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Bill Gates Still World's Richest Man, Forbes Says

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates kept his spot as the world's richest man, a rank he has held for 16 of the past 21 years, Forbes magazine said Monday.

The Microsoft co-founder's fortune increased $3.2 billion since last year to $79.2 billion, the business magazine said, despite a $1.5 billion gift of Microsoft shares to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November.

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French Firm Sets up Fund to Boost Energy Access in Africa

Electrical equipment giant Schneider has set up a fund to finance projects aimed at boosting access to energy in sub-Saharan Africa, the French group said Monday.

Some "625 million inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity," Schneider said in a statement announcing the 54.5 million euro ($61 million) Energy Access Ventures Fund.

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Varoufakis Urges 'Intelligent' Debt Restructuring

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called Monday for "intelligent" restructuring of Greece's debt, while acknowledging that a write-down would be unacceptable for the country's creditors.

"A 'haircut' is a dirty word. I've learned that," Varoufakis told the German business daily Handelsblatt. 

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EU Hopes for 'Positive Outcome' in Russia-Ukraine Gas Talks

The EU said it hoped for a "positive outcome" in talks in Brussels on Monday between the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers aimed at resolving a gas supply dispute threatening deliveries to Europe.

Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom threatened last week to cut deliveries to Ukraine and divert supplies instead to eastern parts of the country controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.

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Oil Prices Stabilise in Asian Trade

Oil prices stabilized in Asia Monday following sharp gains in the previous session as dealers predicted the end of volatile trading and the beaten-down commodity bottoming out, analysts said. 

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April delivery fell 36 cents to $49.40 while Brent crude eased 41 cents to $62.17 in afternoon trade. 

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HSBC: China manufacturing improves in February

China's manufacturing activity in February improved more than initially thought, HSBC said Monday, but weakening foreign demand and declining prices signaled the world's second-largest economy still faces multiple woes.

The British bank's final purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the month came in at 50.7, up from its preliminary reading of 50.1 and the highest since July's 51.7, the firm said in a statement.

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Spanish PM Hits Back at Greece's Tsipras in Austerity Row

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Sunday called on his Greek counterpart to get "serious" about his country's debt-wracked economy, after Alexis Tsipras accused eurozone partners of undermining its negotiations with Brussels.

Rajoy was reacting to comments by Tsipras on Saturday, who said that during talks that earned Greece a four-month extension to its bailout, pressure from certain other European countries "had the character of blackmail" -- pointing especially to Spain and Portugal.

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'Audit' Push Challenges Federal Reserve's Independence

After unemployment and deflation, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen finds herself in her toughest battle yet, fighting a push by Congress to assert itself over monetary policy.

Newly in control of both houses on Capitol Hill, Republicans accuse the Fed of misguided policies and political bias, saying the world's most powerful central bank is too autonomous and unaccountable. 

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Report: Japan's NTT to Buy German Data Centre Operator

Japanese telecom giant NTT Communications is looking to acquire German data center operator e-shelter, as it seeks to cash in on growing demand in Europe, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Data centers are becoming crucial for IT companies operating in Europe, with many of the continent's consumers wary of U.S. surveillance in the wake of U.S. whistle-blower Edward Snowden's revelations.

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India Pledges Infrastructure Spending to Help Economy 'Fly'

India's finance minister pledged major investment in infrastructure on Saturday, saying it was time for the economy to "fly", as he unveiled the new right-wing government's first full budget.

Arun Jaitley said his government had inherited an economy dominated by "doom and gloom" when it took power last year, trumpeting its achievements in conquering inflation and kick-starting growth.

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