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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
via Breakingviews

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.

Sep 16, 2013
via Breakingviews

Lloyds’ shares look a better bet than Barclays’

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By George Hay

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

Investors looking for a cheap way into the UK banking sector are spoilt for choice. The government is preparing to sell down its 39 percent stake in Lloyds Banking Group, probably through a discounted share placing. Rival Barclays is about to launch a 5.8 billion pound rights issue. Barclays’ shares are cheaper, but Lloyds is the safer investment. On balance, Lloyds looks better value.

Sep 12, 2013
via Breakingviews

2008 retold: EU bank bail-in saves taxpayer bacon

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By George Hay and Neil Unmack
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Lehman as it might have been … The following  is part of a special feature package marking the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Wall Street securities firm. Breakingviews writers imagine what might have happened if post-crisis reformers had acted pre-crisis. Herewith a column  from that alternative archive.

    • 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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