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Oct 25, 2013
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HK anti-foreigner property tax hits wrong target

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

Hong Kong’s assault on foreign property speculators has hit the wrong target. It’s a year since the territory took aim at non-resident apartment buyers by forcing them to pay an extra 15 percent stamp duty. The drastic move has cooled demand for luxury flats and prompted investors from mainland China to look elsewhere. But the smaller flats that Hong Kong citizens care about most are still getting more expensive.

Oct 8, 2013
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Three taboo-breaking deals offer hope for Japan

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By Peter Thal Larsen
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Japan Inc is breaking some deep-rooted taboos. The country’s corporate establishment has long frowned on companies that succumb to foreign takeovers, offload non-core businesses, or leverage up for acquisitions. Three recent M&A deals suggest these strictures are no longer so tight. A freer form of capitalism may be taking hold in the land of the rising sun.

Sep 27, 2013
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Review: The puzzle of Fred Goodwin’s rise and fall

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

Early in 2009, the British government was preparing to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland for the second time in four months. An emergency injection of capital in October 2008 had failed to shore up confidence. Now taxpayers were being asked to cover potential losses on almost 300 billion pounds of toxic RBS assets. Yet as the details of the rescue were finalised, British public opinion was in uproar over a much, much smaller sum: the 700,000 pound a year pension being paid to Fred Goodwin, the bank’s former chief executive.

Sep 24, 2013
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E-book: China’s mounting debt problem

By Peter Thal Larsen

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

 

The country’s economic rise is built on cheap finance. But with debt nearing 200 percent of GDP and much investment wasted, the foundations are looking shaky. “The East is Red” examines the origins of the boom, the current strains, and the painful choices China now faces.

Sep 13, 2013
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China’s financial paradox: rescue or reform?

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

China’s financial system is a paradox. Reform demands that the authorities relax their grip on banks and capital flows. But if they do, it could trigger the debt crisis the country has so far avoided.

Sep 9, 2013
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Japan’s Olympic boost will be mostly psychological

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

Japan’s Olympic boost will be mostly psychological rather than financial. Tokyo’s victory in the race to host the 2020 summer Games will help Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to rebuild the country’s confidence. But expectations that an Olympian investment spree will lift Japan out of deflation are as misplaced as fears that it will trigger a debt crisis.

Sep 6, 2013
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Australia haunted by imaginary crises

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

“Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.” So said academic Donald Horne in his 1964 book, The Lucky Country. Yet you wouldn’t know it from the surly mood as Australians prepare to vote in a general election on Sept. 7. Despite the country’s enviable economic track record, citizens are haunted by past turmoil and apprehensive about the future. These enemies are more imagined than real.

Aug 26, 2013
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Asia sell-off will expose weak corporate defences

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

Generals usually fight the last war, not the current one. Investors have a similar mindset. In Asia, a market sell-off has raised concerns about a re-run of the financial calamity of 1997-98. Though most of the region’s economies are in better shape this time, corporate leverage has risen quickly, and it looks like some companies have forgotten the lessons of history.

Aug 6, 2013
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StanChart shows not all emerging markets are equal

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Being labelled an emerging-markets bank can be a mixed blessing. Standard Chartered’s shares have drifted in recent months as investors fret about growth, particularly in Asia. Yet while the bank is feeling the pinch in Korea and Southeast Asia, other markets are picking up the slack. Shareholders probably need to get used to Standard Chartered delivering a more varied performance.

For investors who have grown used to regular double-digit expansion, StanChart’s income growth of 4 percent in the first half looks distinctly pedestrian. Operating profit was equally subdued – and that’s before counting a $1 billion goodwill writedown on the value of StanChart’s South Korean business. Though the charge doesn’t affect cashflow or capital, it’s a reminder of how the country’s financial prospects have dimmed since StanChart expanded into the country through its biggest acquisition in 2005. Government rules to help consumers offload their hefty debts have eaten into earnings: South Korean banks currently earn a return on equity of about 4 percent. In 2005, the industry’s ROE was about 18 percent.

Aug 6, 2013
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Sony brush-off won’t end Dan Loeb campaign

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

The tussle over Sony may be the most courteous shareholder battle ever. Back in May, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb respectfully suggested the company spin off a stake in its entertainment arm. Now the Japanese group’s board has politely rejected the idea. But the activist appears to be digging in for the long haul.

    • About Peter

      "Peter is Assistant Editor of Reuters Breakingviews, based in London. He oversees coverage of financial services and regulation. Prior to joining Reuters, Peter spent 10 years at the Financial Times. From 2004 to 2009 he was the FT’s banking editor, leading the paper’s award-winning coverage of global banking during the credit crunch. Between 2000 and 2004 Peter reported for the FT from New York. He played a leading role in the paper’s coverage of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. A Dutch national, Peter has degrees from Bristol University and the London School of Economics."
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