Fasting diet ‘regenerates diabetic pancreas’

Blood sugar test

The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say US researchers.

Restoring the function of the organ – which helps control blood sugar levels – reversed symptoms of diabetes in animal experiments.

The study, , says the diet reboots the body.

Experts said the findings were “potentially very exciting” as they could become a new treatment for the disease.

People are advised not to try this without medical advice.

In the experiments, mice were put on a modified form of the “fasting-mimicking diet”.

It is like the human form of the diet when people spend five days on a low-calorie, low-protein, low-carbohydrate but high unsaturated-fat diet.

It resembles a vegan diet with nuts and soups, but with around 800 to 1,100 calories a day.

Then they have 25 days eating what they want – so overall it mimics periods of feast and famine.

Previous research has suggested it can slow the pace of ageing.

But animal experiments showed the diet regenerated a special type of cell in the pancreas called a beta cell.

These are the cells that detect sugar in the blood and release the hormone insulin if it gets too high.

Dr Valter Longo, from the University of Southern California, said: “Our conclusion is that by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back – by starving them and then feeding them again – the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that’s no longer functioning.”

There were benefits in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the mouse experiments.

Type 1 is caused by the immune system destroying beta cells and type 2 is largely caused by lifestyle and the body no longer responding to insulin.

Further tests on tissue samples from people with type 1 diabetes produced similar effects.

Dr Longo said: “Medically, these findings have the potential to be very important because we’ve shown – at least in mouse models – that you can use diet to reverse the symptoms of diabetes.

“Scientifically, the findings are perhaps even more important because we’ve shown that you can use diet to reprogramme cells without having to make any genetic alterations.”

BBC reporter Peter Bowes took part in a separate trial with Dr Valter Longo.

He said: “During each five-day fasting cycle, when I ate about a quarter of the average person’s diet, I lost between 2kg and 4kg (4.4-8.8lbs).

“But before the next cycle came round, 25 days of eating normally had returned me almost to my original weight.

“But not all consequences of the diet faded so quickly.”

His blood pressure was lower as was a hormone called IGF-1, which is linked to some cancers.

He said: “The very small meals I was given during the five-day fast were far from gourmet cooking, but I was glad to have something to eat.”

in people have been shown to improve blood sugar levels. The latest findings help to explain why.

However, Dr Longo said people should not rush off and crash diet.

He told the BBC: “It boils down to do not try this at home, this is so much more sophisticated than people realise.”

He said people could “get into trouble” with their health if it was done without medical guidance.

Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said: “This is potentially very exciting news, but we need to see if the results hold true in humans before we’ll know more about what it means for people with diabetes.

“People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes would benefit immensely from treatments that can repair or regenerate insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.”

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RCS, Google’s answer to iMessage, expands to 27 more carriers and OEMs

While messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat and WeChat rake in ever more users, features and relationships with key brands, and Apple’s iMessage continues to play strong with iPhone users, Google today announced a big step forward in its own strategy to bring a native, enhanced, native messaging service to more Android devices — a play for Google to help carriers raise their own native messaging game, and stay in the messaging game itself in the future.

Today the Android giant is announcing that 27 more carriers and device manufacturers have signed on to its list of supporting partners for Rich Communications Services (RCS) — an initiative to add more dynamic features like group chat, high-res photo sharing, read receipts and typing indicators as defaults to the basic, native Android Messages SMS chat app, which will now incorporate RCS alongside MMS and SMS services. Additionally, it’s also opening up a new program for brands and messaging providers to develop more enhanced messages for the platform.

Carrier partners include Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Globe, while OEMs now include LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, Nokia, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko, in addition to Google’s own Pixel and Android One handsets. It brings the number of subscribers now potentially covered by Android Messages to about 1 billion globally.

The announcement today will mean that these carriers and these handset makers will be preloading Android Messages on new devices to replace the current, standard Messages app. For those handsets already in the market on those carrier networks, users would need to download the new app in an update.

The news is timed in a specific way: we are days away from the big MWC mobile conference in Barcelona, and this is Google’s way of saying it is continuing to making more inroads into that market.

Google’s relationship with mobile carriers has blown hot and cold over the years. In this case, Google is a collaborator and friend, working with carriers to provide a unified service across all their Android devices that doesn’t relegate them to the role of “bit pipe” in the way that OTT apps like WhatsApp do.

But initiatives like Project Fi spell a different fate, where the search giant is constructing and offering complete phone packages to consumers for a fraction of what they pay directly to carriers, potentially threatening these carriers’ bread-and-butter business in the longer term. (Google is adding new features like Voice over LTE support to Project Fi all the time.)

The RCS news, however, is a definite warm wind.

For Google, RCS represents a way of getting control of the messaging experience and enhancing it to compete better against the cadre of popular messaging apps, and the iPhone-native iMessage, and certainly a more watertight way of owning the messaging experience compared to rolling out its own over-the-top messaging apps that compete head to head with the market leaders (see: Allo and Duo).

This is a strong story to sell to carriers, who have found users drop off their messaging networks in favor of other apps, resulting in lost revenues and unused assets in the carriers’ networks. This is a longish-term game for Google, which has been building out its efforts to expand RCS since acquiring Jibe Mobile back in 2015.

Developing better SMS services across multiple operators means that the messages will be interoperable (what you send on one network and handset will be seen that way when received on another network and handset) in the same way that apps are working today but SMS has only managed to in the most pared-down, text-only scenarios. But perhaps more importantly, it will let Google and those carriers start to add other kinds of services and revenue generation on top of basic messaging.

“RCS will upgrade today’s business messaging experience by enabling brands to send more useful and interactive messages,” writes Amir Sarhangi, Google’s head of RCS (who had been the CEO of Jibe back in the day), citing interactive SMS messages for flight-check-ins with boarding passes and terminal maps. “Businesses can also have a branded messaging experience with information about the business and the ability to share content like images, video clips, and gifs.”

To that end, Google is also announcing an Early Access Program for “businesses to learn and build with the technology, influence the roadmap and standards, and be first to offer their customers an upgraded messaging experience,” Sarhangi notes.

Early users include Virgin Trains, Walgreens, BlaBlaCar, Gamestop,, IHG, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Naturas, Papa Murphy’s, Philips, Sky, SONIC® Drive-In, Subway, and Time Inc. will work with messaging partners 3C, CLX Communications, Experian Marketing Services, MessageBird, mGage A Vivial Company, Mobivity, Movile, Vonage through Nexmo API Platform, OpenMarket, Waterfall, and Zipwhip to produce RCS messages.

Today’s new customer wins come about a week after Google announced another RCS carrier with significant reach: Norway’s Telenor, which runs several operations across Asia as well as in its home country. Others that have signed on to Google’s RCS include Sprint and Rogers in Canada.

Google also said that it will be showing off examples of RCS messaging at Mobile World Congress next week.

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Anorexia ‘improved by electrode therapy’

Woman with a water bottle

Deep brain stimulation – implanting electrodes deep in the brain – could be a new way to treat severe anorexia nervosa, a Canadian study suggests.

Scientists studied 16 people with severe anorexia and found the treatment helped reduce depression and anxiety and in some cases prompted weight gain.

Researchers say further, larger studies are needed before the therapy could be considered more widely.

The study appears in the journal .

The research involved women aged between 21 and 57 who had had anorexia for an average of 18 years and had tried all other available treatment.

The women were severely underweight and researchers say some were at a risk of dying early because of the condition.

At the beginning of the study, electrodes were placed in specific areas of their brains, thought to be linked to anorexia.

Within a few months, some patients felt symptoms of depression and anxiety had improved.

And 12 months later, a number of the patients had gained weight.

The average of the group increased from 13.8 to 17.3.

Researchers also looked at brain scans before and after a year of electrical stimulation and found persistent changes in the areas linked to anorexia.

Dr Nir Lipsman, a neurosurgeon at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, told the BBC: “There are currently no effective treatments for people with long-standing anorexia nervosa – people who are often the sickest and most vulnerable of dying from the condition.

“Our work, which builds on earlier trials, is one of the first brain-based strategies that has been shown to help with chronic anorexia.

“And my hope is that through this research we are also validating the idea that anorexia is a brain-based illness, not a personality or lifestyle choice.”

But he accepted the treatment did not suit everyone in the trial.

One patient had a seizure several months after electrode implantation, and two people asked for their electrodes to be removed during the trial.

Writing in the same journal, Dr Carrie McAdams, of the University of Texas Southwestern, said: “Further work to establish efficacy, safety and long-term outcomes in a larger cohort is needed.”

Prof Rebecca Park, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “While these results are encouraging, we must remember that deep brain stimulation for anorexia nervosa is a high risk, experimental treatment.

“In Oxford, we are running the sole registered UK trial of this kind.

“Central to our work is the development of an ethical standard that ensures vulnerable individuals are not inadvertently exploited by this treatment.”

Hospital appointments: RCS warning over waiting lists


The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has warned that Northern Ireland patients are waiting too long for surgery.

The latest hospital waiting list figures show 55.3% of patients were waiting longer than 13 weeks to be admitted for inpatient or day case treatment.

Meanwhile, 12% of patients waited more than 52 weeks.

The college said the figures do not come close to meeting the current target.

In a highly unusual move, the RCS said it had decided to speak out as people must not forget that behind the figures “are potentially very ill and anxious patients who are being made to wait too long for surgery”.

“This is the true impact of waiting times spiralling out of control in Northern Ireland,” it added.

The college is also concerned that according to the recently published elective care plan, one of the reforms includes the removal of the 13-week target for inpatient and day case treatment.

This would mean that the only remaining target would be for no patients to wait more than a year for treatment.

The Department of Health said it is “committed to dealing with the backlog of patients who are currently waiting”.

However, its latest statistics reveal more people are having to wait longer on a hospital outpatient appointment in Northern Ireland.

At the end of December, a total of 246,198 patients were waiting – that is 3,057 more people than who were on the same list at the end of September 2016.

About 72.4% of patients were waiting more than nine weeks.

Government targets state that at least 50% of patients should not have to wait any longer than the recommended nine week target.

The number of people having to wait more than a year for an outpatient appointment has also jumped – in three months that figure has increased by about 7,000.

With no additional funding, a budget, or an executive in place, the jump comes as no surprise.

As these figures capture what was happening between October and December 2016, they will already be out of date and undoubtedly have increased again.

A spokesperson for the RCS said it was deeply concerned about the current trends in Northern Ireland.

“It has been over four years since the health service in Northern Ireland last met its 13 week waiting time target for inpatient and day case treatment and 10 years since the 52 week target was met.

“Currently over two thirds of patients are waiting more than 13 weeks for inpatient treatment.”

Diagnostic waiting times are also up – at 31 December, 105,316 men and women were waiting for a diagnostic service, that is a 3.2% increase compared to the end of September and 12% more than 12 months previously.

The ministerial target for diagnostic waiting times says that by March 2017, 75% of patients should wait no longer than nine weeks, with no patient waiting longer than 26 weeks.

According to these latest figures, 43.7% of patients were waiting longer than nine weeks.

This upward trend will continue until a substantial sum of money is injected into the health service.

In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said that the “commissioning plan targets are not being removed and will remain in place”.

“The target is still that 55% of patients should wait no longer than 13 weeks for inpatient treatment and no patient waits longer than 52 weeks,” it added.

“Commitment One of the elective care plan is about dealing with the backlog of patients who are currently waiting.

“In this context, it refers to reducing the current maximum waiting time for a first out-patient appointment and in-patient/day case procedure to 52 weeks, and for a diagnostics appointment to 26 weeks.”

Fruit and veg: For a longer life eat 10-a-day

Fruit and vegetables

Eating loads of fruit and vegetables – 10 portions a day – may give us longer lives, say researchers.

The study, by Imperial College London, calculated such eating habits could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year.

The team also identified specific fruit and veg that reduced the risk of cancer and heart disease.

The analysis showed even small amounts had a health boon, but more is even better.

A portion counts as 80g (3oz) of fruit or veg – the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas.

The conclusions were made by pooling data on 95 separate studies, involving two million people’s eating habits.

Lower risks of cancer were linked to eating:

  • green veg (eg spinach)
  • yellow veg (eg peppers)
  • cruciferous vegetables (eg cauliflower).

Lower risks of heart disease and strokes were linked to eating:

  • apples
  • pears
  • citrus fruits
  • salads
  • green leafy vegetables (eg lettuce)
  • cruciferous veg

Harriet Micallef, from Chippenham, says she often manages eight to 10 portions a day and has multiple portions of spinach every day.

She told the BBC: “I have a lot, I don’t ever have a meal without veg or salad so eight to 10 portions is a regular thing.”

She starts her day with a veg-packed omelette containing spinach and sometimes avocado or tomatoes.

Harriet’s salad-based lunch is also packed with a mix of veg and her evening meals tend to be stir fries or stews.

Snacks during the day include blended fruit smoothies or peppers dipped in hummus.

She added: “It’s definitely healthy, if you’ve got loads of colours on your plate then you’re pretty much okay.”

The results, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also assessed the risk of dying before your time.

Compared with eating no fruit or veg a day, it showed:

  • 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28%
  • 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13%
  • 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%

The researchers do not know if eating even more fruit and veg would have even greater health benefits as there is little evidence out there to review.

Dr Dagfinn Aune, one of the researchers, said: “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.

“This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold.

“For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”

However, many people struggle to even eat the five a day (400g) recommended by the World Health Organization.

In the UK, only about one in three people eats enough.

, 24 and from Oxford, routinely manages nine or 10 portions a day since becoming vegan.

She has two pieces of fruit with breakfast, a “massive pot” of roasted vegetables at lunch and then at least four vegetables in curries or chillies in the evening.

She told the BBC: “It is about making a conscious decision, I feel fuelling myself with plant-based foods is a more healthy way to sustain myself.”

Her tips for anyone trying to eat more is to do it gently: “Maybe decide to have one or two meat-free days a week and phase more veg in, I quite like a sweet potato curry with spinach and chickpeas.”

Dr Aune said the findings did not mean the five-a-day message needed to change.

He told the BBC: “There are many different considerations if changing policy, it’s not just the health effects – is it feasible?

“But our findings are quite clear in that they do support five a day, but there are even some further benefits for higher intakes.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The five-a-day target is the foundation of a healthy balanced diet and is an achievable way to help prevent a number of diseases.

“Whilst consuming more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be desirable… adding pressure to consume more fruit and vegetables creates an unrealistic expectation.”

Jonathan Shorney asked: “I eat a lot of apples, but that amounts to a lot of sugar. Could that amount of sugar be harmful?”

Sugar seems to have become public enemy number one in the past few years. But it is important to remember the “war on sugar” is actually a “war on free sugar”.

This includes sugars added to food as well as honey or those liberated in making fruit juices.

However, this does not include any naturally occurring sugars in fresh fruit and vegetables and the World Health Organization says “there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars”.

Mike asked: “Do pulses contribute to the 10?

Yes they do. All kinds of beans from kidney to cannellini as well as lentils count as a single portion according to Public Health England.

Gary Kruger asked: “Should fruit and vegetables be heavily subsidised by the government to encourage further consumption?

This is not being seriously considered, but something kind of similar is happening.

Rather than making the healthy stuff cheaper, a sugar tax will make sugar-sweetened beverages more expensive with the aim of shifting buying habits.

There is no VAT on fruit and veg, but the British Medical Association has called for the government to go further and to discount fruit and veg.

However, it is not clear how big a health impact there could be without knowing who it would be for (everyone or just the poor), how big the discount would be and then how that would change shopping habits.

Harriet, who started cooking family meals at the age of 12, thinks more should be done to get children eating more.

“I think it comes from schooling and the traditional British meat and two veg.

“I think if you teach children to always have something green on their plate in addition then they’ll naturally start having more.

“There’s just so many different veg that people don’t have like bean sprouts and chard.”

Not all of the 95 studies that were analysed fully accounted for other aspects of lifestyle, such as exercise levels, that could also play a role in prolonging lives.

However, Dr Aune said the conclusions were “quite robust”.

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Barclays full-year profits almost treble to £3.2bn

Barclays half year profits fell 21%

Barclays has reported a jump in annual profits after making “strong progress” in restructuring.

a profit before tax of £3.2bn for 2016, up from £1.1bn the year before.

Its reorganisation has included the sale of its Africa business and selling off “non-core” assets.

Chief executive Jes Staley told the BBC the bank was “committed to the UK” post-Brexit, even if Britain leaves the single market.

Barclays has been selling off parts of the business which it deems “non-core”. In its annual results, the bank said it would bring forward the closure of the unit dealing with this by six months, and it will now shut on 30 June.

“We are now just months away from completing the restructuring of Barclays, and I am more optimistic than ever for our prospects in 2017, and beyond,” Mr Staley said.

Investec analyst Ian Gordon said that Barclays had benefitted from the sharp depreciation of the pound against the dollar following the Brexit vote, and that its investment bank revenues had also helped its performance.

Investment bank revenues of £2.5bn were up 21% compared with the year earlier, after a strong performance in the second half of 2016.

The bank also had lower litigation and misconduct charges in 2016, falling to £1.3bn from £4.4bn the previous year.

However, Barclays still faces a lawsuit by the US Department of Justice .

Mr Staley told the BBC the bank was preparing to add hundreds of staff to offices in Dublin, Frankfurt and Milan to counter Brexit risks to its European business.

While he expects the majority of staff to remain in London, changes to the bank’s legal structure, including making Dublin the headquarters of its European business, may be necessary.

BBC business editor Simon Jack said that a return to profit and higher levels of shock absorbing capital meant Barclays hoped to increase its dividend later this year.

Brexit: Barclays ‘committed to UK’

Barclays said its core capital ratio, a key measure of financial strength, rose to 12.4% in 2016, which was better than analysts’ expectations of 11.8%.

A rise in interest rates in the US and UK would boost Barclays’ profit margins, but Mr Staley warned that rising inflation may begin to dent consumer confidence.

Separately, Barclays has agreed to pay Barclays Africa 12.8 billion rand (£790m) to fund investments required to separate the African unit from the main Barclays business.

The separation agreement will let Barclays reduce its stake in the Africa business to below 50% as part of a strategy to focus on the US and the UK.

Barclays Africa said the money would be used to invest in technology, rebranding and other projects related to the separation.

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Faulty tumble dryers: More than 35,000 sign recall petition

Emma McGrath and her family are living in a two-bedroom flat after their tumble dryer caught fire.

More than 35,000 people have signed a parliamentary petition to force Whirlpool to recall three million potentially dangerous tumble dryers.

The manufacturer has advised millions of owners to unplug their machines, but has refused to issue a safety recall.

The dryers, sold under the Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit brands, have been blamed for a number of fires, including one in a London tower block.

The government must respond to petitions that get 10,000 signatures.

If the total reaches 100,000, there has to be a debate in parliament.

Whirlpool has insisted that its offer to repair all the affected machines is the most effective way to solve the problem.

The dryers subject to the Whirlpool repair programme were manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands.

But consumer group Which? is demanding that all the machines are recalled, with customers being given a refund.

It has started legal action against Trading Standards in Peterborough, which has backed Whirlpool’s position.

Whirlpool freephone helplines: 0800 151 0905 for the UK, or 1800 804320 for the Irish Republic

In the meantime, owners have been left wondering what to do about the machines they can no longer use.

Many are in the queue to receive a free repair, but waiting lists are said to be up to a year.

Ben Ebdon, who bought a dryer in John Lewis, said he could not get his repaired because the serial number is not being recognised.

“I think our dryer may be very dangerous – but Whirlpool say they don’t recognise it, so can’t repair it,” he told the BBC.

“Scary! We are totally in limbo.”

Don Kiddle, from Stratford on Avon, said Whirlpool had refused to replace his Indesit dryer until he wrote to his MP.

“I contacted my local MP, Nadhim Zawalhi. He in turn wrote to the chief executive and surprisingly enough we were contacted by the company who delivered a brand new tumble dryer and took the old one away. The item was at zero cost too.”

Could your dryer catch fire?

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 48 Fire Brigades in England and Wales, said Whirlpool should begin a “mass publicity” campaign to warn people not to use their dryers.

Whirlpool has written to 3.8 million owners of the affected dryers, offering repairs, but as many as 2.4 million have not responded.

The LGA repeated warnings that faulty tumble dryers are causing three fires a day, although not all of these are Whirlpool machines.

“For needless months, consumers have been playing ‘Russian roulette’ with at-risk tumble dryers prone to bursting into flames and destroying homes, and with firefighters attending three fires a day caused by the appliances,” said Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board.

The London Fire Brigade alone said it was attending a tumble dryer fire once a day on average.

Which? said that dryers were the second biggest cause of house fires, causing 12% of them.

Peugeot owner PSA sees profits nearly double

Peugeot 5008 SUV

The owner of French carmaker Peugeot has reported a near doubling of profits, as it considers buying General Motors’ (GM) Opel and Vauxhall brands.

Net income at PSA Group, which also owns Citroen, jumped 92% last year to 1.73bn euros (£1.47bn).

PSA’s possible purchase of GM’s European brands has raised fears of job losses at Vauxhall in the UK.

On Wednesday, PSA said it had promised Theresa May it would “develop” the Vauxhall brand if the deal goes ahead.

But it offered no further commitments to protect the 4,500 jobs making cars at Ellesmere Port and vans in Luton.

The two firms are expected to sign a statement of intent during the next two weeks.

General Motors announced last week it was in discussions over selling its European brands, Opel and Vauxhall, to PSA. That prompted speculation that the French company would cut capacity by closing plants.

Politicians in Germany and the UK have begun lobbying on behalf of their own locations. On Wednesday evening UK Prime Minister Theresa May spoke to PSA chief executive Carols Tavares on the telephone.

During the call, PSA chief executive Carlos Tavares “expressed his willingness to develop further the iconic Vauxhall brand for the benefit of its faithful customers”, PSA said in a statement.

PSA said its operating margin, the level of profit it makes on sales, had risen from 5% in 2015 to 6% in 2016. It is the third year in a row that operating margin, sales and net profit have improved at the group, which flirted with bankruptcy in 2014.

As a result of the company’s improved performance, chief financial officer Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon said PSA was in a position to make “profitable investments in the interest of our shareholders”.

However, he added that the outcome of the talks with GM were not yet certain.

According to Carlos Tavares, Opel needs help. It has, he says, been making red ink for 10 years and burning 1bn euros in cash every year.

If you put it that way, it’s easy to see why General Motors wants to get rid of it – but why is PSA Group so interested in taking it on?

In today’s press conference, Mr Tavares set out a few reasons. And one of them seems to be the international reputation of German-built cars compared to their French rivals.

In some countries, he said, French-built cars simply don’t sell. He didn’t specify where, although the United States would appear to be a prime example.

Combining the two companies would also generate cost savings. And having engineered a rescue for PSA itself, when the French giant came close to going bust in 2014, Mr Tavares knows how to turn a failing business around.

So there’s logic in the planned deal. But Mr Tavares can have no illusions about the political sensitivities involved. Despite his promises to honour existing labour agreements, analysts believe job cuts at some point are inevitable.

So the road ahead could be a rocky one.