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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 14th February 2019

Posted: 14th February 2019


Financial fraud complaints soar

The Financial Ombudsman Service, which arbitrates in disputes between City firms and consumers, has recorded a surge in complaints about fraud and scams - with a fifth more complaints during the current financial year than last year. Chief executive Caroline Wayman said the FOS has received 10,000 new cases so far in 2018-19, up from 8,500 over the entire 2017-18 financial year. Though the figures include chip and PIN complaints, cash not received from ATMs, identity theft and online transfers, 25% of scam cases are concerned with bank transfer, or “push payment”, fraud. The Commons’ Treasury Select Committee is today taking evidence from UK Finance and other banks as part of its inquiry into economic crime.

Banks closing thousands of ‘money mule’ accounts

MPs have heard how banks are closing tens of thousands of accounts a year in the UK as fraudsters use social media sites to lure young people into becoming “money mules”. Santander said it has closed about 24,000 accounts a year on suspicion of fraud, with 11,000 of those suspected money mule cases – where fraudsters use genuine accounts to process illegal payments linked to terrorism, money laundering and other economic crimes. Susan Allen, the head of retail business banking at Santander UK, said that people often did not understand the potential consequences of being a money mule, including difficulty in opening bank accounts and obtaining mortgages, other loans and credit cards, and potentially prison sentences. Nationwide added that it had closed about 12,000 accounts a year due to fraud.

Barclays spends up to £200m on Brexit preparations

Barclays chairman Gerry Grimstone has said that the bank has spent £100-200m moving operations and staff out of Britain to prepare for Brexit. The bank has moved its European HQ and almost €200bn in assets to Dublin and last year began to move 40 to 50 investment banking jobs to Frankfurt from London. Mr Grimstone said the bank had swiftly moved to take advantage of the new environment. “We identified a couple of years ago that there were huge opportunities for us. We haven’t been dragged kicking and screaming to this,” he said of Barclays’ new Dublin office.

Starling banks £75m funding

Starling Bank has closed a £75m funding round, led by Merian Global Investors - formerly known as Old Mutual. Starling said that the investment would support its expected launch in Europe this year, as well as further investment in its retail and banking services in the UK. CEO Anne Boden said: “Our ambition is to use our technology to build a next-generation global, digital banking platform, starting with our launch across Europe this year.”

Small banks may not welcome bailout cash

Simon English in the Evening Standard comments on the forthcoming decision to hand £425m to challenger banks from RBS as part of terms of its state bailout back in 2008. English says it is not hard to imagine the supposed losers of the bidding battle breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t have to shake up the business banking industry.


Bank of America spends $400m on Brexit preparation

Bank of America has indicated that its $400m staff and operations moves, resulting from Brexit, will not be reversed “even if the UK remains in the European Union.” The bank’s vice-chairwoman Anne Finucane told a conference in Dublin that the bank would never make London its European headquarters again. She said: “Dublin is our headquarters for our European bank now, full stop. There isn’t a return. That bridge had been pulled up.”

ABN Amro falls short of expectations as costs squeeze profit

ABN Amro’s anti-money laundering efforts have cost €85m, with the bank boosting its due diligence measures following the scandals at ING, Rabobank and Danske Bank.

Russia’s VTB seizes jailed oligarch’s grain trader stake to settle debts

VTB has taken a stake in Russia-owned United Grain Company, from jailed “oligarch” Ziyavudin Magomedov, to settle debts. The Russian state bank now controls one share under 50%.

RBC drops appeal in ‘whistleblower’ case

The Royal Bank of Canada has decided not to pursue an employment tribunal ruling that a London-based trader was fired unfairly after complaining about a lax compliance culture.


Carmaker Renault to strip Ghosn of €30m ‘golden parachute’

Renault is cancelling almost 500,000 deferred performance shares, worth around £26m at current prices, due to former boss Carlos Ghosn, who is in prison in Japan on financial misconduct charges.


Delta and EasyJet explore joint bid for Alitalia

Delta and EasyJet have joined forces with Italy’s state-backed railway company Ferrovie dello Stato to explore a bid to take over Alitalia, the country’s troubled national carrier.


Galliford building around Brexit

Galliford Try has predicted full-year results “towards the upper end” of City expectations, pushing its shares up 5%. Though the construction firm is having to be “picky and choosy” over its work, due to Brexit uncertainty unsettling some clients, it has a £3.2bn construction order book and profits were up 4% to £84.2m in the six months to December.


City watchdog warns Brexit could spark rise in market manipulation

The FCA has warned that Brexit could lead to an increase in market manipulation as surveillance becomes patchier with the City of London shifting business to the EU.

Australia throws spotlight on ‘witching hour’ currency crashes

A report from the Reserve Bank of Australia has flagged “witching hour” irregularities hitting currency markets. Between 5pm and 6pm, when New York closes and Tokyo opens, markets are vulnerable.

Blockchain oil platform Vakt hires former energy trader as chief

BP and Royal Dutch Shell-backed blockchain platform Vakt has hired former JPMorgan Chase energy trader Etienne Amic as its chief executive. Traders Gunvor, Koch and Mercuria also back the project.

Amundi lifts earnings despite €50bn hit in final quarter

Amundi has reported a €50bn hit to its assets in the final quarter of 2018. Assets under management at Europe’s largest fund manager were flat over 2018, ending at €1.4tn.


Johnson & Johnson to buy robotics group Auris Health for $3.4bn

Johnson & Johnson has acquired robotic platform Auris Health in a $3.4bn deal. The move will help with Johnson & Johnson’s push into digital surgery.


InterContinental boosts luxury offering

InterContinental Hotels Group has agreed to buy Bangkok-headquartered luxury resorts operator Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, from US investment group Pegasus Capital Advisors, for $300m (£232.6m). The deal brings the number of the Holiday Inn-owner's luxury hotels, either already open or in the pipeline, to 400 worldwide.


Venezuela seizure takes Smurfit Kappa to loss

Packaging firm Smurfit Kappa has posted pre-tax losses of €404m for 2018, compared with a profit of €576m the previous year, after its Venezuelan business was seized by President Nicolas Maduro. The company is seeking compensation for what it claims is the government’s “unlawful actions.”


Immediate Media buys up cycling magazines

Radio Times owner Immediate Media has bought a brace of cycling titles from rival Future for £24m. As part of the acquisition, Immediate will also take over a series of craft magazines, beefing up its portfolio of specialist titles.


House price rises slowest for five years

Official figures have revealed that house prices grew by 2.5% in the year to December, the lowest annual rise since July 2013 when there was 2.3% growth. The average home now costs under £231,000, according to the Office for National Statistics and the Land Registry. Price changes varied across the regions, falling in London by 0.6% and by 1% in the North East, but rising by more than 5% in the West Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Sandwich chain up for sale

Horizon Capital has appointed advisers to find a buyer for sandwich chain Eat. Horizon acquired a controlling stake in Eat eight years ago with plans to treble its stores to 300. The chain currently has 95 outlets across the UK.

Italian family-owned luxury brand Trussardi sells out to fund

QuattroR, an asset management firm, has completed the acquisition of a 60% stake in the Italian fashion house Trussardi.


Juventus to test ‘Ronaldo effect’ in international bond market

Juventus has raised €175m of five year debt at a yield of 3.5%. The Italian club paid €100m for Cristiano Ronaldo last year.


Inflation falls to two year low

The UK inflation rate has fallen to a two-year low, according to data from the ONS, to 1.8% in January, down from 2.1% in December. Mike Hardie, ONS head of inflation, said: “The fall in inflation is due mainly to cheaper gas, electricity and petrol, partly offset by rising ferry ticket prices and air fares falling more slowly than this time last year.” The ONS said that petrol prices were down by 2.1% per litre between December 2018 and January 2019 due to falling crude oil prices. Hotel and restaurant prices were also lower while prices of women’s and children’s clothing saw larger price drops than a year earlier.


Cornish cheque refused

A language campaigner has said he felt like a “second-class citizen” after Lloyds Bank refused to accept a cheque written in Cornish. Roy Chubb, and secretary of Cornish language group Agan Tavas, went to the Redruth branch of Lloyds Bank where the cheque was refused. He accused the bank of institutional racism. A spokesperson for the bank said: “Whilst we respect the Cornish language and the efforts made to preserve and protect it, if a colleague is unable to speak Cornish, they will unfortunately be unable to process cheques in this language.”

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