Business news and markets: live

Business news and markets: live

11.05 So here are a few things you didn’t know about the incoming RBS chief exec Ross McEwan, compiled by managementtoday.co.uk.

• He failed his accounting exams twice

In an interview with his own university magazine, he said: “If you check my academic records you’ll see I failed accounting level 2 twice before getting it on the third attempt.”

• He worked in HR before getting into banking

McEwan spent several years working in HR for the likes of Unilever and National Mutual before getting into finance.

• He moved to the UK having been snubbed for a chief exec role in Australia

McEwan was head of retail at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and heir apparent for the top spot when the chief executive retired…but the role went to the head of strategy. Not long after he arrived in the UK.

• He thinks the UK retail-banking sector is below par

When asked what he thought about the UK banking scene back in March, he said: “I have been quite surprised by how bad this industry is. There is not a great retail bank in the UK.”

10.53 BREAKING: Kazakhmys shareholders pave way for buyout of rival ENRC

Copper miner Kazakhmys paved the way on Friday for a $ 4.6bn buyout of Kazakh rival ENRC, in which it is the single largest investor.

Almost 99pc of voting shareholders backed the deal, Reuters reports.

Kazakhmys support is key for ENRC’s founding trio, who, together with the Kazakh government, have made a bid for the shares they do not already own and want to take ENRC off the London market – ending almost six years marred by corruption probes, governance concerns and boardroom rows.

The bidders already own almost 54pc, meaning that Kazakhmys support now takes them over the 75pc mark.

10.39 Markets around the world were lifted yesterday by both strong economic data and the decisions by the Bank of England and the European Central Bank to keep interest rates at record lows. Traders’ attention will turn to US jobs data, due to be released this afternoon, and Capital Spreads dealer Jonathan Sudaria has taken a look at the lay of the land:

QuoteMarkets seem quite content with the prospect of long term low interest rates and improving economic signals, signified by the global run of good manufacturing surveys yesterday.

Today’s focus is naturally the jobs report and unemployment rate from the US. Optimism seems to be swelling as traders gear up for what they hope will be the fourth time in a row where the figure comes in better than expected. Although a pick up in the economic data would suggest a higher probability of the Fed tapering in September, it looks as though traders and markets have come to terms with it at last, and are now beyond the point where economic stimulus is needed, and can instead revert back to normality where economic strength is a good thing.

Reflecting some caution ahead of the US non-farm payrolls report, the FTSE 100 is little changed at 6,667.

10.18 Today’s PMI data is significant as the construction sector has been a recent serious drag on UK economic activity despite its relatively small size.

While the construction sector only accounts for 6.8pc of total UK output, the extent of its weakness meant that it knocked 0.6 percentage point off GDP growth in 2012 which was limited to 0.2pc.

Construction output then knocked a further 0.1 percentage point off GDP growth in the first quarter of 2013.

Howard Archer, chief economist at UIHS Global, said:

Quote Of critical importance to the construction sector going forward is that the economy and the housing market sustain their recent improvement over the coming months, and that this increasingly stimulates building work. It currently appears that housing market activity is really stepping up a gear, while the government’s Help to Buy initiatives in the budget to boost housing market activity was also welcome news for housebuilders.

But he warned:

Quote Nevertheless, the upside for construction activity continues to be constrained by limited public sector projects amid tightened government spending, while the past extended weakness of the economy means that private commercial activity may take some time to really pick up markedly. In addition, significant problems remain in getting funding for some large-scale projects.

Howard has also raised his growth forecasts today for the UK to 1.2pc in 2013 and 1.9pc in 2014, from 1.1pc and 1.8pc respectively.

10.05 UK construction PMI at three-year high

Markit construction PMI jumped sharply in July, hitting 57, up from 51 in June. The forecast for July to hold at 51.

The sector was boosted by growth of both business activity and incoming new business, which accelerated sharply since the previous month.

This also resulted in a solid increase in employment and the strongest degree of positive sentiment about future output since May 2010.

Source: Markit

09.56 More on Berlusconi and what that ruling actually means (see 08.58).

OpenEurope says Berlusconi will only have to serve one year in reality – with house arrest or community service the most likely options, given his age.

But more importantly the Supreme Court also said the five-year public office ban was excessive under Italian law and had to be cut down – so it referred it back to the Court of Appeal for review.

Quote In other words, it seemed Il Cavaliere had at least temporarily dodged the ban – arguably more important than the prison sentence from his point of view.

And the twist that emerged last night – Berlusconi will not be able to stand at the next election. OpenEurope explains:

Quote Under Italy’s new anti-corruption law, which was passed at the end of 2012 by Mario Monti’s technocratic government, Berlusconi will not be allowed to stand for election for at least six years (so not at the next election even if Letta’s government saw through the entire five-year parliamentary term).

So the result is that the lose-lose scenario for Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party is materialising.

If the Democratic Party votes to expel Berlusconi, it will put Italy’s coalition government at risk;

If the Democratic Party votes to keep Berlusconi in, it will put itself at risk of internal strains and criticism from angry voters. It would also provide a boost to Beppe Grillo’s populism.

09.43 Australia unveils levy on bank deposits

This is very interesting as Australia has unveiled a bank levy to safeguard the country from a banking collapse.

Deposits up to A$ 250,000 will have to pay a levy of 0.05pc from January 2016.

It will be imposed on banks and not account holders. But banks have warned costs may be passed on to customers.

The news came as the country announced its budget deficit has blown out to Aus$ 30 billion and revenues are shrinking,

The bank levy is forecast to raise Aus$ 733m (£429.9m) in the first 18 months.

The government also lowered its growth forecast for the year to 2.5pc, from 2.75pc.

09.18 Berlusconi’s conviction could create friction in Italy’s coalition government, which was formed with members of Mr Berlusconi’s party as well as his sworn opponents from the centre-Left after elections in February produced no clear result.

Berlusconi supporters have said they do not intend to walk out of the cabinet, which would prompt fresh elections, but rising tensions could hurt the attempt by Enrico Letta, the prime minister, to salvage Italy’s stuttering economy, creating new instability at the heart of Europe as it tries to recover from a crippling downturn.

Italy’s index, the FTSE Mib, is down 0.4pc in Friday’s trading.

Silvio Berlusconi

Judge Antonio Esposito (C) reads the sentence on Mediaset tax-fraud conviction against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

08.58 In case you missed it over night – Berlusconi has his criminal conviction confirmed.

Italy’s supreme court upheld Silvio Berlusconi’s four-year jail sentence for tax evasion, as judges backed a sentence delivered by a Milan court in October and confirmed on appeal in May.

Mr Berlusconi is unlikely to see the inside of a prison cell because a 2006 amnesty law cuts three years off sentences for crimes committed before that date. With just one year to serve, he is more likely to be given community service or house arrest.

The judges also declined to confirm the Milan court’s decision to ban Mr Berlusconi from political office for five years, deciding to send the decision back to a lower appeal court for reconsideration.

The multi-millionaire media mogul allegedly inflated acquisition costs for broadcast rights at his television company in 2002 and 2003 as part of a complicated tax scam.

Despite facing 17 major trials in the past 20 years, yesterday’s ruling marked the first time that Mr Berlusconi has been definitively convicted of a crime, ending the cat and mouse game he has played with judges, winning acquittals, changing laws on fraudulent accounting to escape prosecution and avoiding the statute of limitations leading other trials to reach their time limit.

08.46 Shares in troubled hedge fund manager Man Group have jumped 8.9pc, despite the company reporting that clients pulled $ 1.3bn from its products over the course of the second quarter and funds under management fell to $ 52bn at June 30, from $ 57bn a the end of December. Still, the numbers were not as bad as some analysts had expected, sending Man to the top of the FTSE 250.

On the FTSE 100, despite swinging to £1.4bn first-half profit from a $ 1.68bn loss a year earlier, RBS shares have lost 4.6pc. The bank did have a strong run yesterday and jumped 5pc, which would explain some of the weakness today. Oriel Securities analysts also highlighted that the so-called net attributable profit of $ 535m reported today missed expectations.

08.40 In focus today will be US employment report where expectations are for Non-Farm Payroll adds of 185,000, and another tick down in unemployment rate to 7.5pc from 7.6pc.

However, after yesterday’s surprise jump in the ISM manufacturing number, better than expected weekly jobless claims, combined with the improved ADP and GDP reports on Wednesday, some analysts are saying the number could be nearer 200,000.

Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets, said:

Quote While we would hope to see an increase in the participation rate to go along with that, the main focus is likely to be on the revisions to previous month’s figures in light of the large revisions seen in June.

A good jobs number will certainly add fuel to the September taper fire; however concerns remain over the slide in the PCE inflation component to its second lowest ever level in Wednesday’s GDP figures at 0.8pc.

James Bullard, the president of the St Louis Federal Reserve and a member of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), is speaking later on. Dr Bullard’s comments will be closely scrutinised, with his comments the first from a FOMC member since this week’s Fed meeting.

08.29 Nationwide warns on housing supply as prices surge in July

House prices rose 0.8pc last month pushing the annual growth rate to its highest in three years while supply remains ‘constrained’.

Britain’s biggest building society said July’s monthly house price increase of 0.8pc was “robust” and “further evidence of an upturn in the housing market”.

The figure was by far the largest rise this year where other months have produced, on average, increases of 0.3pc.

It puts year-on-year growth at 3.9pc, the highest since August 2010. At that period transactions were at extreme lows and recovering from the worst of the banking crisis in 2009.

The society’s chief economist Robert Gardner attributed some of the current gains to “a modest improvement in wider economic conditions and modest gains in employment.” He said Government schemes to stimulate mortgage lending were also having an effect in boosting demand.

But he focused on housing supply as he discussed today’s data, warning that “the supply side of the market remains constrained” with building activity “subdued”.

“In the first quarter housing completions in England were down 8pc compared to the same period of 2012 and around 40pc below the average number of quarterly completions in 2007,” he said.

House prices rose 0.8pc last month

08.21 William Hill has revealed another bumper set of results.

An “exceptional” Grand National and online growth helped the bookie’s revenue rise 20pc in the first half of the year to £752m.

Direct Line, the insurer spun out of RBS earlier this year, has seen pre-tax profits almost double in the first half to £208.8m, thanks to cost cust and fewer claims.

Europe’s biggest hedge fund Man Group has suffered in terms of the value of funds it controls, down to $ 52bn against $ 57bn six months ago, although it has made a half-year profit of $ 122m.

The Grand National

08.12 More corporate results this morning.

International Airlines Group, the owner of British airways, remains lossmaking, dragged down by the performance of its Spanish airline Iberia.

BA made an operating profit of €175m in the first half of the year, against €13m in the first half of 2012, but losses at Iberia have increased due to restructuring charges. Chief executive Willie Walsh has told Radio 4 that “all parts of the group are improving” and that “overall, I’m very pleased with the results”.

On a group level, revenue is slightly up at €8.7bn, while IAG’s pre-tax loss is at €506m against €358m a year ago because of those restructuring costs.

08.05 The FTSE 100 has edged 5.44 points higher to 6,684 this morning, helped by well-received numbers from British Airways and Iberia parent IAG, which is up 4.1pc in early trade. However, with US non-farm payroll data coming later today dealers are likely to be cautious: The Federal Reserve has said that unemployment will be a key factor in deciding when it will taper its stimulus measures.

07.55 As chief executive, McEwan will be expected to confirm his intention to stay in post until the privatisation of RBS.

This is expected to take at least five years, however Mr Hester recently said he thought the full return of RBS to the private sector could take a decade.

RBS’s board met on Thursday to confirm the appointment, which will also require approval by UK Financial Investments, which manages the taxpayer’s holdings in RBS and Lloyds Banking Group.

07.48 Commenting on the appointment this morning, Chancellor George Osborne said McEwan had impressed with his vision of RBS as a strong, UK-centred corporate bank.

Quote I welcome Ross’ appointment as the new Chief Executive of RBS. He’s impressed me with his vision of RBS as a strong, UK-centred corporate bank that is focused on supporting the British economy.

He’s committed to a new culture at the bank that puts the customer first, whether it’s the family or small business or large company. I think he’ll provide the leadership RBS needs as the bank puts the mistakes of the past behind it, and the government seeks to get the best value for the taxpayer from the money the last government put into the bank.

McEwan’s appointment would have required approval from Osborne as the government is the largest shareholder of the lender with an 81pc stake.

Approval would also have been needed by the RBS board, chaired by Sir Philip Hampton, UK Financial Investments, which manages the Government’s stake, and both the Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Chancellor George Osborne

07.37 You can read a full profile of the 56-year-old Kiwi who will be taking the reins at RBS here.

07.24 Ross McEwan will become CEO of RBS on October 1, after a handover period with Hester.

McEwan joined the state-backed bank in September 2012 as the chief executive of UK Retail.

Sir Philip Hampton, RBS Chairman said:

QuoteWith his extensive experience in banking and the leadership that he has shown in his time at RBS, Ross will be a great Chief Executive for the Group. Ross has already become a champion for customers in our business and will continue that role as CEO.

This is a job that is among the most important and challenging in the business world, and Ross has shown that he has the drive and capability to take it on. I conducted an international search for this position so our internal candidates could be benchmarked against the very best in the market. Ross was the strongest candidate.

Sir Philip says RBS is now a “safe and strong bank” adding that the focus was now on returning the bank to private ownership.

07.18 RBS has also increased its PPI provision in the first half by £185m. Its total for PPI charges now amounts to £2.4bn, of which £1.7bn has so far been paid out.

07.12 RBS has also announced pre-tax profit of £1.37bn in the first half of the year, compared with a loss of £1.68bn over the same timeframe last year.

Ross McEwan will take over from Stephen Hester, who has been at the helm since October 2008.

In today’s results Mr Hester said:

QuoteWorking intensely and effectively together, all 122,000 staff at RBS can take credit for the immense improvements made since then, from difficult beginnings and in a challenging environment.

RBS’s journey from “bust bank” to “normal bank” is largely done. But no small task remains – to harness the energies and strengths that have driven the Bank’s recovery, and to take RBS towards the target of being a “really good bank” for customers, shareholders and society as a whole.

I congratulate Ross McEwan on his appointment as RBS’s next Chief Executive. He has made a very positive impact since joining RBS last year and has a track record of strong accomplishment in customer focused banking. We will work closely and well together during the transition period, and he has my warmest best wishes for succeeding in the role. It is good for RBS that my successor comes internally – a broader compliment to the management team who serve the Bank so well.

Ross McEwan will join the bank with a basic salary of £1m. He has asked not to be considered for a bonus in 2013 or 2014.

New RBS chief executive Ross McEwan

07.08 BREAKING: The Royal Bank of Scotland confirms appointment Ross McEwan as the new chief executive of the state-backed lender.

07.06 Fabrice Tourre, the former Goldman Sachs banker, has been found liable for his role in a massive mortgage securities fraud that cost investors $ 1bn (£661m).

“Fabulous Fab”, as he calls himself, was found liable by a nine-member jury for six of the seven charges against him. He now faces potential fines and a possible ban from the financial industry.

The 34-year-old, who had denied wrongdoing, was sued by America’s Securities and Exchange Commission in the highest-profile trial to emerge from the financial crisis.

The SEC described Tourre as the “face of Wall Street greed” and claimed he hoodwinked investors into ploughing money into a sub-prime mortgage vehicle called Abacus while he was at Goldman.

The SEC claimed Tourre and the hedge fund Paulson & Co conspired to hook buyers by suggesting that founder John Paulson was also backing the vehicle, on the assumption that house prices would rise. In fact, Mr Paulson had taken a short position, betting that house prices would fall. The manoeuvre ended up making $ 1bn for the hedge fund.

Fabrice Tourre

07.05 Quite a bit of news over night.

First to Dell – activist investor Carl Icahn is suing the computer maker.

He has filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking changes in timing and terms for shareholder voting on a bid to take computer maker Dell private.

The suit filed in the state of Delaware by Mr Icahn and affiliates urges the court to lay out a series of stumbling blocks to moves that would improve the chances of Michael Dell succeeding in his effort to take the company private.

The litigation seeks to prevent a change in the date by which Dell shares must have been purchased to qualify to vote and to bar those behind the buyout from voting shares bought after February 5 of this year.

The lawsuit also accuses the Dell board of directors of breaching its fiduciary duties.

Carl Icahn

07.00 Good morning and welcome to our daily business and markets live blog, your one stop shop for all the breaking business stories of the day.

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