Friday 6th May 2016
NEWS TICKER: Moody's says it has downgraded the ratings of Exeltium SAS's €1,000m 15 year floating rate bank term loan (Facility A), €155m 15 year floating rate institutional term loan (Facility B1) and €280m 15 year fixed rate institutional term loan (Facility B2), together, the senior debt, to Baa3, from Baa2. The senior debt matures in June 2030. Moody's has also downgraded the rating of Exeltium's €153m subordinated bonds, the junior bonds, maturing in December 2031 to B3, from Ba3. The outlook on the ratings is stable. The downgrade of the senior debt ratings reflects, says Moody’s, wholesale electricity market price falls in France, resulting in a material risk that Exeltium's customers will opt out of electricity purchases from 2020 to 2024 and a fall in the weighted average credit quality of clients to Baa3, from Baa2 and iii) the weakened credit quality of the put counterparty, a large French industrial rated Ba2 negative that is obliged to purchase 51% of volumes subject to Client opt-out (the Put Option). Moody's has also revised its French wholesale electricity price assumptions downwards, reflecting the current price environment and Moody's assumption that lower prices will be sustained. The industrial logic of the project is significantly weakened in a low electricity price environment. In Moody's revised base case, the rating agency assumes that clients would opt-out of electricity purchases between 2020 and 2024. Over this period, Moody's assumes that just over half of Exeltium's electricity would be sold under the Put Option, with the remainder sold at market rates. - CORPORATE REPORTING - Lufthansa Group says is maintaining its full-year earnings forecast for an adjusted EBIT which is “slightly above” the previous year’s €1.8b, after reducing its operating losses for the first quarter, having introduced substantial cost cuts and despite a decline in revenues. The firm’s adjusted EBIT loss for the three months to the end of March fell by more than two-thirds to €53m ($61m). Revenues fell slightly to €6.9bn because of pricing pressures in the group’s passenger airlines, says chief financial officer Simone Menne. Lufthansa’s passenger airline division improved its adjusted EBIT by €244m and that for Austrian Airlines was up by €23m. However, currency effects, however, dragged on the result at Swiss International Air Lines, where adjusted earnings fell by €28m. However, the firm issued a health warning that its forecast does not take into account any negative effects of possible strike actions and that it does not expect that pricing pressures will ease any time soon. Lufthansa Group turned in a net loss of €8m, compared with a €425m profit last year, but stresses that this included a large benefit from transactions relating to US carrier JetBlue Airways. Taking this into account, it says, the first quarter net result equates to an improvement of €70m. - SOVEREIGN DEBT - THE UK’s DMO says the auction of £2.5bn of 1.5% treasury gilt 2026 says bids worth £4.473bn were received for the offer of which £2.125bn was sold to competitive bidders and £374m sold to gilt edged market makers (GEMMs). An additional amount of the Stock totalling up to £375.000 million will be made available to successful bidders for purchase at the non-competitive allotment price, in accordance with the terms of the information memorandum. Higher priced bids came in at £98.566, providing a yield of 1.653% and the lowest accepts was £98.526, providing a yield of £1/656% - CYBER SECURITY - Global Cyber Alliance, an organisation founded by the New York County District Attorney's Office, the City of London Police and the Center for Internet Security, say they will collaborate with M3AAWG to push the security community to more quickly adopt concrete, quantifiable practices that can reduce online threats. The non-profit GCA has joined the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, which develops anti-abuse best practices based on the proven experience of its members, and M3AAWG has become a GCA partner for the technology sector – ASSET MANAGEMENT JOBS - IFM Investors today announced the appointment of Rich Randall as Global Head of Debt Investments. Mr. Randall takes on this senior leadership role from his prior position as Executive Director of Debt Investments, which he had held since joining IFM Investors in 2013. Randall replaces Robin Miller, who will semi-retire from IFM Investors after a 17-year association with the company. Miller will remain with IFM Investors and will transition to the role of Senior Advisor and Chair of Investment Committee within the organisation. In his new role, Randall will manage IFM Investors’ global debt investment teams and maintain the organization’s global debt investment process and relationships with investors. He will also oversee the sourcing of infrastructure debt opportunities internationally. He will continue to be based in IFM Investors’ New York offices and will report directly to CEO Brett Himbury – ACQUISITIONS - Intercontinental Exchange says it has backed off from its counterbid for the London Stock Exchange. In a statement issued by ICE, chief executive Jeffrey Sprecher says LSEG did not provide enough information to make an informed decision on the value of the merger. "Following due diligence on the information made available, ICE determined that there was insufficient engagement to confirm the potential market and shareholder benefits of a strategic combination. Therefore, ICE has confirmed that it has no current intention to make an offer for LSEG – POLITICAL RISK – Global risk analysts Red24 reports that political parties, including the National Movement for the Organisation of the Country (MONOP) and the Fanmi Lavalas party, held a series of demonstrations in Port-au-Prince, yesterday. The action was launched to show support for the Commission to Evaluate Haiti Elections (CIEVE), a body established to verify the 2015 elections. The latest call to action came amid heightened tensions between the aforementioned political parties and former president Michel Martelly's Parti Haitien Tet Kale (PHTK), which launched general strikes against CIEVE on 2 May. Further opposition party-led demonstrations are expected to continue in the near-term due to the indefinite postponement of the country's 24 April run-off election and issues surrounding the evaluation of the 2015 elections – INDEX TRADING – Investors have not yet leant into the wind as a ruff of mixed data discombobulated markets yet again, with a lacklustre Asian trading session. More pertinently perhaps, investor sentiment is hanging in advance of tomorrow’s US labour market report. Peter O’Flanagan ClearTreasury reports that uncertainty around Brexit has impacted business sentiment in the UK and “if we are seeing this filter through into Q2 data there may well be additional downside for UK data until we have a referendum result. That may not be an end to the uncertainty as the “Out” campaign appears to be gathering some momentum. Depending on what poll you look at, it would appear the “uncertain” portion of the polls is narrowing, and while the position is currently still far too close to call by looking at the polls, bookies are still favouring the ‘In’ campaign with a 75% probability of remaining”. In the Asian trading session meantime, Japanese stock indexes fell to three week lows, and in line with sentiment this year, the yen has touched yet another 18-month high against the dollar, no doubt testing the resolve of the central bank not to act, despite stating that the yen is way over-priced. The Nikkei225 was down 3.11% today. The Hang Seng ended down 0.37%, while the Shanghai Composite rose marginally by 0.23%. The ASX All Ordinaries ended 0.17% higher, though the Kospi fell 0.49% and the FTSE Bursa Malaysia dropped 0.75%. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 0.53 points or 0.02% lower to 2772.54, taking the year-to-date performance to -3.82%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.53%, DBS, which declined 2.22%, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.06%, UOB, which declined 1.04% and Wilmar Intl, with a 0.57% advance. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index declined 0.27%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.01%. OIL PRICES RISE - The story today was oil as prices climbed in the Asian session, with the Brent crude price breaking through $45; wildfires in Canada were behind the rise. Wildfires look to be burning out of control in the Alberta oil sands region of Canada, which mines and ships heavy crude to the US. Oil companies there have reduced operations as non-essential employees are evacuated. Moreover, US oil output fell last week by more than 100,000 barrels a day to 8.83m, its lowest level since September 2014, though inventories continue to rise. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery next month was up $1.19, or 2.7%, at $44.97 while Brent prices for July supply rose 94 cents to $45.56. The price of oil has rallied recently because of the 400,000 bpd cut in US oil output (IEA data), US dollar weakness and Asian demand optimism. The next OPEC meeting scheduled for June 2nd will likely be another watershed, as all recent meetings have been. One beneficiary of the recent rally in oil prices is Russia, where the ruble has appreciated 14% against the US dollar this year. As well, investor sentiment towards Russia risk is highly influenced by the oil price. Year-to-date the dollar-denominated Russia RDX equity index is up 25%, and that compares with a gain of 6% for the MSCI EM Index and 1% for the S&P 500 Index reports Chris Weafer at Weafer says the current oil price also makes the removal of financial sector sanctions less urgent for 2016 and eases both short-term geo-political and economic pressure on the Kremlin and reduces social stability concerns. “Oil should rise by [the end of the decade] but be less important by mid-next decade. Medium-term, an oil price rally to over US$100 per barrel is perfectly feasible due to the combination of steadily rising Asia demand (in particular) and the lack of investment by the oil majors since late 2014. Longer-term, the age of oil, or the importance of oil, may already be over or significantly in decline. The strong growth in alternative energy and the commitments made as part of the Paris Agreement make that a very high probability”. Gold is still seen under pressure this morning, say Swissquote’s Michael van Dulkin and Augustin Eden in their morning note today, which they attribute as usual to “pre Non-Farms trading (or lack thereof). We’re of the opinion, however, that employment is OK in terms of the US economic picture such that while there will be short term volatility around it, there’s little point giving this print much attention. Better to concentrate on US inflation data which, if it starts rising, could boost Gold (an inflation hedge) much more efficiently. There is, after all, a fair amount of concern that current easy US monetary policy could lead to inflation overshooting the 2% target when it does finally pick up.” In focus today, UK Services PMI (flat).

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The Imperative of Automating Derivatives Processing

Tuesday, 01 March 2005
The Imperative of Automating Derivatives Processing The over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market is on a roll of its own. Worth some $173trn (in notional value) according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), deal volume is up by $30trn over 2003 and the market is expected to continue at a double-digit pace for some time to come. This growth trajectory has, however, simultaneously raised both the level of operational risk and the costs of manually processing this magnitude of contracts. The market must automate in order not to be overwhelmed by its own success. Peter Axilrod, managing director of new business development for The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) writes from New York.
The over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market is on a roll of its own. Worth some $173trn (in notional value) according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), deal volume is up by $30trn over 2003 and the market is expected to continue at a double-digit pace for some time to come. This growth trajectory has, however, simultaneously raised both the level of operational risk and the costs of manually processing this magnitude of contracts. The market must automate in order not to be overwhelmed by its own success. Peter Axilrod, managing director of new business development for The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) writes from New York.
The fastest growing area of over-the-counter derivatives is credit default swaps. These instruments have proved to be an essential part of controlling credit exposure for major dealers and the financial system as a whole. “The market for credit derivatives has grown in prominence not only because of its ability to disperse risk, but also because of the information it contributes to enhanced risk management by banks and other financial intermediaries” noted Alan Greenspan, chairman of the United States’ (US’s) Federal Reserve Board (the Fed), back in 2003 in referring to financial derivatives. “As the market for credit default swaps expands and deepens, the collective knowledge held by market participants is exactly reflected in the prices of these derivative instruments. They offer significant supplementary information about credit risk to a bank’s loan officer, for example, who heretofore [sic] had to rely mainly on in-house credit analysis,” he concluded.

Until a few years ago, the low volume and high degree of customised terms in credit default swaps and other OTC derivatives almost necessitated manual post-trade processing in a paper-based environment. Trading and confirmation were done via phone calls and faxes. It was not particularly burdensome as volumes were (generally) low.

In the first half of 2000, the ISDA estimated there were about $60trn (in notional value) in interest rate and currency swaps outstanding, with little or no measured activity in credit default swaps or equity derivatives. By the first half of 2002, the same survey shows about $82.7trn notional value in interest rate derivatives, some $1.5trn in credit default swaps, and $2.3trn in equity derivatives. It is a very different picture these days. In the latest survey for the first half of 2004, interest rate derivatives stands at $164.5trn notional value, credit default swaps were at $5.4trn and equity derivatives at $3.8trn outstanding.

As the market for these instruments has exploded in the past few years, there has been an increasing need to develop an electronic, automated system for matching and confirmation. Prior to the advent of automated confirmation systems, it averaged over four weeks to confirm a credit default swap – a situation that was absolutely incompatible with the explosive market growth we have recently seen. With the advent of master confirmations for credit default swaps, which standardised most terms of any contract, buyers and sellers could complete legally binding credit default swaps on short-form transaction supplements by agreeing to as little as 20 or so elements of transaction data. That made automated matching and confirmation of trades in these instruments feasible.

Recently, ISDA has also established master confirmation agreements for equity options and variance swaps, with master confirmation agreements for equity swaps nearing completion as well. Automated matching of trades in these products can be expected to increase as master confirmations are adopted by ever-expanding groups of industry participants.

Although there are no master confirmations for interest rate derivatives, industry practice has given rise to generally accepted “intelligent default” values for most of the items to be specified in the standard ISDA confirmations for these products. [Intelligent defaults are values that are not fixed for all contracts, but rather are fixed depending upon values of basic business terms.] The existence of these sorts of standard industry practices has facilitated the automated confirmation and matching of interest rate derivatives as well.

Addressing Industry Concerns

Recognising the need for automation, ISDA, in a report issued late in 2003, set an aggressive timetable for automating the OTC derivatives marketplace, calling for the automated matching and confirmation of most derivatives trading by the end of 2005, and the related cash flow payments reconciliation and netting by 2006.

Fortunately, the industry had already begun responding with solutions before the report was issued, and it appears that there will be service offerings available to permit the ISDA goals to be met. While different solution providers have taken different approaches to automation, the key goals are the same: to provide ways for firms to match and confirm trades through the use of real-time systems, and if there are mismatches, to find quick and easy ways to correct those mismatches, while providing firms with the maximum transparency throughout the confirmation process.

A key way to achieve this is to provide a way that both counterparties are required to submit their transaction details for matching.

One of the major advantages of having a two-sided automated matching process is that it allows individual firms to operate in a very high control, post-trade environment. The automated flow of information, beginning with trade capture and flowing directly through to a central matching utility, will eliminate the risk that a market participant can legally confirm a trade that does not comport their understanding as recorded at the time of trade. This sort of automated trade matching not only reduces risk by reducing the time to confirmation, but also reduces error by virtually eliminating mistaken confirmation.

However, any automation, even using a one-sided submission and affirmation by the contra-party, provides a much more rapid review and correction of the confirm process than paper-based manual systems. As noted above, such paper-based confirms could literally take weeks to complete – a huge risk, given the size and complexity of some of these transactions.

Using automated real-time matching systems, firms can quickly and efficiently match and confirm OTC derivatives by having both parties to the contract input details about the transaction to a service provider. In turn, the service provider, at a minimum, identifies any unmatched entries and automatically notifies both parties of the mismatches. Some systems can even suggest the best possible matches for the mismatches.

This has helped to spur a wave of new services by a host of different organisations, each initially focused on offering a confirmation service for a different OTC derivative, although many of these services are now being broadened to include a wide range of OTC derivative transactions. The leading providers of these automated confirmation services are DTCC, SwapsWire and SWIFT, but there are others. Some also offer cash flow reconciliation or settlement systems as well.

These services have only come into widespread use over the last year or so (despite some having been available for much longer). Nonetheless, they have already significantly improved the confirmation and back office operations of major market participants. Nowhere has the improvement been more dramatic than in the credit default swaps area, where, prior to the advent of automated confirmation of these transactions, the average time to confirmation among major dealers exceeded four weeks.

While these services can and are helping, the biggest problem may be getting firms to use them, giving up their manual ways. And much of the required automation that must take place is within the firms who trade in these instruments. Increasingly, a number of vendors are beginning to develop and offer off-the-shelf middleware that provides the control and monitoring necessary, and connect to automated matching services, but for many firms, the software development is something that must still be undertaken in-house.

One of the accommodations that some central confirmation utilities have made to increase the level of automation and confirmation is to provide a way for firms, especially buy-side firms such as hedge funds that may be small or be limited in the level of automation they have available, to connect to the service using the Internet and a browser over a secure connection.

The most rudimentary use of a browser connection is to permit firms to review and affirm on-line trades submitted to an automated confirmation facility by their counterparties. More importantly, however, some providers have adapted the browser connection to allow lower volume firms to obtain most of the benefits of two-sided trade matching without making very expensive technology investments. They do this by permitting the safe and secure upload of a properly formatted spreadsheet containing all of the transaction data necessary to perform matching. Such uploaded spreadsheet data is then processed through the matching system, with results able to be reviewed in real-time.

In its most rudimentary form, use of such browser-based connections essentially means there is no requirement for programming internally in order to use these automated confirmation services. A connection can be completed even via low-cost dial-up Internet service. In the case of DTCC’s OTC derivatives matching service, while virtually all of the 20 major dealers who use the matching and confirmation service use a mainframe-to-mainframe connection, the 40 or so (as of mid-January) hedge funds and other buy-side firms use a mix of mainframe-to-mainframe, spreadsheet uploads and affirmation of trades using the individual browser fields.

As the trading in OTC derivatives grows, these automated matching and confirmation services can provide the essential connectivity between trading parties that, with standardisation approved by the ISDA, such as FpML, will make it far easier to match, confirm and make payments on a global basis for these complex, but increasingly essential instruments. Firms themselves will have to decide what level of automation they need to monitor and control the use of these derivatives in their businesses, but that need will surely grow in the future as well, because these instruments have significant risk connected to them as an inherent part of their nature.

By automating the infrastructure, these new services have the potential to spur greater productivity, greatly reduce and manage both operating and credit risk and increase trading volumes in an increasingly important arena set for greater expansion.

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