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European Stocks Erase Decline as Corporate News Beats China Woes

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(Bloomberg) — European stocks fell for a second day, following a slump in Asian markets after China planned to impose a national security law on Hong Kong.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 1.6% as of 8:16 a.m. in London. All 19 industry groups fell, led by miners, energy shares and banks.

China’s proposal is fueling concern of fresh protests in Hong Kong and threatens to escalate tensions with the U.S. That’s adding to risk-off sentiment in European equities, which have lost momentum after kicking off this week with strong gains on hopes of a vaccine against the coronavirus. The Stoxx 600 is heading for a weekly gain of 2.2%.

A security law on Hong Kong “would strengthen Beijing’s control over the territory, which would probably spark protests,” said David Madden, a market analyst at CMC Markets. “Last year, pro-democracy protests were common in Hong Kong, some of which caused major disruption, so traders are now worried the situation will flare up again. President Trump is likely to weigh in on the matter if the Chinese authorities take a tough stance in relation to Hong Kong.”

Among notable movers, Asia-focused HSBC Holdings Plc fell 5.5%. Burberry Group Plc gained 2.3% after its full-year comparable retail sales beat estimates. Samhallsbyggnadsbolaget i Norden AB jumped 9% after its chief executive officer was dropped from an investigation regarding insider dealing.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

 

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HSBC board rethinks overhaul and seeks even sharper cuts

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HSBC’s board is set to deepen the biggest restructuring in the bank’s 155-year history after deciding that the coronavirus crisis requires more drastic measures.

In February, Europe’s largest lender said it would slash 35,000 jobs, $4.5bn in costs and $100bn of risk-weighted assets by radically shrinking its US and European businesses and investment bank. Executives plan to redirect resources to Asia, HSBC’s historical heartland and profit centre.

The pandemic — which HSBC fears could saddle it with $11bn of bad loans this year alone — caused management to pause lay-offs.

But the board is now pressing executives to restart the restructuring and come up with even more radical changes, including further cuts or even a possible sale of its US business alongside its retail network in France and operations in smaller non-strategic countries.

Some of the more marginal businesses that were previously given the benefit of the doubt are being re-examined, say senior figures at the bank. 

One person familiar with the discussions said the board wants a new strategic plan “sooner rather than later”, but that it will be several months before the review is completed. 

The bank’s US business is under particular scrutiny, where HSBC has a small east-coast retail network alongside trading and transaction banking operations. These were shrunk by almost a third in February, but management is now debating whether the US operation is viable at all.

A US sale “is possible, but it’s very early in terms of making that decision”, the person said. “What HSBC needs to understand is, for better or worse, their opportunity is in China.”

“We have to have a business there [the US], there’s no question of that, but the shape we’ve got to look at again,” said another person involved in setting strategy.

US profits fell 39 per cent last year and it made a return on tangible equity — a measure of profitability — of just 1.5 per cent. That compares with a 15.8 per cent return in Asia and 12 per cent in the Middle East.

HSBC declined to comment.

Line chart of Pence per share showing A rollercoaster decade for  HSBC

“We’ve been saying for a decade that HSBC should get out of US retail,” said Ronit Ghose, an analyst at Citi, adding that the bank could service US corporate clients “in Asia and internationally without a subscale American retail franchise”.

The bank’s retail network in France, with more than 200 branches and 4,000 staff, is also being evaluated and the bank has invited bids from other banks and from private equity firms.

Executives are also revisiting a long list of small, non-strategic countries including Malta, Bermuda, the Philippines and New Zealand to see if any of those divisions can be sold or closed. Previous efforts to sell were hampered by a lack of buyers acceptable to local regulators, one of the people said.

Mark Tucker, the bank’s chairman and a tough former insurance executive who joined in October 2017, is the key protagonist. He fired John Flint as chief executive within 18 months for not being decisive enough, replacing him with Noel Quinn, an HSBC lifer.

Mr Tucker wants the board to be “more assertive and more engaged”, believing that in the past it has been “too passive”, a person familiar with his approach said.

Investors were underwhelmed when the current strategy was unveiled on February 18 — its stock fell 6 per cent on the day.

Coronavirus has added to the scepticism. HSBC shares now trade at their lowest in more than a decade and retail investors in Hong Kong were furious when the Bank of England forced the bank to cancel its dividend for the first time in 74 years.

Covid-19’s early toll was revealed in HSBC’s first-quarter results. Profits fell by half after the bank boosted reserves against potential bad debts fivefold to $3bn. Mr Quinn warned provisions could hit $11bn by the end of the year in the worst-case scenario.

HSBC’s economic forecasts are among the most pessimistic of any global bank.

“We’ve got to look at where we want to be in five years’ time and get ourselves in position, not incrementally, but top down,” said one executive. “We have a fundamental reorganisation to do and we’ve delayed this, as a corporation, for 12 years.”

“We have to bloody well get on and do it . . . but we have to be sensitive to redundancies in this environment,” they added. “As Churchill said, one can’t waste a good crisis.”

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Lufthansa Group secures finance package from economic fund | News

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Lufthansa Group has secured approval from the federal German government’s economic stabilisation fund, WSF, for a €9 billion financial package.

Under the agreement the WSF will contribute up to €5.7 billion to Lufthansa’s assets including €4.7 billion in equity.

The measure will be supplemented by a syndicated three-year credit facility of up to €3 billion, provided by private banks and KfW – yet to be approved.

It says the “silent participation” is unlimited in time and can be terminated by the company – either in whole or in part – on a quarterly basis.

The remuneration will amount to 4% for 2020 and 2021, increasing gradually to 9.5% by 2027.

WSF will acquire shares to build up a 20% shareholding in Lufthansa Group at a price of €2.56 per share – equating to an overall cash investment of some €300 million.

It will be able to increase the shareholding further, to just over 25%, if there is a takeover of the company.

LH A350

If Lufthansa Group fails to remunerate the fund then an additional portion of the WSF participation can be converted into another 5% shareholding from 2024 and 2026 – although the second conversion only becomes valid if the shareholding increase from a takeover has not been exercised.

Subject to Lufthansa’s fully repaying the participations and a minimum sale price of €2.56 per share, plus annual interest of 12%, the WSF is undertaking to sell its entire shareholding at the market price by 31 December 2023.

Lufthansa Group says the stabilisation package still requires the final approval of its management board and supervisory board, while the measures are also subject to shareholders’ and regulatory approval.

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Aton provides update on filing of annual and first quarter financial statements and MD&As, postponed due to COVID-19 TSX Venture Exchange:AAN

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Aton Resources Inc. (AAN: TSX-V) (“Aton” or the “Company“) announces that, further to its news release of April 24, 2020, it intends to file its annual financial statements and management’s discussion and analysis, for the year ended December 31, 2019 (the “Annual Financial Information”), and its first quarter financial statements and management’s discussion and analysis for the period ended March 31, 2020 (the “First Quarter Financial Information”), postponed due to logistics and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, on or before June 13, 2020.

Aton is relying on exemptive relief granted by Canadian securities regulatory authorities that allows it to delay the filing of its Annual Financial Information required by sections 4.2 and 5.1(2) of National Instrument 51-102 (“NI 51-102”) by April 29, 2020, and the filing of its First Quarter Financial Information required by sections 4.4 and 5.1(2) of NI 51-102 by June 1, 2020. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, securities regulatory authorities in Canada have granted a blanket exemption allowing issuers an additional 45 days to complete their regulatory filings.

Until such time as these documents are filed, Aton’s management and other insiders are subject to a trading blackout that reflects the principles contained in section 9 of National Policy 11-207 — Failure-to-File Cease Trade Orders and Revocations in Multiple Jurisdictions.

There have been no material business developments since the date of the last interim financial statements, filed on November 14, 2019; however, the Company has issued news releases subsequent to November 14, 2019, copies of which are available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com or www.atonresources.com.  

About Aton Resources Inc.

Aton Resources Inc. (AAN: TSX-V) is focused on its 100% owned Abu Marawat Concession (“Abu Marawat”), located in Egypt’s Arabian-Nubian Shield, approximately 200 km north of Centamin’s world-class Sukari gold mine. Aton has identified numerous gold and base metal exploration targets at Abu Marawat, including the Hamama deposit in the west, the Abu Marawat deposit in the northeast, and the advanced Rodruin exploration prospect in the south of the Concession. Three historic British mines are also located on the Concession at Sir Bakis, Semna and Abu Garida. Aton has identified several distinct geological trends within Abu Marawat, which display potential for the development of a variety of styles of precious and base metal mineralisation. Abu Marawat is over 596 km2 in size and is located in an area of excellent infrastructure; a four-lane highway, a 220kV power line, and a water pipeline are in close proximity, as are the international airports at Hurghada and Luxor.

For further information regarding Aton Resources Inc., please visit us at www.atonresources.com or contact:

MARK CAMPBELL

President and Chief Executive Officer
Tel: +202-27356548
Email: mcampbell@atonresources.com

Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

Some of the statements contained in this release are forward-looking statements. Since forward-looking statements address future events and conditions; by their very nature they involve inherent risks and uncertainties. Actual results in each case could differ materially from those currently anticipated in such statements.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

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