Breakingviews

Deutsche’s latest mess looks like a Protium moment

May 20, 2016

The German bank is probing a deal that enabled ex-trading boss Colin Fan and others to profit, with leverage provided by their own employer. The investigation is ongoing. But it looks to have similar flaws to Barclays’ Protium deal - with staff interests above shareholders’.

Blockchain teamwork could help banks fight hackers

May 13, 2016

An $81 mln central bank heist and a new attack on a commercial lender underscore the rise of cyber-related risks. The European Central Bank wants banks to log serious incidents. But industry collaboration - as seen with distributed ledgers - would do more to shore up defences.

Credit Suisse investment bank decline will persist

May 10, 2016

The Swiss bank cut costs briskly while keeping capital levels steady in the first quarter. Net margins in wealth management also outdid bigger rival UBS. But boss Tidjane Thiam’s botched restructuring of Credit Suisse’s trading arm is in danger of leaving lasting scars.

Credit Suisse sheds problem assets but not stigma

May 4, 2016

The Swiss bank has sold $1.2 billion of distressed credit to buyout group TPG, locking in an extra $100 mln of writedowns. High-yield prices are similar to what they were in October. Hence Credit Suisse hasn’t gained much financially for the dent in its credibility.

RBS sale delays hit credibility more than finances

April 29, 2016

The part-state owned UK bank says it may miss an EU-mandated timeframe to dispose of 300 branches. Even if it takes another 12 months, RBS’s capital position should be OK. But for investors to believe the path to dividend reinstatement, it needs to avoid any missteps.

Chinese banks’ stealth clean-up fools nobody

April 29, 2016

Top lenders like ICBC and BOC are piling up bad loans yet still reporting flat earnings. Pliable regulators are cutting them extra slack. Investors did not trust the banks’ balance sheets anyway. The latest sleight of hand will only fuel their scepticism.

Saudi’s sweet debt deal could rebound on banks

April 21, 2016

The kingdom is close to its first international debt deal in 25 years to plug a hole in its finances caused by weak oil prices. Vast oil reserves make Saudi debt enticing, but the price slump is changing the game in several ways. And Middle East states have defaulted before.

Time for banks to go cold turkey on sovereign fix

April 18, 2016

Europe is considering tightening rules that make it easy for lenders to own government debt. Banks addicted to sovereign punts would suffer, and governments lose wiggle room. Yet reform could hasten euro area integration, while ECB bond-buying makes it a less scary prospect.

Italy’s bank rescue is a risky Plan C

April 12, 2016

Rome has corralled banks into backing a 6 bln euro rescue fund. It’s something, but raises knotty governance issues without decisively plugging bad debt holes. Were they available, market solutions or creditor bail-ins would have been much better than stiffing the bank sector.

MetLife’s SIFI label doomed by D.C. double-talk

April 8, 2016

A U.S. judge tossed the insurer’s designation as a systemically important financial institution because a regulator couldn’t keep its story straight. FSOC said it both had and hadn’t changed its rules, prompting a decision that it acted arbitrarily. An appeal will be tough to win.