Friday 29th May 2015
NEWS TICKER: THURSDAY, MAY 28TH: A deal struck by MEPs and Council of Ministers negotiators in the small hours of Thursday morning means the architecture of the Juncker plan to unlock €315bn public and private investments in the real economy in 2015-2017 can now be put to a European Parliament vote on June 24th and the investment programme can kick off in the summer. Parliament’s negotiators scaled back cuts in the EU’s “Horizon2020” research and innovation programme and Connecting Europe Facility (CEF – to link up Europe’s energy, transport and digital networks). They also ensured that the plan creates a stable financing mechanism to bridge the investment gap in Europe, by clarifying the investment guarantee fund’s governance structure and making it more accountable to representatives of EU citizens – Jamyra Gallmon, accused of stabbing DLA Piper associate David Messerschmitt to death in a robbery gone wrong, pleaded guilty to murder today in Washington, DC court, after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors - – European banking and financial market associations have been rushing to comment on Tuesday night’s vote in the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON), which was rejected by 30 votes to 29, claiming they remain deeply concerned over the EU Banking Structural Reform proposal (BSR) that seeks to break up the largest European banks. The outcome of the ECON vote shows that there is no consensus on what is right for big universal banks in Europe. Policy makers suggest that the BSR proposal could lead to a loss in European investment capacity equal to 5%, representing a decline of almost €100bn in capital expenditure on the long term; however there does not seem to be any consolidated document that might form the basis of consistent debate as a European Parliament spokesperson confirms that the original proposal has had so many amendments that it scarcely reflects the original thinking behind the document. Given that the vote is defeated, the EP will not consider re-opening the debate until June 11th this year, when the Parliament will decide on the requirements for either further amendments or complete redrafting, or even abandonment of the proposal - )-- Murex, the leading provider of integrated trading, risk management and processing solutions, says UniCredit, which has the largest presence of banks in Central and Eastern Europe, has gone live on Murex' MX.3 for UniCredit Bank Austria and eight other Central Eastern Europe banks - The interim financial report of Gefinor S.A. (ISIN LU 0010016714) for the period ended March 31st is available on the company website at www.gefinor.com from May 28th (today) - The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that the next meeting of its Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies will focus on public company disclosure effectiveness, intrastate crowdfunding, venture exchanges, and treatment of finders.“The agenda reflects the important scope of the advisory committee’s mandate,” says SEC Chair Mary Jo White. “Topics I am particularly interested in are the advisory committee’s views on disclosure effectiveness and initiatives that will inform our capital formation efforts.” At its upcoming meeting on June 3rd, the advisory committee also is expected to vote on a recommendation to the Commission regarding the “Section 4(a)(1½) exemption” sometimes used by shareholders to resell privately issued securities. This topic was initially discussed at the committee’s March 4 meeting.The meeting will be held at the SEC’s headquarters at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC, and is open to the public. It also will be webcast live on the SEC’s website, www.sec.gov, and will be archived on the website for later viewing.

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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