HSBC revival overshadowed by existential questions

May 5, 2015

Better investment banking revenue and fewer bad loans boosted the $194 bln bank’s quarterly results. That’s a welcome respite from the Swiss tax furore. Still, long-term fortunes rest on decisions about its shape, head office location and UK business. None will be resolved soon.

China’s investment bank wannabes face long march

May 5, 2015

Haitong Securities plans to hire hundreds of international bankers. Citic is touting its Asian network. Cross-border capital flows and pumped-up valuations help the push. But even if Chinese firms avoid previous upstarts’ mistakes, the challenges are big and the rewards distant.

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.

Thiam needs to think big at Credit Suisse

April 21, 2015

Incoming CEO Tidjane Thiam is inheriting a mixed bag. First-quarter net profit surged 23 pct as trading and wealth management shone. But underwriting and M&A revenues fell, and risk-weighted assets remain high. The Swiss bank needs more capital and less investment banking.

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.

Deutsche should limit retail selloff to Postbank

April 20, 2015

The German lender’s strategy review has narrowed down to selling part or all of its retail business. A wholesale-only Goldman Sachs equivalent would be more profitable, but less stable. Deutsche would be better off staying a universal bank - but cutting a lot more cost.

Investment banks within reach of adequate returns

April 9, 2015

Banks’ wholesale units are destroying value. To lift returns they must cut costs, raise revenue and boost capital – while avoiding big fines. If firms can do that, a Breakingviews calculator suggests the biggest ones could exceed a combined 12 percent return on equity by 2017.

Swiss say-on-pay bodes ill for rainmaker wallets

April 2, 2015

UBS and Credit Suisse face binding shareholder votes on executive compensation for the first time. These will judge aggregate, not individual awards. But Swiss banks must also disclose their top-paid executive. That makes it harder for dealmakers to out-earn their CEOs.

Bumper European share sales carry risk of excess

March 26, 2015

Banks have hawked big slugs of EU stock in overnight placings, with 5 bln euros worth offered in three days. For now, underwriters have support from QE-powered strong markets, so they’ll risk losses for the sake of league table kudos. But complacency seems to be creeping in.

Barclays’ trading woes offset pay restraint

March 3, 2015

The UK bank has cut investment bank bonuses by a quarter, atoning for a PR gaffe last year when pay rose despite a drop in profit. But 2014 results show returns in the unit are also lower. To maintain its turnaround, Barclays may have to shrink the misfiring division further