Sunday 7th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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20-20: Ackermann looks to a new future

Thursday, 15 December 2011
20-20: Ackermann looks to a new future The internal structure of Deutsche Bank’s DNA “completely changed under chief executive Josef Ackermann,” says Konrad Becker, an analyst at private bank Merck Finck & Co. Ackermann not only extended the bank’s geographical reach and products but it also became much more client facing. He also introduced a more Anglo-American corporate governance framework with a clear hierarchy. This was revolutionary at the time. By Lynn Strongin Dodds. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

The internal structure of Deutsche Bank’s DNA “completely changed under chief executive Josef Ackermann,” says Konrad Becker, an analyst at private bank Merck Finck & Co. Ackermann not only extended the bank’s geographical reach and products but it also became much more client facing. He also introduced a more Anglo-American corporate governance framework with a clear hierarchy. This was revolutionary at the time. By Lynn Strongin Dodds.

The past few weeks have tested Deutsche Bank’s chief executive officer (CEO) Josef Ackermann. He unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy to become chairman of the supervisory board and police raided the bank’s Frankfurt offices and legal department. While headline grabbing, these glitches are not expected to diminish his legacy of transforming the one-time commercial bank into a global banking powerhouse and steering it through the market tumult of the last five years.

Historically, German corporate law shunned the idea of an American-style chief executive and an Anglo Saxon board where executives take responsibility for their own business lines. The preferred model was a Vorstand, a statutory managing board that promoted collective responsibility. Ackermann struck a compromise, although at the time it was considered groundbreaking. He became CEO, shrank the Vortsand and created a 12-man group executive committee, which he chaired. The new structure gave the Vorstand a strategy-making role, while the group executive committee, on which Vorstand members also sit, run the bank’s day-to-day operations.



He also severed long-held industrial ties, raising $5.3bn in the process, including the sale of a €1.6bn stake in Munich Re. He eliminated 14,470 jobs (18% of the workforce) and cut costs by one-third by closing retail branches and outsourcing management of the bank’s computer systems and real estate, and built out the bank’s US business. The Bankers Trust $10bn acquisition in 1999 was key in this regard. Although the purchase was not done on his watch (Rolf Breuer was chairman at the time), it provided a launch pad for Ackermann’s global investment banking ambitions.

“In the middle of the last decade, UBS was very profitable and it was the bank that Deutsche measured itself against, but then the financial crisis happened,” says Becker.  Deutsche Bank weathered the storm but did not escape unscathed. Ackermann often claims that the bank did not need a government injection  of capital, but critics note that in fact the bank (along with others) received the equivalent of a back-door bailout from American taxpayers when the US government intervened to prevent the insurer American International Group from collapsing.

Moreover, the bank faces litigation in the US tied to residential mortgages and in Germany regarding the mis-selling of complex financial products to municipalities. Separately, Ackermann himself is also embroiled in legal wranglings involving a former client, the late Leo Kirsch, and in early November 2011 prosecutors raided the bank’s offices looking for evidence of attempts to mislead the court.

Overall though, Ackermann has won plaudits for the way he has navigated the bank through extremely choppy waters over the past three years. Not everyone has been as happy. “The market capitalisation has more than halved since Ackermann and this has left a bitter taste in shareholder’s mouths,” says Michael Rohr, an analyst at Sylvia Quandt Research GmbH in Frankfurt, with the caveat:  “This has more to do with market conditions. Ackermann has had a strategic vision to transition the bank into a more stable business and has done a very good job with its risk management.”

Recent strategy involves a retreat from the investment banking business which contributes roughly 70% of the group’s total pre-tax profit and a return to commercial banking, retail and private banking. Strategic acquisitions are also on the agenda, among them Deutsche Postbank and Sal Oppenheim, Germany’s largest private bank. The bank is now expected to divest its asset management division— except for its profitable DWS retail franchise in Europe and Asia. A sale could raise $4.5bn which would improve the bank’s capital position in light of impending regulation.

The strategy is widely regarded as being driven by CEO-in-waiting Anshu Jain who, together with Jürgen Fitschen, will run the bank starting next May. Even so, Ackermann was not supposed to take a back seat in 2012; but now it looks as if he will retire. He was likely caught out by German law, which holds that  a chief executive of a listed company may not become its chairman without a two-year cooling-off period, unless 25% of shareholders endorse the move. In a fickle move of fate, Ackermann may not have received the support he anticipated and was put in an untenable position. Paul Achleitner, currently chief financial officer of insurer Allianz, is now mooted as the next chairman.

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