Europe

Sentiment waned this month in the eurozone to a five-year low, adding to recent surveys that have indicated weakening economic growth in the second quarter, the Financial Times reported. The industrial confidence indicator dropped to minus 4.1 in April, the lowest since 2014, data from the European Commission show. The reading follows disappointing manufacturing indicators, such as the IHS Markit purchasing manager index, which pointed to a prolonged contraction in the month.

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As talks on a Brexit deal fumble on, the uncertainty it has brought is hurting U.K. property firms and the financial services sector, Bloomberg News reported. The number of companies classed as being in “critical distress,” often a precursor to insolvency, rose 17 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, data compiled by financial adviser Begbies Traynor Group Plc show. It comes even as government figures suggest the economy picked up a little momentum in the first quarter, with GDP unexpectedly expanding in February for a second straight month. "Many U.K.

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Banco Santander reported a 10.4 per cent drop in first-quarter net earnings, as restructuring costs in UK and Poland and high inflation in Argentina trimmed the bank’s performance, the Financial Times reported. The eurozone’s largest bank by market capitalisation said total net profit dropped to €1.84bn for the three months to March, down from €2.05bn in 2018. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected net earnings of €1.83bn for the quarter. Without foreign currency headwinds, the bank said profit for the quarter would have dropped 7.7 per cent.

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The market for UK shopping centres has all but frozen up as buyers struggle to assign values to properties affected by troubled retailers restructuring their leases, the Financial Times reported. Just £20m of shopping centres changed hands in the first quarter of this year, according to data from CoStar, against a 10-year quarterly average of £783m. That was the weakest quarter since at least 2003 and “probably this century”, said Mark Stansfield, head of UK analytics at CoStar.

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The money spent by the UK tax authority on private debt collectors has quadrupled in the past five years, suggesting an increasingly “aggressive” approach to collecting unpaid tax, accountants have warned, the Financial Times reported. HM Revenue & Customs spent £26.3m on private debt collectors in 2018, up from just £6.2m in 2014. It is part of an increase in the amount handed to private sector debt agencies by HMRC, which has spent more than £140m on their services since 2011.

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Brexit is likely to threaten the pound’s status as a global reserve currency according to a survey of central bank money managers who say Britain’s departure from the EU will alter their views on sterling, the Financial Times reported. The pound’s history as one of the most important global currencies has meant central banks have long held assets denominated in pounds that can be sold quickly to help curb swings in their own currency’s exchange rates.

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Arif Naqvi, the founder of buyout fund Abraaj Group, was denied bail by a London judge Friday after prosecutors said he may flee to Pakistan rather than face U.S. fraud charges, Bloomberg News reported. Judge Emma Arbuthnot denied Naqvi’s request after prosecutors said the 58-year-old wrote down the phone number of the Pakistani president when he was arrested earlier this month. Naqvi appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court for the latest stage of his extradition battle following his arrest this month on American charges of defrauding investors.

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European Union lawmakers called on the EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager to block a scheme devised by the Italian government to automatically compensate shareholders of failed banks, a move seen as breaching EU rules on bank rescues, Reuters reported. Italy’s eurosceptic government on Wednesday adopted a decree that would allow automatic repayments for shareholders and bondholders of half a dozen banks who lost money when the lenders were liquidated.

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Debenhams plans to close 22 stores next year, putting about 1,200 jobs at risk, under a scheme designed to put the ailing British retailer on a stable financial footing, Reuters reported. Debenhams’ lenders took control of the retailer earlier this month in an effort to keep stores open, a deal which wiped out the company’s shareholders, including Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, who had tried to take control of the business.

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Large wind turbine companies and private equity firms are interested in buying insolvent German group Senvion, Chief Executive Yves Rannou told Reuters in an interview published on Friday. “We see significant interest for Senvion from across the board - from financial investors, from strategic parties in the sector, and beyond,” he said, adding that Senvion had mandated Rothschild to find an investor, Reuters reported. “I am positively surprised by how many companies are looking at us, including the big players in our sector who are looking very closely,” he added.

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