European Markets Headlines

President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Christine Lagarde addresses a...

ECB’s inflation battle has a 550 billion euro problem

    Euro zone lenders have so far weathered the financial storms blowing in from the United States and Switzerland. That has allowed the European Central Bank to keep raising rates to combat inflation. President Christine Lagarde’s job, however, is about to get harder. 

Participants attend an Asian investment conference held by Credit Suisse in...

How post-2008 bank rules led to a 2023 problem

Britain eliminated wolves well over a century ago, hunting them out of existence because they preyed on sheep, and sometimes humans. One consequence is that deer, with no apex predator, exploded in number, overgrazing land and killing off biodiversity. There are now calls to bring wolves back. There is a lesson here for the financial system. Curb one pest, and you might encourage another.

Credit Suisse office in London

Bank rescue real estate turns from dowry to downer

Credit Suisse’s rescue contains a property booby prize. Unlike many banks which got into trouble back in 2008, the Swiss lender has flogged much of its prime real estate. That leaves prospective new owner UBS with an expensive and long-lasting rental bill. In the last financial crisis prime real estate played a big part of bank rescues. When Barclays bought Lehman Brothers’ U.S. capital markets business in September 2008 the deal included the bankrupt investment bank’s headquarters. The new building on New York’s Seventh Avenue accounted for $1.5 billion of the $1.75 billion deal’s value. Similarly, when JPMorgan rescued Bear Stearns six months earlier it also took the target’s Manhattan headquarters. At the time JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon said the deal meant he would save $3 billion because he no longer needed to build a new headquarters. Property also helped prop up government bailouts. Royal Bank of Scotland had 17 billion pounds' worth of property and similar assets when the UK government bailed it out in 2008. Today there is less real estate underpinning bank values. Credit Suisse sold its main Cabot Square office in London’s Canary Wharf over a decade ago; it now occupies the building under a lease which ends in 2034. Prospective owner UBS rents its new Broadgate campus in London; Deutsche Bank does the same with its Frankfurt headquarters following a 2011 sale and leaseback deal. These leases are a hefty liability for any new owner. Credit Suisse’s One Cabot Square building is 550,000 square feet and includes a sprawling trading floor. However, it’s far from clear that the enlarged UBS will need that space following what are expected to be hefty job cuts in Credit Suisse’s investment bank. The boom in hybrid working further reduces the need for extra offices. Banks like UBS will also find it harder to sub-let excess space. Canary Wharf is already grappling with 15% vacancy rates as demand dwindles, according to Green Street estimates. For buyers preparing to rescue embattled banks, real estate has turned from a dowry to a downer.

UBS Group AG news conference in Zurich

Boomerang UBS boss ticks several important boxes

UBS could not depend on a relatively inexperienced chief executive as it embarks on the biggest banking merger of the decade. That’s the best explanation for why Chair Colm Kelleher on Wednesday said the Swiss bank was replacing CEO Ralph Hamers with erstwhile boss Sergio Ermotti. Though the move violates several corporate-governance red lines, it improves the group’s chances of successfully absorbing stricken rival Credit Suisse.

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) near Montabaur

Europe throws ignition cars a thin lifeline

Combustion engines will live to die another day. Bowing to pressure from automaking Germany, the European Union has agreed to exempt cars that run on carbon-neutral synthetic fuel from a ban on new combustion engine vehicles in 2035. The deal may help niche players like luxury sports-car maker Ferrari. Mass-market brands, like Volkswagen, will struggle to change course.    

File photo of cows near the fence of a pastoral farm near Auckland

War on cow farts is stinky but necessary job

Targeting cows to fight climate change may seem counterintuitive. Yet, governments from New Zealand to Europe are zeroing in on livestock, whose burps and farts help generate 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, United Nations estimates show. An industry backlash against plans to tackle the issue will teach punters to treat burgers as polluting fuel.

Meeting on UBS and Credit Suisse at the Swiss Finance Department, in Bern

Swiss CoCo litigation may have a broader payoff

Credit Suisse’s CoCos are shaping up to be the bondholder litigation case of the century. Investors in the bank’s 16 billion Swiss francs ($17.5 billion) of contingent convertible bonds think authorities were wrong to wipe them out as part of a state-sponsored rescue by UBS. Recovering any value will be tricky and take time. Still, there are broader reasons to put up a fight.

Richard Li, Hong Kong businessman and younger son of tycoon Li Ka-shing,...

Richard Li's insurer offers geopolitical cover

Time may be on Richard Li’s side. The tycoon is preparing to list his $9 billion Asian insurer FWD in his home city of Hong Kong after three false starts, including a roundtrip to New York, in just two years. The delay may ultimately be a blessing for him and his early backers including Swiss Re.

Illustration shows UBS Group and Credit Suisse logos

Swiss CoCo shakeout may yet help bank regulators

Switzerland’s forced merger of Credit Suisse with UBS has caused a real stink. The $250 billion market for contingent convertible bonds is reeling after the stricken Swiss lender was obliged to wipe out its own ones. Yet if the ensuing higher cost of issuing these “CoCo” securities means banks roll over their maturing debt rather than replace it, bank supervisors may still get a silver lining.

A general view of the Potrerillos dam in the Andean province of Mendoza

Bayer pumps H2O to top of climate agenda: podcast

The UN is hosting its first confab on water security in almost 50 years as floods and droughts worsen with rising temperatures. In this Exchange podcast, Bayer executive and former member of Germany’s Green Party Matthias Berninger lays out the drugs-to-seeds maker’s remedies.

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US Republicans defend Trump by attacking criminal justice system

Many Republicans in the U.S. Congress have responded to Donald Trump's looming Tuesday arraignment by characterizing the criminal justice system as corrupt, in accusations that parallel their earlier broadsides against the nation's elections after the former president's 2020 defeat.