Thursday 28th July 2016
NEWS TICKER: JULY 28TH 2016: The Prysmian Group's first-half results are marked by revenue growth and a significant improvement in profitability. Explains CEO Valerio Battista. "The biggest drivers of growth have been Energy Projects and Telecom. The important set of technological innovations introduced between end of 2015 and 2016, involving the launch of the 600kV and 700kV cable systems, combined with greater project execution capabilities, involving the commissioning of Ulisse, the Group's third cable vessel, mean the Group is well positioned to continue taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the market. In the Telecom business, growth has been driven by the recovery in optical fibre competitiveness and the new optical cable manufacturing capacity in Eastern Europe. Performance by the higher value-added businesses has contributed to a fresh upturn in profitability, with a significant improvement in margins, also thanks to our actions to reduce fixed costs and rationalise manufacturing footprint. The newly acquired Oman Cables Industry has also made an important contribution in this regard." – The Samsung Electronics board has decided to make additional investments in Samsung Venture Investment Corporation's, an affiliated company of Samsung Electronics, New Technology Investment Funds. SVIC plans to establish a new venture fund, SVIC 32. SVIC 32 is a cooperative fund with its investment focus on the latest technologies to enhance competitiveness of existing set businesses and identify future growth businesses. The transaction is expected occur during the third quarter of 2016. The transaction size is KRW 198bn (99% of the total fund: KRW200bn) -- As a slug of generally positive data emerges from the UK this week, and commenting on today’s corporate results, Richard Marwood, senior fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, says, “Today’s flurry of corporate earnings suggests that as yet the outcome of the EU referendum has not had a major impact on many UK listed companies, outside of the movements in currencies. Without a clear financial picture of the impact, many CEOs are at pains to highlight the resilience of their business and their willingness to take strong action if required. I would expect the bid for ARM to herald a period of heightened corporate activity. The increased offer for Premier Farnell is another clear example of overseas bidders taking advantage of a depressed pound to snap up UK assets.” -- Singapore Exchange (SGX) today welcomed EC World REIT to Mainboard under the stock code “BWCU”. EC World REIT is the first Chinese specialised logistics and e-commerce logistics REIT to be listed on SGX. With an initial geographical focus on the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the REIT invests in a diversified portfolio of income-producing real estate primarily used for e-commerce, supply-chain management and logistics purposes. Peter Lai Hock Meng, Chief Executive Officer of EC World Asset Management Pte. Ltd., the Manager of EC World REIT, said, “We are pleased to celebrate EC World REIT’s successful listing and trading today and we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all investors for making this milestone possible. Our IPO portfolio of six quality properties offers investors unique exposure to the logistics and e-commerce sectors in Hangzhou - one of the largest e-commerce hubs in China.” – Emerging markets assets benefitted in the Asian session today as the dollar retreated following the US Fed’s decision yesterday to do nothing. Yields on US government bonds declined slightly in the hours following the release of the monetary policy statement. The fall on the long end was with 6 basis points and was more pronounced than the drop on the short end of 3 basis points (bps). The dollar lost 3/4 of a cent vs the euro and stood this morning at 1.107 EUR/USD. The Federal Reserve stopped short of signalling a near-term increase in US interest rates, and while a December move is seen as likely, markets are focusing instead on the extra stimulus Japan's government is expected to deliver tomorrow. A subsequent retreat in the retreat boosted emerging assets in the Asian session with stocks at new 11-month highs despite fresh wobbles on Chinese equity markets. The Straits Times Index meantime (STI) ended 23.88 points or 0.81% lower to 2917.61, taking the year-to-date performance to +1.21%. The top active stocks today were DBS, which declined 2.34%, Singtel, which declined 0.46%, UOB, which declined 1.27%, OCBC Bank, which declined 0.57% and Wilmar Intl, with a close unchanged. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.04%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined 0.88%. MSCI's emerging equity index rose 0.25% despite pullbacks in Asian markets, where some concern is rising over volatility in China and the weakening yen. Elsewhere in Asia, Chinese shares fell as much as 3% at one point before recovering as new regulations are expected to prompt wealth managers at small banks to bail out of stocks and into bonds. Elsewhere, the Turkish lira continues to recover, firming to one-week highs. In emerging Europe, Turkish assets continued their post-coup recovery, shrugging off a worsening crackdown on alleged plotters. Stocks jumped 1 percent to one-week highs while the lira was flat, also near one-week highs. Turkey's economic confidence index hit also touched its highest level so far this year in July, rising 14.9% to 95.7. In Africa meantime, the temperature is different. the Nigerian naira hit new record lows against the dollar on Wednesday, shrugging off a rate increase of 200 basis points (bps). Traders are also waiting to see if Egypt will announce plans to devalue its pound at a central bank meeting. Cairo stocks pulled off three-month highs hit after news the government was in loan talks with the International Monetary Fund. The government’s 2025 dollar bond, which rose 4% after the news, eased half a percent. Poland too is in the spotlight today as the European Commission's statement yesterday gave Warsaw three months to address rule of law concerns. In early trading today Polish stocks extended losses, falling 0.7% and the zloty lost 0.2.%.

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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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