Europe

Spain on Tuesday ordered banks to comply with a six-month extension of a state-backed loan scheme to June next year, designed to help companies struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. Economy minister Nadia Calvino told a news conference bank clients who have no overdue payments can request these loans. Banks should also provide these loans with longer maturities and grace periods if customers ask for them, the minister said.

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German carmaker BMW said on Tuesday there was no indication that its deal to increase its stake in its joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive would be affected by debt issues at Brilliance's parent, Reuters reported. BMW said in 2018 that it would pay 3.6 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in 2022 for a further 25% stake in the venture with Brilliance - its main joint venture in China - adding to its existing 50% holding and giving it control of BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA).

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Petra Diamonds on Tuesday reported a 36% fall in revenue and a net loss of $223 million (168.7 million pounds) as the pandemic hit production, sales and prices, Reuters reported. Petra, which operates three diamond mines in South Africa and one in Tanzania, kept production guidance for 2021 on hold due to ongoing uncertainty, noting the risks to production if further COVID-19 restrictions are required. CEO Richard Duffy said Petra had “unprecedented challenges” to contend with in 2020.

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As employers shed and furlough staff in an effort to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, one employer in Switzerland has launched a recruitment drive - the Zurich liquidation service, Reuters reported. In an ominous sign of what could lie ahead, the service has quadrupled the number of staff who visit shuttered companies, take inventory and collect assets which can be sold to pay creditors. The Ascot Hotel and Swissotel in Zurich are among businesses which have already permanently closed after bookings evaporated.

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Wirecard's insolvency administrator Michael Jaffe on Monday said the payment system provider's technology platform had been sold to Spain's Banco Santander, Reuters reported. “Banco Santander will acquire the technology platform of the payment service provider in Europe as well as all highly specialized technological assets,” Jaffe said in a statement. In a separate statement, Banco Santander said it had agreed to acquire several highly specialised technological assets from the merchant payments business of Wirecard in Europe, to accelerate its growth plans in Europe.

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New rules affecting bank capital reserves could hurt lenders’ ability to “be part of the solution” to the coronavirus crisis and should be delayed or amended, the head of the European Banking Federation (EBF) said on Monday, Reuters reported. EBF head Jean Pierre Mustier, who is CEO of Italian bank UniCredit CRDI.MI, also called for a more unified European banking market. “We need to minimise fragmentation to allow cross-border groups to work on an even more optimised basis in terms of free flows of liquidity and capital,” he told the Euro Finance Week conference, which was held virtually.

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Germany’s economic recovery continued until October but has slowed since August, the Economy Ministry said on Friday, adding that lockdown measures implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus hit the economy in November, Reuters reported. The Economy Ministry said in its monthly report that the restrictions imposed from the start of November which have seen restaurants, bars and entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres close meant consumption was taking a hit.

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British fashion group Arcadia, which is controlled by retail businessman Philip Green, denied a report on Sunday it was about to go into administration but said it was taking “appropriate steps” to protect the business from the impact of the latest coronavirus lockdown, Reuters reported. Arcadia, which runs brands including Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, employs about 15,000. “It is not true that administrators are about to be appointed,” said a spokesman for Arcadia.

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One of the EU’s crowning institutional achievements in the wake of the global financial crisis was the creation of the European Stability Mechanism — a permanent bailout instrument designed to provide billions of euros in cheap loans to struggling sovereigns, the Financial Times reported. But amid the EU’s latest economic crash, the ESM has been conspicuously absent in the debate about how to inject fiscal firepower into Europe’s pandemic-ravaged economy.

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The UK economy expanded at its fastest pace on record in the third quarter, but output was still well below pre-pandemic levels and growth is threatened by the latest lockdown restrictions, the Financial Times reported. Britain’s gross domestic product increased 15.5 per cent in the three months to September compared with the previous three months, the quickest pace since records began in 1955, according to the Office for National Statistics. The rebound reflected the reopening of businesses, shops, restaurants and bars after the national lockdown.

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