RBS may sell bank stake
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), one of three banks bailed out by the British government in October, is considering selling its £2 billion (US$3 billion) stake in Bank of Chinan (BOC, 中國銀行), the Financial Times said yesterday. RBS chief executive Stephen Hester visited Beijing this week to meet with BOC executives and regulators and flagged up a possible divestment of its 4.3 per cent stake, valued at US$3 billion, the paper said. “No final decision has been made about whether the BOC stake will be sold,” the FT quoted a person familiar with the situation as saying. “But the Chinese are now aware of RBS’ thinking on the issue. Selling the stake is among the options.”
BOJ to support credit
The Bank of Japan (BOJ) said yesterday it would provide ¥1.22 trillion (US$$13 billion) in emergency loans to financial institutions as part of a new program to spur lending to the country’s businesses. Under the new program, Japan’s central bank will accept bonds, commercial paper and short-term debt issued by companies as collateral and provide low-interest loans to local banks, hoping to encourage lending back to the companies, said Hidetsu Chida, a BOJ official. There is no limit to the amount of loans the BOJ can provide. It will issue the loans until the end of March in a total of six lending operations. The interest rate for the loans is 0.1 percent, the same as the BOJ’s benchmark overnight rate.
Seoul to help SMEs
The South Korean government plans to give a further 50 trillion won (US$38 billion) in loans and credit guarantees to small and medium enteprises to help stem defaults as the economy faces its first recession in a decade. The government will try to direct funds to companies that can be saved from bankruptcy, the Financial Services Commission said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. More than 60 percent of the funds will be extended in the first half, it said. Korea Development Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea, both state-owned, plan to provide a total of 44 trillion won in loans to smaller firms this year, nearly 40 percent more than last year, the commission said.
Time Warner facing losses
Time Warner, the world’s largest media conglomerate, said on Wednesday it would take a US$25 billion write-down in its fourth quarter, propelling the firm to its first annual loss in six years. Before Wednesday’s announcement, the firm had expected a profit last year of between US$1.04 and US$1.07 per share. Time Warner, which owns HBO, AOL and Warner Bros, said US$15 billion of the charges stemmed from a decline in the value of the cable TV franchises owned by Time Warner cable. The rest came from declines in the value of its publishing and Internet subsidiaries.
Macquarie warns over profit
Australia’s largest investment bank Macquarie Group warned investors yesterday that exceptionally challenging market conditions last month would hit profits. “During the quarter to 31 December market conditions were exceptionally challenging for almost all Macquarie’s businesses, adversely impacting levels of business activity and profitability,” the bank said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange. Macquarie also announced that the sale of its US$1.1 billion margin lending portfolio to Adelaide and Bendigo Bank would be completed yesterday.