Sunday 24th May 2015
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, MAY 22ND: The California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) has named Beliz Chappuie as CalPERS' Chief Auditor, effective July 31, 2015 - Saudi Arabia's oil minister has said the country will switch its energy focus to solar power as the nation envisages an end to fossil fuels, possibly around 2040-2050, Reuters reports. "In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels, I don't know when, in 2040, 2050... we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy," Ali Al-Naimi told a business and climate conference in Paris, the news service reports. "Hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts, electric ones. Does that sound good?" The minster is also reported to say he still expects the world's energy mix to be dominated by fossil fuels in the near future - Barclays has appointed Steve Rickards as head of offshore funds. He will lead the creation and implementation of the bank’s offshore funds strategy and report directly to Paul Savery, managing director of personal and corporate banking in the Channel Islands. For the last four years Mr Rickards has been heading up the Guernsey Funds team providing debt solutions for private equity and working with locally based fund administrators. Savery says: “Barclays’ funds segment has seen some terrific cross functional success over the past year or so. Specifically, the offshore business has worked hand in hand with the funds team in London to bring the very best of Barclays to our clients, and Steve has been a real catalyst to driving this relationship from a Guernsey perspective.” - Moody's has downgraded Uzbekistan based Qishloq Qurilish Bank's (QQB’s) local-currency deposit rating to B2, and downgraded BCA to b3 and assigned a Counterparty Risk Assessment of B1(cr)/Not prime(cr) to the bank. The agency says the impact on QQB of the publication of Moody's revised bank methodology and QQB's weak asset quality and moderate loss-absorption capacity are the reasons for the downgrades. Concurrently, Moody's has confirmed QQB's long-term B2 foreign-currency deposit rating and assigned stable outlooks to all of the affected long-term ratings. The short-term deposit ratings of Not-prime were unaffected - Delinquencies of the Dutch residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) market fell during the three-month period ended March 2015, according to Moody's. The 60+ day delinquencies of Dutch RMBS, including Dutch mortgage loans benefitting from a Nationale Hypotheek Garantie, decreased to 0.85% in March 2015 from 0.92% in December 2014. The 90+ day delinquencies also decreased to 0.66% in March 2015 from 0.71% in December 2014.Nevertheless, cumulative defaults increased to 0.65% of the original balance, plus additions (in the case of master issuers) and replenishments, in March 2015 from 0.56% in December 2014. Cumulative losses increased slightly to 0.13% in March 2015 from 0.11% in December 2014 – Asset manager Jupiter has recruited fund manager Jason Pidcock to build Asian Income strategy at the firm. Pidcock J has built a strong reputation at Newton Investment Management for the management of income-orientated assets in Asian markets and, in particular the £4.4bn Newton Asian Income Fund, which he has managed since its launch in 2005. The fund has delivered a return of 64.0% over the past five years compared with 35.9% for the IA Asia Pacific Ex Japan sector average, placing it 4th in the sector. Since launch it has returned 191.4 against 154.1% for the sector average. Before joining Newton in 2004, Jason was responsible for stock selection and asset allocation in the Asia ex-Japan region for the BP Pension Fund.

LME goes east

Tuesday, 24 July 2012
LME goes east In the latest manifestation of China’s rising economic power, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX) has agreed to buy LME Holdings, the parent company of the London Metal Exchange, for £1.388bn, an eye-popping 58.3x net profits for 2011 even adjusting for a higher fee schedule implemented only on July 2nd this year. It is a trophy price for a trophy property: the largest base metals futures and options exchange in the world, with an estimated 80% market share. If the transaction receives shareholder and regulatory approval—not a racing certainty, given the unusual voting rights of LME shareholders—the new owners of a traditionally western capitalist bastion reflects the relentless eastward shift in capital flows, driven by China’s rapid economic growth. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

In the latest manifestation of China’s rising economic power, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX) has agreed to buy LME Holdings, the parent company of the London Metal Exchange, for £1.388bn, an eye-popping 58.3x net profits for 2011 even adjusting for a higher fee schedule implemented only on July 2nd this year. It is a trophy price for a trophy property: the largest base metals futures and options exchange in the world, with an estimated 80% market share. If the transaction receives shareholder and regulatory approval—not a racing certainty, given the unusual voting rights of LME shareholders—the new owners of a traditionally western capitalist bastion reflects the relentless eastward shift in capital flows, driven by China’s rapid economic growth.

The imperative to secure ownership of the LME by Chinese entities will come as no surprise. The Middle Kingdom now accounts for 42% of global metals consumption; Chinese companies already trade on the LME through member firms; and several LME members have opened offices in Hong Kong. Newedge, whose 15% to 18% market share by volume makes it the largest LME ring-dealing member, even has a joint venture with Citic, the Chinese financial conglomerate, through which qualified customers can trade on the Shanghai Metals Exchange, the regional market for the same metals that dominate trading on the LME: ­aluminium, copper, zinc and lead.

John FayJohn Fay, global head of fixed income, currencies and commodities at Newedge.Shanghai still takes its opening cue from LME closing prices, but the relationship between the two exchanges has evolved into a two-way street—traders now track closing prices and trends in Shanghai before they set opening prices in London the next day. If the Shanghai market were to open up to foreign participants, John Fay, global head of fixed income, currencies and commodities at Newedge, expects overall trading volume would grow but does not see business migrating from London to Shanghai. “Liquidity moves to where the capital is created,” he says. “The markets in China will continue to grow, but it will be complementary to growth on the LME. It will be additional volume.”



Unlike other futures exchanges, LME operates three trading systems that work in parallel: a continuous electronic trading platform open 24/7, ring dealing sessions on the exchange floor, and OTC trades negotiated off the floor. No matter where trades take place, they are centrally cleared by LCH.Clearnet, at least for now. The LME plans to set up its own clearing house by 2014, an initiative HKEX supports and to which it can bring its own expertise in clearing (albeit not in commodities). Self-clearing will give the LME greater flexibility to launch new products and may enable the exchange to take as eligible collateral assets not acceptable to LCH.Clearnet for initial and/or variation margin.

The LME also offers a wider range of delivery dates than other futures exchanges: daily “prompt dates” out to three months, weekly out to six months, and thereafter monthly to 15, 27, 63 or 123 months forward depending on the metal. HKEX has committed to retain this structure at least until 2015, but Fay is keen to see it preserved in perpetuity. “It is the model our customers want because it is built for size or speed,” he says. “They want to go to the floor for price discovery and liquidity, to be able to trade electronically or over the counter (OTC), and they want it all cleared.”

The LME model is unique, but may not remain so. In fact, it offers a viable template for trading financial OTC derivatives on an exchange: the prompt date flexibility eliminates the mismatch between quarterly contract expiration dates and the dates to which commercial participants need to hedge. “The LME model is an answer to Dodd Frank,” says Fay.

HKEX intends to help the LME expand in Asia through a combination of enhanced data distribution, the introduction of futures contracts denominated in renminbi (RMB) and additional warehouses. LME operates a network of more than 600 licensed warehouses around the globe in which market participants can deposit ­deliverable material in exchange for a bearer warrant for the number of contract lots the metal represents at that location. None of the existing warehouses are in mainland China, however; Chinese companies typically deliver to warehouses in South Korea if need be, which is typically in times of tight supply.

Michael Overlander, chief executive of Sucden, a ring-dealing LME member that accounts for between 10% and 15% of trading volume, says past efforts to license warehouses in China have foundered on doubts about the rule of law in the country. If someone presented a bearer warrant to the warehouse at an inopportune moment, would the operator honour the obligation?

“In countries where the LME does have warehouses the warrant would never be questioned,” says Overlander. “I think fear of the unknown legalities has prevented the LME from putting warehouses on the ground in China.” Local warehouses would no doubt improve liquidity and attract more Chinese participants to the LME, but while HKEX can help the LME cut through bureaucratic red tape it may not be able to resolve the legal difficulty.

HKEX wants to leverage its existing renminbi-based trading and settlement infrastructure in Hong Kong to support new LME futures contracts denominated in the Chinese currency. Although these products would be another step toward the internationalisation of the renminbi, Overlander does not see them as an immediate precursor to free convertibility. “The Chinese government has shown a great reluctance to take the handcuffs off the RMB,” he says. “It will first have to relax the controls to get people excited about a currency with limited uses.”

Michael OverlanderMichael Overlander, chief executive of Sucden.Both Sucden and Newedge own shares in the LME but, at just under 3%, their holdings are far smaller than their market shares of exchange ­business. Maintaining the business model should be more important to both firms than the price at which they can sell LME shares, but few people are altogether immune to the lure of money. “I would be lying if I said the equity isn’t important,” says ­Overlander. “It would be hard to see the value of our shares topped in the foreseeable future. It was a relatively easy decision for us to support the transaction: we were satisfied with the buyer and the price.”

The losing bidders—Intercontinental Exchange and CME Group—must now explore alternatives if they wish to expand in base metals. For ICE, it would be a new business line, while CME has a copper contract traded on the Comex that competes directly with the LME. Apart from copper, CME has historically focused on precious metals—gold, silver, platinum and palladium—that do not overlap with LME products.

The LME’s dominant position represents a significant barrier to entry, however. Market participants have great confidence in price discovery on the LME, so much so that prices for physical contracts (which are not traded on the LME) are usually based on LME prices. The LME warehouse infrastructure would be hard to replicate too. “Virtually anywhere in the world, metal can be stored in exchange for a negotiable LME warrant. Warrant holders can have almost instant access to material on whatever day they want,” says Overlander. “The warehouse network is just one example. It would be tough to knock the LME off its pedestal.”

The reaction in some quarters to the LME sale—another British champion passes into foreign hands—may be more Sinophobic than xenophobic. Nobody claimed that American interests would interfere with price discovery in London when ICE bought the International Petroleum Exchange or NYSE Euronext took control of LIFFE. Chinese influence in London is likely to grow if Chinese companies do more business on the LME but ­Overland insists Chinese ownership will not affect market operations. “Whatever the rationale for buying the LME, it was not to manipulate prices in favour of Chinese buyers,” he says. “The LME will still have to comply with FSA rules that govern regulated investment exchanges, which are designed to make sure the market has the confidence of users.” 

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