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  • Russia may change budget rules to cope with Crimea: deputy PM

    Reuters - Thu, Apr 10, 2014 9:12 AM EDT

    By Stephen Brown and Madeline Chambers BERLIN (Reuters) - Russia may change its budget rules to reflect the addition of Crimea and its population of about 2 million people, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov was quoted as saying on Thursday during a visit to Berlin. He told a German newspaper that Crimea - the Ukrainian Black Sea territory annexed by Moscow last month - needed investment in infrastructure that could not be covered by existing funds. Boosting Crimea's economy is vital to Russian president Vladimir Putin's hopes of keeping the support of local people. "When a country gets 2 million new people ... which need big investments, this cannot be done by just diverting funds from existing state programmes," Shuvalov was quoted as telling Die Welt, adding roads and ports required "serious investments". More »Russia may change budget rules to cope with Crimea: deputy PM

  • Detroit deal with insurers could set stage for more compromises

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 9:52 PM EDT

    By Lisa Lambert WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Detroit on Wednesday struck a deal with a core group of creditors that dramatically cuts the losses they would suffer in the city's landmark bankruptcy case, a breakthrough that could pave the way for settlements with other holdout creditors. Additionally, Detroit might no longer try to classify nearly $400 million of voter-approved general obligation bonds as unsecured, a threat that had been a chilling prospect for municipal bond investors who have long viewed so-called GO debt as that market's safest investments. Their final status is still under discussion, but the settlement assures they will receive a superior payout than other unsecured creditors. Terms of the settlement, announced by U.S. Bankruptcy Court mediators in a case brought by the bonds' insurers, mean that bondholders will receive $287.5 million of $388 million they are owed from a dedicated stream of tax revenue backing the debt, known as unlimited tax general obligation bonds. More »Detroit deal with insurers could set stage for more compromises

  • Special Report: The princeling of private equity

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 8:37 PM EDT

    A discerning eye might notice the resemblance to his grandfather: former Chinese president and Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin. Alvin Jiang has a knack for landing lucrative deals in China, the world's biggest emerging market for private equity. He is a founding partner at Hong Kong-based Boyu Capital, now one of the hottest firms in China. Boyu has attracted high-profile investors such as Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings Private Limited. More »Special Report: The princeling of private equity

  • Detroit's emergency manager rebuffs new art sale proposal

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 8:20 PM EDT

    Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr showed little enthusiasm on Wednesday for a new proposal from a bond insurer to sell or securitize the insolvent city's world-class art collection. The collection, housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts, has been in question since Detroit filed for an $18 billion municipal bankruptcy last July, the largest in U.S. history. But bond insurer FGIC Corp, which insurers $1.1 billion of the city's pension debt, said on Wednesday it had received proposals from "credible third parties" for acquiring or monetizing the collection that would generate $1 billion to $2 billion for the bankrupt city, considerably more than Orr's current plan. The DIA's collection includes famous works such as Van Gogh's 'Bank of the Oise at Auvers' (1890), Henri Matisse's 'The Window' (1916), and Bruegel's 'Wedding Dance' (1566). More »Detroit's emergency manager rebuffs new art sale proposal

  • Ally Financial IPO priced at $25 per share: underwriter

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 5:41 PM EDT

    (Reuters) - Ally Financial Inc's initial public offering has been priced at $25 per share, an underwriter said, valuing the bailed-out auto lender at about $12.04 billion. Ally's IPO raised $2.38 billion, after the offering of 95 million shares was priced at the low end of its expected range. Ally's IPO is the biggest U.S. offering so far this year, eclipsing that of Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc and IMS Health Holdings Inc . The US Department of Treasury is selling all the shares of Ally in the offering. More »Ally Financial IPO priced at $25 per share: underwriter

  • U.S. lawmakers press Comcast on Time Warner Cable merger

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 4:53 PM EDT

    By Alina Selyukh and Diane Bartz WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc executives sought to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday that their planned merger would not send cable TV prices skyrocketing but found a fair amount of congressional skepticism. The Senate Judiciary Committee held the first public hearing on the proposed $45.2 billion merger between the two largest U.S. cable companies, a deal that has raised eyebrows among public interest groups and some lawmakers. Comcast promises that it will benefit consumers without eliminating any choices. "My concern is that as Comcast continues to get bigger, it will have even more power to exercise its leverage and squeeze consumers," said Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat who has often opposed media concentration. More »U.S. lawmakers press Comcast on Time Warner Cable merger

  • Frontrunner in Afghan vote rules out coalition government

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 3:32 PM EDT

    By Maria Golovnina KABUL (Reuters) - A frontrunner to succeed Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president voiced the possibility of teaming up with a rival on Wednesday but ruled out forming a coalition government in order to avoid a second-round runoff. Afghanistan voted in a landmark presidential election last weekend which, if successful, will usher in the first democratic handover of power in the country's history as Karzai prepares to step down after more than 12 years in office. Preliminary tallies put former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah in the lead in parts of the capital Kabul. But it could be weeks before a countrywide winner emerges from the field of eight candidates because Afghanistan's rugged terrain and weak infrastructure make tallying all the ballots so difficult. More »Frontrunner in Afghan vote rules out coalition government

  • Fannie, Freddie shareholders lobby against U.S. housing reform bill

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 3:16 PM EDT

    By Margaret Chadbourn WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A coalition of investors in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Wednesday launched an effort to stop Congress from moving ahead with a U.S. housing finance reform bill, arguing it would deny them a fair share in any remaining value in the two companies. The new tax-exempt group, Investors Unite, said it wants to protect the rights of shareholders in the bailed-out mortgage finance companies. The group's formation is the latest sign of stepped-up lobbying activity ahead of a Senate Banking Committee meeting later this month on a bill that would abolish Fannie Mae and Freddie and replace them with a new agency to back home loans. The group opposes the bill because it would prevent the companies from recapitalizing and compensating shareholders. More »Fannie, Freddie shareholders lobby against U.S. housing reform bill

  • RBS to pay $2.5 billion to end UK government's dividend priority

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 3:06 PM EDT

    By Matt Scuffham LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland has agreed to pay 1.5 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) to cancel an arrangement that gives the government priority over dividends, clearing an obstacle to the lender's eventual privatization. The agreement between part-nationalized RBS and Britain's finance ministry to cancel the dividend access share (DAS), which gives the state priority over dividend payments and makes the stock less attractive to private investors, was approved by European regulators on Wednesday. It had been put in place after Britain pumped 45.8 billion pounds into RBS during the 2008/9 financial crisis, leaving the government with an 81 percent shareholding. The figure of 1.5 billion pounds was in line with what UK Financial Investments, which manages the government's stake in RBS, had previously indicated the agreement was worth. More »RBS to pay $2.5 billion to end UK government's dividend priority

  • Top EU election candidates struggle to find differences

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 1:16 PM EDT

    By Paul Taylor PARIS (Reuters) - The top two rival candidates to lead the European Commission struggled on Wednesday to find real policy differences in the first live television debate ahead of European Parliament elections next month. Conservative Jean-Claude Juncker and Social Democrat Martin Schulz - both native German speakers - argued politely in French over the appropriate balance between budget austerity and investment to promote economic growth in a 50-minute debate on France 24 television. Juncker, 59, the veteran former Luxembourg prime minister and chairman of euro group finance ministers, stressed the need to maintain tight control of public finances and said he could see no grounds to give France more time to reduce its deficit. "France has already had two extensions to its period of adjustment. More »Top EU election candidates struggle to find differences

  • UK welcomes deal to free RBS from dividend access share

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 1:07 PM EDT

    Britain's finance minister said an agreement for part-nationalized Royal Bank of Scotland to cancel a government-owned share that stops it paying dividends would help taxpayers to get their money back. RBS was rescued through a 45.5 billion pound ($76.21 billion) government bailout during the 2008/9 financial crisis, leaving taxpayers holding an 81 percent stake in the bank. European regulators on Wednesday agreed a proposal that would see RBS buy itself out of the dividend access share, which gives the state priority over dividends and has been seen as a major obstacle to full privatization. More »UK welcomes deal to free RBS from dividend access share

  • Greece to end its bond market exile on Thursday

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 1:06 PM EDT

    By Alex Chambers and Lefteris Papadimas LONDON/ATHENS, April 9 (IFR/Reuters) - Greece, at risk of crashing out of the euro zone just two years ago, will issue its first sovereign bond in almost four years on Thursday, seeking to send a strong political and economic signal it is on the way out of its debt crisis. According to sources speaking to Reuters and Thomson Reuters news and information service IFR, pricing is set for Thursday. "We aim to raise up to 2.5 billion euros," one Greek government official said. Athens has no pressing funding needs but wants to test the waters for more and bigger bond sales in the future, as part of its strategy to cover all its funding needs from the market by 2016. More »Greece to end its bond market exile on Thursday

  • EU regulators allow RBS to cancel UK's dividend share

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 12:50 PM EDT

    LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European regulators said on Wednesday they had agreed that Britain's part-nationalized Royal Bank of Scotland can cancel a government-owned share that effectively stops it from paying dividends. RBS and Britain's finance ministry said in November they were in advanced talks with the European Commission to free the bank from the dividend access share - which gives the state priority over dividends and has been seen as a major obstacle to full privatization. RBS was rescued by the government through a 45.5 billion pound ($76.21 billion) bailout during the 2008 financial crisis, leaving the government with an 81 percent stake. Sources familiar with the matter say RBS will pay 1.5 billion pounds to buy itself out of the arrangement, in line with the government's previous valuation of the share. More »EU regulators allow RBS to cancel UK's dividend share

  • New French PM wagers on growth, stirs deficit angst

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 12:42 PM EDT

    In a 47-minute speech only days after his appointment, Manuel Valls laid out a stark appraisal of Europe's second-largest economy that earned upbeat reviews on Wednesday for its forthright tone and unflinching view of the country's mood. "There is a clear change in tone that's very beneficial, with the clear understanding that companies will be the driver in any economic recovery," said Deutsche Bank economist Gilles Moec. "But Valls is vague on how the savings will be achieved and on the deficit, he seems to say: we'll do what we can." If deficit targets are not kept, as some Socialist ministers have suggested, investors could grow worried about debt sustainability, prompting credit downgrades and even a reawakening of Europe's sovereign debt crisis, critics said. "Moreover, beyond the French case, investors could lose confidence in the ability of European institutions to enforce budgetary discipline in the euro area." SAVINGS PLAN IS TOO VAGUE Valls' speech to parliament on Tuesday amplified measures announced in January by Socialist President Francois Hollande as he shifted toward supply-side policies in a last-ditch attempt to bring down unemployment stuck above 10 percent. More »New French PM wagers on growth, stirs deficit angst

  • France's Hollande names European expert his chief of staff

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 12:23 PM EDT

    By Alexandria Sage PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande appointed a close friend and former European affairs minister to the strategic post of his chief of staff on Wednesday and reshuffled his private office to tighten the country's relations with Brussels. The nomination of Jean-Pierre Jouyet as secretary-general of the presidency was also designed to ensure better coordination with the government of new Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Hollande told the daily Le Monde. Separately, Valls appointed Socialist Party Secretary Harlem Desir to run the European Affairs ministry. It was the first government post for Desir, 54, who has struggled during his 18 months at the helm of the Socialist Party to hold back dissent. More »France's Hollande names European expert his chief of staff

  • Egypt to announce steps on subsidy reform before next month's election: minister

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 11:35 AM EDT

    By Aziz El Yaakoubi TUNIS (Reuters) - Egypt will announce major steps towards subsidy reform ahead of next month's presidential election, the country's minister of planning said on Wednesday. The more we delay them, the more the costs get higher," Ashraf al-Arabi told Reuters during a visit to Tunisia. After the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, already high energy subsidy costs ballooned to a fifth of state spending due as the Egyptian pound plunged, and due to an expanding population. Egypt's Finance Minister said last month that spending on energy subsidies next year will be 10-12 percent above the 130 billion Egyptian pounds ($18.6 billion) budgeted for in the current fiscal year, unless immediate reforms are made. More »Egypt to announce steps on subsidy reform before next month's election: minister

  • Small businesses in limbo again on tax breaks

    AP - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 11:32 AM EDT

    Small businesses are in limbo as they wait for Congress to make decisions that could save them a lot of money. More »Small businesses in limbo again on tax breaks

  • Volcker extension still challenging for new CLOs

    Reuters - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 10:46 AM EDT

    By Billy Cheung, Lynn Adler and Natalie Harrison NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Federal Reserve announcement on Monday that would relax Volcker Rule conformance periods still leaves banks holding collateralized loan obligation (CLO) debt in a quandary. The Federal Reserve intends to give banks until July 2017, a two-year extension, to divest or restructure their CLO debt falling under Volcker's "ownership interest" umbrella. Such debt typically back CLOs that own securities other than loans and contain contractual language enabling bondholders to remove CLO managers for cause. Regulators, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Securities Exchange Commission, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, agreed to grant a similar delay, according to Monday's Fed announcement. More »Volcker extension still challenging for new CLOs

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