Tag Archives: BNP Paribas

It’s a kind of Euro

In Italy things are off the walls, now we see ‘New elections loom in Italy‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/27/italys-pm-designate-giuseppe-conte-fails-to-form-populist-government), where it again is about currency, this time it is Italy that as an issue with ‘country’s Eurozone future‘. In this the escalation is “the shock resignation of the country’s populist prime minister-in waiting, Giuseppe Conte, after Italy’s president refused to accept Conte’s controversial choice for finance minister“, there is a setting that is given, I have written about the folly of the EU, or better stated, the folly it became. I have been in favour of Brexit for a few reasons, yet here, in Italy the setting is not the same. “Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president who was installed by a previous pro-EU government, refused to accept the nomination for finance minister of Paolo Savona, an 81-year-old former industry minister who has called Italy’s entry into the euro a “historic mistake”“, now beside the fact that an 81 year old has no business getting elected into office for a number of reasons, the issue of anti-Euro Paolo Savona have been known for a long time. So as pro-EU Sergio Mattarella decides to refuse anyone who is anti-EU in office, we need to think critical. Is he allowed to do that? There is of course a situation where that could backfire, yet we all need to realise that Sergio Mattarella is an expert on parliamentary procedure, highly educated and highly intelligent with decades of government experience, so if he sets his mind to it, it will not happen. Basically he can delay anti-EU waves for 8 months until after the next presidential elections. If he is not re-elected, the game changes. The EU has 8 months to satisfy the hearts and minds of the Italian people, because at present those options do not look great. The fact that the populist choices are all steering towards non-EU settings is a nightmare for Brussels. They were able to calm the storm in France, but Italy was at the tail end of all the elections, we always knew that, I even pointed it out 2 years ago that this was an option. I did mention that it was an unlikely one; the escalating part is not merely the fact that this populist setting is anti-EU; it is actually much stronger anti Germany, which is a bigger issue. Whether there is an EU or not, the European nations need to find a way to work together. Having the 2 larger players in a group of 4 large players is not really a setting that works for Europe. Even if most people tend to set Italy in a stage of Pizza, Pasta and Piffle, Italy has shown to be a global player and a large one. It has its social issues and the bank and loan debts of Italy don’t help any, but Italy has had its moments throughout the ages and I feel certain that Italy is not done yet, so in that respect finding common ground with Italy is the better play to make.

In all this President Sergio Mattarella is not nearly done, we now know that Carlo Cottarelli is asked to set the stage to become the next Prime Minister for Italy. The Italian elections will not allow for an anti-EU government to proceed to leave the Euro, Sergio’s response was that: “he had rejected the candidate, 81-year-old Eurosceptic economist Paolo Savona, because he had threatened to pull Italy from the single currency “The uncertainty over our position has alarmed investors and savers both in Italy and abroad,” he said, adding: “Membership of the euro is a fundamental choice. If we want to discuss it, then we should do so in a serious fashion.”” (at http://news.trust.org//item/20180527234047-96z65/), so here we all are, the next one that wants to leave the Euro and now there is suddenly an upheaval, just like in France. Here the setting is different, because the Italian President is Pro-EU and he is doing what is legally allowed. We can go in many directions, but this was always going to be an unsettling situation. I knew that for 2 years, although at that stage Italy leaving the EU was really small at that stage. Europe has not been able to prosper its economy, it merely pumped 3 trillion euro into a situation that was never going to work and now that 750 million Europeans realise that they all need to pay 4,000 Euro just to stay where they are right now, that is angering more and more Europeans. the French were warned ahead, yet they decided to have faith in an investment banker above a member of Front Nationale, Italy was not waiting and is now in a stage of something close to civil unrest, which will not help anyone either. Yet the economic setting for Italy could take a much deeper dive and not in a good way. The bigger issue is not just that Carlo Cottarelli is a former International Monetary Fund director. It is that there are more and more issues shown that the dangers are rising, not stabilising or subsiding and that is where someone optionally told President Sergio Mattarella to stop this at all costs. Part of this was seen in April (at https://www.agoravox.fr/actualites/economie/article/a-quand-l-eclatement-de-la-203577). Now the article is in French, so there is that, but it comes down to: “Bridgewater, the largest hedge fund (investment fund – manages $ 160 billion of assets) of the world has put $ 22 billion against the euro area  : the positions down (“sellers”) of the fund prove it bet against many European (Airbus), German (Siemens, Deutsche Bank) French (Total, BNP Paribas) and Italian (Intesa Sanpaolo, Enel and Eni) companies, among others. The company is not known to tackle particular companies, but rather to bet on the health of the economy in general“. So there is a partial setting where the EU is now facing its own version that we saw in the cinema in 2015 with The Big Short. Now after we read the Intro, we need to see the real deal. It is seen with “Since 2011, € 4 billion has been injected into the euro zone (that is to say into commercial banks) by the European Central Bank (ECB), which represents more than a third of the region’s GDP. The majority of this currency is mainly in Germany and Luxembourg, which, you will agree, are not the most difficult of the area. More seriously, much of this liquidity has not financed the real economy through credit to individuals and businesses. Instead, the commercial banks have saved € 2,000bn of this fresh money on their account at the ECB until the end of 2017 (against € 300bn at the beginning of 2011) to “respect their liquidity ratio” (to have enough deposit in liquid currency crisis).As in the United States, quantitative easing allowed the central bank to bail out private banks by buying back their debts. In other words, the debts of the private sector are paid by the taxpayer without any return on investment. At the same time, François Villeroy de Galhau, governor of the Banque de France, called for less regulation and more bank mergers and acquisitions in the EU, using the US banking sector as a model.” Here we see in the article by Géopolitique Profonde that the setting of a dangerous situation is escalating, because we aren’t in it for a mere 4 billion, the Eurozone is in it for €3,000 billion. An amount that surpasses the economic value of several Euro block nations, which is almost impossible to keep with the UK moving away, if Italy does the same thing, the party ends right quick with no options and no way to keep the Euro stable or at its levels, it becomes a currency at a value that is merely half the value of the Yen, wiping out retirement funds, loan balances and credit scores overnight. The final part is seen with “The ECB also warns that the Eurozone risks squarely bursting into the next crisis if it is not strengthened. In other words, Member States have to reform their economies by then, create budget margins and integrate markets and services at the zone level to better absorb potential losses without using taxpayers. A fiscal instrument such as a euro zone budget controlled by a European finance minister, as defended by President Emmanuel Macron, would also help cope with a major economic shock that seems inevitable. Suffice to say that this is problematic given the lack of consensus on the subject and in particular a German reluctance. The European Central Bank has issued the idea late 2017, long planned by serious economists, to abolish the limit of € 100,000 guaranteed in case of rescue operation or bankruptcy bank (Facts & Document No. 443, 15/11 / 17-15 / 12/17 p.8 and 9)” (the original article has a lot more, so please read it!

It now also shows (read: implies) a second part not seen before, with ‘The European Central Bank has issued the idea late 2017, long planned by serious economists, to abolish the limit of € 100,000 guaranteed in case of rescue operation or bankruptcy bank‘, it implies that Emmanuel Macron must have been prepped on a much higher level and he did not merely come at the 11th hour, ‘the idea issued late 2017’ means that it was already in motion for consideration no later than 2016, so when Marine Le Pen was gaining and ended up as a finalist, the ECB must have really panicked, it implies that Emmanuel Macron was a contingency plan in case the entire mess went tits up and it basically did. Now they need to do it again under the eyes of scrutiny from anti-EU groups whilst Italy is in a mess that could double down on the dangers and risks that the EU is facing. That part is also a consideration when we see the quote by Hans-Werner Sinn who is currently the President of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, gives us “I do not know if the euro will last in the long run, but its operating system is doomed“, yet that must give the EU people in Brussels the strength they need to actually fix their system (no, they won’t). The question becomes how far will the ECB go to keep the Eurozone ‘enabled’ whilst taking away the options from national political parties? that is the question that matters, because that is at play, even as Germany is now opposing reforms, mainly because Germany ended up in a good place after they enforced austerity when it would work and that worked, the Germans have Angela Merkel to thank for that, yet the other nations (like 24 of them), ignored all the signs and decided to listen to economic forecast people pretending to be native American Shamans, telling them that they can make it rain on command, a concept that did not really quite pan out did it? Now the reforms are pushed because there were stupid people ignoring the signs and not acting preventively when they could, now the Eurozone is willing to cater to two dozen demented economists, whilst pissing off the one economy that tighten the belt many years ago to avoid what is happening right now. You see, when the reform goes through Berlin gets confronted with a risk-sharing plan and ends up shouldering the largest proportion of such a machine, that mechanism will avoid the embarrassment of those two dozen Dumbo’s (aka: numnuts, or more academically stated ‘someone who regularly botches a job, event, or situation’), whilst those people are reselling their idea as ‘I have a way where you need not pay any taxes at all‘ to large corporations getting an annual 7 figure income for another 3-7 years. How is that acceptable or fair?

So we are about to see a different Euro, one losing value due to QE, due to Italian unrest and against banks that have pushed their margins in the way US banks have them, meaning that the next 2 years we will most likely see off the wall bonus levels for bankers surpassing those from Wall Street likely for the first time in history, at the end of that rainbow, those having money in Europe might not have that much left. I admit that this is pure speculation from my part, yet when you see the elements and the settings of the banks, how wrong do you think I will be in 2019-2020?

So when we go back to the Guardian article at the beginning and we take a look at two quotes, the first “As the European commission unveiled its economic advice to member states last week, the body’s finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said he was hoping for “cooperation on the basis of dialogue, respect and mutual trust”“. I go with ‘What trust?‘ and in addition with ‘cooperation on the basis of dialogue merely implies that Pierre Moscovici is more likely not to answer question and bullshit his way around the issue‘ and as former French Minister of Economy he could do it, he saw Mark Zuckerberg get through a European meeting never answering any questions and he reckons he is at least as intelligent as Mark Zuckerberg. when we see “Cecilia Malmstöm, said “there are some things there that are worrying” about Italy’s incoming government“, she sees right, the current Italy is actually a lot less Euro minded than the setting was in 2016-2017, so there is a setting of decreased trust that was never properly dealt with, the EU commissions left that untended for too long and now they have an even larger issue to face. So that bright Svenska Flicka is seeing the issues rise on a nearly hourly basis and even as we see the play go nice for now, they will change. I think that in this Matteo Salvini played the game wrong, instead of altering an alternative for Paolo Savona and replace him after Sergio Mattarella is not re-elected, the game could have continued, now they are busting head to head where Matteo is nowhere near as experienced as Sergio is, so that is a fight he is unlikely to win, unless he drops Italy on a stage of civil unrest, which is not a good setting for either player.

We cannot tell what will happen next, but for the near future (June-September), it is unlikely to be a pretty setting, we will need to take another look at the Italian economic setting when the dust settles.

 

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Knocking on the door of death

There is a time in anyone’s life when death comes knocking. For some it is in an early stage for others when the end of a long road has been reached and a few of the latter go that way after a rewarding life, being it material or spiritual. So when we see ‘The Greek government says the country has turned a corner, but that is not the experience of people on the ground‘ it is merely another step to an early grave for a lot of them. The Greek Debt is being disconnected, it is being misrepresented by government and media, and overall the people are only losing more and more at a steady pace. When we see the quote: “The worst is clearly behind us.” Panaghiota Mourtidou pondered the words with a gravity unusual for the jovial volunteer. Even now, several days after the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, saw fit to use the phrase, she still feels somewhat bewildered” (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/30/greek-debt-crisis-people-cant-see-any-light-at-the-end-of-any-tunnel), the people seem to realise that they are being played. In the end Tsipras delivered on being as shallow and as deceitful as all the administrations before him. When we see the mention of the  French-trained hairdresser who had paid into a pension fund for almost 45 years, we see the initial fallout “At first it was a fairly good pension at €1,750 a month,” she recalled. “Then it was cut to €1,430 a month and now its €960 a month“, it is a 46% drain on quality of life, it is merely slightly more than Australian welfare, it implies that people get to live of $5 a day for their goods and groceries, which is utterly inhumane and I think that Panaghiota Mourtidou and Alexis Tsipras are insane to give any voice to ‘the worst is behind us‘, there is a realisation that this is merely the end of the beginning. With a debt of €325 billion, and according to one source an interest that is set to roughly €600 per second, we know that this is before the last bailout, so it gets to be a little less positive soon enough. We know the Greece didn’t have any options, they all know that this would happen, yet the injustice that there has been no prosecution of the previous administrations must hurt the people a lot too. So when she voices the fact “Hopes of spending their later years in Crete have been dashed“, I feel for her, because at some point, that was my dream too and for a lot it was a decently realistic dream. In all this we see “raise the sort of money it needs to refinance its debt,” said Kyriakos Pierrakakis, director of research at DiaNeosis. “It will almost certainly need a new financial credit line, a bailout light, and that will come with new conditions.”“, as the risk grows the refinancing of debt is so hollow, as more goes into interest it all falls away and nothing is left. Now, we can agree that Greece or a larger than smaller extent did it to themselves, they did it in either ignorance or in spite of, the reason does not matter; the outcome would remain the same. As they had the option to get out of the Euro and default on their loans there might have been an optional new start-up, now we see that there has been almost no actual support and the Greek population will need to live with the consequences of ending empty handed, generations washed away without the optional memory, it might be the first time in history that the financial institutions have taken their goods, their savings and their memories, the harshest of conditions.

In all this, Kathmiri shows another side (at http://www.ekathimerini.com/220517/article/ekathimerini/business/prices-remain-particularly-high-in-greece), the quote “Eurostat data show that Greek consumers pay more than all other European Union citizens for their telephony and postal services, with price levels standing almost 40 percent above the EU average rates, and even higher than the rates in Switzerland“, the question becomes: ‘who is pushing this?’ When we see options from Vaya, TataDocomo and Amaysim in places as outlandish as Australia (a large island with at some places miles of stretches between each house), the option from the Greek government to open the option to other players so that some of the quality of life is not lost is one part, the other is to invite players like Google, so that the Greeks have some level of ‘free’ internet is not out of the bounds of thinking. The mandate for the Greek politicians becomes less waiting for the credit houses to throw them scraps; it becomes an issue to offer the Greeks some additional levels of options that floats the quality of life to the smallest degree. It is a simpler process than merely hoping for the economy to get better and to hide behind the falsehood of ‘the worst is clearly behind us‘, a statement we all know (especially the Greeks) is not true.

All this whilst Victoria Hislop produces an article a day earlier on ‘Patra represents the extremes of Greece – sublime and mundane‘, it is her view and she shows some of the remarkable places in Greece, in that she gives her views, with images of Saint Andrew, a breathtaking place. She voices how Patra is elemental in all this as a given need when one sees Greece. It is all valid, you see, the darkness of the debt is an internal one, driving tourists forward towards Greece is clearly another part. I fell in love with Crete when I originally saw ‘Who pays the ferryman‘, in the end I went to the places where it was filmed, and many other places on the island. I saw the relaxed Elounda, the bar where some of the episodes were filmed, but that was merely the beginning, you see, Crete had so much more, Spinalonga was the true treasure of historic events, the Venetian fortifications as well as the impact that the other visitors had to the place. Greece is more than the debt it has, but has been equally reduced to the debt. Yet in all this, what have the greed driven corporations pushed towards Greece in an air of support? Did we see Vodafail giving a sweet deal to the Greeks and create a long term loyalty plan? Ah, no, because they still have a net debt of £29 billion, which was up by 31%, whilst the executive officer Vittorio Colao lives of £6 million, amounting to £500K per month. OK, to be clear, I am not having a go at him, he might have been well worth every penny. It is just that I have been confronted with the Vodafail PR for a little too long and when the times are hard, they ‘suddenly’ retrench. This is a valid step for any corporation mind you, yet, if these players are so much about one EU, and using their influence trying to thwart Brexit whenever they can. Is that suddenly small minded local thinking not an interesting non-EU mindset? When we consider (at http://www.politico.eu/article/digital-single-market-mid-term-report-card-tktkt-percent/) we see the fallout in the corporate sphere. The quote “Thirty years after the launch of the EU single market, 20 years after its first work on launching a telecoms single market and 10 years after then-Commissioner Viviane Reding launched the digital single market idea, the Juncker Commission has only got one of its 35 digital proposals signed off so far“, it is clear evidence of the utter uselessness of a single market, it is evidence on the need and greed of large corporations, the maximisation of profit. In all this, I have stated years ago that pushing some of the services to Greece could have had a positive impact, an actual sweet deal for some of the large players whilst they moved away from expensive western European places, yet none of that was done, because PR was all about the visibility in Dynamic London. So how EU is that? I am all in favour of growing London businesses, yet when you consider £3500 per square meter on average for a company spot, and Greece can get you a large building at 1000x in a one time off option (not an annual fee), how expensive is London (or Amsterdam for that matter). In all this, pushing several call-centres to Greece and Crete could have had an impressive impact on the Greek economy, yet the large players never considered that (or optionally intentionally steered away from that option), it was not sexy enough. So after 30 years we see “Presenting its half-time report card Wednesday, the Juncker Commission acknowledged things need to pick up speed. “The work is far from complete,” said the Commission’s Vice President for Digital Andrus Ansip. Estonia will put digital issues at the top of the agenda when it takes over the EU presidency in July; as its longest-serving prime minister, Ansip is well-placed to leverage that push“, which does not mean that any of it will get done, pushing the weight to the next person, that is the mere realisation that the EU with their so called one market, their 20 gravy trains and a cost of existence that has surpassed the Greek debt in tenfold is showing us that not only is the EU a redundant thing, the fact that Santa Mario ‘spends way too much‘ Draghi is even more evidence as his €60 billion a month is leaving Greece out of any easing options, an equation that should warrant a lot more questions, yet the Financial times (at https://www.ft.com/content/82c95514-707d-11e7-93ff-99f383b09ff9), is showing how apparently, the recovery is slow, but real. That might be to some degree correct, yet when we see “Debt sustainability in both Italy and Portugal is very sensitive to economic shocks“, which is true, especially with the massive debts Italy has, In that that their interest due has surpassed €2500 a second, Greece is not a consideration anywhere, Greece no longer counts. The one quote that we see and require to consider is “Five years later it is clear the head of the European Central Bank was true to his word, restoring financial confidence and ending a crisis of sovereign debt through a series of extraordinary measures to support the continent’s governments and banks“, the first is was he actually true to his word? Is there actual financial confidence or is there an environment of governmental abuse and pushing the risks of the games some play and dangers they bring onto the population of these nations as debts keep on rising, as governments have lost all abilities to keep a proper budget? When we see the local news in the Netherlands with ‘De Nederlandse bank‘, the additional mentioning on how the Brits are all getting into trouble because of Brexit, the Flemish where we see over valuated housing issues rising, in addition, the large banks in Belgium have invested well over €40 billion in fossil fuels, this is an issue and an important one when we consider “Naast de schade aan klimaat, mens en milieu, erkennen steeds meer experten ook het financiële risico van investeringen in fossiele energie. Zo wees BlackRock, ‘s werelds grootste vermogensbeheerder, op het gevaar van ‘stranded assets’: fossiele energiebronnen of -centrales die in de komende jaren meer zullen kosten dan ze opbrengen“, which paraphrased translates as “beside the climatological damage, an increasing amount of experts are pointing at the financial risks of these stranded assets, Blackrock being one of the voices state that fossil energy sources will cost more than they will bring in revenue wise“, so not only are we watching €40 billion in bad investment, the dangers are that there are long term considerations in costs as well. Now in the end, this might have been the least of the dangers for the Belgium government, yet in that light it means that certain matters can no longer be maintained in the overall image. This is a very disturbing issue. All this links back to the options for Greece, when we see European governments make bad and expensive decisions, in addition as the governments in question seem to be creative book keepers, yet when we look at the risks given to their populations, the long term damage is one that seems to be spiralling out of control and none of these governments are making their politicians criminally accountable for any of their actions, how is there any chance of a surplus within the next two generations? That is a reality that should have been enacted for the longest of times, so as we see the impact of Greece as (partially due to their own acts) we see large corporations move out, more and more exploiting individuals move in for the kill and we see Alexis Tsipras and Panaghiota Mourtidou state that ‘the worst is over‘, how delusional is that?

In Belgium the newspaper ‘Het Laatste Nieuws‘ (at http://www.hln.be/hln/nl/957/Binnenland/article/detail/3148452/2017/05/03/Belgische-staat-verkoopt-deel-aandelen-BNP-Paribas-Geen-onverstandige-zet.dhtml), gives us two parts. The first is “Belgische staat verkoopt deel aandelen BNP Paribas: “Geen onverstandige zet”“, The Belgium government is selling a stake (25% reduction) into the French group BNP Paribas. This international banking group employs over 180,000 employees in a little over 75 nations; they have assets close to €2 trillion and had a profit last year of €7 billion, so they are no small grocery on the corner of a village. This happened two days after “BNP Paribas Fortis zet parlementslid zonder uitleg op straat“, meaning that they ended the accounts with a member of parliament, this Member of Parliament has 60 days to push his accounts into another bank. Now the reasons are not linked as a given, yet when we see ‘what is the most upsetting is that neither the phone connections nor the office of the bank gives me any reason as to why this is done‘ (at https://www.demorgen.be/binnenland/bnp-paribas-fortis-zet-parlementslid-zonder-uitleg-op-straat-bc2612a0/). When we consider the other (translated quote “often it is about strict rules regarding ethics and battling fraud, e-Finance institutions are mandatory required to collect customer information and to report this. It depends on the type of customer and for politicians there are specific rules, they need to be updated more frequently“, now we can argue and speculate, yet the question becomes if there is a problem reporting within the bank, that tends to be not such a good thing and if this politician is not the wealthiest one, the juice might not be worth the squeeze, so in this age, as banks become more and more stringent into ‘adhering‘ to certain rules, it seems to me that this tends to be a first sign that the bank has certain stress issues it really prefers not to update too often. It is merely speculation from my side, yet when we consider that for the longest time, elected officials as customers were a positive impact on the PR of a bank, seeing the member of a Green party (usually the most innocent of political types) pushed away, I wonder what on earth is going on.

How these two relate?

That is not the actual question, but it is an important factor. The news (at https://www.febelfin.be/en/belgian-banks-are-doing-fine-first-sight-will-face-a-problem-profitability-near-future), gives rise to a KPMG report, which gives us “But the Belgian banks will have to take corrective measures to maintain this profitability while keeping solvability and liquidity at acceptable levels“, which in light of more frequent reporting might be an issue for these banks, as we see ‘higher costs due to increased regulation and tax burden‘, we need to realise that the banks are playing on ponds that are a lot more shallow than the people realise, even if the water looks clear and reflective as a mirror, it equally shows that beneath the surface there are optional hidden hurdles. I am not stating more options to get beached, more that the requirement to navigate a lot more to get into a forward placement; these two elements are not the same, but the return on investment is becoming a (much) larger effort. Now, as Belgium is economically in a better place than Greece is, it gives rise to the optional irresponsible dangers that Greece is willing to go to with the next selling of Bonds and with the dangers of added percentages on risk, the impediment of forward momentum is not an equal, but a more elevated risk for Greece (as they are all in one happy European Union), in the end the only thing it does is that it raises risk and debt for the mere depressing benefit of one mere interest payment to ignore, a mere 12 weeks of time. The KPMG report as mentioned earlier shows that so far the anticipated return on equity is falling to 6%, which is on par with the minimum requirements for 2017 at 8%, yet will fall another 2% over the next two years, meaning that the minimum required target will be off by 40% in 24 months, which is going to be a large impact on every bank who had set their targets accordingly. This leaves me to speculate that the banks will become a lot more creative by underplaying the dangers for now and as such, Greece will hit waters a lot rougher and more dangerous for the Greek people soon enough. Belgium is merely one example. Italy, the Netherlands and Germany will be facing similar issues. The last one (read: Deutsche Bank) with exists from Australian markets as it is transforming (read: or is that reinventing) itself. As players from the senior side are moving all over the world to other competitive players, we see that the Deutsche bank is moving in some direction. This is the explosive field we see and this is the market that Greece is trying to get into again in what I would call a far too dangerous time to play that desperate card. To me it seems irresponsible on several fronts, so the initial ‘the worst is over‘ could before the end of fiscal year 2017 become ‘we are hitting additional hard times, that could not have been foreseen and were outside of the scope of anything we could normally expect‘, when the Greek people see that statement come, I will happily remind you that this was not as unexpected and that I foresaw the dangers months before they played out, when that happens, the Greek population will need to ask themselves how they got played, how their quality of life was diminished by well over 50% and how it happened that none of the politicians involved ever got to face court and judges on any of that.

I do not pretend to know the markets or that I am some banker with the insight of ‘Nostradamus’. Merely a person applying common sense, 6 languages and the use of a spreadsheet, this is how I got there, with all of the degrees I do have, none of those are in economy. So when you see the ground fall away from you just wonder how the economists or the economic reporters did not see it coming as some of them move to other shores with their awesome savings, leaving the Greeks to fend for themselves, deprived of whatever they were supposed to have.

When death comes knocking, the type ‘A’ bankers, often viewed as impatient, ambitious and smitten with business aggressiveness, suddenly become the type ‘B’ individuals, all happily willing to step aside letting whomever are behind them take the plunge into purgatory first. This is how quaint the reality of life will end up being considered for all those who are watching it unfold from a distance (if they get to be lucky enough to watch it from a distance).

 

 

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Sex Driven Developers

There are always ways to find weaknesses in government; there is a decent chance that we find them on a daily basis. Yet, how must we react when the foundation of those making the decisions are now in a runt of enabling? What happens when the government first decides on cyber rules for the safety of all whilst opening a bordello around the corner so that those in dire need of affordable housing are getting screwed over?

This is what is on the goose feather of Julia Kollewe as she dipped it into the ink jar and gave us ‘Battersea Power Station developer slashes number of affordable homes‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/21/battersea-power-station-affordable-homes-almost-halved-by-developer). She is trying to wake up pretty much everyone with this and it should wake us all up. You see, the next decade is about the dire need of affordable housing, London is in danger of alienating the very population that is the means for its survival. You see, in my mind, greed is not a ‘technical issue‘. Greed merely is and never goes away. A technical issue is when you get the cement batter wrong in one shipment, a technical issue is when you are looking at a square and you calculated for 5 corners. When you have a £9 billion project and you have to redesign 40%, you are in my humble opinion screwing people over for your need of greed and profit whilst ‘putain‘ the 250 people now left outside in the cold (pardon my French). So as we see that someone clever from these Malaysian investors, are now trying to maximise profit by slashing the affordable housing part as we read: “The affordable home proposals amounted to 15% of the total 4,239 homes planned, which included luxury pads ranging from £800,000 for a studio atop the former power station to £4m for a four-bedroom flat (the three penthouses have yet to be priced).” there is no other option but to fight back. In this there are two options left to the government. One is to get the list of investors and they are to be banned from any other real estate investment in the UK for 5 years. The second option would be that if the apartments are uninhabited for over 40% of the time, there must be a large service surcharge to the building services. Once that these investors have to report these surcharges in the upcoming sales bill, they might have to let slip some of their expected profits. In all this, the ‘compensation‘ of mentioned “build the 386 affordable homes three years earlier than previously envisaged, which means residents will receive their keys in 2020. They will be located in apartment blocks near the power station“, is only a small band aid, because it is not just about time, it is about space and location, the space of 250 apartments is now gone! We sometimes state that no man is an island, but the UK kind of is, so that means that once the space is gone, it is definitively gone. We also get the quote “an assessment of the profits the developer expects to make. Independent adviser BNP Paribas advised the council that it is “very unlikely” that the 250 homes will materialise“. So when we see this ‘independent’ party. Have they been on this project from the very beginning? You see, if that is true than we see a feigned level of incompetence. From my point of view, BNP Paribas is not just the largest bank in France; it is one of the largest banks in the world, so when they make an £9B ‘oopsie’, something else is going on. From my speculated view is that they had made for whatever plan they could offer so that they could get the project, whilst down the track they adjusted the view to get the results their investors needed and submitted the new plans so that they end up getting what they wanted in the first place. I cannot tell how deep BNP Paribas is into this as ‘Independent adviser‘ implies that they could have been called in down the track, not initially. In support of this view the article also gives us: “Keith Garner, a local architect who has campaigned against the Battersea project for years, said: “Underlying it, the financial model is all wrong. A developer-led project to conserve, repair and bring back in to use a famous London landmark is turning in to a predictable disaster“. This now gives us two parts. The first is that this is not just coming to view and even as the lord Mayor Sadiq Khan is only now coming into view, his administration as well as the previous one, will now need to show clearly that due diligence was maintained throughout the project including the view and calculations before approval was given. This puts Boris Johnson equally on the hot chair as his team comes under scrutiny. If we are to maintain the push for affordable housing, we cannot accept screw ups of this magnitude. Because once the cashable buildings are gone, it is over and no other option remains. It is the curse of sitting on an island. Keith Garner has been vocal in the past, going back even before January 2015, yet from this point onwards we see Keybridge House in Vauxhall where only 4.5% became affordable (19 out of 419), it seems to me that when we tally that part the failure is a lot larger than most realise. Even then there was a list for the PowerStation with a setting of ‘3,444 new homes at the power station 560, or 16%, will be affordable‘, so the list got slashed before and it got slashed again. Actually, the numbers changed as 3,444 became 4239, so there has been more ‘revamping’ it seems that a project this much in flux implies that certain elements were either never set or set in a questionable way. Now, we get that things change, there are always details that need ‘alteration‘ yet when you ‘suddenly‘ add 795 apartments (which under normal conditions seem to be 2-4 additional towers, we should agree that ‘questionable‘ is very much the better word to use (without getting to rude and rely on the ‘putain’ word).

Another issue is seen in “Officers appreciate the level of stresses a scheme of this size and complexity has and that the main priorities of the scheme have been the conservation and redevelopment of the listed power station building, the delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station and the jobs to be created as part of the new town centre“, you see, as investors are always happy to sue the pants of any official, the mention of ‘delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station‘ is not a problem to the Malaysian investors, so if the UK government had impeded the development of an agreed project, the government get the invoice. So there is now the implied issue that there was a mere trade off and 250 affordable homes were scrapped. Is that not a view you would envision? In addition ‘jobs to be created as part of the new town centre‘ sounds nice, but how is that part of the powerhouse building project? So as this all comes to heads in “A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved, ahead of a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday evening“, there is the speculated issue that the Wandsworth council made a right mess of things and they are trying to appease the situation so that they keep their jobs and possibly avoid the wrath of parliament, there was just the need to scrap housing for 250 people who desperately needed them.

So, feel free to object and oppose my way of thinking, but that is how I see it. I understand that the UK needs economy, it needs houses and it needs jobs, but when a limited resource is wasted to this degree we need to ask questions loudly and there needs to be the revision of policies to make certain that affordable housing remains at the top of the list, and remains the top priority of the list of achievements. Yet in the last 2-3 years, there is additional evidence growing that what was a desperate need is ignored by those, because it does not really impact them.

Yet the 2015 article also gives some opposition. We see this in “Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, says: “In fairness, the developer is being required to pay for a lot of other things. The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for.”“. OK, this is fair enough. My response would be: ‘I agree, but that is the assessment of an investment opportunity. The numbers are done and in the end it is either feasible or it is not!‘ So the investor could have walked away from it. If the government had found the £9B, it has the option to do it themselves, with a very different balance, and perhaps with only one penthouse, the other 2 could have become 3 3-bedrooms apartment each. In addition, as it is now less about profit, there could have been 900 affordable houses instead of the 636 initially envisioned. As I read the articles over time and the sources given, it seems to me that orchestration might have been at the centre of things from the beginning. That feeling is gotten from ‘The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for‘, you see, like some naval projects, where voting for adjustments is often much better than being the messenger on a failed project, because those investors would sue, and the eagerness of the Wandsworth council implies to some degree that there would be a case and a court settlement of £9B might not be the best way to go forward. And as we see in the past “Many flats were sold off-plan and, still unbuilt, are back on the market at higher prices. Just before Christmas one unbuilt studio flat in the power station, which had sold for close to £1m, was back on the market for £1.4m. Last week, estate agent Chestertons was reported to have other unbuilt flats on the market for £865,000 – £150,000 more than their original asking price” implies that investors are getting rich fast, so the entire drop of 250 affordable apartments is becoming more and more of a debatable issue.

Yet the final issue not seen in the latter article is most damning on both the houses of Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson. The quote “the lack of a master plan for the area” is damning because it implies that the area could lose its identity, and I am willing to buy either a coffee with a cream cheese bagel with Salmon if they can clearly oppose the drop of value for the loss of identity validity. Those who truly move to London want to be in an area. They want to be part of Islington, Hammersmith or Chelsea. Some will prefer Southwark because of Hay’s galleria, yet in reality they might just do it because the hookers give much better value in that borough. Whatever reason we hear the identity of the place matters. And this requires a clear master plan. to some degree when it is in the hands of foreign investors, things go into flux, yet a clear master plan is essential the prevent London of becoming an anonymous place of chaos.

In this we remain at minus 250 apartments. You see, no matter how grand it all looks, the immediate need for infrastructure is simple. When the people have to travel too far to work, the job will no longer be a feasible solution. Even as some are pointing to an extension of the Northern Line, the simple truth is that it is an additional 15 minutes, meaning that some people will travel 90 minutes each way to get to (or from) a place where they can afford to live, on top of that travel costs are rising too. So the new place ends up being a ghost town without infrastructure. How is that an interesting investment when some could go in and out of this ghost town to burglar it into heaven as they get to do that unopposed? How many paintings and electronics need to be removed before the investors seek another place to go to?

All elements that seem to have been missed, all part of a master plan not in place and all linked to investment and economic plans that might have been dubious from the beginning. As I personally see it, a lack of long term oversight, checks and balances all cast aside for the quick profit and the marketable view of mentioning, to merely look good. And now Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan has the mess on his plate and he gets to see what might be salvaged, because when I see ‘A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved‘, I wonder what has not hit the light of day yet and what else has to be sacrificed (or additional costs received) in the next upcoming year. Would you not wonder (read: worry) about that very same thing?

 

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Vive la what?

France decided, Emmanuel Macron is now the President of France. I will not shout some ‘hack’ issue. I believe that France made a choice, how well the choice is, is something that the President-elect of France will have to prove to be. Not the lame statistics on how young he is. The Guardian gives us some of the optional bad news (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/07/theresa-may-congratulates-macron-on-victory-as-eu-breathes-sigh-of-relief) where we see: “Happy that the French have chosen a European future. Together for a stronger and fairer Europe.” No, they did not and your rhetoric only is a first piece of evidence that the EU and the ECB are considering a former investment banker to be the reason to play your games, forcing people deeper in debt and slowly turning the EU into something despicable. For the most, the article is fine. Today will be all about congratulating President Macron, whilst those shaking hands, calling the Palace or sending letters are desperately trying to get a few political punches in. That is part of the game, yet the dangers due to the greedy need of the USA is about to become actually dangerous. Marine Le Pen could have sunk those dangers, although it would come with other issues, there is no denying that. Yet the economic health is going to be a first, in that Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas and Natixis would guard against that happening to France (after they take care of themselves and their needs), yet will it be enough? The quote that President Macron is giving now is: “I do consider that my mandate, the day after, will be at the same time to reform in depth the European Union and our European project,” Macron had told reporters, adding that if he were to allow the EU to continue to function as it was would be a “betrayal”. It sounds nice, but over time and especially as we watch delay after delay will we see if he is actually made of stern stuff. Time will tell and there is no way that it would be regarded as fair to see any initial headway until at least 10 days post forming his government. Yet there is a side we must take heed from. It is seen in the quote “he spoke out against a “tailormade approach where the British have the best of two worlds” creating “an incentive for others to leave and kill the European idea, which is based on shared responsibilities”“, this sounds nice, but responsibility also implies accountability, a side that has been absent from the EU and the ECB with ongoing lack of transparency for the longest time, in that Brexit remains a valid step.

So why do I seem to be freaking out?

That is partially true. Not because of Marine Le Pen not making it, which might have solved a few things. It is the part I mentioned yesterday with the Financial Choice Act. As a cheat sheet (at http://media.mofo.com/files/uploads/Images/SummaryDoddFrankAct.pdf)

shows us: “The Dodd-Frank Act creates the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“Council”) to oversee financial institutions“, that part is now effectively gutted from the Dodd-Frank Act. The damage goes a lot further, yet as I see it, the people in the White House have just enabled the situation that what happened in 2004 and 2008 can now happen again. When that happens the Euro will take a massive hit too. With Brexit part of that damage can be averted and in layman non diplomatic terms, we can state that as JP Morgan is getting the hell out of Brexit, the damage they could potentially cause in the near future will be on the books for the places that they go to or remain in.

One of the dangers is seen in the key principles of the Financial Choice Act. With ‘2. Every American, regardless of their circumstances, must have the opportunity to achieve financial independence;‘ we can read it in a few ways, one of them being that this is the sales pitch where the Greater Fool can invest in something, using funds that person does not have whilst endangering whatever financial future they thought they might have had. It basically opens a door to get some of the suckers’ bled dry fast. In addition with ‘3. Consumers must be vigorously protected from fraud and deception as well as the loss of economic liberty;‘, I do not see protection, I see a setting where basic protection is in place, yet as we have seen with the issue in 2008, the amount of people who lost it all whilst prosecution failed to protect the people and convict the ‘transgressors’ nearly 100% is just too stunning, and it is a lot more dangerous now as the global population has nowhere near any level of reserve of protection compared to the last time around. In addition, when larger firms start playing this game, they will drag whomever they passively claimed to protect (like retirement plans, like mortgages they held) with them.

There is another side which takes a little longer to explain. Yesterday someone tweeted an image I remembered when I grew up. You see it is all linked to what I was part of in the 80’s. I saw the application of segregation, isolation and assassination in a less nice way. It drew me back to my childhood, when I was introduced to practices by the Nazi’s in WW2 during my primary school history lessons. To identify the Jewish people, they were told to wear the Yellow Star of David. When I saw the image my thoughts started to align, unlike the puzzlement of the population at large in 1941-1943 as the star was made mandatory in several nations, the people were uncertain to the matter, with the exception of the Dutch underground who would not trust any German for even a millimetre, they were able to hide 25% of the Jews, so in the end well over 100,000 Jews were deported. From those only a little over 5,000 survived. The Dutch underground was able to keep close to 30,000 hidden, with well over 2/3rd surviving the war. Most people, would not learn of the actual fate of the deported Jews until much later, many remained in disbelief for many years after the end of WW2 in 1945. You see, it is that phase that I feel we are in now, we seem to be in disbelief as laws are past to give a sector of industry more leeway, whilst they (according to some sources) made 157 billion in profit and that is in the US for 2016. So you want to open the tap for a system that is less regulated, non-trustworthy and have shown in 2008 to embrace all greed at the expense of anyone else? How is that a good idea?

 

 

So what evidence is there?

Well, there is Senator Warren (Democrat for Massachusetts) who called it an ‘insult to families’, in addition we see “so that lobbyists can do the bidding of Wall Street“, which is still a political statement. When we see the partial part (at http://financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/financial_choice_act-_executive_summary.pdf), we see “Provide an “off-ramp” from the post-Dodd-Frank supervisory regime and Basel III capital and liquidity standards for banking organizations that choose to maintain high levels of capital. Any banking organization that makes a qualifying capital election but fails to maintain the specified non-risk weighted leverage ratio will lose its regulatory relief” It is the very first bullet point and leaves me with the situation that banks have no right to relief when they take a certain path, yet they still get to gamble. I especially like the part in section 4. “Make all financial regulatory agencies subject to the REINS Act, bi-partisan commissions, and place them on the appropriations process so that Congress can exercise proper oversight.” Yet, the REINS Act only passed the Senate, yet is not law at present, in this it is called on to do what? If the Financial Choice Act is set into law before the REINS Act, the US will have a gap the size of the flipping Grand Canyon, in addition, from the McIver Institute we see the opposition from the Democrats with “The REINS bill is similar to legislation moving through congress, but with lower thresholds“, yes, that has proven to be a good idea in the past! Still it is a view of Democrats versus Republicans and it is a Republican government (House, Senate & White House), so wherever are the clear academic dangers? We get that from Mike Rothman, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association and Minnesota commissioner of commerce with “It is clearly evident that the changes contemplated by the bill would significantly undermine and compromise the ability of regulators to effectively enforce financial laws and regulations“, whilst the I saw the term “this voluntary state-federal collaborative framework“, so the collaboration is voluntary, not mandatory. In the last decade, when have we seen a proper level of protection in a voluntary state of any matter?

The beginning of the dangers are shown by the Consumerist, which took a look at version 2.0 of what many regard to be a travesty. In this we see:

  • Require the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get congressional approval before taking enforcement action against financial institutions
  • Restrict the Bureau’s ability to write rules regulating financial companies
  • Revoke the agency’s authority to restrict arbitration
  • Revoke the CFPB’s authority to conduct education campaigns
  • Prevent the Bureau from making public the complaints it collects from consumers in its Consumer Complaint Database

The one I had a stronger issue with is the one that tosses responsible spending around. The issue ‘Remove requirements under the Durbin Amendment that guided how much credit card networks could charge retailers for processing debit card transactions‘, so basically by charging stronger on debit cards, people will see a need to pay cash or force the credit card risk on people who for several reasons prefer not to do so. In addition the restrictions to arbitration will give leeway to Financial Institutions to avoid all kinds of courts as the victims (called consumers and investors in this case) any right to hold the financial institutions to account. It is rigging even stronger an unbalanced system. Marc Jarsulic, Vice President for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress called this ‘a system that removes protections against taxpayer-funded bailouts, erodes consumer protections, and undercuts necessary tools to hold Wall Street accountable‘, which was already an issue at present making it a lot worse. It seems that the junior workers of 2008 are now in a place where they would prefer to fill their pockets before their luck runs out. The last bit is purely speculative from my side and it might take until 2020 until I am proven correct, yet at present 2 years is a long time to await the dangers of a greed driven system to get a little greedier. It is in that that segregation from the Euro will become essential soon enough, especially as there is no one muzzling the ECB and its crazy need to spend funds that they do not have and will not have for years to come. As for the news we see appear at present on Bloomberg shows my correctness from another side. At https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-07/a-reverse-trump-tax-plan-delivers-an-economic-miracle-in-sweden, we see how a reverse of the Trump ideal works a miracle in Sweden. Now, it sounds a little too good to be true and it is. You see, I am not against the principle that Sweden has, yet in Scandinavian terms, the Swedes are uncanny social. I once joked that a woman can get married, after a year she gets the bun in the oven and gets paid maternity leave. If she starts making buns non-stop, she will never work another day (as long as she gets pregnant immediately after giving birth), 20 years and 22 kids later, she still has an income, a sound and secure retirement fund with only one year of work. It is almost true and I admit far far fetched. Yet the social side of Sweden allows for this. Because that one person will be the utter outlier in any statistical graph. The Swedish solution works in a social educated country like Sweden. In America which fosters self-centeredness and greed, this system would be abused at the drop of any hat and the system would collapse. You see, Bloomberg does not mention, that unlike America, companies in Sweden do not shun taxation (IKEA seemingly being the exemption to that rule), which is also a huge difference. In addition, Swedish Civil Law has a sizeable extensive system of Administrative Law which would also contribute. As we see commerce in Sweden increase, the Swedes will automatically feel the brunt of that in a positive way (as I personally see it). Yet it is not all good and summer there, as Magdalena Andersson faces a vote of no confidence if certain changes are not stopped, or even more adamant, be rolled back to some degree.

It is this combined view that France is now seen as ‘Vive La what?’ It is very much on how certain banks and the ECB are called back to stop endangering the future of too many people, Quantative Easing be damned. It is in that environment that the Financial Choice Act is an upcoming danger as Wall Street gets to be in charge of how money flows, in what direction, risky or not. As for what happens between now and 202, I truly hope that I am wrong on every count, because the 2008 global losses which have been estimated to set around $15 Trillion could easily be doubled this time around. More important, as global national reserves are none existent, the impact will hit the consumers and retirees in ways that they cannot even fathom, it makes the hardship in Greece look like a cakewalk as I see it. I will happily be wrong, yet the visibility we already see at present sets me more likely than not correct, which is really scary, not just for me.

Oh and if you doubt me in this (which will remain forever valid), why have we seen massive levels of misinformation from papers with ‘NO ONE wants to risk GREXIT’ Economist says Greece bailout will go ahead to SAVE Eurozone’ (source: The Express), whilst we know that you cannot be set out of the Euro or Eurozone involuntary, and ‘saving Eurozone’ is a little strong is it not? Or the Daily Mail that gives us that Brexit is a gift to the Greeks. This is not merely a point of view, certain sources are adamant to misdirect the focus of the people, if the Euro was such a gift from the gods, misdirection would not have been needed, would it?

 

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