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Daily News Roundup: Friday 15th December 2017

Posted: 15th December 2017


HBOS collapse would have seen bank funding 'evaporate'

The High Court has seen a secret dossier of letters warning that the collapse of HBOS at the height of the financial crisis could have caused funding for Britain’s other big banks to “evaporate”. The documents were presented in an ongoing case brought by 6,000 shareholders who claim Lloyds misled them about HBOS’s financial situation during its takeover of the bank. In two separate letters, Sir Hector Sants, then chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, urged fellow regulators to waive competition rules to enable a swift deal.

Online banking services ranked

New research indicates that UK retail banks are falling behind their European counterparts when it comes to online banking services. Spain’s BBVA and Turkey’s Garanti Bank were found to be the best for serving customers online, according to the analysis from Forrester. Barclays and Lloyds were ranked mid-table of the 13 banks studied and were found to be close to the average based on a score out of 100 from nearly 50 criteria, such as money management features, marketing of new products and login and security. Barclays was praised for its effective security however, found to be equal to BBVA and behind only CiaxaBank.

NatWest increases website security

NatWest has said that it will enhance the security of its website, after security experts spotted a vulnerability. Several researchers had asked why some banks used encrypted HTTPS connections for online banking, but not on their main customer-facing websites. A spokesman for RBS, which owns NatWest, told the BBC: "We take the security of our services extremely seriously. While we do not currently enforce HTTPS on some of our websites, we are working towards upgrading this in the next 48 hours.


Polish bank to acquire Deutsche Bank assets

Poland's Bank Zachodni WBK has agreed to buy local assets from Deutsche Bank for 1.29bn zlotys ($362m) to close the gap on the country's second biggest lender Bank Pekao. The price equates to 0.6 times book value, about half the average of the banking sector in Poland. The deal will boost the assets of BZ WBK, Poland's third-biggest bank, by almost 20bn zloty to 169bn, leaving it just 2bn behind Bank Pekao.

Blessing to head Commerzbank wealth arm

UBS has appointed Martin Blessing, the former CEO of Commerzbank, as head of its wealth management arm. He replaces Jurg Zeltner, who leaves the bank at the end of the month, after four years in the role. Mr Blessing's appointment puts him in prime position to take over as chief executive.

Dankse Bank to create Denmark's largest private pension fund

Danske Bank has agreed to buy the Danish pension assets of Sweden's SEB in a $1bn deal to create Denmark's largest private pension fund. Danske Bank said the purchase would bring its market share to 19.2%, surpassing the current market leader PFA.

JP Morgan to explore potential of quantum computing

JP Morgan is to begin exploring the potential of quantum computing and how it might be applied to trading strategies, portfolio optimisation, asset pricing, and risk analysis in a new partnership with IBM. The investment bank is one of two financial institutions, along with Barclays, taking advantage of the commercialisation of quantum technology.

ECB keeps eurozone interest rates unchanged

The ECB has kept its interest rates and economic stimulus programme unchanged, at zero, with attention now switching to its latest forecasts for clues to future policy direction. The bank's asset purchase programme will drop from €60bn to €30bn a month in January, as announced in October.

Battle for banking union hangs over the eurozone

The eurozone’s unfinished banking union is a "reality check" for ambitions of wider reforms, according to EC president Donal Tusk, who urged the bloc's leaders to make progress on the project.

NAB rules out loans for thermal coal mining

National Australia Bank has said it will halt all lending for new thermal coal mining projects, becoming the first major Australian bank to phase out support of thermal coal mining.


Niki grounds planes

Niki has grounded its planes, stranding thousands of passengers, after filing for insolvency protection. The Austrian airline has about 20 planes serving resorts in southern Europe and north Africa.


City trade surplus outranks all EU nations

A new report from TheCityUK shows that the UK’s finance industries bring in a £57bn trade surplus. The study shows Britain has £6trn of banking assets - the highest figure in Europe - is the top foreign exchange centre in the world, and has the biggest insurance industry. The research also reveals that Britain's investment companies are looking after a record £8.2trn of savers' cash and that its bullion markets trade 19.5m ounces of gold a day worth £18.1bn. Separately, France is to cut payroll taxes for high earners moving to Paris, as part of its efforts to lure bankers from London when Britain leaves the EU. The move is designed to put France on a level pegging with Germany in the race to attract business after Brexit.

Gibraltar to launch financial services licence for blockchain

The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission is set to introduce the world's first bespoke licence for "fintech" firms using blockchain distributed ledger technology from next month in a bid to attract start-ups to the British overseas territory as it prepares for Brexit. The regulator will publish guidance for applying its new law for firms that use blockchain to "transmit or store" cash and assets belonging to others. Meanwhile, Swiss National Bank Chairman Thomas Jordan has said that virtual currencies present no risks to monetary policy although investors should be aware of the dangers from big price swings. "Of course there are also valuation risks, because there can be big profits or losses," Jordan said. "It is more a question of protecting the investor than a question of monetary policy."

FCA proposes credit card debt help

The FCA has agreed a deal with credit card providers that could see interest and charges wiped for consumers struggling with debt. Under the changes, lenders would be forced to reduce or cancel interest charges for people struggling to repay. The FCA said that customers should also be contacted by their provider and prompted to make faster repayments or get advice on how to pay back debts over time.

Buxton poised to agree OM deal

Richard Buxton, CEO of Old Mutual Global Investors, is poised to sign a deal to buy a £25bn holding in the company. Old Mutual has been in talks about a sale of the unit headed by Mr Buxton since the autumn, according to reports.


Four Seasons Health Care gains breathing space

Four Seasons Health Care has won a reprieve on a major debt repayment which threatened the future of the firm. The care home operator, which looks after 17,000 elderly and vulnerable residents, has agreed with H/2 Capital, the US investor that owns most of its debt, to defer a £26m interest payment due today. This opens the way for restructuring talks to keep the business running.


GVC investors rail against pay policy

Over a quarter of shareholders in online gambling company GVC have rebelled against the pay of its senior management. A total of 27.5% of investors voted against a new directors’ remuneration policy, while 26.4% objected to a new annual and deferred bonus plan.


Walt Disney buys Murdoch's Fox for $52.4bn

Walt Disney is to buy 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets for a total $52.4bn (£39bn). The deal includes Fox's 39% stake in satellite broadcaster Sky, and the 20th Century Fox film studio, Disney announced. Fox's remaining assets, including Fox News and Sports, will form a new company.


Ocado enjoys double-digit sales growth

Ocado has recorded double-digit sales growth, but warned that a shortage of delivery drivers was affecting sales. The online grocer posted an 11.6% rise in retail revenue to £373.8m in the 14 weeks to December 3rd, up from £334.8m in the same period a year ago. Average orders per week rose 11.1% to 280,000 over the quarter, up from 252,000 in the same period last year, while average order value grew 0.3% to £106.11. Despite revenues climbing, Ocado said that a shortage of drivers had held back growth of its retail business.


Brexit progress set to boost business confidence

The Bank of England says confidence among households and businesses is likely to be supported by last week's Brexit talks, when the EU agreed that sufficient progress had been made in negotiations to put in place a transition period from 2019. The Bank said the breakthrough would reduce the likelihood of a "disorderly" Brexit. Meanwhile, the BoE has kept interest rates on hold in its first meeting since last month's decision to raise rates for the first time in 10 years. Members of the MPC voted unanimously to keep interest rates at 0.5%.

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