Wednesday 1st April 2015
NEWS TICKER: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1st 2015 : The EBRD is considering a credit line of up to €15m to Všeobecná úverová banka a.s. (VUB) in the form of an extension of a €5m existing facility signed in December 2014, bringing the total amount provided to VUB under SlovSEFF III to €20m. This operation will enable VUB to provide sub-loans to companies and residential sector borrowers (housing associations) for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in the Slovak Republic and provide financing for sustainable energy projects with a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and assist in mitigating high energy and carbon intensity in the region - CMS says it has advised Orifjan Shadiyev, owner of Capital Bank Kazakhstan, on the acquisition of RBS’s business in Kazakhstan (RBSK). The CMS team was led by Graham Conlon, a partner in the corporate and international private equity team, and supported by senior associate Tetyana Dovgan - CBRE Group Inc says it has agreed to acquire the Global WorkPlace Solutions (GWS) business of Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) for $1.475bn in cash. GWS is a provider of integrated facilities management solutions for occupiers of commercial real estate and has operations around the world – The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) says it has allowed OTC Exchange of India (OTCEI) to exit as a bourse from the nation's securities markets. According to SEBI, OTCEI had complied with the regulator's conditions for exit and is therefore "a fit case to allow exit" from capital markets adding that the bourse had made payment of necessary dues to the regulator, including 10% of the listing fee and the annual regulatory fee. "From the valuation report and undertaking of OTCEI, it is observed that all the known liabilities have been brought out and that there is no other future liability that is known as on date," SEBI said in the order dated March 31. In allowing the exit, SEBI has asked the bourse to change its name and not to use the description ‘Stock Exchange’ or any variant of it and to avoid any representation of present or past affiliation with the stock exchange, in all media. The central government had granted recognition to OTCEI, as a stock exchange on August 23, 1989 initially for a period of 5 years, which was subsequently renewed from time to time. As per SEBI’s rules, a stock exchange, whose annual trading turnover on its platform is less than Rs1,000 crore, can apply for voluntary surrender of recognition and exit, while a bourse which fails to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, is subject to a compulsory exit process - Independent subsea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) services provider, ROVOP, has established a Western Hemisphere headquarters and support base in Houston and has hired three ROV industry professionals to lead the business. Scott Wagner, Brett “Gonzo” Eychner and Wayne Betts bring a combined total of more than 100 years’ global experience in the ROV services sector to ROVOP. They join an established management team and staff of 130 based in Aberdeen, Scotland, who have developed ROVOP into a leading player in the ROV field. The company’s client portfolio includes oil & gas, offshore wind and telecommunications companies. Mark Vorenkamp, chairman of ROVOP, said: “ROVOP is changing the market for ROV services. Over the last two decades, ROV technology, capability and service has fallen behind the pace of change seen in other industries. ROVOP’s facility is located in North West Houston on a 1.5 acre site which includes a 4,500 ft2 office and 17,300 ft2 workshop where the company will manage their fleet of FMC Schilling Robotics and SAAB Seaeye ROVs. “The recent mobilisation of two Schilling Ultra-Heavy Duty (UHD) Generation III ROVs, capable of closing a blowout preventer (BOP) within 45 seconds to meet American Petroleum Institute (API) requirements, illustrates ROVOP’s commitment to supporting clients with industry leading technology in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Wagner - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +0.01 points higher or 0.00% to 3447.02, taking the year-to-date performance to +2.43%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.02% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined -0.04%. The top active stocks were CapitaLand (unchanged), SingTel (-0.23%), UOB (+0.22%), DBS (+0.15%) and ST Engineering (unchanged). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Technology Index (+1.13%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Technology Index are Silverlake Axis (+1.83%) and STATS ChipPAC (unchanged). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index, which declined -1.24% with Midas Holdings’s share price unchanged and Geo Energy Resources’s share price gaining+0.52%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the DBXT MSCI Indonesia ETF (+0.14%), LYXOR China H (+0.29%), DBXT FT China 25 ETF (+1.75%).

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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