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Oct 31, 2012
via Breakingviews

Barclays needs a decisive UBS-style strategy shift

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By George Hay and Dominic Elliott

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Barclays needs a decisive, UBS-style change of direction. While rivals like Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse saw revenue in fixed income, currencies and commodities spike in the third quarter, Barclays’ normally strong FICC business underperformed. Worse, the results also included two fresh regulatory probes. It shows why new chief executive Antony Jenkins should consider changes as radical in tone as UBS’s root-and-branch restructuring.

Oct 30, 2012

Spain needs to do more to tempt bad bank investors

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own)

By George Hay

LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Spain at last has
put a price on its banks’ stinky assets. The indebted euro zone
member said on Oct. 29 that toxic property loans belonging to
its most troubled lenders would be transferred to an “asset
management company” (Sareb in its Spanish acronym), at around
half their nominal value. But this may not prove enough to
entice the private investors needed to keep the entity off the
state’s books.

Oct 24, 2012

Breakingviews-Can Barclays old boys make the Irish play pay?

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own)

By George Hay

LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Barclays (BARC.L: Quote, Profile, Research)
former bankers like helping struggling institutions. Three years
ago a group of them enabled their ex-employer to tidy its
balance sheet when they acquired $12.3 billion of nasty
structured credit gunk through their controversial Protium fund.
Now the same team is offering assistance to Irish taxpayers,
taking a 17 percent stake in the National Asset Management
Agency, Ireland’s bad bank. Protium extracted a pound of flesh
from Barclays, and it’s not clear why Walbrook Capital, as the
latest venture is known, wouldn’t do the same.

Oct 19, 2012
via Breakingviews

RBS’s CEO succession gains urgency post Panditgate

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By George Hay

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Royal Bank of Scotland’s succession planning is attaining greater urgency. After recent milestones, Chief Executive Stephen Hester is on track to achieve his five-year turnaround plan by its 2013 deadline. Meanwhile, Vikram Pandit’s unceremonious ouster from Citigroup on Oct. 16 shows the wisdom of quitting while ahead. RBS’s board should put two and two together and prepare for life after Hester.

Oct 8, 2012

Greek banks need more than a megadeal to be a buy

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own)

By George Hay

LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Colossal synergies,
unassailable market dominance and a cheap valuation. National
Bank of Greece’s (NBGr.AT: Quote, Profile, Research) megadeal with rival Eurobank EFG
(EFGr.AT: Quote, Profile, Research) has the ingredients that normally make investors
salivate. But this is Greece, and even this startling
combination doesn’t add up to a compelling equity story in the
Greek banking sector.

Oct 1, 2012
via Breakingviews

Spain adds bank stress tests to saga of missteps

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By George Hay

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Spain is doing its Don Quixote impression again. The troubled euro state’s latest attempt at shoring up trust in its imploding banking system was supposed to be the final one. Madrid was expected to pump enough capital in its lenders to lay concerns to rest. But the rosy assumptions chosen by the government are still too close to Cervantes’ ever-dreaming literary character.

Sep 28, 2012
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Review: The real way HBOS gave us extra

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By George Hay
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Anyone watching British TV in 2002 will probably remember Howard from the Sheldon branch. The bald, bespectacled bank teller at a new bank called HBOS tried to attract deposits by singing clumsily adapted pop songs. The nadir of this allegedly amusing commercial effort was undoubtedly “Who gives you extra?”, a parody of the Baha Men’s “Who let the dogs out?”. Like Howard, who rapidly became a star, HBOS was trying to be something it was not.
“Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain”, Ray Perman’s timely guide to the bank’s spectacular 2008 demise, gives a comprehensive insight into what HBOS “extra” ended up being: an extremely unamusing forced takeover, and an 11.5 billion pound state recapitalisation.

Sep 28, 2012
via Breakingviews

UK blazes the right trail on Libor reform

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By George Hay

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Martin Wheatley’s Libor reforms strike the right balance. Given the tidal wave of public anger in June when Barclays was shown to have attempted to fiddle the critical benchmark interest rate, the UK regulator could have recommended the London Interbank Offered Rate be scrapped entirely. His actual approach – reform rather than revolution – makes more sense.

Sep 25, 2012
via Breakingviews

BBA ouster is right first step for Libor reform

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By George Hay
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

So, farewell then, the British Bankers’ Association. The UK financial lobby group has signalled that it will not kick up a fuss should it lose its integral role setting and overseeing the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. After a damaging global scandal in which it was revealed that banks routinely tried to fiddle the interest rate benchmark for trillions of dollars of international contracts, it’s an encouraging sign that reform will not be piecemeal.

Sep 24, 2012
via Breakingviews

Spain looking to cut corners on bank bailout

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By George Hay

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Spain remains intent on cutting corners on its long-awaited bank bailout. The country has been promised up to 100 billion euros to recapitalise its ailing lenders. It’s looking worryingly like it will try everything to minimise the headline number. The country’s government obviously doesn’t get that it must be conservative to be credible.

    • About George

      "George Hay writes about the banking and property sectors. He joined from Thomson Financial News, where he was a companies correspondent. Before that he worked at United Business Media, where he was news editor of Building Magazine. He has a first in English Literature from Edinburgh University, and was nominated in two categories at the 2009 Business Journalist of the Year Awards."
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