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Credit Suisse to tighten the reins after string of scandals

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November 3, 2021

By Oliver Hirt, Pamela Barbaglia and John O’Donnell

ZURICH/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Credit Suisse will unveil a new centralised structure on Thursday in an attempt to bring its far-flung divisions to heel and draw a line under a string of scandals that have cost the Swiss bank billions of dollars, two sources said.

Over the past year, Credit Suisse has been fined for arranging a fraudulent loan to Mozambique, tarnished by its involvement with defunct financier Greensill, racked up $5.5 billion in losses when U.S. family office Archegos collapsed, and been rebuked by regulators for spying on executives.

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Credit Suisse drafted in seasoned banker Antonio Horta-Osorio as chairman in April to stop the rot and he will lay out his charter to reform Switzerland’s second-biggest bank on Thursday when it presents third-quarter results.

One key change is expected to be the creation of a single wealth management division that caters to a global elite, centralising oversight at the bank’s headquarters in Zurich, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Under the current structure put in place six years ago, wealth management straddles three divisions: a Swiss business, an Asia-Pacific arm catering mainly to rich Chinese and an international arm based out of Switzerland.

Merging the wealth division would make Credit Suisse simpler and potentially pave the way for cost cuts.

It would also rein in local bankers who have enjoyed much autonomy, making them more answerable to senior managers who have often been blindsided by the risks that triggered past scandals, the sources said.

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One of the people told Reuters that managers at the bank’s headquarters had become very risk averse and they did not want to give leeway to local bankers, regardless of how much profit they were making.

A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment.

SHARES SUFFER

Credit Suisse’s financial humiliation stands in stark contrast to its cross-town rival UBS.

In the wake of massive losses and a bailout during the financial crisis, UBS successfully pivoted away from investment banking to wealth management and is now the world’s largest wealth manager with $3.2 trillion in invested assets.

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Its shares have climbed 57% in the past 10 years while Credit Suisse has slumped 53% over the same period.

Shareholders have deserted Credit Suisse this year following the slew of bad headlines. Its shares are down 12% while UBS is up 36% while Wall Street rivals are riding high on the back of a boom in equity trading and M&A.

Andreas Venditti, an analyst at Swiss private bank Vontobel, said it would take more than “minor changes and a new divisional set-up” at Credit Suisse to reverse the trend.

The expected revamp at Credit Suisse has also encouraged some high-profile dealmakers to approach the bank’s senior management to suggest it merges with a rival, another person with knowledge of the matter said.

Those ideas have been rejected so far, however, the person said.

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Nonetheless, the prospect of a challenge by investors demanding the break-up of the bank, or that its shrinking market value makes it a target for a hostile foreign takeover, have long troubled managers, sources told Reuters earlier this year.

‘WARNING SIGNALS’

With a market value of $28 billion, Credit Suisse is worth less than half of UBS and a fraction of Wall Street giants such as JPMorgan weighing in at half a trillion dollars.

But an approach from the United States would not go down well in Switzerland. Relations between Swiss banks and Washington were damaged when the United States pressured them into giving up their strict secrecy code more than a decade ago.

A combination of Credit Suisse and UBS, which has been touted as an alternative alliance, would face its own problems. For one, it would dominate the Swiss market.

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Another source said that while Credit Suisse had examined a sale or spin-off of its asset management business, that had been shelved. The person said, however, that once further efforts were made to cut costs and boost growth, a sale, or listing of the business on the market, could be back on the cards.

The bank’s drive to centralise its operations is drawing on lessons from some of its recent failures, including Archegos.

Earlier this year, Credit Suisse published a report blaming a focus on maximizing short-term profits and enabling “voracious risk-taking” by Archegos for failing to steer the bank away from catastrophe.

Despite long-running discussions about Archegos – by far the bank’s largest hedge fund client – Credit Suisse’s top management were apparently unaware of the risks it was taking.

The bank’s chief risk officer and the head of its investment bank recall hearing about it first only on the eve of the fund’s collapse.

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“There were numerous warning signals,” the report said. “Yet the business … failed to heed these signs.”

($1 = 0.9127 Swiss francs)

(Additional reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Writing By John O’Donnell; Editing by David Clarke)

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Apple starts legal action against Russian regulator in App Store dispute -RIA

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December 6, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Apple has started legal proceedings against Russia’s anti-monopoly regulator in a dispute concerning alternative payment options on its App Store platform, the RIA news agency reported on Sunday citing court filings.

Russia opened an antitrust case against Apple in late October, accusing it of failing to allow app developers to tell customers about alternative payment options when using its App Store. It said Apple could face a fine based on its revenue in Russia if found guilty.

In documents published on Dec. 1, the Moscow Arbitration Court listed Apple as a claimant and Russia’s Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) as a defendant in “economic disputes over administrative legal relations.”

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Apple, which did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment, demanded that additional documents be added to the case on Dec. 2, RIA reported.

Forbes Russia cited a FAS representative as saying that the proceedings related to a warning it issued on Aug. 30 over Apple’s alleged failure to inform users they could also pay for purchases outside the App Store.

The FAS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple faced pushback over its App Store rules in the United States in September when a federal judge issued a ruling forcing the company to allow developers to send their users to other payment systems.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Weaker foreign demand sinks German industrial orders in October

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December 6, 2021

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) -Weaker demand from abroad drove a much bigger than expected drop in German industrial orders, including cars, in October, data showed on Monday, further clouding the growth outlook for manufacturers in Europe’s largest economy.

A pandemic-related scarcity of microchips and other electronic components has caused massive supply bottlenecks and production problems in Germany’s mighty automobile industry and other important sectors of the economy.

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Orders for goods ‘Made in Germany’ dropped 6.9% on the month in seasonally adjusted terms after a revised rise of 1.8% in September and a plunge of 8.8% in August, figures from the Federal Statistics Office showed.

A Reuters poll of analysts had pointed to a smaller decline of 0.5% on the month in October.

“After incoming orders climbed to an all-time high in mid-2021, the index has lost more than 16 points in recent months,” the economy ministry said, adding that the second sharp decline within three months put a further damper on the economic outlook.

Excluding distorting factors from bookings for big ticket items such as planes, industrial orders were still down 1.8%, the data showed.

The drop was driven by a decline in foreign orders of more than 13% on the month, with demand from countries outside the euro zone such as China particularly weak. Orders from domestic clients rose 3.4%.

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“New lockdowns in Asia are slowing industry in Germany,” VP Bank analyst Thomas Gitzel said. He added that the current wave of coronavirus infections across the globe was putting a renewed burden on the world economy.

Gitzel said that domestic demand should remain strong, helped by the new ruling coalition’s commitment to massive investment in the green economy.

“The decarbonization of the economy requires major investments in new technologies. German industry can and will benefit from this,” Gitzel said.

The weak orders data suggest that manufacturing will hamper overall economic growth in the coming months, with analysts expecting stagnation at best in the final quarter of this year.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Kirsti Knolle and Philippa Fletcher)

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Marketmind: Chasing the Omicron dip

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December 6, 2021

A look at the day ahead from Julien Ponthus.

Buying the dip triggered by the Omicron COVID-19 variant across global markets has proven a costly strategy so far. But some investors seem determined to have another go.

European and U.S. stocks futures are trading sharply higher after ending last week on a sour note and notwithstanding a dismal day in Asia where an MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost about 0.9%.

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The region has seen a series of corporate setbacks after ride-hailing giant Didi decided to withdraw from the New York stock exchange last week.

Shares in China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, plunged 14% after it said there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments.

Another giant, Alibaba dropped 5% after announcing it would reorganise its international and domestic e-commerce businesses. And U.S. regulatory opposition to the sale of Softbank-owned chip firm Arm pushed the Japanese conglomerate 8% lower.

But the mood is lighter already across Europe, allowing 10-year Treasury yields to claw back some of Friday’s falls which took them below 1.4% for the first time since late September.

There are five trading sessions left before Friday’s U.S. consumer price report which some reckon will provide the green light for the Federal Reserve to accelerate its tapering of bond purchases.

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Oil prices too rose by more than $1 a barrel after Saudi Arabia raised prices for its crude sold to Asia and the United States.

And if the market mood is perking up, there is no sign of that in Bitcoin which has fallen further and is now at $48,244 — some $20,000 below peaks hit a month ago.

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Monday:

-Vivendi is open to discuss with Rome over state control on TIM’s network

-Alibaba overhauls e-commerce businesses, names new CFO

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-Swiss National Bank Vice Chairman Zurbruegg to retire in July 2022

-Weaker foreign demand sinks German industrial orders in October

-CBI cuts UK economic growth forecasts on supply chain hit

-Euro zone finance ministers to discuss 2022 draft budgets, euro summit

– Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India

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– UK construction PMI/new car sales

-Euro zone finance ministers to discuss 2022 draft budgets, euro summit

BOE deputy Governor Broadbent, ECB Governor Lagarde and board member Panetta speak:

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; editing by Sujata Rao)

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