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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 23rd February 2021

Posted: 23rd February 2021


HSBC shakes up top team as part of Asia push

Several papers report on the news that HSBC is to relocate senior executives from London to Hong Kong as the bank commits further to chief executive Noel Quinn’s “pivot to Asia” plan. HSBC'S finance boss, Ewen Stevenson, has been given a £150,000 pay rise after being given responsibility for the bank's transformation and mergers and acquisitions, on top of his existing role. The bank also announced that chief compliance officer Colin Bell would become chief executive of HSBC in Europe and the UK, and US boss Michael Roberts would take on extra responsibilities within the Americas region The news comes after the bank reported a 36% drop in pre-tax profit to $3.07bn in the third quarter, with loan loss provisions up to $7.64bn.

Bank-funded scam unit prevents £20m of fraud

The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist policing unit funded by banks, recovered 18,175 credit card numbers and seized £2.6m of assets in 2020 by targeting organised criminal gangs responsible for the vast amount of fraud in the UK. The DCPCU is formed of officers from the City of London police and Metropolitan Police and support staff from UK Finance. It says that its officers prevented almost £20m of fraud last year.


Letter: SMEs deserve the tax relief, not private equity

Phillip Oppenheim says tax reliefs for investors should not be stripped away from entrepreneurs who take great risks. He suggests the tax treatment of carried interest for private equity should be targeted instead.

Conn joins Blackstone

Iain Conn, the former chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, has been appointed by Blackstone as a senior adviser for energy and sustainability investing.


M&T Bank to buy People’s United Financial in $7.6bn deal

M&T Bank is to acquire People’s United Financial for $7.6bn in an all-stock deal that will create a new bank with combined assets worth about $200bn and a presence across 12 states.

Greek bank Alpha offloads €10.8bn bad loan book

Alpha Bank has agreed to offload a €10.8bn book of toxic loans to US hedge fund Davidson Kempner, which will also acquire an 80% stake in Alpha’s loan servicing subsidiary, Cepal Holdings.


British Airways pension payments deferred

A deal to delay £450m of pension deficit contributions has been agreed by British Airways. The firm has been struggling to plug a £2.4bn hole in its New Airways Pension Scheme, after the deficit was discovered during a valuation three years ago.

Air Partner announces profit of £11.5m for financial year

Aviation group Air Partner has reported profits of £11.5m for its last financial year, with financial services firm Canaccord Genuity noting: “Its charter and safety and security divisions will likely perform well as the group emerges from the pandemic and supported by a strong balance sheet, it will likely continue to diversify its revenue streams and aviation services portfolio in the coming years.”


Treasury urged to open up IPOs to private investors

Trading platforms are calling on the Treasury to reform an “unfair” system that excludes private investors from the vast majority of flotations in Britain. The heads of Hargreaves Lansdown, AJ Bell and Interactive Investor say two million private investors are being unfairly disadvantaged because they are excluded from buying shares in most initial public offerings. They wrote last week to John Glen, the City minister, asking him to consider imposing a regulatory obligation on companies to consider a retail offer in new flotations and to open a wider consultation. Richard Wilson, of Interactive Investor, told the Times that the existing system was “a closed shop”, and added: “It’s not fair and it is choking the capital-creation process.”

Changes to solvency rules could free up £9bn

A report commissioned by the Association of British Insurers argues that loosening the EU's Solvency II regulations post-Brexit and giving them more freedom over how they invest their assets could free up £95bn for City insurance firms to reinvest into the economy. The ABI said the formula that determines the cap on how much capital insurance firms must hold at any one time to stave off insolvency “is overly-sensitive to very low interest rates” and that it forces “insurers to hold billions of excess capital for no purpose”.

Gig economy workers to capture 20% of financial services jobs

Gig economy workers will soon make up between 15 and 20% of the workforce at financial services firms, with the change driven by cost pressure and the need to access digitally skilled talent, new research suggests. Separately, the Financial Conduct Authority has warned that workers in the financial services sector are suffering from "lockdown fatigue", with high performers given huge workloads. David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists urged bosses to ensure all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

Global dividend payouts forecast to rebound this year

A report from investment manager Janus Henderson indicates that in the best-case scenario for 2021, dividends could rise 5% on a headline basis. The worst-case scenario sees a 2% decline even after the coronavirus caused the biggest slump in payouts since the financial crisis more than a decade ago. Banking dividends will be likely to drive the rebound in payouts in 2021, the report said, after the European Central Bank and Bank of England eased blanket bans for lenders on dividends and buybacks. Overall, global dividends fell 12.2% in 2020 to $1.26trn.

IG Group suspends leveraged trading in 900 shares

IG Group has suspended margin trading in just under 8% of equities it covers as brokers worldwide look to limit the risk posed by retail traders following the trading frenzy in GameStop.

Transferwise announces rebranding amid growth plans

Fintech Transferwise has rebranded to Wise. This comes ahead of an expected listing in London later this year, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley tipped to be joint co-ordinators.


Gym sector leaders call for permission to reopen

Business leaders have called for more support for struggling companies after the Government revealed that the hospitality and leisure industries would not be allowed to reopen until after Easter. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality trade body, said: “A major package of financial support is imperative if hospitality is to survive. The chancellor has just nine days to save thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Elsewhere, chief executives in the gym sector have urged the PM to allow them to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail.

Pub chains in liquidity warning

Mitchells & Butlers has launched a bid to raise £351m after a “significant” deterioration in the pub group’s liquidity. While the firm has secured a new £150m three-year unsecured revolving credit facility with its banks, the money is conditional on the completion of the open offer, underwritten by majority shareholder Odyzean.


Tech giants subject to fresh scrutiny

The Competition and Markets Authority is to launch a series of antitrust probes into tech firms such as Google and Amazon under a new code based on “fair trading, trust and transparency.” This comes as Silicon Valley companies face growing scrutiny from authorities around the world, with the EU investigating the practices of Apple and Amazon, among others.

Disney turns to non-English drama as streaming service grows up

The Walt Disney company is seeking to broaden the appeal of its Disney Plus streaming service with a greater focus on local-language productions in Europe.


GardaWorld withdraws from G4S battle

GardaWorld has announced that it would not go beyond 235p a share in its bid for security firm G4S. Allied Universal is now in the clear to secure the £3.8bn deal it agreed last year. The Takeover Panel was all set to run a head-to-head auction to split the parties on Monday.

RTC sees profits decline amid pandemic

London-listed recruitment firm RTC has reported that profit from operations was down 45% to £1.1m last year, with group revenue falling 14% to £81.4m and earnings per share reaching 4.6p, compared to 9.6p a year earlier.


British Property Federation’s new retail board names chair

NewRiver Reit’s Allan Lockhart has been appointed chair of the British Property Federation’s new retail board, with a focus on championing the role of retail property investment in creating vibrant communities and leading the sector’s response to the Government’s review of the commercial property owner-occupier relationship.

OnTheMarket reports revenue growth

Online property firm OnTheMarket has reported revenues for the year to January 31 of about £23m, compared to £18.8m in the year earlier period, with adjusted operating profits of approximately £2.3m.

Scape in joint venture to fuel expansion

Pension investor APG and student housing company Scape have announced a £500m joint venture which will fuel the latter firm’s expansion into mainstream residential housing.


Non-essential retail to reopen from April 12

Boris Johnson has confirmed that all non-essential retail will be permitted to reopen from April 12. However, customers will be required to visit alone or with household groups as these premises reopen, while face masks could still be required for shops until June 17, which marks the earliest point at which the country could return fully to normal living.


Gertjan Vlieghe: “Five per cent interest rates won't return in my lifetime”

Bank of England policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe has said longer life expectancies and more time spent in retirement had boosted demand for safe retirement assets. Vlieghe said this meant it was unlikely that interests rates would return to the 4-5% range in his lifetime.

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