Friday 29th July 2016
NEWS TICKER: JULY 29TH 2016: The Prysmian Group's first-half results are marked by revenue growth and a significant improvement in profitability. Explains CEO Valerio Battista. "The biggest drivers of growth have been Energy Projects and Telecom. The important set of technological innovations introduced between end of 2015 and 2016, involving the launch of the 600kV and 700kV cable systems, combined with greater project execution capabilities, involving the commissioning of Ulisse, the Group's third cable vessel, mean the Group is well positioned to continue taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the market. In the Telecom business, growth has been driven by the recovery in optical fibre competitiveness and the new optical cable manufacturing capacity in Eastern Europe. Performance by the higher value-added businesses has contributed to a fresh upturn in profitability, with a significant improvement in margins, also thanks to our actions to reduce fixed costs and rationalise manufacturing footprint. The newly acquired Oman Cables Industry has also made an important contribution in this regard." – The Samsung Electronics board has decided to make additional investments in Samsung Venture Investment Corporation's, an affiliated company of Samsung Electronics, New Technology Investment Funds. SVIC plans to establish a new venture fund, SVIC 32. SVIC 32 is a cooperative fund with its investment focus on the latest technologies to enhance competitiveness of existing set businesses and identify future growth businesses. The transaction is expected occur during the third quarter of 2016. The transaction size is KRW 198bn (99% of the total fund: KRW200bn) -- As a slug of generally positive data emerges from the UK this week, and commenting on today’s corporate results, Richard Marwood, senior fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, says, “Today’s flurry of corporate earnings suggests that as yet the outcome of the EU referendum has not had a major impact on many UK listed companies, outside of the movements in currencies. Without a clear financial picture of the impact, many CEOs are at pains to highlight the resilience of their business and their willingness to take strong action if required. I would expect the bid for ARM to herald a period of heightened corporate activity. The increased offer for Premier Farnell is another clear example of overseas bidders taking advantage of a depressed pound to snap up UK assets.” -- Singapore Exchange (SGX) today welcomed EC World REIT to Mainboard under the stock code “BWCU”. EC World REIT is the first Chinese specialised logistics and e-commerce logistics REIT to be listed on SGX. With an initial geographical focus on the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the REIT invests in a diversified portfolio of income-producing real estate primarily used for e-commerce, supply-chain management and logistics purposes. Peter Lai Hock Meng, Chief Executive Officer of EC World Asset Management Pte. Ltd., the Manager of EC World REIT, said, “We are pleased to celebrate EC World REIT’s successful listing and trading today and we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all investors for making this milestone possible. Our IPO portfolio of six quality properties offers investors unique exposure to the logistics and e-commerce sectors in Hangzhou - one of the largest e-commerce hubs in China.” – Emerging markets assets benefitted in the Asian session today as the dollar retreated following the US Fed’s decision yesterday to do nothing. Yields on US government bonds declined slightly in the hours following the release of the monetary policy statement. The fall on the long end was with 6 basis points and was more pronounced than the drop on the short end of 3 basis points (bps). The dollar lost 3/4 of a cent vs the euro and stood this morning at 1.107 EUR/USD. The Federal Reserve stopped short of signalling a near-term increase in US interest rates, and while a December move is seen as likely, markets are focusing instead on the extra stimulus Japan's government is expected to deliver tomorrow. A subsequent retreat in the retreat boosted emerging assets in the Asian session with stocks at new 11-month highs despite fresh wobbles on Chinese equity markets. The Straits Times Index meantime (STI) ended 23.88 points or 0.81% lower to 2917.61, taking the year-to-date performance to +1.21%. The top active stocks today were DBS, which declined 2.34%, Singtel, which declined 0.46%, UOB, which declined 1.27%, OCBC Bank, which declined 0.57% and Wilmar Intl, with a close unchanged. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.04%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined 0.88%. MSCI's emerging equity index rose 0.25% despite pullbacks in Asian markets, where some concern is rising over volatility in China and the weakening yen. Elsewhere in Asia, Chinese shares fell as much as 3% at one point before recovering as new regulations are expected to prompt wealth managers at small banks to bail out of stocks and into bonds. Elsewhere, the Turkish lira continues to recover, firming to one-week highs. In emerging Europe, Turkish assets continued their post-coup recovery, shrugging off a worsening crackdown on alleged plotters. Stocks jumped 1 percent to one-week highs while the lira was flat, also near one-week highs. Turkey's economic confidence index hit also touched its highest level so far this year in July, rising 14.9% to 95.7. In Africa meantime, the temperature is different. the Nigerian naira hit new record lows against the dollar on Wednesday, shrugging off a rate increase of 200 basis points (bps). Traders are also waiting to see if Egypt will announce plans to devalue its pound at a central bank meeting. Cairo stocks pulled off three-month highs hit after news the government was in loan talks with the International Monetary Fund. The government’s 2025 dollar bond, which rose 4% after the news, eased half a percent. Poland too is in the spotlight today as the European Commission's statement yesterday gave Warsaw three months to address rule of law concerns. In early trading today Polish stocks extended losses, falling 0.7% and the zloty lost 0.2.%.

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The core reason for asymmetry between the German and French economies: corporate profitability

Friday, 25 May 2012 Written by 
The core reason for asymmetry between the German and French economies: corporate profitability The main explanation for asymmetry between the French and German economies is that in France, companies’ production capacity is unable to keep up with domestic demand, whereas in Germany it is growing faster than domestic demand. This difference is related to corporate profitability: high and rising in Germany, but low and falling in France, which is limiting French companies’ investment capacity. There are two plausible causes for the profitability gap between German and French companies: the higher level of product sophistication and diversification that gives more pricing power to German companies; and the nature of labour market negotiations, where the link between the labour market and the economy is much stronger in Germany than in France. Yet – if no new economic policies are introduced to improve the profitability of French companies – it is more than likely that the country’s economic situation will not improve. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The main explanation for asymmetry between the French and German economies is that in France, companies’ production capacity is unable to keep up with domestic demand, whereas in Germany it is growing faster than domestic demand. This difference is related to corporate profitability: high and rising in Germany, but low and falling in France, which is limiting French companies’ investment capacity. There are two plausible causes for the profitability gap between German and French companies: the higher level of product sophistication and diversification that gives more pricing power to German companies; and the nature of labour market negotiations, where the link between the labour market and the economy is much stronger in Germany than in France. Yet – if no new economic policies are introduced to improve the profitability of French companies – it is more than likely that the country’s economic situation will not improve.

The economic asymmetry between France and Germany

The main reason for economic asymmetry between France and Germany, which also explains the differences between their current account balance situations, is the ability of companies to build up production capacity to meet domestic demand.



Indeed, domestic demand in France has increased much faster than GDP meaning that its inability to meet excess demand through domestic production has cost them potential economic growth. And its production capacity for industrial products in particular has been unable to keep up with domestic demand. This is in stark contrast to Germany, however, where domestic demand is actually weak relative to supply.

The role of corporate profitability

A key explanation for the differences between German and French companies’ investment capacity is corporate profitability, particularly in the manufacturing industry. Indeed, corporate profitability has been growing in Germany but declining in France since 2000. This is because, unlike in Germany, French companies are faced with cost increases that exceed price increases, particularly in the industrial sector. Furthermore, French companies have been unable to pass on increases in production costs to consumers, explaining the long-run decline in profitability since 2001.

Indeed, the low profitability of French companies is an obstacle to investment that German companies are not lumbered with. Furthermore, German firms’ self-financing rate (the ratio of savings to fixed capital) essentially exceeds 100%, explaining why there is a faster rate of productive investment in Germany. Meanwhile, the greater capacity for investment in Germany will be amplified if it becomes more difficult to obtain credit, which is likely to be the case in France due to the impact of new prudential rules for banks.

Causes of low corporate profitability in France

There are two major causes for French companies’ poorer profitability:

1. Less sophisticated industrial products

The fact that French industrial companies are unable to pass increases in production costs on to consumers shows their weak pricing power and the low level of product sophistication. Demand for French products is therefore price sensitive, which is not the case for German products, and explains why France’s export market share fell when the euro appreciated between 2002 and 2008 yet Germany’s did not. Meanwhile, it could also be said that France is stuck in a vicious circle: the low product sophistication of French companies reduces their profitability, which reduces their ability to invest and enhance the quality of their products.

2. The nature of labour market negotiations

The rise in unemployment and the weakness of activity has caused a significant slowdown in wage growth in Germany. However, this has not occurred in France, where wages have been less sensitive to the performance of the economy. Since wage costs remain high, it is more difficult for French companies to enhance corporate profitability after periods of weak growth.

Indeed, profitability remained low in France from 2003 to 2007 and from 2010 to 2012, yet improved in Germany. So labour market negotiations in France seem to favour "insiders" (employees who have kept their jobs) instead of encouraging firms to hire new staff. But in Germany it is easier to negotiate the wages of existing employees and therefore to recruit new staff.

Which economic policy approaches should be used in France in order to address these issues?

Government policy should seek to boost corporate profitability by:

  • Lowering labour costs to restore profit margins for French companies and to boost investment. This can be achieved through tax reforms that reduce the weight of welfare contributions;
  • Helping French companies to invest more despite their low self-financing rate. This could include government intervention such as public-sector funding or loans via state-owned banks, as well as through the development of a large corporate bond market;
  • Helping companies to improve product sophistication through government research grants, government contracts for technological products, and offering support for new industries: digital, energy, etc.;
  • And finally, by changing the nature of negotiations between unions and employers in France to ensure the employment component is taken into account in negotiations.
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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