Wednesday 6th May 2015
NEWS TICKER: WEDNESDAY, MAY 6TH 2015: According to Mineweb, silver prices on average will decline 14% this year as speculation over US interest rates spurs a shift to alternative assets. Silver will drop to $16.50 an ounce from the average fixing price of $19.08 in 2014, Andrew Leyland, manager of precious- metal demand at Thomson Reuters GFMS, told Mineweb in advance of Thomson Reuters'World Silver Survey 2015 on behalf of the Washington-based Silver Institute. Silver futures fell 2.7% last month - The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will release its Q1 2015 Household Debt and Credit Report Tuesday, May 12 at 11:00 am. The Household Debt and Credit Report offers an updated snapshot of household trends in borrowing and indebtedness, including data about mortgages, student loans, credit cards, auto loans and delinquencies. In conjunction with the report, the New York Fed will also release a blog post that details the change in debt by credit score and age group - Moody's has assigned a limited default (/LD) designation to DTEK ENERGY BV's (DTEK) Ca-PD probability of default rating (PDR). At the same time, Moody's has affirmed DTEK's Ca corporate family rating (CFR), as well as the Ca rating of DTEK Finance Plc's $750m 7.875% notes due April 4th 2018. The change of the PDR to Ca-PD/LD follows the completion of the exchange of DTEK Finance BV's $200m 9.5% notes on the notes' maturity date April 28th. The transaction was effected pursuant to a UK Scheme of Arrangement. The notes were exchanged into new $160m 10.375% notes due 28 March 2018, issued by DTEK Finance Plc for this purpose, and $44.9m of cash, including an early exchange offer acceptance fee, which was paid to note holders on April 28th. The Ca rating of DTEK Finance B.V.'s exchanged notes was withdrawn. Moody's expects to remove the "/LD" suffix after approximately three business days. The outlook on all ratings remains negative - A major new campaign ‘World of Talent in Ireland’ was today launched by the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and IDA Ireland. The campaign will initially target Ireland’s global graduate community, highlighting abroad the career opportunities that now exist in Ireland, with a view to attracting talent here. Speaking on the launch of the campaign Mark Redmond, Chief Executive of the American Chamber said “For Ireland to continue to grow its economy it will be essential that we attract the best and the brightest talent from across the world. This campaign is about reaching out to anyone who attended college here and therefore has an affinity with Ireland but is currently living and working elsewhere. We want to ensure that they know the great career opportunities that now exist here and how they can avail of them” - Idinvest Partners, the European private equity firm specialising in SMEs, has announced the final closing of its Idinvest Digital Fund II at €140m. The fund is entirely dedicated to financing the growth of developing businesses in the digital and new technology segments (web-based, media, mobile, e-commerce services and software) in France and across Europe. The fund has invested in ten companies so far, including Sigfox, Synthesio and Twenga; 30% of the capital has been called in and the fund is already delivering positive returns. The fund has also gathered prominent investors, such as Bpifrance and Idinvest’s historical partner, Allianz France, who are topping the list. Besides these, there is also a large number of insurance companies, banks, family offices and leading industry players and corporates, such as Lagardère and Up groups - According to local press reports, Botswana’s largest retailer Choppies plans to cross-list its shares at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by the end of May, as it expand its business in sub-Saharan Africa. The multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer has stores in three Southern Africa countries and is reportedly looking to expand into Zambia and Tanzania this year. The firm will list 10% of its shares and plans to raise about $50m. Choppies commands a market capitalization of about $535mon the Botswana Stock Exchange and has a 32% share of Botswana’s retail market and plans to add five more stores, taking the total to 77 retail outlets, by December, followed by another 20 in the medium term - Credit Agricole Egypt (CAE) reports net profit of EGP236m (+60% YoY and +8% QoQ) in 1Q2015 and net interest income of EGP371m in (+30% YoY and +7% QoQ)over the period, higher than analyst forecasts. No other income statement component was disclosed, with the exception of taxes (around EGP104m for the period, signifying an effective tax rate of around 31%). Full financial statements are not available yet - The European Union is reported to be investigating McDonald's over claims its structure allowed it to avoid more than €1bn (£730m) in tax. It is alleged that the fast food purveyor exploited loophole concerning royalties through Luxembourg, allowing it to pay just €16m of tax on royalties worth €3.7bn between 2009 and 2013. Unions claim McDonald's Luxembourg subsidiary employs just 13 people, yet booked €834m of revenue in 2013 - roughly around €64m per worker - Smith Cooper accountancy and business advisory firm today announced the appointment of Catherine Desmond as partner to enhance the firm's private client services across the Midlands. Desmond joins the firm from the Private Client department of Saffery Champness where she specialised in advising clients across a range of sectors, including predominantly family businesses and landed estates. In her new role at Smith Cooper, Catherine will be concentrating on further developing the range of tax planning services the firm offer their private clients. Her work will focus particularly on the agricultural sector and landed estates, an area Desmond has extensive experience in - Nomis Solutions has appointed Michael DeGusta to lead the architecture and development of the company’s next-generation pricing platform. Working with progressive technology companies such as Apple, eCoverage, and ChoicePoint, DeGusta brings 20 years of experience to Nomis. “Retail banks face unprecedented challenges, and Michael is the ideal leader to architect our future and to bring Nomis and our client banks to the next level of price optimization and profitability management,” says Frank Rohde, Nomis CEO. “The bankers we meet with relate a growing awakening to the opportunities provided by innovative technology and how it can help them thrive in the face of mediocre economies, changing customers, disruptive competitors, and challenging regulators.” -

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The European Review

By Patrick Artus, chief economist at Natixis

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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