Europe

Recruiter Hays has warned it expects profits to slip in the first half of this year, as economic uncertainty across several key markets disrupts its business, the Financial Times reported. Hays highlighted strikes in France, the slowdown in the German economy, political uncertainty in the UK and the still-raging Australian bushfires as factors behind a “marked” slowdown in fee growth in December, in a trading update on Thursday. Together, these countries account for 45 per cent of the recruiter’s fees.

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Condor, the airline that used to belong to Thomas Cook, has attracted interest from buyout groups Apollo and Greybull as well as Polish carrier LOT, which are expected to submit final bids next week, a person close to the matter said, Reuters reported. Each of the bidders could tie up with some of Germany’s leading tour operators in a potential deal to buy Condor, the person said on Thursday. Condor and Apollo declined to comment, while Greybull and LOT were not immediately available for comment.

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The agency set up five years ago to help councils increase their sources of funding by raising cheaper debt is set for its first issuance, paving the way for what cash-strapped local authorities hope will become a thriving municipal bond market in the UK, the Financial Times reported. The move by the UK Municipal Bonds Agency comes three months after the government sharply raised the interest rate on its own local authority loans — via the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) — inspiring councils to look elsewhere for new funding streams.

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A Deutsche Bank-led consortium’s efforts to buy out the debt of a power plant operator in eastern India have advanced, after no rival bidder emerged, Bloomberg News reported. The struggling utility is Jindal India Thermal Power Ltd., one of a string of power plants being put up for sale by banks stuck with their defaulting debt. The sector has been hit hard by oversupply in recent years, a consequence of a costly push to bridge India’s once chronic power deficit and expand reach to under-supplied rural areas. Power generators form a significant chunk of India’s $130 billion bad loan pile.

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A Spanish magistrate has launched a criminal investigation into suspected account-fiddling at retailer Dia under its previous management, before Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman took over the near-insolvent company last year, Reuters reported. Magistrate Alejandro Abascal said in court documents seen by Reuters that he was looking into whether the company’s management, including then-CEO Ricardo Curras, manipulated Dia’s pre-tax earnings data in 2017 to make it falsely appear the company had reached financial targets.

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Amid rising defaults and tighter liquidity for Chinese privately-owned enterprises, the nation’s banks are letting some companies fail, something Deutsche Bank AG says presents bigger opportunities for foreign investors in troubled debt, Bloomberg News reported. The German lender is an active distressed player in Asia Pacific and has bet on some of the biggest restructuring in the region, including commodities trader Noble Group Ltd. China is taking steps to allow more foreign investment into the country’s 2.37 trillion yuan ($344 billion) non-performing loan market. It will give U.S.

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State-owned Monte dei Paschi joined fellow Italian banks in a start-of-year bond issuance rush on Wednesday, paying an 8% coupon to sell a junior bond to fulfil commitments under its bailout agreement, Reuters reported. Italian lenders, including UniCredit, Banco BPM and UBI Banca, have sold higher risk and relatively costlier debt this month, taking advantage of investors’ moves to start to spend their new year budgets.

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The cognoscenti of international economics are once again agape, and not in a flattering way, at the budget surpluses Germany’s government keeps running, when instead it should be stimulating the economy with tax cuts and higher spending, Bloomberg News reported in a commentary. The surplus revealed this week for 2019, at 13.5 billion euros ($15 billion), is the fifth in a row, and the biggest ever. Many Germans still regard such numbers as signs of economic virtue and virility, as they keep slashing public debt and reveling in high employment numbers.

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Reform of the euro zone bailout fund will remain frozen until at least March, a senior official said on Wednesday, as governments are still divided over technical details on bond restructuring, Reuters reported. The reform, which would allow the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to play a role in future rescues of failing banks, was to be adopted last December but last-minute objections from Italy forced a delay. Back then, the head of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, Mario Centeno, said that an agreement was possible in January, after acknowledging more time was needed.

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