Friday, June 25, 2010

LONDON Friday newspaper round-up: US banks, Rolls-Royce, BP

Date: Friday 25 Jun 2010
US banks and hedge funds will be hit with a $19bn fee to pay costs associated with financial reform, Barney Frank, chairman of the US House financial services committee, said late on Thursday, the FT reports.

The proposed levy emerged as an unwelcome surprise for the industry deep into a late-evening congressional session to finalise landmark Wall street reform legislation. Banks with more than $50bn in assets and hedge funds with more than $10bn will be required to pay into the fund as a proportion of their assets.
Rolls-Royce has warned of “severe disruptions” to its engine manufacturing work because of new European rules that could threaten production lines at the world’s biggest aircraft maker. In a letter to its 7,000 global suppliers sent last month, the company said that there was a danger of a “non-availability” of vital substances that could endanger the production of its aerospace engines, the FT reports.

Federal Reserve chairman 
Ben Bernanke is waging an epochal battle behind the scenes for control of US monetary policy, struggling to overcome resistance from regional Fed hawks for further possible stimulus to prevent a deflationary spiral. Fed watchers say Mr Bernanke and his close allies at the Board in Washington are worried by signs that the US recovery is running out of steam. The ECRI leading indicator published by the Economic Cycle Research Institute has collapsed to a 45-week low of -5.7 in the most precipitous slide for half a century, the Telegraph reports.
BP’s plans to drill in Alaska are to be reviewed by the Obama Administration in a fresh blow to the embattled oil giant as it wrestles to stem the flow of oil gushing from its ruptured Macondo well. Ken Salazar, US Interior Secretary, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee yesterday that he was examining BP’s proposed Liberty project to drill three miles offshore in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska. “We are looking into the issue right now,” Mr Salazar said, amid concerns that there had been insufficient environmental scrutiny of the project, the Times reports.

BP faced a further blow in the 
Gulf of Mexico amid reports that a fisherman forced to take a job as one of its clean-up workers killed himself after becoming upset about the oil spill. Captain William Allen-Kruse was found dead with a gun on board his boat by fellow workers. Coroner Stan Vinson told US media that witnesses believe Mr Kruse, who had been a charter boat fisherman for 20 years, had been distraught at the spill, the Telegraph reports.
The UK’s economic recovery is at risk if the nation’s banks do not move swiftly to raise the £750bn-£800bn needed to refinance their borrowings due by the end of 2012, the Bank of England warns on Friday. UK banks have greater refinancing needs over the next two years than lenders based in the US, Germany, France or Italy, according to the Bank’s Financial Stability Report, its twice-yearly statement on the nation’s financial system, the FT reports.
Families are banking more money than they are borrowing for the first time in more than 20 years, a Bank of England report shows. Households last year put £24bn into deposit accounts and took out £20bn in new loans. It is the first time since 1988, when the current records began, that savings exceeded new borrowing, the Telegraph reports.
British banks come under fresh pressure today to curb bonuses and dividends so that they can boost their capital levels. The Bank of England, which also warns of a “conflagration risk” if Europe’s sovereign debt crisis blows up again, urges banks to “double their efforts to contain discretionary distributions to shareholders and staff”. Reducing bonuses to pre-crisis levels and freezing dividends at last year’s rates would give the banks an extra £10 billion of capital, which would strengthen their balance sheets and allow them to lend another £50bn to firms and consumers, the Bank says, the Times reports.

Fears that the 
Greek government may soon have to tap its €110bn eurozone/IMF rescue package sent the cost of insuring Greek government bonds against default soaring to record highs yesterday – and hit UK banks shares in London badly, thanks to the "contagion" factor. The latest crisis to hit the eurozone's financial system came as the Bank of England warned that the British banks remained vulnerable to shocks from the single currency area, and faced an £850bn funding gap over the next few years, the largest among the advanced economies, the Independent adds.
Ocado finally confirmed its intention to float, a year after it first indicated that it was considering an initial public offering. The online grocery delivery service said that it would raise £200m through the sale of new shares and that it expected existing shareholders, including the pension fund of the John Lewis Partnership, to sell a further £200 million in shares. Andrew Bracey, Ocado’s chief financial officer, said that the founders — three Goldman Sachs bankers who established the business in 2000 — were not likely to sell-down their stakes. The management owns 13.3%, the Times reports.
Hector Sants changed his mind about stepping down from the Financial Services Authority because he believed it was his “public duty” to oversee the Government’s regulatory reforms. Speaking for the first time about his decision to remain as FSA chief executive only weeks before he was due to step down, Mr Sants said that he was persuaded because “the Government asked me to stay on” and because he felt “obliged” to oversee the transition. Mr Sants had announced in February that he would leave in the summer after three years in the job, the Times reports.
Network Rail has defied government calls for pay restraint and will distribute more than £37m in bonuses to its staff. The decision flies in the face of this week’s austerity Budget, in which public sector pay was frozen for two years and spending cuts of at least 25 per cent were proposed for most government departments. Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, condemned the decision to pay the bonuses, the Times reports.
Goldman Sachs has shrugged off months of adverse publicity to become the most successful mergers and acquisitions adviser so far this year, raking in almost $1bn (£668m) in the process. The Amercian group was sharply criticised for its bonus payments and for quotes by its chief executive Lloyd Blankfein that the bank was doing "God's work". It also faces a fraud case brought by US regulators, the Independent reports.

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