of £440m as it booked £490m in exceptional charges, mainly related to goodwill. This compares to a profit of £54m in the same period, the 26 weeks to 27 October, a year ago.
The news comes after Dixons Carphone issued a huge profit warning in May. It made headline pre-tax profit of £50m, but this was down from £73m a year ago.
Dixons Carphone has suffered amid deteriorating conditions in the consumer electricals market and tougher conditions in mobiles, where consumers are waiting longer before upgrading. However, new CEO Alex Baldock says the company will focus on online growth and revitalising its mobile business to turn around its fortunes. The firm’s workforce will also become shareholders as it looks to align the company and its staff behind his strategy.
Dixons Carphone is not the only high street retailer struggling. Superdry’s profits have also taken a hit as the warm autumn weather stops people buying new jumpers and coats. It now expects annual profits of between £55m and £70m, below analyst expectations of £84m. The company is considering closing stores as part of a cost-cutting drive to drive £50m by 2022.
“Superdry had a difficult first half, impacted by unseasonably warm weather across our major markets, a consumer economy that is increasingly discount driven and the issues we are addressing in product mix and range,” said Euan Sutherland, Superdry’s chief executive officer.
Tuesday, 11 December
Government splashes £100,000 on Facebook ads ahead of postponed Brexit vote
The Government spent £96,684 of public money over the past week on Facebook ads backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal, only for the Prime Minister to postpone Parliament’s vote on the Withdrawal Agreement scheduled for today.
The adverts, which according to reports in the Guardian have been shown at least five million times in the past week, were given the hashtag #BackTheBrexitDeal and comprised of short videos promoted using civil service resources, linking to an official government website called The Brexit Deal Explained.
While Facebook did not offer data on the exact targeting, it is reported that different adverts were tailored to different audiences, with men more likely to have seen ads stating that the deal would help cut levels of immigration. Special videos were also made specifically for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
According to the Guardian, the data shows that the Conservatives spent a further £40,000 of their own money over the past week buying Facebook ads to promote the Brexit deal, while the campaign for a People’s Vote shelled out £47,000 to discuss the merits of a second referendum.
It appears that the Labour Party did not pay for any Facebook adverts promoting its position on Brexit over the past week.
WPP sets out plan for ‘radical evolution’
WPP is embarking on a three-year strategy of “radical evolution” as it looks to streamline the business and capitalise on the “opportunities of a changing market”.
CEO Mark Read described the new vision for WPP as a “fundamental repositioning”, focused on taking “decisive action” in order to implement major change.
“We are fundamentally repositioning WPP as a creative transformation company with a simpler offer that allows us to meet the present and future needs of clients. This more contemporary proposition has already helped us to win new business, including Volkswagen’s creative account in North America,” said Read.
WPP will pump £300m into a restructure programme over the next three years, which will see the integration of VML and Y&R, and Wunderman and J. Walter Thompson, as well as the disposal of “under-performing businesses”.
According to the BBC, the restructure programme will see 3,500 jobs cut in areas of duplication, but 1,000 people hired in the technology and creative industries.
Claiming that the business has become “too unwieldy, with too much duplication”, WPP will implement a simpler structure, meaning fewer, more integrated companies and greater integration at a country level.
This strategy includes selling off Kantar, but retaining a “significant minority interest” in the business, with a buyer likely to be announced during the second quarter of 2019.
In a bid to become more “client-centric”, WPP has simplified its offer to focus on four key areas: communications, experience, commerce and technology. While communications focuses on everything from advertising to content and PR, experience relates to the growing need for clients to create new brands and services.
The commerce area relates to WPP’s ambitions to expand its growing omni-channel commerce business, helping brands work with the likes of Alibaba and Amazon, while the technology element underpins the company’s work in the marketing tech space.
WPP has also committed to invest an incremental £15m a year for the next three years in creative leadership, with a particular focus on the US.
The organisation expects to make annual savings of £275m by the end of 2021 and reinvest approximately half of these savings back into the business between 2019 and 2021.
Under Armour allegedly ‘ousts’ two senior marketers
Under Armour has reportedly ousted two senior marketers close to CEO Kevin Plank.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the sportswear brand removed Ryan Kuehl, senior vice president of global sports marketing, and Walker Jones, senior director of sports marketing, last week amid an internal review of spending in the sports marketing department.
According to CNBC News and The Wall Street Journal, the investigation examined whether Kuehl and Jones’ spending was “appropriate” and looked into how they ran the department. Sources close to the matter claim that the investigation also took into account how money was spent at events, gifts to athletes and nights out. Under Armour has so far refused to comment on the claims.
Retailers’ e-receipts may break GDPR rules
Major high street retailers could be breaking data protection rules by issuing e-receipts containing unwanted marketing material.
An investigation by Which? – that involved sending mystery shoppers to 11 retailers – found e-receipts issued by Mothercare, Schuh, Halfords and Gap contained promotional marketing “indicating that the retailers may be breaking data protection rules”.
While Mothercare said it would investigate that matter fully and Gap confirmed it had updated its communications in light of the report, Halfords stated that its e-receipts “do not contain any active promotion of products or services”.
The GDPR rules, implemented in May, mean retailers are not permitted to send direct marketing to new customers via email unless the recipient has consented. Furthermore, if the retailer asks a customer for an email address at the point of sale with the intention of sending marketing information, shoppers must be able to opt out.
Which? is concerned that consumers could be “bombarded” with unwanted marketing messages via e-receipts, such as prompts to sign up for a newsletter or offers to fill in surveys in exchange for money off their next purchase.
Superdry co-founder condemns fashion brand’s strategy
Superdry co-founder Julian Dunkerton has expressed concerns about the direction the fashion brand is heading in as he continues to plot a return to the company.
Dunkerton has criticised Superdry’s business model in comments made in a note to City stockbroker Liberum, confirming that he quit the fashion brand’s board in March because he could not “put his name to the strategy”.
In the note, reported by the Guardian, Dunkerton stated that the relationship between stores and the internet was going to be “so fundamental to the future of retail”. He also criticised Superdry’s strategy of reducing its product lines rather than expanding when the wider market was struggling, which had “always been” its way.
Dunkerton still owns an 18% stake in Superdry, which he co-founded in 2003, despite passing the chief executive role on to former Co-op Group boss Euan Sutherland in 2014. Shares in the fashion brand have slumped by 60% this year and after Superdry issued a profit warning in October Dunkerton told the BBC that he would return “in any capacity” to turn the business around.
Having considered his criticisms of the strategy, Superdry’s board said at that time that they held a different view.
Monday 10 December
Amazon to open checkout-free store in UK
Amazon is planning to open one of its cashierless Amazon Go stores in London.
According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, sources say Amazon is looking for a site around the Oxford Circus area between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet in size.
Amazon Go began rolling out in the US at the beginning of the year, with the tech giant looking to open 3,000 stores in the US and internationally over the next three years.
A spokesperson for Amazon says the company does not comment on rumour or speculation.
Uber gears up for IPO
Uber has filed for an initial public offering, according to sources close to the matter. If it goes ahead, it could be the largest offering next year and one of the five biggest of all time with a valuation of up to $120bn.
Uber has declined to comment but it faces a deadline to go public by 30 September 2019, although the news suggests it will happen sooner than that.
The speculation comes following smaller US rival Lyft’s IPO filing on Thursday and as Uber’s revenue growth begins to lose pace. In the third quarter of the year, Uber posted a loss of $1.1bn on revenue of $2.95bn, with growth slowing to 38%.
Shopper footfall suffers in Black Friday month
The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) paint a bleak picture for British high streets as well as providing “indisputable evidence” that Black Friday delivers no tangible benefit to bricks and mortar stores.
Total footfall was down by 3.2% in November, a significant decline on the previous year when it grew by 0.2% and marking the 12th month of consecutive decline.
High street footfall entered its fourth month of decline, down 3.8% and the largest decline since April 2018 when it fell by 4%.
“It has been a difficult year for many retailers and the outlook remains challenging as Brexit uncertainty grows.,” says Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.
“Retailers will be following the upcoming parliamentary vote closely and hoping Parliament can secure a transition period to allow businesses time to adapt to life outside the EU. Without this transition, consumers face higher prices and less choice on their shopping trips.”
Northern Ireland was the only region to see growth, of 4.1%, a small increase on the previous month of 4%, while the East Midlands and the South East suffered the deepest declines, falling by 6.5% and 6% respectively, making this the sixth month of consecutive decline for both regions.
Retail park footfall also fell deeper into decline. At -1.4% growth in November, this is the deepest fall since April 2018 when it fell by 1.8%.
Shopping centre footfall declined by 3.8% – a sharper decline relative to the October 2018 rate of -3.3% and the November 2017 rate of -1.3%.
O2 could claim up to £100m for data outage
O2 is reportedly seeking a multi-million pound payout in damages from supplier Ericsson following the data outage last week that meant O2 users were unable to use their mobile data on Thursday and Friday.
Ericsson, which blamed expired software licenses for the problem, could be forced to pay as much as £100m.
Meanwhile, O2, which has 25 million users, is refunding monthly subscription customers with the cost of two days’ service, while pay-as-you-go customers will get 10% extra when they top up their phone in the New Year or 10% off when they buy data for mobile broadband devices.
Telefónica UK, which owns O2, says it will do a full audit of the problem across both organisations. O2’s chief executive Mark Evans is set to meet executives from Ericsson in the coming days.
China threatens Canada over Huawei arrest
China has threatened Canada with “serious consequences” over the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.
Wanzhou was arrested in Canada last Saturday for allegedly breaking US sanctions on Iran. If she is found guilty, she could be extradited to the US and jailed for up to 30 years.
The foreign ministry called the arrest “extremely nasty” and said it was “unreasonable” and “ignored the law”.
“China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained person…otherwise Canada must accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused,” the ministry said in a statement.
Separately, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said China will respond further depending on US actions.