Wednesday 2nd September 2015
NEWS: Friday, August 28TH: The Hong Kong Monetary Authority says it has granted a restricted banking licence to Goldman Sachs Asia Pacific Company Limited (GSAPCL) under the Banking Ordinance. GSAPCL, incorporated in Hong Kong, is a wholly-owned banking subsidiary of the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. The number of restricted licence banks in Hong Kong is now 24 - Apple launched its first Australian dollar corporate bond issue, raising $1.2bn within two hours this morning. Strong demand for the US tech giant’s fixed and floating, four and seven year Kangaroo bonds saw the firm outstrip predictions it would raise between $500m and $1bn. Apple bonds are popular because the AA+ rated company is considered an ultra-safe investment, although yields are correspondingly low — about 3% on four-year bonds and about 3.8% on seven-year bonds - The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published the responses received to the Joint Committee Discussion Paper on Key Information Document for PRIIPS. The responses can be downloaded from the regulator's website - Romania’s MV Petrom reportedly is planning a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange. According to Romanian press reports, the local investment fund Fondul Proprietatea may sell a significant stake in the company via public offering on the Bucharest Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. OMV Petrom, with a current market capitalisation of €4.85bn has announced that it will ask its shareholders’ approval for a secondary listing in London. The general shareholders meeting is scheduled for September 22nd. Austrian group OMV, holds 51% of the company’s shares; other shareholders include the Romanian state, via the Energy Ministry, with a 20.6% stake, and investment fund Fondul Proprietatea, which holds 19%. The remaining 9.4% is free-float - Morgan Stanley (NYSE/MS) today announced the launch of a new fund, the IPM Systematic Macro UCITS Fund, under its FundLogic Alternatives plc umbrella. The fund provides exposure to IPM’s Systematic Macro strategy, which is based on IPM’s proprietary investment models that provide unique insights into how fundamental drivers interact with the dynamics of asset price returns. The FundLogic Alternatives Platform currently has more than $2.6bn in assets under management (as of 31 July 2015) and this latest addition expands Morgan Stanley’s offering of global macro strategies - Equities sold off hard this morning as continued pressure on Chinese stocks rippled throughout world markets. Chinese government intervention brought the Shanghai Composite back a positive close; but the question is now, has confidence eroded so much that the market will continue to depend on the government to prop it up? The other key element to consider today is the outcome of the debate in the German parliament on the Greek bailout. Last month, a record 65 lawmakers from the conservative camp broke ranks and refused to back negotiations on the bailout. The daily Bild estimated that up to 120 CDU and CSU members out of 311 might refuse to back the now-agreed deal. However, Chancellor Merkel is looking to secure support from the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel's junior coalition partner, and the opposition Greens which will likely swing the final decision Greece’s way. However, a rebellion by a large number of her allies would be a blow to the highly popular Chancellor.

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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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