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Mar 7, 2014
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Review: Why all you know about money is wrong

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By George Hay

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

Everyone knows what money is. Whether denominated in paper, coins or something else entirely, transactions get paid for by a physical commodity that enables humans not to waste their time bartering with each other. Felix Martin’s book, published this week in the United States, convincingly argues this view is not only wrong, but dangerous.

Mar 3, 2014
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Ukraine crisis dents EU banks’ recovery plans

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By George Hay

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

Crisis in Ukraine is denting European banks’ recovery strategies. Barring Austria’s Raiffeisen, few Western groups have meaningful exposure to the country. But big lenders such as Societe Generale, Commerzbank, UniCredit and KBC were hoping lucrative, fast-growing markets in central and Eastern Europe would counter humdrum returns at home. With Russia squaring off against the West, the economic, currency, and political risks of this approach are all too apparent.

Mar 3, 2014
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Ukraine crisis dents EU banks’ recovery plans

Photo

By George Hay

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

Crisis in Ukraine is denting European banks’ recovery strategies. Barring Austria’s Raiffeisen, few Western groups have meaningful exposure to the country. But big lenders such as Societe Generale, Commerzbank, UniCredit and KBC were hoping lucrative, fast-growing markets in central and Eastern Europe would counter humdrum returns at home. With Russia squaring off against the West, the economic, currency, and political risks of this approach are all too apparent.

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.

    • 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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