Theresa May under pressure to pull Brexit deal vote

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Theresa May is under increasing pressure to pull the parliamentary vote on her revamped Brexit deal just a day after it was announced, with a growing number of MPs from her Conservative party calling on her to resign.

On Tuesday, the prime minister announced she would bring her Brexit package back to the House of Commons for a fourth — and final — vote in the first week of June. But the overwhelmingly negative response to her speech has dashed Downing Street’s hopes of success.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary and prominent Brexiter, said there would be “reflection on [the] best way forward” by the government and hinted that the vote might not go ahead as planned.

“We will reflect over the course of the next few days on how people look at the proposition put forward,” he told the BBC on Wednesday. “But there has to be a vote on the withdrawal agreement implementation bill [at some stage].”

The pound was trading at less than $1.27 on Wednesday morning, its lowest level since January, reflecting the continued political uncertainty.

Mr Gove acknowledged “there’s been a lot of sturm und drang, summer lightning” over the prime minister’s new proposals but urged his Conservative colleagues to “read the bill and reflect on the options in it”.

Prominent Conservatives have called on Mrs May to step down immediately. Former Brexit minister David Jones told The Daily Telegraph: “She is desperate, she is deluded and she is doomed.” Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, also called for her to resign.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the Brexit-supporting European Research Group of MPs, said Mrs May’s strategy had failed and she should resign instead of bringing the bill forward.

“She decided to tack to the left whilst … Read More...

Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy stands down to fight graft allegations

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South Africa’s ruling African National Congress faces upheaval after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy declined to take a post in the country’s new parliament in order to fight allegations of wrongdoing.

David Mabuza, who had served as deputy since Mr Ramaphosa unseated Jacob Zuma as the president last year, bowed to the demands of a party integrity commission by postponing his swearing-in as an MP on Tuesday hours before it was due to take place.

Mr Mabuza, a powerful party boss who has often been accused of running a corruption racket, decided “to follow the dictates of his conscience” and request the postponement, Mr Ramaphosa said in a statement as ANC leader.

Mr Mabuza’s bowing-out has come as a surprise even after Mr Ramaphosa helped the ANC to victory in elections this month with a pledge to stamp out wrongdoing in government.

The postponement effectively means Mr Ramaphosa must appoint a new deputy. Mr Mabuza is unlikely to answer the allegations against him and retake his seat before the president appoints his post-election cabinet this weekend.

The party that has ruled South Africa since 1994 won its lowest ever majority in the election, after a decade-long descent into corruption under Mr Zuma, who was forced from office in a power struggle after Mr Ramaphosa became party leader.

Mr Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that “the deputy president believes that the ANC as a governing party should advance the electoral mandate in an environment of public trust”.

Mr Mabuza is a big powerbroker in the party, who as a provincial premier was an influential ally of Mr Zuma. He switched support at a critical moment to push Mr Ramaphosa over the line in a tight race to succeed Mr Zuma as the ANC’s leader.

He later became the party’s …

Blackstone leads global surge in property investment

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Blackstone’s real estate business raced past the €200bn asset mark for the first time in 2018 in a surge that helped the New York-listed group keep its crown as the world’s largest property landlord for a third year.

Real estate has enjoyed a bull run lasting almost a decade but rising property values and huge investor inflows have fuelled fears of unsustainable pricing bubbles in some markets.

Assets managed by Blackstone’s property arm jumped by almost a quarter to nearly €202bn ($231bn) last year, according to an annual ranking by Inrev, the European association that represents investors in non-listed real estate vehicles.

Kathleen McCarthy, co-head of real estate at Blackstone, said “property valuations today mean we have to work hard to find good deals” but she was confident her unit would continue to deliver attractive risk-adjusted returns to investors.

“Our large real estate investment team, access to proprietary information and capacity to do deals that other managers cannot, help us to create value for our investors in any economic environment,” she said.

Four themes have been targeted for further investment: logistics where ecommerce businesses are increasing demand for warehouses; so-called innovation cities such as Seattle where tech companies need office space; rental housing in regions where there are supply shortages including the US west coast and Spain, and hospitality assets in order to meet the expected global increase in spending on travel.

Blackstone has created five “permanent capital” real estate investment vehicles that do not have a fixed expiry date unlike traditional closed end funds.

“Permanent capital vehicles allow Blackstone to hold real estate assets over a longer term which helps investors to compound returns,” said Ms McCarthy.

Toronto-based Brookfield, the number two ranked player, saw its property assets increase 27 per cent last year … Read More...

Four big challenges for Deutsche Bank as investors prepare to vote

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Deutsche Bank chairman Paul Achleitner knows only too well how it feels to be on the receiving end of a full-throated German shareholder revolt.

As a supervisory board member at Bayer, the 62-year-old witnessed the unprecedented vote of no confidence that investors delivered to the leadership of the aspirin-to-weedkiller group at its annual meeting last month.

The rebuke came a day after Deutsche abandoned merger talks with Commerzbank — an outcome that makes a similar shareholder backlash even more likely against Germany’s biggest bank at its own annual meeting on Thursday.

With analysts expressing frustration at the bank’s poor performance, and its share price hitting a new record low this week, proxy advisers ISS and Glass Lewis are recommending shareholders deliver a similar stinging rebuke to Deutsche.

“We had initially assumed Deutsche would draw some strategic conclusions ahead of the shareholder meeting,” says Stuart Graham, head of Autonomous research, who believes Deutsche’s management “could well lose” the same confidence vote that Bayer’s did.

Deutsche’s bosses are facing calls to take more drastic action, especially as its revenues keep shrinking, its profits remain stuck far below rivals and it is being investigated for alleged money laundering abuses by authorities around the world.

Whatever the result of Thursday’s vote, the gathering in Frankfurt’s Messe festival hall will concentrate the minds of investors on the many challenges facing Mr Achleitner and his chief executive Christian Sewing.
Fixing the investment bank

The biggest strategic hurdle is to turn round its ailing investment bank, a daunting task underpinning the question of whether Deutsche can hold on to a decades-long ambition to compete with Wall Street’s top banks.

Although Mr Sewing, who has led the bank for just over a year, has started overhauling the business, it still ties up two-thirds of … Read More...

Former Credit Suisse banker pleads guilty on Mozambique bribes

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A former Credit Suisse banker has pleaded guilty in the US over handling alleged kickbacks in Mozambique’s $2bn “tuna bond” scandal.

Detelina Subeva, a former vice-president at the Swiss bank’s global financing unit, entered the guilty plea on a charge of conspiracy to help launder money before a New York court on Monday.

Ms Subeva is one of three former Credit Suisse employees whom US prosecutors have indicted over an alleged scheme to loot at least $200m from loans that the bank helped arrange in 2013 for the southern African nation, one of the world’s poorest.

The prosecutors accused the trio of working with Mozambique’s former finance minister and a representative of Privinvest, an Abu Dhabi-based shipbuilder, to siphon bribes connected to the debt. The loans imploded not long after being sold on to global investors.

Ms Subeva, 37, told the court that she had received funds from a $1m kickback that another of the trio, Andrew Pearse, allegedly received from Privinvest. The US dropped other charges against Ms Subeva.

Ms Subeva’s lawyer in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The US has detained Jean Boustani, the Privinvest employee. It is also seeking to extradite Mozambique’s former finance minister Manuel Chang as well as the former bankers — Mr Pearse, 49, former head of the global financing group who went on to work with Privinvest, and Surjan Singh, 44, a former managing director at the bank. The three are fighting extradition.

Credit Suisse has said that its employees flouted due diligence rules and concealed communications from the bank.

The loans to state-owned companies were sold to investors as having helped Mozambique to create a tuna fishery and maritime security projects.

The funds raised were channelled through Privinvest, which had contracts to supply … Read More...