Lloyds readying Berlin base
Lloyds Banking Group is aiming to have its Berlin branch ready by the end of the year. Lloyds this month filed an application with Germany’s financial regulators to convert its local branch into a subsidiary. The move is more than a formality and will require Lloyds to inject capital into the business to underpin its activities. The amount will depend on the ultimate size of the Berlin business but is expected to be in the low hundreds of millions of pounds, representing less than 1% of the bank’s overall capital. Separately, France is to offer language lessons to London-based bankers and their families in a bid to lure business from the UK capital to Paris after Brexit.
Buy-to-let lending pushes Paragon along
In a trading update for the last three months of 2017, challenger bank Paragon said lending jumped 65% to £469.8m, up from £284.3m the previous year. Despite the government's buy-to-let crackdown, Paragon’s buy-to-let lending book increased 85% to £342.9m, up from £185.2m the previous year. Overall deposits doubled to £4bn.
RBS to relocate City HQ
RBS is to relocate its London HQ at 280 Bishopsgate in the City to smaller premises at 250 Bishopsgate. The bank said the move would not involve immediate job losses, although it is part of ongoing cost-cutting designed to improve profitability and pave the way for the Government to begin offloading its 71% stake in the bank.
China’s ExIm Bank commits $4bn in push beyond infrastructure
A $4bn wave of private equity capital is to be released by China’s Export-Import Bank that will target infrastructure, telecoms and travel businesses, according to reports.
JP Morgan takes advantage of US tax cut
JP Morgan has announced it will open 400 new branches in the US, increase wages by an average of 10% for 22,000 employees and hire 4,000 staff as part of a $20bn five-year investment plan. The bank, which is taking advantage of sweeping changes to the US tax law, also said that it would increase small business lending by $4bn and loans for affordable homes by 25% to $50bn. CEO Jamie Dimon said that they were “long-term, sustainable investments”.
China vows to rescue banking system
The China Regulatory Securities Commission (CRSC) has vowed to rescue the Chinese banking system, and has guaranteed that no major institution will be allowed to fail. Fang Xinghai, the deputy chief of the China Regulatory Securities Commission, said: “We have too much debt in our system. If something bad happens, we have learned from the US financial crisis, and we will move very swiftly to contain the risk so that panic caused by a small institution does not spread.”
Citigroup to launch Saudi investment banking business
Citigroup said it has received a commencement letter from Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority that will formally allow the bank to launch investment banking business in the kingdom, The bank obtained a capital markets licence in April, enabling its return to the kingdom after an absence of almost 13 years.
EU finance ministers seek to revive banking union plan
EU finance ministers have stressed the need to unblock talks on the eurozone’s banking union to build momentum for other reforms to the currency bloc.
EasyJet flying high
EasyJet has reported a 14.4% jump in revenues to £1.1bn for the three months to December 31, while passenger numbers rose by 8% to 18.8m in the same period, marking a strong start for new boss Johan Lundgren.
BitFlyer wins approval for European launch
Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange BitFlyer has been awarded a payment institution (PI) licence for the European Union. BitFlyer handles about a quarter of the globe’s bitcoin exchange volumes ($250bn), and regulatory approval for a European launch makes the company “the most compliant virtual currency exchange in the world”, founder Yuzo Kano said. Meanwhile, South Korea has banned anonymous bank accounts being used to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. The measures are designed to prevent children and criminals from trading in the world's third largest market for Bitcoin. Elsewhere, speaking at the Davos world economic forum, UBS chairman Axel Weber has said bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were speculative, risky and “not an investment we would advise”.
SoFi appoints Twitter’s Noto
Twitter's chief operating officer Anthony Noto has left the social network to join social lender SoFi as chief executive. SoFi said it felt Mr Noto's “deep understanding of technology, consumer, and financial businesses” made him the perfect fit to be its CEO. The social lender has more than 430,000 members and funded $25bn (£18bn) in loans in 2017.
Mastercard debit or credit card customers will soon be able to buy goods online using a thumbprint or selfie. Mark Barnett of Mastercard, said: “Biometric technologies will meet the public's expectation for state-of-the-art security when making a payment.”
Velocity champions IPO
Velocity Composites, which makes composite material kits for the defence and aerospace industries, has championed the success of its May IPO, raising £9.2m. Revenue at Velocity, for the year to the end of October 2017, grew 46% to £21.4m, reflecting new contracts, while its loss before tax widened to £627,000 - compared with £355,000 the previous year - due to investment in its new Fareham site.
MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
Sky-Fox deal not in public interest, CMA rules
Fox's proposed takeover of Sky is not in the public interest on grounds of media plurality, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said, and would give the Murdoch family too much control over news providers in the UK. However, the CMA found the deal would not be against the public interest on the grounds of broadcasting standards.
Equity release booming
A record £3.06bn was taken out of British properties by 67,000 homeowners in 2017, according to data from the Equity Release Council (ERC), up from £2.15bn in 2016 and £1.6bn in 2015. The data also shows around 37,000 people used equity release plans for the first time. Most opt for “drawdown” plans, the ERC noted, while one in four take a single lump sum. Across all customers, it added, the average sum released is around £70,000.
WeWork becomes central London’s biggest office occupier
US co-working group WeWork is now the largest corporate office occupier in central London, renting more space in the key office districts of the capital since 2012 than any other company.
Sainsbury’s to cut thousands of store management jobs
Sainsbury’s has announced plans to cut “thousands” of managerial posts in its supermarket and convenience stores across the UK, as part of its goal of achieving cost savings of £500m over the next three years. The posts will be replaced by fewer, but mostly better paid, new management roles in each store.
Government borrowing narrows after EU credit
Public sector borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, fell to £2.6bn last month, a £2.5bn fall from December 2016 following a £1.2bn rebate from the EU due to a reduction in the bloc's budget and changes to contributions. The ONS said public borrowing for the financial year to date now totalled £50bn, down nearly 12% from the same period a year earlier, and also noted the collapse of Carillion could affect public finances.