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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 24th September 2019

Posted: 24th September 2019


Banks have shut a third of their branches since 2015

Around a third of the UK's bank branches have shut within the past five years, according to Which? There were 3,303 bank branch closures, equating to 34% of the network, between January 2015 and August 2019, the consumer group said. Of the UK's bank branches that remain open, 298 are now operating with reduced opening hours of four days a week or less. The “big four” banks were responsible for 79% of all physical branches shuttering. RBS Group, the owner of Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster bank shut 1,085 outlets, or 56% of its total, between January 2015 and August 2019. Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank, cut 25%, or 569 branches. HSBC cut its branches by 42% with 441 closures and Barclays closed a third with 477. Jenny Ross, the Which? money editor, said the closures risked shutting many people out of vital financial services and affecting their ability to access cash. "Bank branches play a crucial role within communities, serving consumers and businesses alike. The industry must ensure no one is left behind by the digital transition," she said.

Metro Bank pulls £200m bond sale in fresh blow

Metro Bank has shelved a £200m fundraising due to a lack of demand from investors, despite offering a 7.5% yield. The bank needs to raise extra cash to comply with the EU’s MREL regulations but observers say investors remain jittery following the bank’s misreporting scandal in January. John Cronin, analyst at Goodbody, said: “Not being able to get a senior unsecured issue away at 7.5% when [rates] are so low is pretty staggering - to not get it away just reflects the lack of confidence in the ability of the business to turn a profit and maintain a sufficient capital base into the long term.”

Standard Chartered investors revolt again

Following a dispute with shareholders in May over pension payments to CEO Bill Winters, Standard Chartered faces more tricky discussions with investors after revealing it intends to pay him 20% of his “total salary” in pension contributions. However, this figure includes share payments on top of the £1.2m in cash he receives.


Advisers push for alternative to IPOs

Bankers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have teamed up with Silicon Valley lawyers and investors to push for the direct listing process to be expanded as a way for start-ups to raise money.


BIS: Acceptance of negative interest rates “vaguely troubling”

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has said recent moves by central banks to cut rates was depleting their ability to tackle economic downturns. The BIS said there was now a record $17trn (£13.7trn) of bonds trading at negative rates. Claudio Borio, BIS head of Monetary and Economic Department, said: “There is something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine.”

Deutsche agrees details of BNP transfer

Deutsche Bank has agreed to pass key staff, clients and technology in two of its business divisions over to BNP Paribas as part of the German lender's wider overhaul. About 1,000 staff could move to BNP as part of the transfer of Deutsche's prime brokerage and electronic equities businesses. The bank will continue to operate the platforms until customers can go over to BNP.

Credit Suisse to review surveillance ordered on star who defected

Credit Suisse’s board has launched an inquiry into the bank’s decision to hire private investigators to follow its former wealth management head Iqbal Khan after he left for UBS in July.

New York Fed injects $66bn into short-term lending markets

Following a series of $75bn cash injections last week demand from banks for cash subsided on Monday with the latest boost to short-term lending markets from the Fed generating bids of $66bn at auction.

ECB fines Piraeus Bank €5.1m over release of collateral

Piraeus Bank has been fined €5.1m by the European Central Bank for releasing the cash collateral of non-performing borrowers to buy shares in a capital raising held in 2015.


Labour to promise £60bn in interest-free loans for electric cars

A Labour government would provide up to £33,000 in interest-free loans for 2.5m people to buy electric cars in its first parliamentary term, at a net cost of £3.5bn in lost interest payments.

Nissan and Carlos Ghosn settle with SEC over pay disclosure

Carlos Ghosn and Nissan have agreed to settle fraud charges with US regulators after he allegedly hid his remuneration while leading the Japanese carmaker.


Reuben brothers back modular homes developer

David and Simon Reuben, the billionaire property tycoons, have invested £19m in Project Etopia, which provides energy-efficient modular homes and school buildings that can be constructed in less than a month. The Cambridge-based modular homes housing developer has opened a new factory in Cheshire, with capacity to produce 2,000 panelised homes per year.


Johnson looks to post-Brexit reforms for financial services and biotech

Boris Johnson is expected to outline how the UK will “roll out the red carpet” for US businesses after Brexit by offering “the most competitive tax rates and the best skilled workforce in the hemisphere”. Speaking in New York, the PM will say: “As we come out of the EU, we are going up a gear. We are going to take advantage of all the freedoms that Brexit can give, whether that is new tax allowances for investment or speeding up public procurement contracts.” Mr Johnson on Monday pointed to examples where the UK could diverge from EU regulations in the future, such as financial services or biotechnology.

Carney calls for comprehensive climate disclosure

Mark Carney told a United Nations climate summit on Monday that the financial sector must transform its management of climate risk, declaring that global warming would prompt reassessments of the value of every single financial asset. The Bank of England Governor said that mandatory disclosures of climate risk would be essential in supporting efforts to transition economies to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Lloyds boss promises to act on harassment

Lloyds of London has pledged urgent action to overhaul its culture after a survey of more than 6,000 workers found one in 12 had witnessed sexual harassment in the market over the past year. However, just 45% of respondents said they felt comfortable about raising concerns.

BlackRock executive warns Brexit will hinder global business model

Mark Wiedman has warned that Brexit will cause the European financial system to become more fragmented, fracturing Blackrock’s single operational model for Europe.


Thomas Cook heavily shorted ahead of collapse

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) filings show nearly 11% of Thomas Cook’s shares were being shorted ahead of its collapse, with TT International, Whitebox Advisors, Kite Lake Capital Management and Melqart Asset Management all holding significant short positions. Meanwhile, Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, has asked the Insolvency Service to launch an investigation into “the conduct of directors immediately prior to and at insolvency, but also at whether any action by directors has caused detriment to creditors or to the pension schemes.”

Sports Direct weighs £3.7m buyout of Goals Soccer Centres

Sports Direct has made a 5p per share offer for the 81% of Goals Soccer Centres it doesn’t already own, valuing the firm at £3.76m. The five-a-side football company put itself up for sale last month following an accounting scandal that has left it owing £12m in unpaid taxes.


Germany suffers worst factory slump in a decade

IHS Markit’s latest snapshot of Germany’s manufacturing growth – where a score under 50 signals contraction – slid to 41.4, the worst reading since June 2009, as demand from overseas slumped. Overall, the Eurozone's composite output fell to a 75-month low of 50.4 while manufacturing plunged to an 81-month low PMI score of 46.


Abramovich-backed telecoms company Truphone set to break even

Truphone is on course to break even after 13-years of losses with accounts showing the UK telecoms company’s pre-tax loss narrowed to £4.3m in 2018, down from £31.7m the year before.


Americans ready to battle over British property

The Times reports on how US investment firms such as Blackstone, Starwood, KKR or Carlyle could be looking to invest in UK property now the Brexit-driven collapse in sterling has driven down the price of target companies. Elsewhere, the FT reports that Blackstone has amassed an €8bn portfolio of warehouses and dark kitchens across Europe as it bets on an increasingly big role for ecommerce and delivery services.

SoftBank moves to oust Neumann as WeWork chief executive

SoftBank is expected to call for a board meeting to demote WeWork boss Adam Neumann as early as this week after losing faith in his ability to lead the property group.


Confidence in household finances hits six-year low

UK households are the least confident they have been about their financial outlook since November 2013, according to IHS Markit’s latest UK Household Finance Index, which suggests that job security perceptions are also fading. Overall, perceptions of financial wellbeing fell to a four-month low of 43.1 in September - down from 43.6 in August.

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