Thursday 5th March 2015
NEWS TICKER – THURSDAY, MARCH 5TH 2015: Following a recent Morningstar Analyst Ratings meeting, Morningstar has moved the Henderson Horizon Japanese Equity fund and the Henderson Japan Capital Growth fund to a Morningstar Analyst Rating™ of Neutral. Both funds were previously Under Review due to a change in the lead portfolio manager. Prior to being placed Under Review, both funds were rated Bronze. The funds were solely managed by Michael Wood-Martin, who took over in 2005. However, in October 2014 Henderson decided to adopt a team-based approach. They are now run by the Japanese Equities team consisting of four investment professionals, including William Garnett, Michael Wood-Martin, Jeremy Hall, and Yun-Young Lee. Given this change to the investment process, Morningstar says it has less clarity around the likely shape of the portfolios and little evidence that the strategy can be implemented effectively. Morningstar believes a Neutral rating is appropriate at the current time —Moody's Investors Service has today republished a number of asset-backed securities (ABS) and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) rating methodology reports. The updated ABS and RMBS methodology reports consolidate the secondary rating methodology "Revising default/loss assumptions over the life of an EMEA ABS/RMBS transaction" and which the agency will now retire; for RMBS specifically sees updates to the surveillance section; and for Consumer Loan-Backed ABS specifically a new appendix describing how Moody's will tailor its approach to rating consumer loans for marketplace lending loans. The republications do not represent a change in methodology and will not result in any rating changes —BATS Chi-X Europe reports a 23.7% market share, with average notional value traded at €12.3bn up substantially from €8.9bn in February 2014. Market share rose in 14 of the 15 markets the firm covers. Its trade reporting facility, BXTR, had its second-most successful month ever with more than €369.3bn reported in total during the month; an average of €18.5bn each trading day. In total, BATS Chi-X systems touched €616.1bn of trades in February—The Straits Times Index (STI) ended -20.26 points lower or -0.59% to 3395.27, taking the year-to-date performance to +0.90%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined -0.18% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined -0.17%. The top active stocks were SingTel (-1.20%), DBS (+0.05%), Keppel Land (-0.44%), OCBC Bank (-0.48%) and Global Logistic (unchanged). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Utilities Index (+1.66%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Utilities Index are United Envirotech (unchanged) and Hyflux (+0.58%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Consumer Goods Index, which declined -1.31% with Wilmar International’s share price declining -0.61% and Thai Beverage’s share price declining -2.06%.The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the IS MSCI India (-1.22%), SPDR Gold Shares (-0.31%), DBXT MSCI Thailand TRN ETF (-0.38%). The three most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were CapitaMall Trust (+0.94%), Ascendas REIT (+2.02%), CapitaCom Trust (+0.28%).The most active index warrants by value today were HSI25000MBeCW150429 (-14.16%), HSI24200MBePW150429 (+10.53%), HSI23800MBePW150330 (+16.92%)—Commerz Real and RFR Holding have signed an agreement to purchase the real estate Atlas Plaza in Miami/Florida for its open-ended real estate fund hausInvest. The retail trade complex, located in the burgeoning Design District and in part on two storeys, comprises two existing buildings and a new construction, scheduled to be completed by May 2015. Upon the completion of the building work the leasable area will total approximately 1,600 square metres. The total investment volume for the acquisition and extension of “Atlas Plaza” amounts to around 68 million US dollars (approximately €60m)—Malaysia’s corporate sukuk sales will rebound from the worst start to a year since 2010 as a recovery in oil prices spurs issuance before the US raises interest rates, according to investment bank CIMB. Islamic bond offerings to date are down MYR9.7bn on a year on year basis. Kuala Lumpur-based AmInvestment Bank Bhd predicts sales could surpass last year’s MYR62bn as more projects come on stream under the government’s 10-year development programme. A 34% rally in Brent crude from January’s six-year low will shore up the country’s finances after Fitch Ratings warned the loss of revenue for oil-exporting Malaysia puts its credit ranking at risk. The average yield on AAA rated Malaysian corporate securities has dropped to a three-month low, cutting costs for issuers involved in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s $444bn spending drive and those seeking to refinance debt—Bahrain’s BIBF has announced the launch of the region’s first Islamic Finance and Muslim Lifestyle Convergence Training programme, developed as part of the Waqf Fund’s initiatives to enhance Islamic Finance training in the region, in partnership with New York-based DinarStandard, at a press conference yesterday. The burgeoning Halal food and Muslim Lifestyle sectors is estimated to be worth $2trn in 2013, and is expected to reach $2.47trn by 2018, based on the State of the Global Islamic Economy 2014 report, produced by Thomson Reuters in collaboration with DinarStandard. This represents a huge opportunity for Islamic Finance, which has been for the most part, untapped—Kames Capital is to lower the annual management charge on the Kames Investment Grade Global Bond Fund following a review of the fund’s positioning in the European markets. The move will see the AMC on the Kames Investment Grade Global Bond Fund B share class fall to 0.65% from its current rate of 0.80%, while for the A share class the charge will drop to 1.15% from 1.30%. The changes will take effect from the 1st April 2015. As part of the review, Kames will also be changing the benchmark of the fund to the Barclays Global Aggregate Corporate Index from the Lipper Global Bond Global Corporate Median. The changes are intended to bring the fund into line with its peer group particularly in Continental Europe. Whilet there will be no change to the investment process of the fund, there will be a slight change to the fund’s duration. In order to maintain its index-neutral duration, the Fund will now be aligned to the Barclays Global Aggregate Corporate Index which has a duration of around 6.4 years. This compares to the existing Lipper peer group which has an estimated duration of 5 years.

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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