Europe

British lender Virgin Money will restart a redundancy and branch closure programme that was paused due to the coronavirus crisis, it said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Virgin Money said it would also press on with rebranding its Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank branches by January 2021, a plan that was shelved in May. The bank said it would make around 300 redundancies for the time being, 200 fewer than previously planned. It will also close 22 branches and consolidate a further 30, resulting in a total reduction of 52, unchanged from before.

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Dutch retailer Hema’s senior secured noteholders (SSNs) are set to take over the business through a debt-for-equity swap, as more than 80% of noteholders agreed to a debt restructuring, banking sources said, Reuters reported. On June 15 the company entered lock-up, as 100% of its RCF lenders and 62% of its €600m, 2022 SSNs agreed to the restructuring. However, a threshold of 75% of SSN support was needed before the deal could be implemented. Around 80% of SSNs now support the deal, meaning it can go ahead, one of the sources said.

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Europe’s top banking supervisor has sought to persuade more of the region’s lenders to merge by clarifying its approach to takeovers in an effort to reassure executives that such transactions will be encouraged, the Financial Times reported. European banks have fallen further behind their US and Chinese rivals in profitability and size since the 2008 financial crisis, prompting officials at the European Central Bank to make regular appeals for the fragmented sector to consolidate.

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Police and public prosecutors raided Wirecard’s headquarters in Munich and four properties in German and Austria on Wednesday as they widened their investigation into the financial payments company that collapsed last week, Reuters reported. Wirecard filed for insolvency last week owing creditors almost $4 billion after disclosing a 1.9 billion euro ($2.1 billion) hole in its accounts that its auditor EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.

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A V-shaped recovery of the German economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is unlikely, with two thirds of companies expecting a return to normalcy in 2021 at the earliest, business association DIHK said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. “The V is off the table,” DIHK said, adding that its survey of 8,500 companies confirms its forecast for a 10% slump in Germany’s economy this year. The association added that four out of five companies expect their sales to decline this year.

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Greece’s National Bank (NBG) has hired Morgan Stanley as an adviser ahead of a planned sale of more than 6.0 billion euros ($6.73 billion) of non-performing credit, part of its balance sheet clean-up efforts, bankers close to the transaction said on Tuesday, Reuters reported. NBG, Greece’s second-largest lender by assets, is aiming to begin talks with potential investors about offloading a portfolio of soured loans known as project Frontier in the second half of the year, they added.

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The sudden fall of Wirecard has triggered a fallout in the wider payments system, as fintech groups move to distance themselves from partnerships they struck with the troubled German company, the Financial Times reported. Wirecard’s crisis has already affected millions of British savers while raising questions about the oversight of technology companies that claim to disrupt payment systems, which have long been the domain of banks and other financial institutions.

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The UK economy shrank more than initially estimated in the first quarter of this year, recording the largest fall since 1979 as coronavirus choked activity in March, with household savings soaring, the Financial Times reported. Output in the UK dropped 2.2 per cent in the first quarter compared to the previous three months, according to revised data from the Office for National Statistics. This is a sharper contraction than the first estimate of 2 per cent. The quarterly fall in UK gross domestic product is now the joint largest since the third quarter of 1979.

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Petra Diamonds, owner of the South African mine famous for producing two of the diamonds in the British crown jewels, has put itself up for sale as it battles to service its debts, the Financial Times reported. The London-listed miner, which has been in talks with creditors after the coronavirus pandemic hammered the diamond market, said it was seeking offers for all or part of the company that owns the Cullinan mine.

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Germany takes the helm of the EU’s rotating presidency on Wednesday with one overriding aim: to rescue the bloc from the worst economic crisis in its history, the Financial Times reported. Chancellor Angela Merkel met French president Emmanuel Macron today to discuss next steps for the €750bn recovery proposals unveiled by the two leaders in May, as well as the EU budget.

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