Friday 19th December 2014
NEWS TICKER: THURSDAY DECEMBER 18TH 2014: Scotiabank’s Commodity Price Index dropped -4.8% m/m in November (-6.1% yr/yr) and will end 2014 in a ‘deflationary’ mode, says economist Patricia Mohr. "Significant capacity expansion and the defence of market share by major oil and iron ore producers— against a backdrop of lacklustre world economic growth — account for the softness at the end of the year," she says. Mohr adds that the decision by Saudi Arabia not to reduce output to shore up international oil prices, but instead to allow prices to drop to levels curbing US shale development appears to be having a negative impact on confidence in a wide variety of other commodity as well as equity markets. She predicts prices will fall further this month, but will start to rebound in mid 201 - Jonathan Hill, the EU's financial-services commissioner, says he plans to pursue rules that separate a bank's proprietary trading from retail operations. "The sensible thing to do is to seek to make progress quickly" on the issue, Hill said. "There are still areas of risk in some of the biggest and most complicated banks,” reports Bloomberg- CME Group, said yesterday that it will change daily price limits in its CME Feeder Cattle futures effective today, pursuant to its emergency action authority. The current daily price limit for CME Feeder Cattle futures is $3.00 per hundredweight and will change to $4.50 per hundredweight effective on trade date December 18th Additionally, effective December 19th (tomorrow) these limits will have the ability to expand by 150% to $6.75 per hundredweight on any business day in the event that one of the first two contract months settles at limit on the previous trading day. CME Feeder Cattle futures have been locked limit for five consecutive days as a result of various factors. The change to daily price limits is necessary to ensure continued price discovery and risk transfer, says the CME. Daily price limits for CME Live Cattle futures will remain unchanged at $3.00 per hundredweight. Effective Friday, December 19th, these limits will have the ability to expand by 150 percent to $4.50 per hundredweight in the event that one of the first two contract months settles at limit on the previous trading day - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +16.42 points higher or +0.51% to 3243.65, taking the year-to-date performance to +2.49%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.29% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.71%. The top active stocks were Keppel Corp (+2.68%), SingTel (-1.02%), DBS (+2.36%), Global Logistic (-3.21%) and UOB (+0.30%). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index (+3.13%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index are Midas Holdings (+6.38%) and Geo Energy Resources (unchanged). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Telecommunications Index, which declined -0.98% with SingTel’s share price declining -1.02% and StarHub’s share price declining-0.73%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the IS MSCI India (+2.56%), DBXT CSI300 ETF (+0.42%), STI ETF (+0.61%). The three most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were Ascendas REIT (-0.42%), Keppel DC REIT (unchanged), Suntec REIT (+0.26%). The most active index warrants by value today were HSI23400MBeCW150129 (+7.32%), HSI22600MBePW150129 (unchanged), HSI24000MBeCW150129 (+12.50%). The most active stock warrants by value today were KepCorp MBeCW150602 (+21.95%), DBS MB eCW150420 (+29.29%), DBS MB ePW150402 (-18.03%) - Spain’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Eduardo Torres Dulce, has resigned from the post for “personal reasons”, Spanish daily El Mundo reported this morning. A spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s office confirmed the news by telephone to The Spain Report, saying that Mr. Torres Dulce had informed Justice Minister Rafael Catalá of his decision: “but that it perhaps would not come into effect until they find a replacement”. That decision is taken at cabinet level. The next cabinet meeting for Rajoy’s government is tomorrow morning - Hedge funds including Marshall Wace, Odey Asset Management and Lansdowne Partners are shorting OTP Bank Plc, a Hungarian lender with a Russian subsidiary whose shares have fallen almost 6% this month reports Albourne Village. All three London-based funds took or increased their position this month in OTP, Hungary’s largest lender, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The ruble rose today in Moscow after plunging as much as 19%against the dollar yesterday, when Russia’s central bank increased interest rates to 17% percent from 10.5 percent in an attempt to stem the decline. The ruble is down 52% this year and has taken a disproportionate beating in the wake of sanctions and falling oil prices. The country still has the third largest currency reserves in the world and so is unlikely to default. According to Eric Chaney, Manolis Davradakis and Greg Venizelos from AXA IM’s Research and Investment Strategy team Russia will likely resort to fiscal stimulus to contain the risk of social and political unrest. Capital controls, political unrest and even default on private hard currency debts are possible outcomes they say. They credit default swaps market is pricing a one-third probability of sovereign default within five years - Indonesia is ramping up financing for its $439bn development program, planning an almost fivefold increase in sales of project sukuk. The government is seeking to raise IDR7.14trn rupiah (around $568m) from notes that will fund particular construction ventures next year, compared with IDR1.5trn this year, which say local press reports, will help finance its estimated spending of about IDR5,519trn from 2015 to 2019 to build roads, railways and power plants.

20-20: Can ABN AMRO stake a comeback claim?

Thursday, 15 December 2011
20-20: Can ABN AMRO stake a comeback claim? It was never going to be simple but chief executive officer Gerrit Zalm had been making steady progress in turning round beleaguered ABN AMRO. The year 2011 started out promising with a strong first half but the eurozone crisis has put a question mark over whether it will return to the public markets by 2014. Despite the uncertainty, Zalm is seen as heading in the right direction. Lynn Strongin Dodds reports on the outlook for the bank. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

It was never going to be simple but chief executive officer Gerrit Zalm had been making steady progress in turning round beleaguered ABN AMRO. The year 2011 started out promising with a strong first half but the eurozone crisis has put a question mark over whether it will return to the public markets by 2014. Despite the uncertainty, Zalm is seen as heading in the right direction. Lynn Strongin Dodds reports on the outlook for the bank.

ABN AMRO’S fall from grace has been well-documented. The bank had become the symbol of the financial hubris of the pre-Lehman days with its fast past growth, high-profile takeovers and subsequent collapse. By 2007, ABN AMRO was the second-largest bank in the Netherlands and the eighth largest bank in Europe by assets. It had operations in 63 countries, with more than 110,000 employees and almost $63.9bn in revenue.  

The moniker was set to disappear when Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis and Santander split up its international assets between them in a €72bn deal that was ranked as the world’s largest banking takeover. The financial crisis exploded a year later and the Dutch government was forced to step in to rescue not only the domestic assets of ABN AMRO but also Fortis, at a cost of some €27bn.



The two banks were subsequently merged under the ABN AMRO name and Zalm, a former finance minister who earned a reputation as a fiscal hawk, was called in as chief executive in 2009 to oversee the integration.

His task is to get the bank’s income ratio structurally below 60% and to lay the foundation for a public listing in three years’ time. To this end, Zalm has been busy cutting the workforce by about 9%, bolstering key business lines and resurrecting its energy, commodities and transportation (ECT) operations. It had sold its ECT business to Fortis in 1997 and so it is back in the fold.

Integration is still under way and the goals include improving cost efficiency, rebuilding the bank’s franchise in commercial banking and increasing market share lost in the Netherlands. Zalm is also carefully developing an international presence in the bank’s core competencies such as ECT. It has re-established a foothold in the US oil and gas market by opening an office in Dallas, staffed by a six-person team it lured away from UBS. Moscow and Shanghai are also on the list as cities where it would like to re-establish a presence.

Zalm has also returned the brand to the Dutch high street; a move which, says Claudia Nelson, senior director of Fitch, plays to the bank’s strengths. The combined entity is now the third-largest domestic bank behind rivals Robeco and ING with a market share of 15% to 25% depending on the product line, involving some 6.8m customers.

Zalm has also strengthened the private banking franchise via the respected AMRO MeesPierson brand. The bank targets customers with wealth in excess of €1m and holds around €165bn of assets under management split equally between ABN AMRO, MeesPierson and a widely spread international network. The division is also known for its global diamonds and jewellery group, which specialises in providing lending, cash management, merchant banking and transaction banking services to small and medium enterprises in the industry. Zalm is a master of detail, evinced in his product diversification strategy: he has, for instance, introduced a special service for entrepreneurs both as a private individual and as a representative of their enterprise; while ABN AMRO MeesPierson has created a dedicated service advising a wide range of non-profit organisations.

Analysts remain optimistic about the bank’s prospects on the home front, but they are more circumspect about its global ambitions in the energy sector. The general consensus is that ABN AMRO could have difficulty in competing against French banks such as Société Générale and BNP Paribas, which have a lock on the field in Europe. In fact, ABN AMRO’s former energy team ended up at BNP Paribas after it took over part of Fortis during the demerger.  

Analysts though are encouraged that Zalm appears on track to deliver the bank back to the public markets by 2014. The first-half results in 2011 show net profits of €974m compared to €325m in the same period in 2010 while its core tier-one capital ratio was 11.4%. The cost structure had also been whittled down with expenses dropping to 63% from 75% a year ago.

With the eurozone crisis rumbling in the background, the bank’s third-quarter results showed it had taken a battering as profits were almost erased by a €500m writedown on Greek corporate loans. “Uncertainty as a result of the sovereign-debt crisis, and the impact thereof on the European economy, caused us to impair part of the €1bn Greek government-guaranteed corporate exposures,” Zalm noted at the time.

Nelson says: “It is difficult to know what will happen because all banks in the eurozone will be affected. However, there has been some investor appetite for the Netherlands and there is still scope for ABN AMRO to continue to build up its business.”

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