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Rights and wrongs at Lloyds Banking

If you’ve ever wondered how the big-shot investment bankers “earn” their bonuses, the document launching Britain’s biggest rights issue will give you a clue. Lloyds Banking Group is issuing 36,505,088,579 new shares, to add to the 27,161,682,366 currently in issue.

The new shares will raise 13.5 billion pounds, of which 500 million pounds will disappear in the expenses of the offer. Much of this is paid to the banks which are guaranteeing that Lloyds gets its money, a reward for the risk they are taking that the shareholders will fail to take up their rights.

 

So just how big is this risk? Here’s one way to look at it. The rights price is 37 pence, and as long as the Lloyds share price remains above that, the risk is minimal. At 37 pence, engorged Lloyds, with 63,666,770,945 in issue, would be capitalised at 23.5 billion pounds, including the 13.5 billion pounds of new money. On Tuesday, the day the issue was priced, with Lloyds old shares at 91 pence, the business was valued at 23.5 billion pounds.

 In other words, for the underwriters to pay up, the value of old Lloyds would have to slump from 23.5 billion pounds to 10 billion pounds – and all by December 11, the day on which the new money is due.

Is UBS’s 8 million pound fine enough?

Not long ago, UBS was the pride and joy of its Swiss home. There it was, slugging it out with the big boys, and making a fair fist of joining the bulge bracket banks from New York.

That was before it all started to go wrong. The banking crisis produced a loss of $52 billion, but much worse has been the reputational damage done in that most Swiss of financial services, the discreet management of private fortunes.

UBS’ days of wine and CDOs

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Expensive wines and toxic assets are rarely mentioned in the same breath.

But that was the talk at UBS during the summer of 2007, when the Swiss banking giant sold some $35 million in soon-to-be rotten collateralized debt obligations to Pursuit Partners, a Connecticut hedge fund, which is now suing the bank.

Last week, a Connecticut judge ruled that Pursuit had presented sufficient evidence that UBS sold the CDOs even though the bank had confidential information that Moody’s Investors Service was planning to slash its credit ratings on those subprime-backed securities.

Wall Street may find itself on the hook

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Sometimes legal fishing expeditions pay off.

A year ago, a Connecticut hedge fund sued UBS, contending that it knowingly sold toxic mortgage-backed securities to institutional investors but never disclosed that information.

At the time, the accusation by the fund, Pursuit Partners, seemed intriguing. But because the complaint lacked any sign that it had the beef to back up its potentially explosive claim, the litigation all but fell off the radar screen.

How global cities rank after the financial crisis

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London bus passes Swiss Re Gherkin building Reuters photoLondon, once one of the world’s most expensive cities, now ranks in the middle of the pack of European cities in terms of the cost of living. The sharp drop in the value of British pound largely is to blame for the decline of London’s ranking from the second priciest city three years ago to No. 22, according to a study of comparative purchasing power by UBS of 73 cities around the globe.

New York, Oslo and Geneva now have the highest living expenses in the world.  Excluding rent and energy, Oslo, Zurich and Copenhagen have the highest prices. Offsetting those costs, these cities also rank as having some of the highest gross wages in the world. Zurich, the headquarters of UBS, tops the scale in terms of gross wages, but also enjoys relatively low tax rates.

Swiss score UBS share sale goal

After the debacle of UBS’s American tax row, Berne can chalk up a small victory.

That deal effectively blows a hole in the country’s vaunted bank secrecy, whatever the official bluster. However, the government can be proud of being the first European government to sell the equity stake it took to support its banking sector during the crisis.

UBS settlement leaves Switzerland scarred

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UBS, Switzerland and the United States can all claim a sort of victory from the settlement on Wednesday of their tax dispute.

UBS gets to avoid a fine that — according to the Swiss justice minister — would have threatened its existence. The Americans get the details of some 4,450 accounts that they say have held up to $18 billion, on which fat taxes may be payable. And the Swiss get to draw a line under a threat to their fundamental banking secrecy.

Time to get America’s Cup back on the water

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SAILING-AMERICAS/Sometimes you have to wonder if it wouldn’t be better for everyone concerned if Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli slugged it out in the boxing ring rather than the courts to decide who should lift the America’s Cup.

Despite huge sums they’ve poured into designing, building and testing the most outrageously hi-tech sailing machines imaginable, there’s certainly no sign of the two billionaires getting anywhere near competing for yachting’s most prestigious prize on the water.

from Neil Unmack:

Losses slow on UBS’ dodgy assets

Losses seem to be slowing on the 26 billion swiss francs of leveraged loans, asset-backed debt and other exotica UBS shifted last year from its trading to its loan book to avoid having to mark them to market.

UBS, Deutsche and other European banks made good use of this accounting trick introduced in October to avoid taking losses on volatile assets. The justification was that market dislocation exaggerated the assets' true risk. Of course, it was only a temporary dodge as assets still have to be written down over time as borrowers default or forecast cashflows decline.

from Neil Unmack:

Finance’s 80s experiment shows cracks

We may never see mullet hairstyles or other weird fashions again, but in finance, there is a 1980s revival.
    The International Accounting Standards Board has gone back to the future, allowing banks to reclassify assets they previously had to mark to market as loans and receivables, valued at amortized cost. That effectively allowed them to avoid the embarrassment of mark-to-market and return to the historic cost accounting of a quarter-century ago.
    The reasons are plausible enough: many asset classes were quoted at nominal, distressed sale prices only. But you ignore market prices at your peril: problems loans are left to fester, exposing investors to the cost of loan managers (understandably) taking a rosy view of advances they may have approved.
    Many European banks took advantage of the IASB's lenience to whip doubtful assets off their trading books -- not just plain debt, but collateralized loan obligations, leveraged loans and other doubtful exotica. Now Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> has indicated how this stuff is doing, and the answer is: badly.
    Deutsche's pretty figures would have been quite spoiled had it taken a further 1.4 billion euros of unrealized losses on the 37 billion euros of assets it reclassified since last October.
    The discrepancy between the carrying value and fair value shouldn't be a surprise -- that was the whole point of the changes. Unfortunately, the market is proving to have been right in pricing some of these assets as junk, because the losses in the reclassified book are starting to show.
    More than half of Deutsche's 1 billion euro provisions for credit losses in the second quarter derived from these reclassified assets. Some 2 billion euros of the 3.2 billion euro rise in problem loans had previously been reclassified.
    Deutsche is not alone. RBS' <RBS.L> impairment losses on reclassified assets rose to 747 million pounds in the first three months of the year, up from 466 million at the end of last year. UBS is carrying assets reclassified last year at 24.7 billion Swiss francs, versus the fair value of 20.6 billion.
    The accounting changes are not designed to bamboozle investors, even though that is frequently the result. Losses may have been deferred, but they will happen. The question for banks is whether they can generate profits quickly enough to offset them. Market prices that seemed ridiculous in the depths of the panic may turn out not to have been the equivalent of the mullet after all.

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