Thursday 7th May 2015
NEWS TICKER: WEDNESDAY, MAY 6TH 2015: According to Mineweb, silver prices on average will decline 14% this year as speculation over US interest rates spurs a shift to alternative assets. Silver will drop to $16.50 an ounce from the average fixing price of $19.08 in 2014, Andrew Leyland, manager of precious- metal demand at Thomson Reuters GFMS, told Mineweb in advance of Thomson Reuters'World Silver Survey 2015 on behalf of the Washington-based Silver Institute. Silver futures fell 2.7% last month - The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will release its Q1 2015 Household Debt and Credit Report Tuesday, May 12 at 11:00 am. The Household Debt and Credit Report offers an updated snapshot of household trends in borrowing and indebtedness, including data about mortgages, student loans, credit cards, auto loans and delinquencies. In conjunction with the report, the New York Fed will also release a blog post that details the change in debt by credit score and age group - Moody's has assigned a limited default (/LD) designation to DTEK ENERGY BV's (DTEK) Ca-PD probability of default rating (PDR). At the same time, Moody's has affirmed DTEK's Ca corporate family rating (CFR), as well as the Ca rating of DTEK Finance Plc's $750m 7.875% notes due April 4th 2018. The change of the PDR to Ca-PD/LD follows the completion of the exchange of DTEK Finance BV's $200m 9.5% notes on the notes' maturity date April 28th. The transaction was effected pursuant to a UK Scheme of Arrangement. The notes were exchanged into new $160m 10.375% notes due 28 March 2018, issued by DTEK Finance Plc for this purpose, and $44.9m of cash, including an early exchange offer acceptance fee, which was paid to note holders on April 28th. The Ca rating of DTEK Finance B.V.'s exchanged notes was withdrawn. Moody's expects to remove the "/LD" suffix after approximately three business days. The outlook on all ratings remains negative - A major new campaign ‘World of Talent in Ireland’ was today launched by the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and IDA Ireland. The campaign will initially target Ireland’s global graduate community, highlighting abroad the career opportunities that now exist in Ireland, with a view to attracting talent here. Speaking on the launch of the campaign Mark Redmond, Chief Executive of the American Chamber said “For Ireland to continue to grow its economy it will be essential that we attract the best and the brightest talent from across the world. This campaign is about reaching out to anyone who attended college here and therefore has an affinity with Ireland but is currently living and working elsewhere. We want to ensure that they know the great career opportunities that now exist here and how they can avail of them” - Idinvest Partners, the European private equity firm specialising in SMEs, has announced the final closing of its Idinvest Digital Fund II at €140m. The fund is entirely dedicated to financing the growth of developing businesses in the digital and new technology segments (web-based, media, mobile, e-commerce services and software) in France and across Europe. The fund has invested in ten companies so far, including Sigfox, Synthesio and Twenga; 30% of the capital has been called in and the fund is already delivering positive returns. The fund has also gathered prominent investors, such as Bpifrance and Idinvest’s historical partner, Allianz France, who are topping the list. Besides these, there is also a large number of insurance companies, banks, family offices and leading industry players and corporates, such as Lagardère and Up groups - According to local press reports, Botswana’s largest retailer Choppies plans to cross-list its shares at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by the end of May, as it expand its business in sub-Saharan Africa. The multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer has stores in three Southern Africa countries and is reportedly looking to expand into Zambia and Tanzania this year. The firm will list 10% of its shares and plans to raise about $50m. Choppies commands a market capitalization of about $535mon the Botswana Stock Exchange and has a 32% share of Botswana’s retail market and plans to add five more stores, taking the total to 77 retail outlets, by December, followed by another 20 in the medium term - Credit Agricole Egypt (CAE) reports net profit of EGP236m (+60% YoY and +8% QoQ) in 1Q2015 and net interest income of EGP371m in (+30% YoY and +7% QoQ)over the period, higher than analyst forecasts. No other income statement component was disclosed, with the exception of taxes (around EGP104m for the period, signifying an effective tax rate of around 31%). Full financial statements are not available yet - The European Union is reported to be investigating McDonald's over claims its structure allowed it to avoid more than €1bn (£730m) in tax. It is alleged that the fast food purveyor exploited loophole concerning royalties through Luxembourg, allowing it to pay just €16m of tax on royalties worth €3.7bn between 2009 and 2013. Unions claim McDonald's Luxembourg subsidiary employs just 13 people, yet booked €834m of revenue in 2013 - roughly around €64m per worker - Smith Cooper accountancy and business advisory firm today announced the appointment of Catherine Desmond as partner to enhance the firm's private client services across the Midlands. Desmond joins the firm from the Private Client department of Saffery Champness where she specialised in advising clients across a range of sectors, including predominantly family businesses and landed estates. In her new role at Smith Cooper, Catherine will be concentrating on further developing the range of tax planning services the firm offer their private clients. Her work will focus particularly on the agricultural sector and landed estates, an area Desmond has extensive experience in - Nomis Solutions has appointed Michael DeGusta to lead the architecture and development of the company’s next-generation pricing platform. Working with progressive technology companies such as Apple, eCoverage, and ChoicePoint, DeGusta brings 20 years of experience to Nomis. “Retail banks face unprecedented challenges, and Michael is the ideal leader to architect our future and to bring Nomis and our client banks to the next level of price optimization and profitability management,” says Frank Rohde, Nomis CEO. “The bankers we meet with relate a growing awakening to the opportunities provided by innovative technology and how it can help them thrive in the face of mediocre economies, changing customers, disruptive competitors, and challenging regulators.” -

20-20: Prime broking - balance sheet, funding strength now key

Thursday, 15 December 2011
20-20: Prime broking - balance sheet, funding strength now key Expanding Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s hedge-fund business ranks high on global head of prime brokerage Stuart Hendel’s agenda. “Clients want to do business with us in this area, and so that has been a key focus during these past few months,” he says. Stock prices in the banking sector have been pummelled of late, forcing players such as BofA (whose own shares are off two-thirds since the start of 2011) to address operational redundancies and affect changes where needed. Hendel, however, remains resolute. “At the end of the day, firms need to have a solid return on the assets they use to support these types of businesses. We believe our business is differentiated by the size and strength of our balance sheet—and how we can put it to work for our clients.” http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

Expanding Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s hedge-fund business ranks high on global head of prime brokerage Stuart Hendel’s agenda. “Clients want to do business with us in this area, and so that has been a key focus during these past few months,” he says. Stock prices in the banking sector have been pummelled of late, forcing players such as BofA (whose own shares are off two-thirds since the start of 2011) to address operational redundancies and affect changes where needed. Hendel, however, remains resolute. “At the end of the day, firms need to have a solid return on the assets they use to support these types of businesses. We believe our business is differentiated by the size and strength of our balance sheet—and how we can put it to work for our clients.”

Rapid response a keystone of Stuart Hendel, global head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s (BoA’s) prime brokerage unit. When he signed on for the job, early in 2011, from two years as head of UBS AG’s prime brokerage division, he was certain that “anytime you join a new organisation, and particularly when it’s a global business and platform, you start by learning the landscape internally”. He adds: “You also want to ensure that you have the right people in the right seats and that they are supportive of the direction you want to take.” Most of all, says Hendel, you need to act quickly, as you don’t always have the luxury of time once you’ve taken the reins. “This is especially true on the sell side—I made a number of key decisions within the first 60 days.”

The ability to think on your feet in a highly-volatile market is a business imperative and a lifeline of sorts to clients under duress. Whether the news is good or bad is almost irrelevant, says Hendel, as there is only so much market turbulence that hedge fund managers can tolerate. “One day the news out of Europe is positive and the markets move accordingly, then the next it is negative and all bets are off. Therefore, the instinct is to just deleverage. Even funds focused on the macroenvironment can’t always handle being whipsawed like that.”



A cool head is equally vital; particularly as the constant need for hedge fund managers to address counterparty risk, though positive for the industry as a whole, has ultimately kept the sell side from focusing on the job at hand—that is, making money. “This is a sector that continues to deleverage, performance is down and prime brokers are fighting for market share,” says Hendel. “We have some considerable headwinds to contend with.”

Ambiguity surrounding political and regulatory solution—rather than the outcome of regulations themselves—only exacerbates the trend. Even then, there is some upside. “As strange as it may sound, hedge funds react better to negative news than uncertain news,” says Hendel.  “As long as this kind of climate persists, deleveraging will likely continue. In fact, market fundamentals appear to be the least important aspect in determining the health of companies, sectors or valuations.”

One downside of the current environment and inherent lack of investing conviction is the effect on market liquidity. Once clarity returns to the political, regulatory and economic landscape, the market should become more liquid, which will in turn benefit everyone. “Therefore, this is something that needs to be addressed in order to preserve the well-being of both the alternative space and the prime-brokerage industry over the long haul. We believe that once Europe gets its house in order and there is more clarity, that should help markets achieve some kind of foundation,” he says.

From his vantage point, Hendel sees a much greater likelihood of consolidation within the sell side than the buy side. “No matter what happens in Europe or with governments in general, we believe there is going to be a real need for the best and brightest to achieve superior returns on behalf of their clients,” he avers. “Certain investors are questioning the actively-managed, long-only business, but we are still bullish on the hedge fund space.”

Even then, Hendel says he is “flummoxed” by the perpetually thinning margins on banks’ leveraged-based book of business. “Pricing eventually has to go in the other direction,” says Hendel. “If it doesn’t, sell side firms may re-examine the returns being generated by the prime-brokerage business. In an environment where resources are scarce, all balance-sheet businesses may be vulnerable, not just prime brokerage.”

Hendel believes that market-exacerbated balance sheet weakness could ultimately threaten the existence of certain prime brokerage businesses over the near term. “Balance sheet and funding strength are areas that we believe will continue to be distinguishing factors for BofA—having a tremendous deposit base and excellent funding resources will allow us to properly service our clients going forward.”

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