Europe

Zombies Could Stunt the Bank Recovery

A decade ago, Europe’s recovery from the global financial crisis was held back by the lingering bad-debt problems of its banks. History risks repeating itself, the Wall Street Journal reported. The region’s generous lockdown-support programs and patchwork of insolvency laws could create so-called zombie firms—inefficient companies kept alive by cheap debt. Last month, the European Central Bank said this remains a risk. Meanwhile, bank shares have been buoyed by optimism that Covid-19 vaccines will revive the economy and shareholder payouts will resume.
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Business failures in Ireland barely rose last year despite the economic challenges posed by the Covid crisis, new figures show, the Irish Times reported. Measures deployed by government during the pandemic had helped to sustain companies during the year, said accountants Deloitte, which compiled the figures. The number of corporate insolvencies rose by just 1 per cent to 575. This compares to 568 insolvencies in 2019.

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Monte dei Paschi di Siena said that it would grant access to confidential data to potential merger partners selected by its advisers, as Italy presses ahead with plans to cut its stake in the state-owned bank, Reuters reported. Confirming comments to Reuters from sources earlier on Monday, Monte dei Paschi (MPS) said its board had hired Credit Suisse to help Mediobanca in the task of studying strategic options and sounding out market interest for the Tuscan bank.
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Proposals have been outlined by the U.K. government to increase the financial eligibility criteria for debt relief orders (DROs), helping more people deal with financial difficulties to get a fresh start, according to a press release. Research shows that the demand for debt advice could increase by up to 60% by the end of 2021 and around 3 million more people than before the pandemic will need support with problem debt by the end of 2021. The government is publicly consulting on changing the eligibility criteria to enter a DRO to:

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Almost half of Swiss companies in the restaurant and hospitality sector are at risk of bankruptcy by the end of March without state aid to face the consequences of the restrictions imposed by the fight against COVID-19, warned Sunday the representative federation of the sector, the Inspired Traveler reported. The Swiss government is likely to extend this week the closure of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues across the country until the end of February, with hopes of rolling back the still high number of COVID-19 cases and of deceased.

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The government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is struggling to avoid collapse after a small coalition member threatened to withdraw vital parliamentary support, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Italia Viva party, led by former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, has long been skeptical of Mr. Conte’s leadership and is raising pressure on a range of issues, including how to reconstruct Italy’s battered economy after the pandemic. If Mr. Renzi pulls out of the coalition, forcing Mr.

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Britain started 2021 in a new relationship with its biggest trade partner, and it has immediately brought a litany of headaches and lost business, the New York Times reported. Within a week, implications of the Brexit trade deal with the European Union are being felt by businesses up and down the country as food deliveries are delayed for not having the right customs paperwork, logistics companies halt the shipment of goods, and retailers discover their supply chains might be obsolete.

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British airline easyJet boosted its liquidity through a new five-year loan facility of $1.87 billion, backed by a partial guarantee from Britain, helping to ease concerns about its finances as the pandemic continues to stop travel, Reuters reported. Like most European airlines, cash-strapped easyJet had been hoping to be gearing up for a recovery this spring, but with Britain, its biggest market, back in lockdown, flying is expected to stay at minimal levels for several more months.

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Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson’s airline which has been hammered by the pandemic, is close to finalising a deal to raise just over $230 million from two planes, enabling it to repay a loan taken on as part of its rescue deal last year, Reuters reported. COVID-19 restrictions stopped significant levels of travel on Virgin’s main UK to U.S. routes during 2020, bringing the airline to its knees. To survive the crisis it shed almost half of its 10,000 workforce and underwent a “solvent recapitalisation” last September.

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The number of corporate bankruptcies in Germany experienced a “noticeable” increase compared with pre-pandemic levels at the end of last year, though not as bad as feared, Bloomberg News reported. It’s the first snapshot of the country’s regular insolvency trends following a temporary suspension of filing requirements as part of Germany’s pandemic support measures. In December, 921 partnerships and corporations in the country were reported as bankrupt, just under 30% higher than in the previous three months, according to a report by the IWH Halle Institute for Economic Research.

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