French investment banking has less than meets eye

April 23, 2015

Returns at BNP Paribas’ and Societe Generale’s trading and advisory businesses are better than peers. But the pair’s divisions carry less equity against gross assets than rivals. Before dashing in, investors should consider what the return would be with greater leverage restraint.

McDonald’s serves up Earth Day nugget

April 22, 2015

The fast food chain aims to end its role in deforestation, following agriculture giant ADM’s lead. Investors, whose pressure helped, are also alert to climate change and water risks. Such shifts boost the annual homage to the planet, but they are bite-sized appetizers at best.

Flash crash case suggests small can be systemic

April 22, 2015

U.S. prosecutors have accused a UK trader of manipulating futures markets and contributing to a broader rout in May 2010. It’s a timely reminder of the limits of regulating risk. The lawsuit also shows how one person can have as much power as a big institution to stir a crisis.

Morgan Stanley Q1 rivals Goldman by different path

April 20, 2015

James Gorman’s firm had its best quarter in years. Its Wall Street competitor still has the edge with returns and book value growth. By one key metric, though, investors value Morgan Stanley more highly. Gorman’s strategy, which downplays volatile trading, is starting to pay off.

Bloomberg outage highlights another bank weakness

April 17, 2015

The financial network’s global downtime may have been a problem only for the very rich – and a boon for City pubs. But it prompted the Bank of England to remind banks it’s there as a lender of last resort, raising questions about traders’ heavy reliance on a few fallible systems.

Blackstone brandishes its long-term bona fides

April 17, 2015

Nearly eight years after going public, the buyout shop is taking a victory lap. Its shares finally trade noticeably above the IPO price, and Q1 results suggest Blackstone’s model is working. Even so, owners of the firm’s equity may prove more fickle than investors in its funds.

Goldman’s improved returns come at higher risk

April 16, 2015

The bank left behind years of ho-hum profit with an estimate-beating $2.75 bln in the first quarter. The firm kept costs down, but trading accounted for much of the boost. That raises the issue of whether such earnings are sustainable – and how shareholders should value them.

Agnellis pay up to claim mini-Buffett status

April 15, 2015

Exor, the Italian family’s holding company, is offering a premium to buy PartnerRe out of a merger with fellow reinsurer Axis. The price is full and the bid lacks its rival’s synergies. But debt is cheap, and Berkshire Hathaway-style cash flow could fund further acquisitions.

EU’s competition sprawl as worrying as Google’s

April 15, 2015

Europe has accused the web giant of favoring its own shopping search results and broadened the case to include its Android mobile operating system. Investigations and appeals may take a decade. Brussels’ ambitious lack of focus is similar to what threatens ever-expanding Google.

Wall Street bids slow farewell to GE fee darling

April 13, 2015

The U.S. conglomerate has been the best corporate client for investment bankers since 2000, spending some $5.1 bln for assistance. Shrinking GE Capital will keep M&A dealmakers happy. The unit’s borrowing, however, is the biggest moneymaker. Much of that could now be at risk.