IMF and Ukraine reach tentative $5.5bn deal

Kristalina Georgieva Managing director of IMF. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2019

IMF and Ukraine reach tentative $5.5bn deal

  • The IMF and other international donors have repeatedly pressed Kiev to attract much-needed investment by addressing pervasive corruption

KIEV: The International Monetary Fund said it had reached a “staff-level” agreement with Ukraine on a new $5.5 billion, three-year aid program for the war-scarred country.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said she was “pleased to note that IMF staff has reached agreement with the authorities” on the deal, adding it was “subject to IMF management approval.”

Georgieva said she spoke by telephone on Saturday to President Volodymyr Zelensky and commended him on “impressive progress” on reforms and “sound economic policies.”

“The president and I agreed that Ukraine’s economic success depends crucially on strengthening the rule of law, enhancing the integrity of the judiciary, and reducing the role of vested interests,” she said.

She added that it was “paramount to safeguard the gains made in cleaning up the banking system and recover the large costs to the taxpayers from bank resolutions.”

The IMF and other international donors have repeatedly pressed Kiev to attract much-needed investment by addressing pervasive corruption and reducing the power of oligarchs. But bankers and analysts said they fear the current authorities are targeting former bankers who have helped clean up the market instead of the oligarch owners of banks that go bankrupt.

At his inauguration in May, the president urged people with Ukrainian heritage to return home.

The country is in the spotlight due to the impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump.

Trump is accused of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to find dirt on former US Vice President Joe Biden, his potential challenger in the 2020 election.

The White House maintains Trump was simply encouraging the new government of Ukraine to rein in corruption.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in Ukraine’s conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the industrial east which broke out shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.


HSBC profit slump adds to bank sector coronavirus woes

Updated 04 August 2020

HSBC profit slump adds to bank sector coronavirus woes

  • London-based bank reports massive slump in net profit, plans to slash 35,000 jobs

LONDON: HSBC on Monday reported a 69-percent slump in net profit, joining a number of major banks whose earnings have been slammed by the coronavirus fallout.

HSBC announced earnings of $3.1 billion compared with almost $10 billion in the first 6 months of 2019, as spiraling China-US tensions also hurt the British-based but Asia-focused lender.

Alongside HSBC results, top French bank Societe Generale on Monday announced a second quarter loss of more than €1 billion as the pandemic forced it to set aside more provisions against bad loans. UK banks Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest all last week reported huge financial hits linked to the pandemic’s fallout.

But there have been some bright spots, with French bank BNP Paribas weathering the coronavirus storm in the second quarter with only a small dip in net profits thanks to a surge in investment banking.

Credit Suisse meanwhile saw net profit jump almost a quarter in the April-June period, also on investment banking gains.

HIGHLIGHT

$1 BILLION - Alongside HSBC results, top French bank Societe Generale on Monday announced a second-quarter loss of more than €1 billion as the pandemic forced it to set aside more provisions against bad loans.

“HSBC has done little to lift investors’ spirits as it brings the curtain down on what has been a costly half-year reporting season for banks in general,” noted Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Even though banks “are much better prepared for this economic onslaught than during the financial crisis of over a decade ago ... the immediate outlook is bleak,” he added.

HSBC said that its pre-tax profit slid 64 percent to $4.3 billion in the first half while revenue was down 9 percent at $26.7 billion.

The figures missed analyst forecasts and the bank also raised its estimate for 2020 loan losses to $13 billion from $8 billion.

CEO Noel Quinn described the first 6 months of the year as “some of the most challenging in living memory.” He added: “Our first-half performance was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, falling interest rates, increased geopolitical risk and heightened levels of market volatility.”

Even by the standards of the current economic maelstrom engulfing global banks, HSBC has had a torrid time.

Before the coronavirus crisis it was beset by disappointing profit growth, ground down by US-China trade war uncertainties and Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The London-headquartered bank embarked on a huge cost-cutting initiative at the start of the year, including plans to slash about 35,000 jobs as well as trimming fat from less profitable divisions, primarily in the United States and Europe.

The coronavirus upended some of that cost-cutting drive with banks hammered by market volatility and the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.

But HSBC has a further headache — geopolitical tensions via its status as a major business conduit between China and the West.

HSBC makes 90 percent of its profit in Asia, with China and Hong Kong being the major drivers of growth.

As a result it has found itself more vulnerable than most to the crossfire caused by the increasingly bellicose relationship between Beijing and Washington.

The bank has tried to stay in Beijing’s good graces. It vocally backed a draconian national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June to end a year of unrest and pro-democracy protests. The move sparked criticism in Washington and London but analysts saw it as an attempt to protect its access to China, which has a track record of punishing businesses that do not toe Beijing’s line.

But that has not shielded it from Beijing’s wrath. Quinn referenced the bank’s growing political vulnerability in Monday’s results statement.

“Current tensions between China and the US inevitably create challenging situations for an organization with HSBC’s footprint,” he said.

“However, the need for a bank capable of bridging the economies of East and West is acute, and we are well placed to fulfil this role,” he added.