Europe

Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank abruptly called off their merger talks Thursday, saying they concluded that the perils of trying to forge a megabank with international clout outweighed the potential benefits, the International New York Times reported. But while Germany’s two largest banks answered one question that had preoccupied the country in recent weeks, they raised another: What next? The status quo is not an option for either Frankfurt bank.

Read more

Sweden’s Riksbank said it will hold its main rate steady longer than previously expected and announced an 18-month bond-buying programme to start from July — the latest major central bank to take a more dovish shift on monetary policy. The Riksbank, which on Thursday kept its repo rate at a quarter of a point below zero, said it will purchase government bonds for a nominal value of SKr45bn (€4.2bn) from July until December 2020. It added that its benchmark interest rate will remain at minus 0.25 per cent “for a somewhat longer period of time than was forecast in February”.

Read more

Ireland’s top telcos Vodafone, Virgin and Three have been touted as possible buyers of BT’s €460 million Irish unit, which the UK telecoms giant is selling off as part of a global restructuring of its business, the Irish Times reported. Australian investment company AMP Capital, which manages the State-backed Irish Infrastructure Fund, was also flagged as a possible buyer while other industry sources speculated the business may end up in private equity hands. BT has so far refused to comment on reports of the sale, which has been linked to an accounting scandal at its Italian unit.

Read more

Four of the UK’s largest real estate investment trusts are heavily exposed to struggling retailers and CVAs, the rising insolvency trend which has become synonymous with the decline of the high street, UBS has warned, the Financial Times reported. The analysis looked at the portfolios of four real estate investment trusts: British Land, Landsec, Hammerson, and Intu. Its findings hinge on using floorspace to weigh exposure to struggling retailers, rather than the more typical industry metric of rental income.

Read more

Lawyers investigating the London Capital & Finance scandal are aiming to bring claims against the UK’s financial compensation scheme on behalf of the 11,600 investors hit by the company’s collapse, the Financial Times reported. LCF’s administrators and insolvency experts from the law firm Mishcon de Reya are combing through recordings of phone calls between customers and representatives of the company in search of proof that investors were advised to buy the mini-bonds.

Read more

Recently listed small business lender Funding Circle has cut expected returns for its UK retail investors after raising its estimate of defaults, the Financial Times reported. A higher risk of default on UK and US loans made in 2017 and 2018 has prompted the lender, which matches individual and institutional investors with small business borrowers, to revise down its predicted returns and tighten its lending criteria. Peer-to-peer lenders have attracted investors who are looking for better returns than high street banks can offer.

Read more

Ukraine is investigating whether a charitable foundation set up primarily to coordinate London-listed Ferrexpo Plc’s philanthropic activities was used to launder money and evade taxes, Bloomberg News reported. Officials of Blooming Land Charitable Foundation abused their powers to seek “illicit benefits,” damaging state interests, a Ukraine prosecutor said in a court filing in Kiev in February. Blooming Land may have received payments from businesses, “legalizing the proceeds via converting them into cash under the guise of donations for charity,” other court documents allege.

Read more

A court in Croatia on Wednesday postponed a bankruptcy ruling for the country’s biggest shipbuilding group Uljanik until May 13, as the government tried to delay activation of state guarantees to a customer for late delivery of a vessel, Reuters reported. The commercial court in the northwestern town of Pazin had already delayed its ruling from March and the decision in May should be final. Bankruptcy would threaten the jobs of around 3,000 workers.

Read more

Greece extended its budget surplus last year, reflecting the leftwing Syriza government’s expectations of a record-busting figure, in the latest sign of Athens pleasing investors after a decade-long debt crisis that took it to the brink of leaving the eurozone. One of the bloc’s poorest members showed a surplus of 1.1 per cent of gross domestic product for 2018, compared with a revised 0.7 per cent for the previous year, and a far cry from its 5.6 per cent deficit of 2015, its statistics office said on Tuesday. Figures published in December for the first 11 months of 2018 had shown that Gre

Read more

French judges ordered former Prime Minister François Fillon to stand trial on charges of misusing public funds, in a case that torpedoed his 2017 bid for the presidency and cleared the way for the election of Emmanuel Macron. France’s financial crimes court charged Mr. Fillon with misappropriating public funds by employing his wife and two of his children as aides while he served in parliament, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday. They also charged Mr.

Read more