Monday 30th March 2015
NEWS TICKER: MONDAY MARCH 30TH 2015: Moody's has today assigned a Baa2 long-term rating to the new hybrid securities issued by Bayer AG. The rating outlook is stable. The rating of Baa2 is two notches below Bayer's A3 senior unsecured rating. This reflects the deeply subordinated ranking of the new hybrid securities in relation to the existing senior unsecured obligations of Bayer or those issued by its subsidiaries and guaranteed by Bayer. The new hybrid securities will be senior to common shares - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +4.16 points higher or +0.12% to 3454.26, taking the year-to-date performance to +2.65%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.10% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.03%. The top active stocks were SingTel (-1.13%), UOB (-0.13%), DBS (+0.30%), Global Logistic (+0.76%) and CapitaLand (+1.39%). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index (+0.89%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index are Wilmar International (-0.61%) and Thai Beverage (+3.36%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Telecommunications Index, which declined -1.05% with SingTel’s share price declining -1.13% and StarHub’s share price declining-0.23%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the DBXT S&P/ASX 200 ETF (unchanged), STI ETF (unchanged), DBXT FTSE Vietnam ETF (+1.19%) – The Singapore Exchange (SGX) says that UOB Bullion and Futures Limited (UOBBF) has joined as a trading member of its securities market. Chew Sutat, head of sales and clients, SGX says the membership enables UOBBF to offer “another product class to their regional clients, thus adding to liquidity in the securities market. We also look forward to working with UOBBF to bring their existing derivatives customers to all our markets. As an SGX Securities Trading Member, UOBBF will be able to offer equity trading services to institutional clients, and accredited and expert investors. SGX now has 27 trading members and 26 clearing members - Taking their cue from the positive tone in Wall Street on Friday, major Asian equity markets were firmer today favoured by market expectations for the adoption of further policy stimulus by Chinese authorities to support domestic economic activity. Elsewhere, US Treasuries were modestly firmer in early trade on Monday while the FOMC Chairman’s mildly hawkish remarks assisted the USD to move higher says Eurobank’s mid-morning markets review. According to the bank discussions between Greek authorities and the Brussels Group on a fully-costed list of reforms the Greek side submitted late last week are reportedly expected to continue on Monday for the third consecutive day. Local press reports suggested today that a number of issues still remain open. On the latter, local newswires quoted an unnamed high level euro area official as saying that the Euro Working Group will likely assess Greece’s reform proposals later this week (reportedly on Wednesday) but euro area finance ministers are not expected to convene before all the details are ironed out. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reportedly requested an extraordinary plenary session to be held today at 8pm Greek time to inform the Hellenic Parliament about the progress of ongoing discussions with the Institutions - Standard & Poor's revised last Friday the outlook on the Republic of Cyprus sovereign credit rating to positive from stable, affirming the country's B+/B long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings - Nearly two thirds (61%) of small and medium sized companies who are yet to undertake auto enrolment say they would welcome the publication of a definitive list of pension providers that accept all firms - regardless of size - to help them comply with their auto enrolment duties, according to new research* by workplace pensions provider NOW: Pensions. Of the SMEs surveyed who are yet to stage, two thirds (66%) don’t have any existing pension arrangements for their staff while 8% have a stakeholder pension scheme set up but don’t have any members of staff in it. A quarter already offer a scheme to a proportion of their workforce. When it comes to selecting a pension provider for auto enrolment, over a quarter (27%) of those who are yet to stage still say they haven’t given any thought to how they’ll go about finding a pension provider, down from 44% in 2014**. One in ten (12%) are going to search the market and do the research themselves, up from just 4% of those firms surveyed in 2014. When it comes to seeking external advice, over a quarter (26%) intend to get help from their accountant up from 14% in 2014. One in six (16%) intend to rely on their existing provider, down from 22% in 2014. Just 6% plan to speak to a financial adviser up from 5% in 2014. Morten Nilsson, CEO of NOW: Pensions said: “As smaller companies begin to tackle auto enrolment, the number planning on choosing their pension provider without any advice is inevitably going to grow. “This is why The Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) decision earlier this month not to publish a list of pensions schemes that are directly available to any employer, was so disappointing. The reality is these firms urgently need help to find high quality, low cost providers that are willing to accept their business, and the regulator needs to hear their pleas before it is too late.” - Harkand has secured a multi-million pound contract with Maersk Oil North Sea Ltd for the provision of DSV services in the North Sea region. The 12-month contract will be serviced by Harkand’s two DSVs, the Harkand Da Vinci and Harkand Atlantis, supported by project management and engineering from the firm’s Aberdeen office. The contract covers well tie-ins, structure installation, piling, flexible flow line lay, flexible riser installation, pre-commissioning, riser recovery, decommissioning and general inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) work. Harkand Europe managing director, David Kerr explains, “This contract win is a further acknowledgment, not only of the expertise and capacity we have built up within the region, but also the open culture that we have at Harkand. We look forward to delivering a consistent and cost efficient service to Maersk, which is especially critical in today’s business environment. By utilising both our sister DSVs, we will provide a robust and fully flexible approach to executing both planned and unplanned interventions and we will work closely with Maersk to ensure safe and successful campaigns.” The Harkand DaVinci and Harkand Atlantis are both equipped with state-of-the-art saturation diving systems, 140t active heave compensated cranes and Super Mohawk ROV spreads.

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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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