Refiner’s credit crunch augurs wider pains

January 3, 2012

Petroplus, Europe’s biggest independent oil refiner, may have to close plant if it can’t refinance a $1 bln credit line. Rivals may benefit if a poor result for the Swiss firm speeds reduction in refining capacity. But weak profit margins are likely to remain a widespread problem.

Investment banking dreams may die in 2012

January 3, 2012

Many firms cut jobs and slashed pay in 2011. But they’ll have to do more in the coming year to have any hope of boosting returns in the face of regulatory pressure and market headwinds. Smaller players like RBS, SocGen and Nomura may even conclude they’re better off quitting.

U.S. shale exuberance may need to be tempered

By Christopher Swann
January 3, 2012

France’s Total and China’s Sinopec kicked off 2012 with $4.5 bln of deals to drill for U.S. oil and gas. Vast resources and technology should keep attracting foreign buyers. But the reaction by Ohio officials after several earthquakes suggests political risks will intensify.

Yahoo’s gain is eBay holders’ pain

January 4, 2012

The Internet company has nabbed the head of eBay’s PayPal as its new CEO. That’s good for Yahoo, but less so for eBay’s shareholders. The auctioneer’s payments business is a gem that could grow faster on its own. Thompson’s walk suggests such a split isn’t coming any time soon.

Fat cats have little to fear from Cameron curbs

By Edward Hadas
January 5, 2012

The UK prime minister wants the rich to feel the nation’s pain. Good luck to him. No one can fully explain why bosses’ rewards started to rise in the 1980s, or why they fell after the Second World War. Cameron’s half-hearted nudging is unlikely to turn the social tide.

Fiat may find Chrysler deal is ticket out of Italy

January 5, 2012

The Turin carmaker will spend 2012 working out how to acquire the rest of the Detroit firm after raising its stake to 58.5 pct. Depending on the structure, Fiat may become Italy’s first truly global multinational - but only if the Agnelli family puts pragmatism over sentimentality.

GDP-linked debt could make finance safer

By Edward Hadas
January 9, 2012

Ordinary fixed-interest securities are prone to default. Inflation-linked debt gives investors few of the benefits of economic expansion. Equities bring exposure to growth but are much more risky. Bonds with payments that vary with GDP could give investors a happier medium.

Apple ties Cook into Jobs’ boots – at a price

January 10, 2012

The maker of functional but expensive gadgets now has a $376 mln CEO retention plan to match. Tim Cook will get that if he’s around for a decade. He deserves much after standing in for Steve Jobs, and Apple needs continuity. But in future the board can pay Cook more like Jobs.

Private equity skewered by Romney-bound arrows

January 10, 2012

The assault from fellow Republicans on the front-runner’s record at Bain makes for an absurd spectacle. Huntsman’s family business agreed to an LBO while Gingrich advised Teddy Forstmann. The slings won’t derail Romney, but the collateral damage could hurt the buyout industry.

Loss of Bhattal may signal Nomura retreat

January 11, 2012

The retirement of ex-Lehman banker Jesse Bhattal, a year after being promoted to the top job, curtails the Japanese firm’s quest to be a globally relevant investment bank. Weak markets and the unexpected resilience of bulge-bracket rivals presented Bhattal with a Herculean task.