Friday 27th March 2015
NEWS TICKER, THURSDAY MARCH 26th 2015: Moody's says that The Link Real Estate Investment Trust's (A2 stable) acquisition of the mid-end positioned EC Mall in Beijing is credit negative, but has no immediate impact on its ratings. The acquisition, while immediate EBITDA and cash flow accretive, will reduce liquidity and increase debt leverage, as measured by gross debt to EBITDA. This is Link's first venture into the Chinese retail market. Yesterday, Link announced that it will acquire EC Mall for a total consideration of RMB2.5bn. The transaction will close on April 1st - The outcomes of the March 19th-20th spring European Council will be debated with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 15.00 today. Agenda items at the Council include Energy Union, the EU’s economic situation, its eastern partnership, and the situation in Libya - -- The sharp fall in oil prices will have a positive, yet limited credit impact for most European asset-backed securities (ABS) collateralised by loans granted to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), says Moody's Investors Service in a sector comment published today. "If we balance both direct and indirect exposures to the oil and gas sectors, which affect performance the most, the net effect is slightly positive," says Monica Curti, a Moody's Vice President and author of the report. The rating agency observes that securitised portfolios have very low direct exposure to the oil and gas industries, for which lower prices are credit negative. For pools where borrowers are indirectly exposed to these sectors, Moody’s says the oil price decline will be slightly positive in terms of credit performance due to its strong positive effect on sectors such as airlines, shipping and packaged food, which represent up to 12% of some European ABS SME portfolios. However, for over 60% of the ABS SME transactions that Moody's studied, the net effect of oil price exposures is negligible. In addition, the general positive effect of the oil price decline on economic growth will be mild. "While sustained lower oil prices would significantly boost economic growth in principle, their positive effect will be mild for European SMEs because of the euro area's low dependency on oil and the fact that oil prices have fallen in a subdued economy," says Ariel Weil, a Moody's vice president and co-author of the report - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +5.76 points higher or +0.17% to 3419.02, taking the year-to-date performance to +1.60%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.38% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.48%. The top active stocks were SingTel (+0.70%), UOB (+0.61%), DBS (-0.05%), Keppel Corp (+1.13%) and OCBC Bank (+0.29%). Outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Utilities Index (+3.48%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Utilities Index are United Envirotech (+0.31%) and Hyflux (+1.14%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Real Estate Holding and Development Index, which declined -0.33% with Hongkong Land Holdings’ share price declining -0.94% and Global Logistic Properties’ share price gaining +0.78%. – Reuters reports that Chicago-based CME Group had planned to debut an EU wheat-futures contract by the end of next month, but it has yet to reach agreements with local companies to guarantee sufficient deliverable capacity. Eric Hasham, senior director, CME Group is quoted as saying: "If for whatever reasons the parties that we are speaking to decide not to move forward ... we would not be making the contract available.” - Nigeria and Ivory Coast are looking to emulate Senegal's successful move into the market for Islamic bonds or sukuk, the head of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) has said. Earlier this month the ICD, which is the private sector arm of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank Group, signed an agreement with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to cooperate in the development of the private sector in ICD member countries in Africa - Turkey received foreign direct investment worth $1.8bn in January, according to Turkey’s Economy Ministry. The energy sector was the largest recipient of international capital during the month with $735m worth of inflows. Foreign investment to the county increased by 44% in the first month of 2015 compared with the same month in the previous year, said the statement. Around a quarter of the investment came from European countries, a significant decrease (-76%) compared with January 2014. More than $420m in investments came from Asian countries, such as China and Malaysia. There were 175 new, foreign-funded companies established in the first month of the year, down from 410 in the same month of 2014. A total of 41,699 companies were operating in Turkey with international capital as of January 2015, with 24,612 of them operating in Turkey’s largest province, Istanbul, the ministry said. The report also said that of the total number of foreign-funded companies in Turkey, 6,054 were German-funded and 2,774 were financed by the United Kingdom. Turkey received a total of $12.4bn in foreign direct investment in 2014, down 1.7% compared with 2013.

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

France’s industrial crisis: predictable and set to last

Friday, 03 August 2012 Written by 
France’s industrial crisis: predictable and set to last France’s industrial sector is in the midst of a steadily worsening crisis. There has been a decline in production, employment and productive investment, the external deficit remains significant, and export market shares are declining rapidly. We would argue that this situation was foreseeable, particularly if we add up issues with supply, domestic and external demand, and the impact of the eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, not a lot can be done about the weakness of demand, and the remedies to the supply problem are difficult to implement rapidly. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

France’s industrial sector is in the midst of a steadily worsening crisis. There has been a decline in production, employment and productive investment, the external deficit remains significant, and export market shares are declining rapidly.

We would argue that this situation was foreseeable, particularly if we add up issues with supply, domestic and external demand, and the impact of the eurozone crisis. Unfortunately, not a lot can be done about the weakness of demand, and the remedies to the supply problem are difficult to implement rapidly.

Let’s go through these issues, their causes and their implications.

Cause no. 1: The supply problem



Supply conditions for goods and services continue to deteriorate in France. The low profitability of companies discourages investment hence the production capacity of French industry is on the decline.

Since 2001, French industry sales prices have been falling relative to unit wage costs. Such falls reflect the excessive level of unit wage costs compared to the sophistication of industrial production in France. The downmarket nature of French industrial production prevents an increase in its selling prices, because of the high level of the price elasticity of demand for industrial products made in France: 0.9 versus 0.3 in Germany.

However, the rise in the unit wage cost – relative to selling prices – does not come as a result of the trend in productivity, but what has been happening to wages. This is because the level of costs is pushed up by the level of employers’ welfare contributions.

The subsequent fall in French industry’s profitability is substantial, reducing its capacity to invest and create jobs. This leads to the off-shoring of production capacity to countries where industrial profitability is higher, thereby weakening industry financially and threatening it with a serious crisis in the event of a recession and falling demand.

Cause no. 2: The demand problem

Between 2011 and 2012, French industry suffered from the weakness of both domestic and external demand. This resulted in a lower capacity utilisation rate than normal, which makes the problem of low profitability even more detrimental. And the decline in demand may deteriorate further if there is a fall in real wage incomes and government expenditure.

Cause no. 3: The euro-zone crisis

The eurozone crisis has two negative effects on French industry:

  1. it weakens demand and therefore imports in the eurozone countries that usually would have been France’s customers. This is significant because the eurozone accounts for 46% of French exports – the United Kingdom, which is also mired in a recession, accounts for 6%;
  2. it reduces domestic demand and capacity utilisation rates in Spain and Portugal and persuades industrial companies in these countries to turn to exports. As wage costs are lower in these countries, there is an increase in the competition that has a direct impact on French industry. France’s export market share tends to decline, whereas those of PortugalSpain and Ireland have recovered.

Remedies are very difficult to implement

Of the three issues mentioned, weakness of demand and the effects of the eurozone crisis cannot be controlled, particularly in a situation where there is private-sector deleveraging and a reduction in fiscal deficits. The question for French industry is therefore which remedies can be implemented on the supply side? We have put together the following list of possible measures:

 

  • an improvement in the sophistication of industrial production and in the differentiation of products, which will require innovation, investments, and marketing;
  • increased geographical diversification in companies' sales to increase the weight of emerging countries, which is currently quite low in France;
  • a major reform of the financing of social welfare in France to reduce the weight of welfare contributions paid by companies;
  • a fall in the hourly labour cost, either through a fall in the per capita wage, or through an increase in the number of hours worked (which is obviously a source of conflict).

 

However, these measures are all very difficult to implement rapidly.

It is also important to understand the major fragility of companies that are not very profitable (i.e. they have a shortfall in supply) when they are faced with a significant and lasting decline in demand.

Unfortunately, it looks as though this French industry crisis is not going to go away any time soon.

Patrick Artus

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, of Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Adminstration Economique and of Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, Patrick Artus is today the Chief Economist at Natixis. He began his career in 1975 where his work included economic forecasting and modelisation. He then worked at the Economics Department of the OECD (1980), before becoming Head of Research at the ENSAE. Thereafter, Patrick taught seminars on research at Paris Dauphine (1982) and was Professor at a number of Universities (including Dauphine, ENSAE, Centre des Hautes Etudes de l'Armement, Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and HEC Lausanne).

Patrick is now Professor of Economics at University Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. He combines these responsibilities with his research work at Natixis. Patrick was awarded "Best Economist of the year 1996" by the "Nouvel Economiste", and today is a member of the council of economic advisors to the French Prime Minister. He is also a board member at Total and Ipsos.

Website: cib.natixis.com/research/economic.aspx

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