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Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

Why Citigroup would be better in bits

By Rob Cox

The author is a Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Nine years ago, Breakingviews proposed an “extreme idea” to Citigroup’s then-leader Charles Prince. The $240 billion New York bank’s market capitalization was lower than the worth of its parts valued separately. By splitting into three separate units, the idea was, Prince could hand shareholders an extra $50 billion or so, the equivalent of one entire U.S. Bancorp at the time.

As it turned out, Citi had bigger concerns ahead. The housing crash exposed spectacular losses, wiping out capital and necessitating a government bailout. Prince was sent dancing onto the golf course. With the crisis now fairly distant in the rear-view mirror, however, it’s time for current Chief Executive Michael Corbat to revisit the case for a breakup.

Now cleaned up and well capitalized, Citi’s market cap today is about $160 billion – though any loyal shareholders are still nearly 90 percent worse off than in 2005. Despite the revamp, the bank is still prone to the stumbles that have proved characteristic since Sandy Weill, Prince’s predecessor, stitched the behemoth together.

This year, for example, Citi revealed an embarrassing fraud at its big Mexican subsidiary, Banamex. While not material to Citi’s capital, the $400 million swindle rekindled concerns that sprawl makes it too complex to manage. That’s one reason the Federal Reserve subsequently thwarted Citi’s plans to increase its dividend.

from Photographers' Blog:

Circus animals of Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico

By Henry Romero

When I was a child back in Colombia I used to go to the circus every New Year’s Eve with my parents. It was always a special moment. I remember the lights, the clowns, the acrobats and the beautiful animals performing tricks that made us laugh and gaze at them in awe.

A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a show at the Atayde Hermanos Circus in Mexico City August 8, 2014. Mexico City's government overwhelmingly passed a law on June 2014, which imposed stiff penalties of up to $60,000 on circuses in the capital that use animals such as lions, camels and horses in their performances. Circuses have one year to comply with the ruling. Picture taken August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO - Tags: ANIMALS POLITICS SOCIETY)

But that was some 40 years ago and now, although I still like the acrobats and clowns at the circus, I’m not so sure about seeing the animals perform any more.  

from The Great Debate:

To keep kids from our borders, fix things farther south

Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, in Brownsville

Despite their differences on almost everything else, President Barack Obama and Texas Governor Rick Perry agree that the unlawful migration of more than 50,000 Central American children to the United States is a humanitarian crisis. Some members of Congress and U.S. military leaders label it a security crisis. Whatever it’s called, it is an emergency that requires immediate attention.

But the United States and the Central American countries that the children are fleeing have to address the violence and chaos they seek to escape if this wave isn’t to be followed by another one all too soon. That message is contained in the Obama administration’s urgent request to Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with this emergency, though it doesn’t say what the underlying causes are or include more than a sliver of resources to address them.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Should Brazilians cheer if they lose the World Cup?

Brazil's President Rousseff attends a meeting of the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change in Brasilia

As the World Cup kicks off in Sao Paolo this week, the home team is the runaway favorite, with a 45 percent chance of winning the tournament, according to Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight and 48.5 percent probability according to the statistical boffins at Goldman Sachs. But apart from the bookmakers -- who stand to lose a fortune if Brazil wins, since they are offering odds of around 3 to 1, instead of the 1 to 1 suggested by Silver’s and Goldman’s calculations -- another, more surprising, group is secretly rooting against the favorite: Brazil’s own financial and business community, along with much of the country’s middle class.

That, at least, was my strong impression after two weeks visiting companies and financial institutions in Brazil. This unusual reversal of national spirit does not represent a breakdown of patriotism. Rather the opposite.

from Photographers' Blog:

Keeping it snappy

Mexico City, Mexico

By Henry Romero

When I saw him walking in his baby blue suit, I immediately recognized the dancer in him – the Mambo move in his hips, his Danzon step, his sense of swing as he walked amongst the hundreds of people rushing past.

Pachuco Nereidas and I had agreed to meet after I encountered him in the Los Angeles dance hall of Mexico City. I was intrigued by the sub-culture of men like him, who are known as “Pachucos”. Their elegant attire, their passion for dancing, and their gentlemanly behavior reminded me of myself when I was a teenager back in Cali, Colombia.

from Breakingviews:

Citi’s Mexico fraud besmirches industry further

By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Not for the first time, Citigroup has stepped into a mess – and by extension besmirched the financial industry. Not that Citi committed a crime, or colluded to set foreign exchange rates or Libor prices, say. Rather the bank is the victim of fraud in Mexico that could cost it much as $400 million. The problem is that the lender has been cheated out of the cash in one of the most basic businesses in banking. That should worry Citi’s rivals, too.

from The Great Debate:

Why North America is stronger than its parts

Twenty years ago NAFTA, the most ambitious free trade agreement negotiation of its time, gave birth to a profound transformation of the economies and the regional value chains of Mexico, the United States and Canada. Trade dramatically changed the relationship between the three countries, though asymmetries of power and economic vitality persist.

This week, at the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto, together with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, continued a dialogue about trade, economic growth and the energy revolution in North America. A priority for all parties should be the continued economic integration of the three countries -- the region’s greatest hope for job creation and prosperity.

from Breakingviews:

Cross-border arbitrage is expansive Bimbo’s yeast

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Cross-border arbitrage is the yeast for Grupo Bimbo’s aggressive expansion. In its latest deal north of the border, the acquisitive Mexican breadmaker is shelling out $1.8 billion to buy Canada Bread. Paying 20 times earnings to move into a mature market may seem questionable. But Bimbo’s earnings fetch an even higher multiple at home – and the deal should lower its weighted average cost of capital.

from The Great Debate:

Mexico’s reversal of fortune

In Latin America, this looks to be the year of Brazil -- thanks to the impending World Cup and presidential elections. But with another lackluster year looming in emerging markets, fans of transformation, growth and investment potential should instead look to Mexico.

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is expected to win a second term this year, and its soccer team stands a good shot at victory. But growth has slowed considerably. In the world’s seventh largest economy, reforms are stagnating and the country faces a possible ratings downgrade.

from Global Investing:

Watanabes shop for Brazilian real, Mexican peso

Are Mr and Mrs Watanabe preparing to return to emerging markets in a big way?

Mom and pop Japanese investors, collectively been dubbed the Watanabes, last month snapped up a large volume of uridashi bonds (bonds in foreign currencies marketed to small-time Japanese investors),  and sales of Brazilian real uridashi rose last month to the highest since July 2010, Barclays analysts say, citing official data.

Just to remind ourselves, the Watanabes have made a name for themselves as canny players of the interest rate arbitrage between the yen and various high-yield currencies. The real was a red-hot favourite and their frantic uridashi purchases in 2007 and 2009-2011 was partly behind Brazil's decision to slap curbs on incoming capital. Their ardour has cooled in the past two years but the trade is far from dead.

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