Friday 22nd May 2015
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, MAY 22ND: The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has named Beliz Chappuie as CalPERS' Chief Auditor, effective July 31, 2015 - Saudi Arabia's oil minister has said the country will switch its energy focus to solar power as the nation envisages an end to fossil fuels, possibly around 2040-2050, Reuters reports. "In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels, I don't know when, in 2040, 2050... we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy," Ali Al-Naimi told a business and climate conference in Paris, the news service reports. "Hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts, electric ones. Does that sound good?" The minster is also reported to say he still expects the world's energy mix to be dominated by fossil fuels in the near future - Barclays has appointed Steve Rickards as head of offshore funds. He will lead the creation and implementation of the bank’s offshore funds strategy and report directly to Paul Savery, managing director of personal and corporate banking in the Channel Islands. For the last four years Mr Rickards has been heading up the Guernsey Funds team providing debt solutions for private equity and working with locally based fund administrators. Savery says: “Barclays’ funds segment has seen some terrific cross functional success over the past year or so. Specifically, the offshore business has worked hand in hand with the funds team in London to bring the very best of Barclays to our clients, and Steve has been a real catalyst to driving this relationship from a Guernsey perspective.” - Moody's has downgraded Uzbekistan based Qishloq Qurilish Bank's (QQB’s) local-currency deposit rating to B2, and downgraded BCA to b3 and assigned a Counterparty Risk Assessment of B1(cr)/Not prime(cr) to the bank. The agency says the impact on QQB of the publication of Moody's revised bank methodology and QQB's weak asset quality and moderate loss-absorption capacity are the reasons for the downgrades. Concurrently, Moody's has confirmed QQB's long-term B2 foreign-currency deposit rating and assigned stable outlooks to all of the affected long-term ratings. The short-term deposit ratings of Not-prime were unaffected - Delinquencies of the Dutch residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market fell during the three-month period ended March 2015, according to Moody's. The 60+ day delinquencies of Dutch RMBS, including Dutch mortgage loans benefitting from a Nationale Hypotheek Garantie, decreased to 0.85% in March 2015 from 0.92% in December 2014. The 90+ day delinquencies also decreased to 0.66% in March 2015 from 0.71% in December 2014.Nevertheless, cumulative defaults increased to 0.65% of the original balance, plus additions (in the case of master issuers) and replenishments, in March 2015 from 0.56% in December 2014. Cumulative losses increased slightly to 0.13% in March 2015 from 0.11% in December 2014 – Asset manager Jupiter has recruited fund manager Jason Pidcock to build Asian Income strategy at the firm. Pidcock J has built a strong reputation at Newton Investment Management for the management of income-orientated assets in Asian markets and, in particular the £4.4bn Newton Asian Income Fund, which he has managed since its launch in 2005. The fund has delivered a return of 64.0% over the past five years compared with 35.9% for the IA Asia Pacific Ex Japan sector average, placing it 4th in the sector. Since launch it has returned 191.4 against 154.1% for the sector average. Before joining Newton in 2004, Jason was responsible for stock selection and asset allocation in the Asia ex-Japan region for the BP Pension Fund.

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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