Sunday 1st February 2015
NEWS TICKER FRIDAY, JANUARY 30TH: Morningstar has moved the Morningstar Analyst Rating™ of the Fidelity Japan fund to Neutral. The fund was previously Under Review due to a change in management. Prior to being placed Under Review, the fund was rated Neutral. Management of the fund has passed to Hiroyuki Ito - a proven Japanese equity manager, says Morningstar. Ito recently joined Fidelity from Goldman Sachs, where he successfully ran a Japanese equity fund which was positively rated by Morningstar. “At Fidelity, the manager is backed by a large and reasonably experienced analyst team, who enjoy excellent access to senior company management. While we value Mr Ito’s long experience, we are mindful that he may need some further time to establish effective working relationships with the large team of analysts and develop a suitable way of utilising this valuable resource,” says the Morningstar release - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today released a list of orders of administrative enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in December. No administrative hearings are scheduled for February 2015. The FDIC issued a total of 53 orders and one notice. The orders included: five consent orders; 13 removal and prohibition orders; 11 section 19 orders; 15 civil money penalty; nine orders terminating consent orders and cease and desist orders; and one notice. More details are available on its website - Moody's Investors Service has completed a performance review of the UK non-conforming Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) portfolio. The review shows that the performance of the portfolio has improved as a result of domestic recovery, increasing house prices and continued low interest-rates. Post-2009, the low interest rate environment has benefitted non-conforming borrowers, a market segment resilient to the moderate interest rate rise. Moody's also notes that UK non-conforming RMBS exposure to interest-only (IO) loans has recently diminished as the majority of such loans repaid or refinanced ahead of their maturity date - The London office of Deutsche Bank is being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), according to The Times newspaper. Allegedly, the bank has been placed under ‘enhanced supervision’ by the FCA amid concerns about governance and regulatory controls at the bank. The enhanced supervision order was taken out some months ago, says the report, however it has only just been made public - According to Reuters, London Stock Exchange Group will put Russell Investments on the block next month, after purchasing it last year. LSE reportedly wants $1.4bn - Legg Mason, Inc. has reported net income of $77m for Q3 fiscal 2014, compared with $4.9m in the previous quarter, and net income of $81.7m over the period. In the prior quarter, Legg Mason completed a debt refinancing that resulted in a $107.1m pre-tax charge. Adjusted income for Q3 fiscal was $113.1m compared to $40.6m in the previous quarter and $124.6m in Q3 fiscal. For the current quarter, operating revenues were $719.0m, up 2% from $703.9m in the prior quarter, and were relatively flat compared to $720.1m in Q3 fiscal. Operating expenses were $599.6m, up 5% from $573.5m in the prior quarter, and were relatively flat compared to $598.4min Q3 of fiscal 2014. Assets under management were $709.1bn as the end of December, up 4% from $679.5bn as of December 31, 2013. The Legg Mason board of directors says it has approved a new share repurchase authorisation for up to $1bn of common stock and declared a quarterly cash dividend on its common stock in the amount of $0.16 per share. - The EUR faces a couple of major releases today, says Clear Treasury LLP, and while the single currency has traded higher through the week, the prospect of €60bn per month in QE will likely keep the euro at a low ebb. The bigger picture hasn’t changed, yesterday’s run of German data was worse than expected with year on year inflation declining to -.5% (EU harmonised level). Despite the weak reading the EUR was unperturbed - The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is providing more information to companies and investors in a new comprehensive disclosure guide. Companies wanting clarity on specific principles and guidelines on corporate governance can look to the guide, which has been laid out in a question-and-answer format. SGX said listed companies are encouraged to include the new disclosure guide in their annual reports and comply with the 2012 Code of Corporate Governance, and will have to explain any deviations in their reporting collateral. - Cordea Savills on behalf of its European Commercial Fund has sold Camomile Court, 23 Camomile Street, London for £47.97mto a French pension fund, which has entrusted a real estate mandate to AXA Real Estate. The European Commercial Fund completed its initial investment phase in 2014 at total investment volume of more than €750m invested in 20 properties. Active Asset Management in order to secure a stable distribution of circa 5% a year. which has been achieved since inception of the fund is the main focus of the Fund Management now. Gerhard Lehner, head of portfolio management, Germany, at Cordea Savills says “With the sale of this property the fund is realising a value gain of more than 40%. This is the fruit of active Asset Management but does also anticipate future rental growth perspectives. For the reinvestment of the returned equity we have already identified suitable core office properties.” Meantime, Kiran Patel, chief investment officer at Cordea Savills adds: “The sale of Camomile Court adds to the £370m portfolio disposal early in the year. Together with a number of other asset sales, our total UK transaction activity since January stands at £450m. At this stage of the cycle, we believe there is merit in banking performance and taking advantage of some of the strong demand for assets in the market.” - US bourses closed higher last night thanks to much stronger Jobless Claims data (14yr low) which outweighed mixed earnings results. Overnight, Asian bourses taken positive lead from US, even as Bank of Japan data shows that inflation is still falling, consumption in shrinking and manufacturing output is just under expectations. According to Michael van Dulken at Accendo Markets, “Japan’s Nikkei [has been] helped by existing stimulus and weaker JPY. In Australia, the ASX higher as the AUD weakened following producer price inflation adding to expectations of an interest rate cut by the RBA, following other central banks recently reacting to low inflation. Chinese shares down again ahead of a manufacturing report.” - Natixis has just announced the closing of the debt financing for Seabras-1, a new subsea fiber optic cable system between the commercial and financial centers of Brazil and the United States. The global amount of debt at approximately $270m was provided on a fully-underwritten basis by Natixis -

Investors remain keen even as pfandbrief issue volumes fall

Friday, 09 December 2011
Investors remain keen even as pfandbrief issue volumes fall German covered bonds (pfandbriefe) largely maintained their safe-haven status with investors through the deteriorating financial environment in the second half of 2011, despite an inevitable dramatic slump in primary issuance as markets took fright at developments—or lack of them—in the eurozone. What now? Andrew Cavenagh reports. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

German covered bonds (pfandbriefe) largely maintained their safe-haven status with investors through the deteriorating financial environment in the second half of 2011, despite an inevitable dramatic slump in primary issuance as markets took fright at developments—or lack of them—in the eurozone. What now? Andrew Cavenagh reports.

With just €1.5bn of jumbo pfandbrief issues since the end of June, and none since Eurohypo’s €1bn deal at the end of August, the primary market this year will fall way short of the €87bn recorded in 2010. Verband Deutsche Pfandbriefbanken (VDP), the association of German pfandbrief banks, now reckons the final figure for this year will come out at around €65bn, against its earlier forecast of €90bn, on the back of the €47bn of bonds that were sold in the first six months, including €19.8bn of jumbo transactions.

Pfandbrief spreads have nevertheless remained relatively stable, compared with most other classes of capital market debt and covered bonds elsewhere. While the differential between pfandbriefe and German sovereign debt (bunds) may be approaching historical highs at around 120 basis points (bps), average spreads are still only about 30bps over the mid-swaps benchmark as those on most other covered bonds are well into three figures. “Flight to quality has prevailed, and the pfandbrief has confirmed its benchmark position in the covered-bond market,” maintains a VDP spokesman.



This spread stability looks set to endure through next year. For even if EU authorities take the measures necessary for the bond markets to resume normal functioning, the overall pfandbrief market will continue to shrink, which will tend to support the current spread levels. In the jumbo sector of the market, for instance, most banks are forecasting that primary issuance will be around €26bn while redemptions, although lower than the €44bn this year, will still total €38bn.

Investor confidence in the market received a further boost on November 23rd, when the Moody’s rating agency raised its base-case timely payment indicator for mortgage-backed (hypotheken) bonds issued under the Pfandbrief Act from  “probable high” to “high”. The agency cited the strong legislative and regulatory support for the pfandbrief regime as the reason for its decision, including recent amendments to the act. These require issuers to maintain a so-called liquidity buffer of at least 180 days in respect of their pfandbrief commitments and enhance the powers of a cover-pool administrator in the event of an issuer insolvency. The pfandbrief market is nevertheless facing significant challenges over the next 12 months and beyond, which could yet alter the historical perception—which German banks and financial authorities are keen to maintain—that the instruments trade almost as an homogenous asset class.  

The increasing emphasis that both the rating agencies and investors are placing on the link between issuers and their covered bonds is certainly threatening to create a great deal more discrimination in the market, particularly in the present environment where individual banks’ sovereign exposures are under the microscope.

Moody’s decision to place UniCredit’s covered bonds on review for downgrade a week after it announced it was reviewing the bank’s senior debt rating was a recent example of such linkage. Moreover, the trend could clearly see the spread spectrum in the asset class widen significantly from historical norms. Timo Böhm, portfolio manager and member of the covered bond team at Allianz Pimco in Munich, says the mounting concern over banks’ exposure to the sovereign debt crisis has led to a more pronounced linkage between the spreads on an institution’s covered bonds and those on its senior unsecured debt. “That link to the seniors and the sovereigns is much tighter now, and therefore everybody is looking at what could be the worst case here,” Böhm explained. “Even if the covered bond is rated triple-A, its spreads will widen on these concerns.”

“From our point of view, covered pools should be split,” says Böhm. He points out that banks now price their commercial property loans to reflect the different degrees of risk involved, and that it was not unreasonable for bond investors to require the same consideration. However, issuers continue to oppose the need for such a move. They say the pfandbrief legal framework offers investors adequate protection while the transparency of the cover pools allows them to choose the type of investment that most closely meets their requirements.

“They can decide themselves what kind of strategy suits them best,” says the VDP spokesman. He points to mortgage pfandbriefe backed 100% by residential mortgages: “If you like to take entirely residential mortgage risk, you find such bonds, too,” he says. While that is clearly the case, it is equally evident that issuing banks that have high concentrations of commercial loans in their cover pools are going to have to pay progressively more for the privilege.

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