Sunday 23rd November 2014
NEWS TICKER – FRIDAY NOVEMBER 21ST 2014: The director of the National Security Agency, Navy Admiral Michael Rogers, says he expects to see adversaries launch a cyber-attack in the next few years aimed at severely damaging America's critical infrastructure. "I fully expect that during my time as commander, we're going to be tasked to help defend critical infrastructure within the United States because it is under attack by some foreign nation or some individual or group," Rogers told the House Select Committee on Intelligence this morning (EST). Rogers, who also serves as commander of the US Cyber Command, says the government is better prepared to defend against those attacks than it was two years ago.On November 24th, the Federal Reserve will conduct a fixed-rate offering of term deposits through its Term Deposit Facility (TDF) that will incorporate an early withdrawal feature. This feature will allow depository institutions to obtain a return of funds prior to the maturity date subject to an early withdrawal penalty. The Federal Reserve will offer eight-day term deposits with an interest rate of 0.29000% and a maximum tender amount of $20,000,000,000. The penalty for early withdrawal is 0.75%, the minimum tender per institution is $20,000,000,000 - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +29.72 points higher or +0.90% to 3345.32, taking the year-to-date performance to +5.70%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.64% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.83%. The top active stocks were SingTel (+0.51%), UOB (+1.37%), DBS (+1.64%), Keppel Corp (+0.22%) and OCBC Bank (+1.16%). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index (+1.70%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Basic Materials Index are Midas Holdings (+1.72%) and Geo Energy Resources (+3.02%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Technology Index, which gained +0.16% with Silverlake Axis’s share price gaining 0.41% and STATS ChipPAC’s share price unchanged. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value were the IS MSCI India (+1.70%), SPDR Gold Shares (+0.34%), DBXT MSCI Singapore IM ETF (unchanged). The most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were Suntec REIT (unchanged), Ascendas REIT (unchanged), CapitaCom Trust (+0.89%) - In an interview with US online service Careers Info-Security News Greg Shannon, chief scientist at the CERT Division of Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute says that to defeat cyber-adversaries, cybersecurity professionals should adopt a contrarian attitude, says. "Having that contrarian point of view allows you to get into the mindset of the adversary," Shannon says in an interview with Information Security Media Group. "How would this technology work if it did something the designer of it didn't think of?" he asks. "Certainly, that's the way the adversary is thinking, coming up with new attacks, new threats. They're looking at an app, a piece of software or some websites, [and they think] 'What can I do here that the designer didn't think of? Is there a way to get information through channels, through tricks that weren't anticipated? Is there some frailty of humans that I can exploit to get information out of them that they wouldn't normally give me?'" – Raiffeisen Bank International warned in an analyst conference call yesterday that profits in its Russian business would be challenged in Q4 versus Q3. The bank’s Chief Financial Officer Martin Gruell said higher risk provisioning and increased operating expenses could cut profits in its single most profitable market. "I would expect the fourth quarter to be a bit lower than the third quarter," he said. He believes the worst of the rouble's devaluation is over, but explained that the impact on the group’s capital from the dip in the ruble, could push RBI's core capital below 10% of risk-weighted assets by the end of this year - The performance of the Dutch residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market remained stable during the three-month period ended September 2014, according to the latest indices published by Moody's Investors Service. The 60+ day delinquencies of Dutch RMBS, including Dutch mortgage loans benefitting from a Nationale Hypotheek Garantie, decreased to 0.95% in September 2014 from 0.98% in June 2014. At the same time, the 90+ day delinquencies decreased to 0.72% during the three-month period compared with 0.75% in June 2014. Cumulative defaults continued to increase to 0.54% of the original balance, plus additions (in the case of Master Issuers) and replenishments in September 2014, compared with 0.47% in June 2014, says the ratings agency. Cumulative losses slightly increased to 0.11% in September 2014 from 0.10% in June 2014 – According to a Clearstream client bulletin on November 18th, the US Internal Revenue Service and the US Treasury published an amendment to the current temporary regulations (TD9657) regarding FATCA. The amendment impacts Foreign Financial Institutions (FFIs) who have entered into an agreement with the IRS to become a participating FFI. It amends the determination date and timing for reporting with respect to the 2014 calendar year.

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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