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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 24th October 2019

Posted: 24th October 2019


Revolut launches in Singapore

Revolut has launched its app and services in Asia for the first time, after a year-long trial in Singapore. The bank, which alongside rivals such as Monzo and Starling, is taking on the traditional high street banks, has already gathered 30,000 customers. The move comes a week after the bank paired with Mastercard to take its cards to the US for the first time before the end of the year. Revolut is understood to be raising a new round of funding in exchange for equity at around $500m (£388m). It is also seeking to land a convertible loan of $1bn and a valuation of the business at $20bn.

Starling Bank European expansion plans on track

Starling Bank is continuing its expansion plans as it raised £30m from Merian Chrysalis Investment Company and JTC. Founder and chief executive Anne Boden stated: “This latest investment of £20m from Merian Chrysalis will support Starling’s rapid growth and help us reach 1m customers and £1bn on deposit within weeks. It will also help us accelerate our global expansion, starting in Europe, so that even more people can benefit from the Starling app.” Starling is also in discussions with the Central Bank of Ireland to win an Irish banking licence.

Vernon Hill steps down as Metro Bank chair

Vernon Hill has stepped down as chairman of Metro Bank, with senior independent director Michael Snyder to take over on an interim basis, subject to approval by regulators. Co-founder Mr Hill is to be given the honorary title of “chairman emeritus”, with the decision announced ahead of the lender’s third-quarter results on Wednesday. The trading update revealed that Metro had fallen to a £4.9m loss after tax for the three months to September 30 from a £10m profit a year earlier.

Banks expected to report third-quarter revenue squeeze

Analysts expect Britain’s biggest banks to accelerate initiatives to cut costs with third quarter results predicted to show a squeeze on revenues and less demand for business borrowing as customers suffer a slowdown amid turmoil over Brexit. John Cronin, a banking analyst at Goodbody, said banks will be keen to manage investor expectations about more share buybacks or special dividend payouts, stressing instead that they need to hold back the extra cash. Royal Bank of Scotland is to report figures today, followed by Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Lloyds.

Nearly 1m Brits switch banks

Nearly 230,000 customers switched bank accounts in the third quarter of the year and in the last 12 months there have been 975,571 bank account switches. Halifax, Barclays and RBS lost the most customers to other banks in Q3 while Nationwide had the highest net gains, followed by HSBC and NatWest. Monzo and Starling Bank remained in fourth and fifth place respectively for net switching gains. Separately, City Minister John Glen has said Barclays customers who want to continue getting cash at their local post office should vote with their feet and switch bank.


Blackstone beats forecasts for Q3 earnings

The world's largest private equity firm yesterday reported an increased profit for the third quarter, but a drop in the proportion of earnings that could be returned to shareholders. Blackstone posted a profit of $779m (£605m) for the third quarter, up from $443m a year earlier. Distributable earnings fell 8% year-on-year but still beat analysts' estimates.


Swedbank chief aims to lift ‘dark cloud’ of money-laundering claims

Swedbank’s new CEO, Jens Henriksson, has made lifting the “dark cloud” of money-laundering allegations his top priority, but denied probes by US and European authorities are an existential threat.

Handelsbanken plans major cost-cutting drive

Handelsbanken has reported a double-digit dip in net profit as the Swedish lender plans to cut 800 jobs and pull out of several markets globally in an effort to slash annual spending by roughly 1.5bn crowns (£120m).


PSA Group revenue up as sales fall

PSA has released a statement revealing that group revenues grew 1% to €15.6bn in the third quarter. The carmaker reaffirmed its targets for 2019 – 2021, with 674,000 cars sold globally in the third quarter, representing a 4% decrease from the 703,000 sold in the same period a year earlier.


Boeing expects 737 Max to be back in the air soon

Boeing has said it expects its troubled 737 Max aircraft to return to the skies before the end of the year. The aircraft maker’s profits have more than halved since the 737 Max was taken out of service in March following two crashes.


FRC issues new Stewardship Code

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has launched a revised Stewardship Code following a review by Sir John Kingman. The new Code, which takes effect on 1st January 2020, will require asset managers to report each year on how they have met the needs of investors. Changes include a requirement to report annually on stewardship outcomes, including engagement with companies and the assets they invest in, voting records and how they have enhanced the value of investments. Signatories will be expected to take environmental, social and governance factors, including climate change, into account and to ensure their investment decisions are aligned with the needs of their clients. The FRC said the new Code “will help align the approach of the whole investment community in the interest of end-investors and beneficiaries.” Meanwhile, a survey by Triodos Bank has found that 45% of investors would switch to ethical funds as a result of media coverage about the environment.

Zuckerberg warns blocking Libra will be boon to China tech

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by members of Congress in Washington over his plans for a digital currency. Mr Zuckerberg tried to reassure sceptical US lawmakers over the safety of Libra, vowing Facebook would leave the Libra Association if the consortium tried to launch a cryptocurrency without the permission of US regulators. He said Libra was a prime example of "American innovation" and could help more than a billion adults without a bank account worldwide. But Mr Zuckerberg went on to argue that the US must embrace Libra in order to retain its financial supremacy and its technological leadership. Blocking Libra could open the door to a digital currency created by China becoming the dominant global standard, he warned.

Funding Secure fails putting investors at risk

Peer-to-peer lender Funding Secure has appointed administrators after it collapsed after failing to secure repayment of £3.2m in loans to a Mayfair art dealer linked with an alleged money laundering scandal. Funding Secure has been engaged in a legal battle with Matthew Green, an art dealer made bankrupt this year, who is alleged to have sold millions of pounds of artwork used as collateral.


Pub group agrees £40m deal for Cotswold Hotels

Pub group Fuller, Smith & Turner has agreed a £40m deal to buy Cotswold Inns & Hotels, which posted revenue of £17.5m for the year to September 2018.


WeWork plans to axe 4,000 staff

WeWork is planning to cut as many as 4,000 jobs as part of an aggressive turnround plan put in place by Japan’s SoftBank, whose shares slid to their lowest point since January after unveiling a $9.5bn bailout for the debt-riddled American shared-office start-up.


Retailers cut 85,000 jobs this year

The past year has seen retailers cut 85,000 jobs with businesses under increasing pressure from weak consumer demand, rising costs and the switch to online shopping along with uncertainty over Brexit. Job losses could increase due to automation too - retail IT bosses expect one in five jobs in their businesses to be replaced by artificial intelligence or automation in five years.

Shop Direct surprises bondholders with big PPI provision

Shop Direct posted a £241m PPI provision for the year to June 30, as it reported sluggish sales and profit growth.


Moody's cautions on Brexit delay

Ratings agency Moody’s has warned that the UK’s creditworthiness could be damaged by the latest Brexit delay, after a House of Commons vote against the Prime Minister’s rapid timetable for passing the EU Withdrawal Bill. Moody's managing director Colin Ellis said the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU with a deal is higher than it has been recently but added: “Significant uncertainties remain around the timing and eventual outcome of Brexit, which is likely going to weigh on spending, investment and hiring decisions in the UK for some time, a clear credit negative.” This follows research earlier this month which found that business investment has fallen by 11% since the 2016 referendum.


Mel Stride to chair Treasury Committee

The former financial secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride has been appointed as chair of the influential Treasury Committee. The Conservative MP will be taking over midway through the inquiry into the collapse of Thomas Cook. The FT reports on concerns over a conflict of interest for Mr Stride, who pushed through the controversial loan charge but will now chair the committee investigating it.

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