From the FT on Wednesday:
Vince Cable, business secretary, has lifted the lid on tensions between the government and the Bank of England criticising its “capital Taliban” whom he accuses of holding back the recovery by imposing excessive financial burdens on the banks.
He’s angry that the Bank (well, the “jihadist” element, at least) are holding “back small business lending by demanding banks hold onerous levels of capital as a cushion against further shocks.”
We may have to take this blog into list format… Read more
George Osborne and Vince Cable are set to clash over the Vickers’ report into banking reform, the FT says, as the chancellor and the business secretary debate the timetable for bringing into force the ringfencing of Britain’s retail banking operations. Advisers close to Mr Cable said the business secretary would not accept any delay in bank reform after it was revealed in the FT last week that Mr Osborne was considering a plan to endorse strict ringfencing while giving banks a long timeframe – probably until 2019 – to implement the rules. Meanwhile Mr Cable is pushing for the government to consider a tax on the wealth of the richest homeowners as a trade-off for repealing the 50p top rate of income tax, the FT says - a sign that Mr Osborne does not believe the 50p rate raises significant revenue and will repeal it later in this parliament.
The preliminary estimate of second quarter UK GDP is out, and it’s bang in line with expectations.
Vince Cable has urged the Bank of England to consider another dose of quantitative easing to tackle “a serious problem of weak demand”, the FT reports, in a sign of growing ministerial alarm about the state of the economy. The business secretary’s highly unusual venture into monetary policy caused surprise at the Treasury and will irritate the Bank, which fiercely guards its independence. But the minister said in an interview with the FT: “Clearly we haven’t got a strong recovery – that’s abundantly clear.” Mr Cable told the BBC that fiscal discipline should continue, but the Bank should look at “more imaginative ways, not just acquiring government securities,” in its approach to easing, Bloomberg reports.
Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, has decided to bend over backwards to help News Corporation win control of BSkyB. Read more
Senior UK bankers have asked the government for immediate guidance on how, and at what level, year-end bonuses can be paid, highlighting growing confusion about the increasing layers of regulation affecting compensation in the financial services sector, reports the Telegraph. The plea, from heads of the top UK high street banks, has been directed to George Osborne, the Chancellor, and Vince Cable, business secretary, ahead of the bonus season which begins in earnest later this month. The bankers, including executives from Barclays, RBS and HSBC, have all asked for some form of clear and precise indications about acceptable levels of bonus payments.
Vince Cable, UK business secretary, has been humiliatingly stripped of his role in regulating the media as he paid the price for telling undercover reporters that he had “declared war on” Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon the FT reports. The fact that Mr Cable has a quasi-judicial role over Mr Murdoch’s bid for outright control of BSkyB made the comments to total strangers all the more remarkable; Labour suggested he should be sacked on the spot. News Corp, whose stable of newspapers includes The Sun and The Times, issued a statement saying it was “shocked and dismayed” by his comments. The company added: “They raise serious questions about fairness and due process.” Mr Hunt, who now has jurisdiction, has previously indicated he saw nothing wrong with the News Corp bid, but added he would not second-guess the regulatory investigation. However the FT also reports that transferring the power to decide whether News Corp can take full control of British Sky Broadcasting from Vince Cable to Jeremy Hunt will make little difference to the outcome, say analysts and lawyers.
The market has delievered its verdict on Cablegate (Vincegate?) by marking shares in BSkyB higher on Wednesday morning:
Europe’s competition authorities on Tuesday unconditionally cleared News Corp’s proposed 700p-a-share bid for outright control of British Sky Broadcasting, reports the FT. The decision by the European Commission leaves final say on the matter to UK regulators who, until Tuesday night, were overseen by UK business secretary Vince Cable. But after telling undercover reporters with the Telegraph he had ‘declared war’ on News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch, he was stripped of his media regulation responsibilities. Humiliating for the anti-capitalist — and anti-Murdoch — LibDem, says Lombard, but unlikely to have any impact on BSkyB’s aim to sweep up the BSkyB shares it doesn’t already own.
European competition authorities have unconditionally cleared News Corp’s proposed 700p-a-share bid for British Sky Broadcasting, reports the FT. The decision, announced by the European Commission on Tuesday and taken solely on the fairly narrow grounds of competition, means that final say on the matter rests with UK regulators. Until Tuesday evening they would have been overseen by Vince Cable, the UK business secretary. However, after comments made in an undercover interview with the Daily Telegraph, he was stripped of his responsibilities for media competition.
What price News Corp’s bid for BSkyB?
What price a new UK Business Secretary? Read more
First yoghurts and now seemingly chip and pin machines are vital to France’s national interest, according to reports out of Paris on Monday morning.
Les Echos claims the French government is opposed to the sale of Ingenico, the Paris-based electronic payments, to Danaher, the acquisitive US conglomerate, because point of sale terminals and the technology behind it are “strategic”. Read more
More than one in 10 bankers and traders in the UK and Europe could receive no bonus this year, as banks slash their year-end pay-outs amid weaker revenues, reports the FT. With bonus pools likely to shrink by as much as 20-30% at most big investment banks, underperformers will be hardest hit, said executive search firm Armstrong International. UK banks are under strong pressure to curb bonuses amid sharp spending cuts by the coalition government. Vince Cable, UK business secretary, on Sunday reiterated his threat of imposing extra taxes on banks if they failed to exercise “real restraint” this bonus season, although, the FT notes in a separate report, ahead of a showdown on Monday between coalition figures and top UK bank executives, he said the idea was only a “possibility”.
The biggest banks operating in Britain have met a Treasury deadline to sign up to a code of conduct designed to curb tax avoidance, reports the FT. The code, which will encourage banks to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law, was first announced by Alistair Darling last year in an effort to defuse anger over banks’ tax planning schemes. George Osborne, chancellor, said on Tuesday: “Alongside the bank levy, this shows that the coalition government is taking action to ensure banks pay their fair share – unlike the previous government, which talked tough, but failed to deliver.” The announcement that the top 15 banks had signed was made in the Commons by Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, whose party has been pushing hard for tougher regulation. The code had been criticised last year by Vince Cable, then Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, as a “terribly limp-wristed response to a serious abuse”.
George Osborne is set to water down plans to force disclosure of bank bonus payments above £1m, in a move that will delight the City but sets up a political clash with business secretary Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats, reports the FT. The chancellor has been lobbied by senior bankers who claim that if Britain introduces more pay transparency unilaterally it could put the City at a disadvantage and lead to some banks shifting activity to New York or other financial centres. Mr Osborne shares those concerns, as does Sir David Walker, author of an influential report last year on City pay disclosure, who argues in the Financial Times that the government “would be mistaken” to go it alone. Mr Osborne’s change of heart will delight the major banks, which have mounted a fierce lobbying operation to persuade him to shelve plans for more transparency ahead of a politically charged bonus season in February and March. Sir David’s proposals for disclosure of remuneration above £1m for bank employees, but not board members, were put on the statute book by the last Labour government. Mr Osborne has been dragging his feet in putting them into practice.
Vince Cable, business secretary, on Thursday moved to halt the progress of News Corp’s proposed £8.2bn bid to take British Sky Broadcasting private on Thursday, issuing an intervention notice at the earliest possible opportunity. After Rupert Murdoch’s global media group filed an official proposal to buy the 60.9 per cent of BSkyB it does not already own with a 1,000-page document delivered to European Union regulators on Wednesday afternoon, Brussels passed the formal notification on to the UK business department that night, the FT reports. Mr Cable had two weeks from last night to decide if he would step in, by ordering the regulator Ofcom to investigate whether there could be a public-interest case to answer over the proposed deal. Instead of waiting, however, Mr Cable issued an intervention notice before the start of London trading on Thursday.
Vince Cable, UK business secretary, will launch an assault on the “murky world of corporate behaviour” and City excess, as he unveils plans for another probe into governance, executive pay and takeovers, reports the FT. Cable’s harsh description of capitalism as “short-term” and greedy is likely to appeal to many at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference in Liverpool but the planned speech was already drawing reactions on Tuesday night. Richard Lambert, director-general of CBI, the employers’ organisation, said Cable might like to set out to his conference his alternative vision to capitalism, adding: “It’s odd that he thinks it sensible to use such emotional language.”
We’ve said before that getting this deal done wouldn’t happen any time soon, even in Europe.
But there are signs that News Corp’s bid to buy out BSkyB might end up ruffling feathers closer to home — and this time could end up getting it blocked altogether. Read more
It’s tough being a Bob — or, a study in modern banker-bashing.
We said on Tuesday that Bob Diamond’s appointment as Barclays’ next chief executive was going to be read as a threat to the government over plans to force the bank to break up — since Bob could shift Barclays to America first, spiking HM government’s guns. Read more
As far as the post-crisis cottage industry in ‘the future of banking’ reports goes, here’s one that looks like it’s going places — in the UK, at least.
As the FT reports on Monday: Read more
Ian Powell, UK chairman of PwC, has urged Vince Cable, UK business secretary, to clarify the “ground rules” for auditors amid concerns about a possible competition inquiry into the “Big Four”, reports the FT. Regulators in the UK and Europe are questioning the roles that PwC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG may have played in the financial crisis, and the firms are watching for any signals from the business secretary about the profession. The European Commission meanwhile is also considering the issue of auditor choice.
The banks team at Citigroup advising clients on Wednesday morning to ‘buy’, ‘buy’, ‘buy’ UK financials. And specifically: Barclays and, Lloyds reports FT Alphaville. That’s because they say there has been “a profound structural change in the UK banking industry following the credit crunch. As new entrants have disappeared, the six big lenders have strengthened their grip. They now control 85 per cent of the market and have regained significant pricing power.” Read more
Britain’s would-be chancellors declared open season on bankers on Monday night, in a a televised pre-election debate that saw the three contenders for Number 11 pour scorn on alleged greed in the sector. George Osborne, shadow chancellor, singled out Barclays bosses for “not understanding what the rest of the country is going through” while Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, decried critics of the new 50p top rate of income tax as “pin-striped Scargills.”
In fact, the quotation is worth citation in full:
I witnessed trusting and naive provincial building society executives and non-executives, who had no real understanding of securitisation or structured finance or any other aspect of the workings of global capital markets, being eaten alive by cynical, rapacious and short-termist investment bankers, Read more
The terms of BARCs recapitalisation plan this morning were certainly odd. But as far as we were concerned, they were odd in the sense that it made more sense for BARC to have exploited the British taxpayer’s lower offer. Odd, then, in a bad for Barclays way.
Vince Cable though, Treasury spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, sees the deal otherwise. The below cribbed from the Guardian: Read more