Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters and the 2016-2017 president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. He was the lead Reuters correspondent for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and interviewed the president at the White House in 2015. Jeff has been based in Washington since 2008, when he covered the historic race between Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Jeff started his career in Frankfurt, Germany, where he covered the airline industry before moving to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. He is a Colorado native, proud graduate of Northwestern University and former Fulbright scholar.
Twitter handle: @jeffmason1
MILAN (Reuters Breakingviews) - Two Spanish ministries are interfering in Italy-based Atlantia’s 16.5 billion euro takeover bid for local toll-road group Abertis. France and Italy similarly meddled in recent deals within the European Union. Building scale inside the bloc isn’t proving entirely borderless.
MILAN (Reuters Breakingviews) - Boris Collardi is bowing out of Julius Baer at the peak. The whizzkid of Swiss private banking is leaving the $13 billion group for smaller rival Pictet after eight years in charge. Bold deals and aggressive expansion in Asia boosted earnings and lifted the wealth manager’s shares to record highs. Replicating such achievements will be harder.
MILAN (Reuters Breakingviews) - The European Central Bank may have pushed its bad-loan cleanup too fast. The institution proposed stricter rules governing banks’ provisions for non-performing loans but overstepped its authority, the EU parliament’s legal service says, according to Reuters. The ECB is right to target European lenders’ 840 billion euro mountain of bad debt, but its clumsy move may end up slowing down its effort.
MILAN (Reuters Breakingviews) - Offshore financial secrecy is succumbing to the law of diminishing returns. A new dump of leaked documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers, shows the enduring popularity of opaque structures in low-tax centres such as Bermuda. But regulation that sheds light on such deals is getting tighter, while technology makes leaks more likely.
MILAN (Reuters Breakingviews) - UniCredit is getting an early start on its recovery path. A data glitch forced Italy’s biggest bank by assets to publish third-quarter results two weeks ahead of schedule. Fortunately, the figures show lower costs and stronger capital. And a fee-boosting partnership with French asset manager Amundi helped offset the drag from low interest rates.
MILAN (Reuters Breakingviews) - Italy's wealthy north can teach Catalonia a lesson in demanding self-rule. Voters in Lombardy and Veneto, which together make up around 30 percent of Italian gross domestic product, asked for more autonomy in referendums at the weekend. Like Catalonia, these territories want to keep more tax revenue. But unlike the fractious Spanish region, they stopped short of demanding independence. Such gentle pressure may yield better results.
MILAN - The European Commission is raising the investment bar for China. Brussels has come up with a pan-European scheme to vet sensitive purchases by other countries. Unlike the government committee that scrutinises acquisitions in the United States, its rulings will be non-binding. Even so, the People’s Republic will find it harder to buy European infrastructure and technology.
HONG KONG The American crackdown on Hong Kong auditors won't change much. U.S. regulators have revoked the registration of a mid-sized auditor after it refused to share the papers of an unnamed mainland issuer, on orders from Beijing - the second such punishment against a Hong Kong accountant. This sanction won't sting the target, nor does it resolve bigger problems in a weak U.S.-China audit agreement. Unfortunately renegotiation seems unlikely.
HONG KONG Australian banks should be able to absorb the latest regulatory uppercut. The local financial watchdog has aggressively hiked minimum capital requirements for top lenders, the latest step in a campaign to better protect the country from financial shocks. The caution is warranted given the finance sector's concentration - and record household debt levels. A grace period will make it easier for banks to meet the new rules. But outsized returns could be a thing of the past.
HONG KONG Singapore's garage sale highlights a global capital problem. State investor Temasek sold more assets last year than it bought, its annual report published on Tuesday showed. It is the first time the equity-focused investor has made a net divestment since 2009. With stock market valuations high and stiff competition for assets, this trend looks set to continue.