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Dec 19, 2013
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The wrongs and rights of the euro banking union

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By George Hay 

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

The euro zone banking union was always going to have a difficult birth. European governments finally agreed on Dec. 18 the second of three key milestones – a resolution directive establishing a common approach for dealing with struggling lenders. As with most EU compromises, it is an imperfect reform. It was criticized by European Central Bank officials, including president Mario Draghi, and doubts remain. But the euro zone at least has the beginning of a banking union.

Nov 29, 2013
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Review: A no-nonsense recipe for retail success

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By George Hay

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

Malcolm Walker has a no-nonsense recipe for retail success. While larger supermarkets have expanded upmarket, overseas, and away from food, he’s made a fortune selling cheap frozen dinners to hard-up Britons through his Iceland Foods chain. It’s all about meeting customer demand, controlling costs, and staying focused, his autobiography shows. Still, Walker’s travails down the years are a reminder how easily things can go wrong in the food business.

Nov 7, 2013
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Settling is hard to refuse in EU rates probes

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By George Hay

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

Brussels has handed banks a tactical quandary. The European Commission’s antitrust arm is preparing to hand some 5 billion euros of fines to the industry for its now-infamous attempts to manipulate interbank lending rates like Euribor and yen Libor. But some banks aren’t willing to settle. They face a tricky choice: buy peace now, or risk the ire of a powerful regulator – and a possibly larger fine later.

Nov 1, 2013
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RBS thankfully bins bad-bank spinoff folly

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By George Hay

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

The UK government has taken four months to work out what almost everyone knew all along. Splitting off the toxic assets of Royal Bank of Scotland into a separate bad bank is a bad idea. The 81 percent taxpayer-held bank will now pursue an eminently more sensible plan to build capital by shrinking non-core assets more quickly.

Oct 23, 2013
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ECB’s bank review balances pragmatism and pain

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By George Hay and Neil Unmack

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

The European Central Bank has struck a balance between pragmatism and pain. The euro zone’s central bank has lifted the veil on its balance sheet review of 124 banks it will supervise from the end of next year. It has slightly pulled its punches, but in ways that might be justified.

Oct 11, 2013
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Lloyds can’t get too cocky after Royal Mail pop

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Lloyds Banking Group shouldn’t get too cocky following Royal Mail’s epic post-flotation pop. The state-backed British bank may be tempted to focus its next share sale entirely on retail punters after strong demand sent the postal service’s shares up 36 percent in their first few hours’ trading. But the differences between Lloyds’s secondary offering and Royal Mail’s primary one warrant a different approach.

Provided Royal Mail doesn’t tank any time soon, its listing clearly helps the government flog its remaining 32.7 percent stake in Lloyds. After September’s successful 3.2 billion pounds ($5.1 billion) sale to institutional investors, the bank could look at selling another 10 billion pounds ($15.9 billion) of shares when it returns to the market some time after March, bankers reckon. Proof that retail interest is there too – the retail portion of the Mail’s IPO was seven times oversubscribed – will help.

Oct 4, 2013

Breakingviews-Barclays’ investment bank still looks too big

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

By George Hay

LONDON, Oct 4 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The success of
Barclays’ (BARC.L: Quote, Profile, Research) 5.8 billion pound capital increase leaves a
big question unresolved – the size of the UK lender’s investment
bank. The fundraising means Barclays’ equity will constitute 3
percent of its total assets by mid-2014, as regulators now
require. But the new focus on so-called leverage ratios, as
opposed to capital versus risk-weighted assets, jars with Chief
Executive Antony Jenkins’ strategy.

Oct 3, 2013
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UK’s Help to Buy scheme is a no-brainer for banks

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By George Hay

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

The UK’s Help to Buy scheme is a no-brainer for banks. On Oct. 8, the UK government is likely to disclose final details of its questionable policy encouraging homebuyers to take on large, taxpayer-backed debts at the bottom of the interest-rate cycle. There are good reasons for banks to feel wary. But there are hard financial reasons for them to sign up.

Sep 27, 2013

Intesa in self-made crisis after skirting big one

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

By George Hay

LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Intesa Sanpaolo
(ISP.MI: Quote, Profile, Research) appears to have found a way to shoot itself in the
foot. Italy’s largest retail bank has so far had a relatively
good euro zone crisis, raising capital early and keeping bad
debts below peers’. It needs to ensure that a boardroom scrap
doesn’t undo all that good work.

Sep 18, 2013

Breakingview- Santander gets “board diversity” all wrong

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

By George Hay

MADRID, Sept 18 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Companies can’t
get enough of “board diversity”. To show they want to reach that
lofty goal, they try to form an ideal roster of non-executives
comprised of big hitters with a broad range of “talents”. In
appointing ex-Bankia Chairman Rodrigo Rato, Santander (SAN.MC: Quote, Profile, Research)
has gone one step further: it has recruited an executive who
hasn’t shown any talent in the field of banking.

    • 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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