All posts by Reuters Staff

When is a threat not a threat?

By Kirstin Ridley

British bankers are not threatening to head for the Swiss hills. But that doesn’t mean they won’t pack their bags. So says Angela Knight, the head of the British Bankers Association.
Knight told the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit that if British-based banks such as HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered consider whether to keep headquarters in London – given the banker bashing, punitive taxation and pay restrictions imposed here -- that is merely a fact.

Speaking one day after Europe’s largest bank HSBC cut profitability targets as tougher bank regulations eat into earnings, Knight conceded that she did not expect banks to move lock, stock and barrel to Geneva – and that images of jumbo jets laden with London bankers in pinstriped suits were mere “cartoons”.
But she said the simple truth was that the British economic growth lagged that of peers, while fixed costs were rising. Britain was not an obviously attractive place to be for bankers.
To remain an international financial centre, the country needed to be clever and get its regulation right. Banks, she said, were just telling it as it is. “Is there an expectation that employment in banking will be reduced? Yes … Is there an expectation that sentiment will turn around? No,” she said. “We are living in a country and a region where the costs of operation are high and (there is) a lot of personal condemnation (of the banking industry)... so I think that we cannot pretend that somehow that has no effect and no impact.

“Why anyone calls it sabre rattling, I do not know, other than the fact that they must themselves be in denial,” she said. “Because these are just facts. These are not threats, they are not sabre-rattling. They’re not pretence. They are straight forward facts.”

China 3G Licences: Definitely maybe sometime this year

leung_small.jpgTelecom investors have suffered for years while the Chinese government tried to make up its mind over which technologies to license for third-generation mobile phone networks. So long in fact, that many now discount just how big a deal it may prove to be for Western communications equipment makers. The following are comments from top wireless equipment suppliers at the Reuters Global Tech, Media and Telecoms Summit:

Paul Jacobs, Chief Executive of Qualcomm Inc., in New York:

“Some fairly small group of people is going to make a decision and they are going to make it on their timetable. I’ve kinda given up trying to predict,” Jacobs said.

Simon Leung, head of Motorola Inc.’s Asia business, in Hong Kong:

“Let me toss a coin. I’ve been predicting it for the last two years, and I’ve been wrong every time.”

His latest prediction on the subject is for the license award to take place in December of 2006, around the global ITU show taking place in Hong Kong.

Patricia Russo, Lucent Technologies Inc. chairman and CEO, in New York:patricia_russo_2_small.jpg

“I remember…talking about whether there would be decisions in ’05 and then, you know, it keeps moving out and moving out and moving out, and now it’s sometime perhaps in ’06 and now it’s sometime later in ’06,” Russo said.

She said that whatever decision China makes must come in time for networks to be built ahead of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the country’s big shot at showcasing its status as an economic and political powerhouse. For a full story on Lucent, click here.