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Business - Banks

Amwal Al Ghad English - 2016-04-23 09:41:19
Bad debts at Asian banks have jumped to their highest since the global financial crisis and the trend will likely worsen as regional economies battle against China's slowdown and volatile oil and commodities prices, a Reuters data analysis shows. The bad loans pile at 74 major listed Asian banks, excluding Indian and Japanese banks, reached $171 billion at the end of 2015, the survey of banks showed, the highest since at least 2008. Non-performing loans (NPLs) jumped 28 percent from a year earlier, nearly twice the growth in 2013. Indian and Japanese banks were not included as their fiscal year ends in March. With economic growth in the region slowing, analysts expect the asset quality of Asian lenders will continue to deteriorate as banks start publishing quarterly earnings, forcing them to make writedowns that will hurt profit and depress valuations. Asian central banks have cut interest rates to ensure abundant liquidity, but uncertain economic growth and weak export demand will likely lead to more loan defaults in the near term, analysts and bankers said. "We expect asset quality to weaken and bad loans to increase ... the key factor we see is Asia entering into more challenging phase of the credit cycle," said Gene Fang, Moody's associate managing director for financial institutions group. "In the recent past, we saw relatively strong growth and low interest rates, which encouraged loan growth and higher leverage. But growth has now weakened, most significantly in China, which is impacting the rest of the region." The average ratio of bad loans to gross credit for 29 Asian banks for which this data is available stood at 1.9 percent last year - the highest since 2009, the survey showed. In 2008, the ratio stood at 2.5 percent. In China, where the economy grew 6.9 percent in 2015 - the weakest pace in a quarter of a century - bad loans surged to a decade-high at the end of December, with Moody's expecting continued asset quality pressure over the next 12-18 months. Top Chinese lenders including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (601398.SS), Agricultural Bank of China (601288.SS) and Bank of Communications (601328.SS), will report March quarter results next week. Last year, the total bad debt pile for all listed and unlisted Chinese banks stood at $297 billion. Japanese banks' average ratio of bad loans to gross credit stood at 2.5 percent at the end of last year, a slight improvement from 2.7 percent at the end of 2014, Thomson Reuters data showed. In India, where the central bank is forcing a debt clean-up, total distressed debt surged nearly a third between September and December to $120 billion. The March quarter will probably show a further increase, analysts said. Thailand's fourth-largest bank Kasikornbank (KBANK.BK), which published quarterly results on Wednesday, expects the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans to rise to 3.5–3.6 percent this year from 2.7 percent last year, Admit Laixuthai, a senior vice president at the bank, told Reuters. "NPLs for the whole banking system are likely to rise further this year as the overall economy remains weak … I can't tell when NPLs will peak. It depends on the economic situation." More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2016-04-23 09:04:11
The United States is not opposed to foreign banks doing business with Iran in line with the terms of last year's historic nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated Friday. "The United States is not standing in the way, and will not stand in the way, of business that is permitted in Iran since the (nuclear deal) took effect," Kerry told reporters before meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Kerry said he was trying to clear up uncertainty in the business community outside the United States about investing in Iran. The Iranian government has complained about not getting the full economic fruits of the July 14, 2015 nuclear deal. "There are now opportunities for foreign banks to do business with Iran," Kerry said in New York, where he attended a U.N. signing ceremony for the Paris climate accord. "Unfortunately there seems to be some confusion among some foreign banks and we want to try and clarify that." "Among the nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted were those that prevented Iran from engaging with non-U.S. banks, including getting access to Iran's restricted funds," Kerry said. The only exceptions, he added, would be banks and companies blacklisted by U.S. authorities. He said it was understandable that some companies might need time to feel confident about doing business in Iran, noting that Tehran also needed to take steps to modernize its banking system. The nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers allowed for the easing of some sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear program. Tehran has called on the United States to do more to remove obstacles to the banking sector so that businesses feel comfortable with investing in Iran without penalties. 'SERIOUS DIFFERENCES' Western firms also are wary of doing business in Iran because of the prospect that seemingly innocent local companies could have links to banned entities controlled by the increasingly powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), economists and officials say. Zarif said he hoped Kerry's clarification would help, though he noted that "we will continue to have differences with the United States." "We hope that with this statement by Secretary Kerry .... now we will see serious implementation of all (nuclear deal) benefits that Iran should (enjoy) from this agreement," Zarif said. He added that Tehran hoped Kerry's words would "open the difficult path that has been closed because of concerns that banks have about the U.S. approach toward implementation of commitments" under the nuclear deal. Kerry said there remained some "serious differences" with Iran on implementing the deal. "Those have to be the subject of future discussion, but its important for people to understand that an agreement is an agreement," he said. Zarif and Kerry met earlier this week at the U.N. to discuss sanctions relief. Current U.S. policy bars foreign banks from clearing dollar-based transactions with Iran through U.S. banks. But U.S. officials have said the Obama administration is considering ways in which non-U.S. companies could use the dollar in some business transactions with Iran. Kerry said there remained some "serious differences" with Iran on implementing the deal. "Those have to be the subject of future discussion, but its important for people to understand that an agreement is an agreement," he said. Zarif and Kerry met earlier this week at the U.N. to discuss sanctions relief. Current U.S. policy bars foreign banks from clearing dollar-based transactions with Iran through U.S. banks. But U.S. officials have said the Obama administration is considering ways in which non-U.S. companies could use the dollar in some business transactions with Iran. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2016-04-23 08:30:03
Citigroup Inc and U.S. Bancorp have agreed to sell Brazilian card payment processing joint venture Elavon do Brasil to a local rival for an undisclosed sum, ending months of negotiations to exit the money-losing company. Both U.S. lenders, which were partners in Elavon for five years, confirmed the transaction on Friday in separate statements that did not specify the value of the sale or other details. U.S. Bancorp owns 50.9 percent of Elavon, with Citigroup holding the remainder. The buyer, São Paulo-based Stone Pagamentos SA, agreed to replenish Elavon's capital and provide additional funds for growth as part of the transaction, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the deal. Elavon ended last year with negative equity of 200 million reais ($56 million), leading regulators to press for a prompt capital injection. Relations between both partners soured, and a sale began to be negotiated late last year after Citigroup failed to come up with money to bolster the finances of Elavon, Brazil's No. 4 payment processor, Reuters reported in November. Elavon failed to gain traction in Brazil's burgeoning $250 billion payment processing market, which is dominated by Cielo SA and Rede, a unit of Itaú Unibanco Holding SA. While Cielo, Rede and peer GetNet Serviços own a combined 97 percent of the market, Elavon has less than 2 percent. Citigroup's mounting retail banking losses and rampant competition from Cielo and other rivals thwarted Elavon's efforts to increase market share in the local card processing market to a targeted 15 percent. Earlier in the year, Citigroup announced intentions to exit Brazil, where it has operated for more than a century. According to the first source, Stone, a mobility and payments solutions provider, is controlled by Brazilian investment firm Arpex Capital, of which billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann is a partner, and mid-sized consumer lender Banco Pan SA. Lemann, whose fortune Forbes magazine estimates at about $31 billion, shares control of Anheuser Busch InBev SA, the world's largest beer maker, with buyout firm 3G Capital. Efforts to contact Stone's media office were unsuccessful. Greenhill & Co Inc advised Elavon on the deal, with Citigroup's investment banking unit working on the bank's side and Stone not using a financial adviser for the transaction, the sources said. Citigroup shares rose 0.4 percent to $47.01, while U.S. Bancorp added 1.9 percent to $43.36 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2016-04-23 07:51:09
The U.S. Federal Reserve will keep interest rates steady at its policy meeting next week but economists held firm to their expectations for a rate hike in June and then another by the end of this year, a Reuters poll showed on Friday. At its last policy meeting in March, the Fed acknowledged global risks to the U.S economy in justifying a pause and suggested about two more rate hikes are in store this year, only half of what they originally thought in December. The latest Reuters poll taken this week of more than 80 economists, including almost all of the Wall Street primary dealers, remains roughly in line with that thinking. Fifty of 80, about two-thirds of the sample, expect the Fed to raise its target federal funds range next in June, to 0.50-0.75 percent. Another 20 percent said September, with the remainder saying either July or December. One economist said the Fed's next move will be a 25 basis point cut back to 0.00-0.25 percent at year-end and two said rates will remain on hold for the remainder of the year. No one expected a rate rise at the conclusion of the Federal Open Market Committee's April 26-27 meeting. Of those who expect rates to rise a second time this year, nearly three-quarters thought the follow-up would be in the fourth quarter, bringing the funds rate to 0.75-1.00 percent. For a graphic: But interest rate futures and bond market traders show less conviction on a series of hikes this year, underscoring an ongoing wide gap between markets and policymakers on the trajectory of rates. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren warned again earlier this week that the central bank is likely to raise rates more quickly than futures markets are pricing in. In the meantime, concerns about the global economy and uneven growth in the U.S. have lingered. [ECILT/US] Economic growth in the first quarter probably slowed sharply, which has become a pattern in recent years. The latest Reuters poll shows a marked slowdown with forecasts in a wide range. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, which does a real-time forecast, said the economy likely stalled in January-March, with just 0.1 percent annualized growth. "Only if GDP growth fails to pick up in Q2 will the FOMC deliver fewer than two hikes this year," said Philip Marey, a senior U.S. strategist at Rabobank. "Part of the slowdown in Q1 GDP growth can be attributed to a residual seasonality problem that has not been solved completely." The U.S. labor market has been the bright spot, and suggests that a long-awaited pick-up in wage inflation may materialize later this year, which might give the Fed more reason to continue raising interest rates. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, hitting its lowest level since 1973, suggesting the slowdown in growth in the first quarter might not last. More»
Dina Abdel Fattah - 2016-04-21 14:03:08
When it comes to repay loans on time, Egypt has been always committed to pay the World Bank loans upon agreed schedule, Asad Alam, Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, said on Thursday. Even during hardest times throughout its history, Egypt has never made any late payments, and that is why World Bank has full confidence in the Egyptian economy and its ability to achieve good growth rates and meet its financial requirements, Alam added. Alam made these remarks during his meeting with a number of Egyptian journalists accompanying the Doorknock Mission to Washington D.C. organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham). Egypt enjoys complete freedom in diversifying its foreign financing sources in order to meet funding needs, the banking official stated. The World Bank Group’s cooperation strategy with Egypt is focusing on three key elements; improving general management and governance system, supporting the private sector in order to create jobs, and boosting social inclusion, Allam stated. The World Bank defines social inclusion as the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society. Social inclusion aims to empower poor and marginalised people to take advantage of burgeoning global opportunities. It ensures that people have a voice in decisions which affect their lives and that they enjoy equal access to markets, services and political, social and physical spaces. Alam further referred to some amendments to the World Bank’s credit policies. The bank targets more dynamic contribution to improve the Egyptian citizens’ living standards after a long-standing support for infrastructure projects by giving grants in form of credit facilities. For instance, the World Bank has secured a US$400 million loan in support of Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) a national targeted social safety net programme established by the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity. Takaful targets poor families with children younger than 18 to send them to schools, while Karama targets the elderly and the disabled, so long as they cannot earn their living. Moreover, Alam said World Bank plans to expand social inclusion to poor Egyptian families so as to make them enjoy equal access to suitable healthy, educational, and social life in the coming few years. The bank has provided funds worth US$75 million for a project to improve the quality of the family health services system in Egypt's 1000 poorest villages, in the Upper Egypt region. Despite an improvement in Egyptians' health during the past 20 years noted by the World Bank and represented in an increase in life expectancy from 64.5 years to 70.5 years, such an improvement was not achieved with equality. In its paper titled "A Roadmap to Achieve Social Justice in Health Care in Egypt" released in 2015, the World Bank proposed to the Egyptian government a vision to reform the healthcare system and make it more just. The current portfolio of the World Bank Group in Egypt is worth US$8 billion approximately, including US$6 billion for developmental projects and US$2 billion in investments between private sector and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Alam noted. The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today endorsed on December 17 a new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) to support Egypt during a critical period of economic and social transformation.  The Board also approved a US$1 billion in a development policy finance operation for Egypt to help the country carry out key economic reforms. During the financial year of 2015, the cooperation portfolio of the World Bank Group in Egypt had surged to 26 projects for a total commitment of US$5.4 billion, including 17 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) lending operations ($5.27 billion) and 9 major Trust Funds ($139.6 million). More»