Saturday 29th November 2014
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY NOVEMBER 27TH 2014: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research’s latest report shows that investment flows this week starkly highlight the impact of negative interest rates in Europe. Money is moving up the value chain in search of substitute asset classes with suitable yield. Investment grade credit looks to be the greatest beneficiary of this at present, with inflows reaching $2-$3bn a week over the last month, a historic high. With around €450bn European govies trading at negative yields, investors have started shifting their attention to high-grade bond funds. The bank’s research team expects the recent strong trend of inflows to continue next year, with inflows to increase to $100bn into the asset class. So far this year high-grade credit has seen $63bn of inflows, while government bond funds have seen only $17bn. The low or negative yielding asset classes are all seeing outflows, reports Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the report. Government bond funds saw their fifth week of outflows, while money market funds saw their largest outflow ($19.5bn) since May this year. Flows into equities managed to bounce back to the positive territory, after three weeks of outflows - According to SwissQuote, in Switzerland, traders will be watching Swiss Kof leading indicator, which is expected to rise from 99.8 to 100.0 in November. However, the real focus will be referenda results this Sunday. The outcome should be released around 4pm CET on Sunday. The latest polls suggest that the “no” votes have the majority indicating that spillover into EURCHF and Gold should be limited. Elsewhere, Euro area flash HICP inflation is expected to drop from 0.4% y/y in October to 0.3% y/y in November. Swedish GDP growth is anticipated to weaken from 0.7% q/q in Q2 to 0.2% q/q in Q3. While OPEC decision not to cut will clearly be disappointing to Canadian policy makers, today GDP is expected to ease from 3.6% y/y to 2.1% y/y in Q3 - New research conducted by independent financial researcher Defaqto on behalf of NOW:Pensions reveals that advisers are gearing themselves up for the business opportunity that auto enrolment presents. Nine out of ten (88%) advisers who are currently advising small and medium sized companies on auto enrolment plan to continue doing so in 2015 when micro businesses will begin staging. Over half of the advisers surveyed (51%) think that auto enrolment represents a good opportunity for them to grow their business over the long term, with three quarters (76%) seeing it as a chance to both advise existing clients as well as grow a new client base. Over two in three (68%) advisers expect to be providing employers with advice on selecting a pension provider, while 72% expect to be advising them for the staging date, and 78% expect their services to be required on an ongoing basis after the staging date has passed. Seven out of ten (73%) believe they will need to advise on other corporate issues such as business protection insurance. Neil Liversidge, managing director, West Riding Personal Finance Solutions explains: "The need for help and advice around auto enrolment naturally brings together business owners, their employees, and advisers. As such it probably represents the single greatest opportunity most firms will have to generate new clients this decade." Not all advisers are in agreement, as nearly one in five (17%) of the 244 advisers questioned, do not intend to advise small and micro businesses on auto enrolment next year. Of these advisers, over half (55%) say they don’t think it will offer profitable business, while 28% believe there is too much admin involved, and 25% are deterred by how much time it will take. One in ten (10%) don’t believe they have the right knowledge to advise on it. Additionally, two in three (66%) advisers say that from their experience so far, employers are either not that engaged or not engaged at all with auto enrolment, while the same can be said for 83% of employees - Germany’s KfW IPEX-Bank and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) have signed a Framework Financing Agreement (Basic Agreement) amounting to $300m. The facility will be accessible to infrastructure projects in Africa, developed by AFC, by providing long-term financing of European equipment and services imported for such projects. The basic agreement helps to address Africa’s infrastructure development needs while also supporting German and European exporters. Projects that will be financed under the agreement will be covered by guarantees from European Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) - A new active ETF issued by PIMCO Fixed Income Source ETFS plc has begun trading in the XTF segment on Xetra today. The ETF is the PIMCO Low Duration Euro Corporate Bond Source UCITS ETF Asset class, an active bond index ETF (ISIN: IE00BP9F2J32), with a total expense ratio of 0.3%. According to PIMCO, at least 90% of the investment portfolio underlying the active ETF consists of investment grade corporate bonds issued in euro. Up to 20% of the fund assets can be invested in the emerging markets region. The currency risk may amount to up to 10% due to corporate bonds not denominated in euro. The average duration ranges from zero to four years - Legal & General (L&G) has announced a restructure across its L&G Assurance Society (LGAS) division following the announcement of the impending departure of chief executive John Pollock next year. L&G’s savings business will be split into two businesses; mature and digital. Jackie Noakes, chief operating officer for LGAS and group IT director will become the managing director of the mature savings division (including insured savings and with-profit businesses). Mike Bury, managing director of retail savings at L&G will manage the digital savings arm, Cofunds, IPS, Suffolk Life and L&G’s upcoming direct-to-consumer platform –Orangefield Group has purchased Guernsey-based Legis Fund Services, expanding its fund services division and increasing its total assets under administration to more than $50bn. Legis will change its name to Orangefield Fund Services but will continue to be led by managing director Patricia White. The acquisition is part of a trend in mergers and acquisitions in the offshore fund administration sector, and was advised by Carey Olson. Carey Olson also recently advised Anson Group on the sale of its fund administration business to JTC Group and First Names Group on its acquisition of fund management business Mercator - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +9.54 points higher or +0.29% to 3350.50, taking the year-to-date performance to +5.86%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.14% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index declined -0.52%. The top active stocks were Keppel Corp (-2.17%), DBS (+0.66%), OCBC Bank (-0.10%), UOB (+0.71%) and SingTel (unchanged). Outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Technology Index (+1.03%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Technology Index are Silverlake Axis (+1.97%) and STATS ChipPAC (unchanged). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Oil & Gas Index, which declined -2.84% with Keppel Corp’s share price declining -2.17% and Sembcorp Industries’ share price declining-1.08%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the IS MSCI India (+0.38%), SPDR Gold Shares (-0.70%), STI ETF (unchanged). The three most active Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) by value were CapitaCom Trust (+0.30%), Suntec REIT (+1.29%), Ascendas REIT (+1.30%). The most active index warrants by value today were HSI24400MBeCW141230 (-6.67%), HSI23800MBeCW141230 (-5.13%), HSI23600MBePW141230 (+2.50%). The most active stock warrants by value today were DBS MB eCW150602 (+2.42%), KepCorp MBePW150330 (+13.85%), UOB MB eCW150415 (+1.24%).

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.

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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