Wednesday 7th October 2015
NEWS TICKER: Wednesday, October 7th: Vistra (UK) Limited ('Vistra') is pleased to announce the appointment of Barry Gowdy as Director, effective 1st October. Gowdy joins Vistra from RBC Wealth Management, where he was responsible for the firm's UK property trust clients – According to NIBC the labour market report for September is one indicator that US economy is losing momentum. It is a view reflected by the weakening of business confidence surveys and a more moderate pace of job growth over the last few months. Although not related to the problems that have engulfed emerging markets over the last summer,, it appears that US businesses have on average accumulated too much in inventories. The number of non-farm payrolls increased by only 142k, whereas 200k was expected and the August reading was revised downwards from 173k to 136k. Additionally, underlying figures indicate that a relatively strong boost in the number of jobs in the public sector camouflaged the weakness in private sector job gains. Market participants were probably also intrigued by the slow rate of hourly wage (earnings) growth. These stayed flat in September compared to August, while the annual rate of wage growth stayed at 2.2%, in line with the annual rate in between 2.0 and 2.5% range this year - Global Jet Capital, a provider of financing solutions for large-cabin, long-range private jets, has agreed to purchase the aircraft lease and loan portfolio of GE Capital Corporate Aircraft in the Americas representing approximately $2.5bn of net assets. Shawn Vick, executive director of Global Jet Capital says, “We are investing heavily in growing the business both organically and through strategic acquisitions such as this one with GE. This is a prime example of our industry expertise and investment capital coming together to evaluate and identify an opportunity to expand the business in a disciplined, carefully measured way.” The price point of the aircraft range between $25m and $75m on average, and corporate users and high net worth individuals will seek competitive financing solutions rather than allocate their own cash resources which are better invested in their own businesses - Gresham Computing plc, a provider of real-time financial transaction control and enterprise data integrity solutions, today announced the appointment of Damian Canning as Sales Director for North America. Based in Gresham’s New York City office, Canning will be responsible for continuing the strong growth of Gresham’s Clareti Transaction Control (CTC) platform in North America - Spending on food, entry fees, insurance and entertainment over the three day Eid al-Adha festival, some 300,000 Saudis spent SAR400m ($107m), according to local press reports. Bahraini officials report higher than usual tourist inflows and spending. Roughly 50% of those who checked in the kingdom’s hotels were nationals of member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, enjoying Bahrain’s more relaxed ambience - The Philippine unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Monday it was looking to launch a long-delayed initial public offering (IPO) sometime next year, and may sell even more than the minimum requirement of 10 percent of common stock. "We're getting ready for it," Shell Philippines Country Chairman Edgar Chua told reporters on the sidelines of a Shell event. "We've discussed it with the (Philippines Department of Energy), it's just a question of timing." Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp, which operates one of the country's two refineries, is required under a nearly two-decade local law to conduct an IPO. The company had previously cited unfavourable market conditions and the need to upgrade its local refinery in deferring a share sale. Shell's refinery upgrade is underway and could be completed hopefully by the middle of November says a Shell spokesman - European regulators have approved the London Stock Exchange's plan to link the operations of LCH.Clearnet and EuroCCP to offer investors more choice for clearing their trades on the UK bourse. The link is set to begin October 26th - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 58.1 points or 2.08% higher to 2851.25, taking the year-to-date performance to -15.27%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 2.81%, DBS, which gained 2.36%, UOB, which gained1.64%, OCBC Bank, which gained2.05% and CapitaLand, with a 2.49%advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 1.45%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 1.04%. - Morningstar has downgraded the Aberforth UK Small Companies fund to a Morningstar Analyst Rating™ of Silver. The fund previously held a Gold Rating. Samuel Meakin, manager research analyst at Morningstar, said: “Following a recent Morningstar Analyst Ratings meeting, we have moved the Aberforth UK Small Companies fund to a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver. The fund was previously rated Gold. Whilst we still hold the fund in high regard, the recent and upcoming changes to the management team have slightly reduced our level of conviction. Andy Bamford, one of the fund’s six managers, is set to retire at the end of this year; he follows David Ross, who retired in 2014.” - Rubicon Minerals Corporation (TSX: RMX)(NYSE MKT: RBY) was asked by Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) on September 30th to temporarily suspend mill operations at the Phoenix Gold Project) to treat elevated ammonia levels, discharge sufficient water from the tailings management facility (TMF), and to upgrade the TMF, under specific timelines. It also ordered Rubicon to undertake other operational and reporting obligations, including construction upgrades to the TMF. The company has been utilizing alternative technologies to address the ammonia levels in the TMF - LIFE, the global diaspora organisation of Lebanese finance executives says it has signed an academic partnership with Cambridge Judge Business School, the business school of the University of Cambridge – Figures shows that the United Kingdom’s HMRC collected a record £7.5bn in stamp duty from residential property transactions in 2014/2015, up from £6.45bn the previous year and from £4.9bn in 2012/2013 and the total tax collected from home buyers in the UK has grown by 165% over the last six years alone. Transactions in London contributed the most residential stamp duty revenue at just over £3bn, followed by the South East at £1.6bn and between 2008/2009 and 2014/2015, stamp duty revenues in London have grown by 248%, compared to around 158% in the East of England and 140% in the South East. The latest analysis reports from both Knight Frank and Savills look into the effect of this on the prime market in London and both conclude that the stamp duty changes introduced last December are still having an effect on sales 10 months on.

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Mark Wiedman, global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand. Mark Wiedman, global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand. Photograph kindly supplied by iShares, November 2011.

20-20: Turning BlackRock's ETF fortunes

Thursday, 15 December 2011
20-20: Turning BlackRock's ETF fortunes Mark Wiedman’s appointment as global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand is a concerted effort to sharpen the focus of the consortium of exchange-traded funds launched by BGI in May 2000 that combines index fund-style diversification with the liquidity of stock trading. To date, iShares accounts for roughly half of the estimated $1.1trn in US-based ETF assets. While AUM continues to grow at a steady clip, competitors have gradually whittled away at the company’s domestic market share (currently around 43%). Can Wiedman buck the trend? David Simons reports.

Mark Wiedman’s appointment as global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand is a concerted effort to sharpen the focus of the consortium of exchange-traded funds launched by BGI in May 2000 that combines index fund-style diversification with the liquidity of stock trading. To date, iShares accounts for roughly half of the estimated $1.1trn in US-based ETF assets. While AUM continues to grow at a steady clip, competitors have gradually whittled away at the company’s domestic market share (currently around 43%). Can Wiedman buck the trend? David Simons reports.

During a recent earnings conference call, Laurence Fink, BlackRock’s chairman and chief executive, likened the recent run-up in ETF product innovation to the pre-crisis market for mortgage-backed instruments. BlackRock, said Fink, “needs to be very assertive as a firm” in order to prevent “a lack of disclosure on these products”.

To help address issues such as transparency—while also enhancing its ETF product line—BlackRock in September 2011 announced it had tapped Mark Wiedman, managing director in charge of corporate strategy, to serve as the new global head of  iShares, the ETF provider acquired by BlackRock as part of the 2009 buyout of Barclays Global Investors (BGI). Wiedman succeeds Mike Latham, who will continue as iShares chairman. Having served as an adviser to global financial institutions on balance-sheet issues at the height of the crisis, as well as heading up corporate strategy for BlackRock, Wiedman got a “crash course” in understanding clients’ problems and mobilising BlackRock’s capabilities in order to solve them. “I worked closely with iShares throughout the BGI integration and on iShares strategy work, so I stepped into the role with some familiarity with the businesses and the terrific leadership team,” says Wiedman.

ETFs appear to be still in their infancy, and have benefited from factors that include greater use of fixed-income and commodity-based products, increased uptake among fee-based advisers, as well as new product launches within the major exchanges. These conditions will likely pave the way for larger ETF fund allocations over the near term. Wiedman claims: “ETFs are one of the top two or three socially productive financial innovations of the past 40 years, with a value proposition that speaks to a galaxy of clients, from sovereign wealth funds to retail investors. ETFs deliver efficient exposure to global markets using the most democratic, transparent, and liquid vehicle yet devised.”

From the perspective of iShares, key growth drivers over the near term include fixed-income ETFs (which currently represent only a fractional amount of total outstanding bonds within the US), as well as equity income. Meanwhile, the potential for across-the-board ETF uptake exists in nearly every market around the world, says Wiedman.

Unifying US and foreign ETF platforms was a priority for BlackRock following the acquisition of iShares, and the ability to offer both US and European product lines to investors around the globe has been one of iShares’ greatest strengths to date.  “Some 15% of the assets in domestic ETFs are currently held outside the US and in Europe in 2011, we’ve seen over 15% organic growth, in part driven by buyers from Asia. As we look forward, our UCITS-compliant European product line could possibly become the de facto global standard,” says Wiedman.

The rise in ETF fund flows has coincided with a marked increase in product complexity, and, in some instances, has sparked concerns over opacity. For its part, the SEC continues to take a dim view of derivatives-based ETF products, compelling many providers to back away from such offerings.  

Wiedman notes: “We would call products that trade on an exchange ‘exchange-traded products’ or ‘ETPs’ while reserving the label ‘ETF’ for a sub-category that meets certain agreed standards of simplicity and transparency, including backing by underlying securities, rather than derivatives. We understand that regulators around the world will have different views. However, we believe that a standardised classification system could help regulators develop appropriate rules in each jurisdiction.”

The proliferation of so-called “cheap beta” ETF products—or, in some instances, ETFs that are totally commission-free—has had a dramatic impact on the business as a whole. Rather than attempt to compete on price, however, iShares has instead turned its attention toward product development, including active ETFs, which mimic the performance of hedge funds at a fraction of the cost. In August 2011, the company sought the SEC’s permission to launch a set of actively-managed equity ETFs, each based on proprietary BlackRock benchmarks.

“If there is a one thing I learned from my past experience at BlackRock, it’s that iShares will succeed by doing what we do best—not by playing on others’ terms,” offers Wiedman. “We are the sole global player competing against regional players in every market. No one can match our global presence, scale, or brand. Capitalising on that unique position is where our future lies.”

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