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Is It Time For Eurozone Banks To Start Worrying About Turkey Again?

Is It Time For Eurozone Banks To Start Worrying About Turkey Again?

Authored by Nick Corbishley via NakedCapitalism.com,

The ECB has already warned once about the potential impact a plummeting lira could have on Euro Area banks heavily expos

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Is It Time For Eurozone Banks To Start Worrying About Turkey Again?

Authored by Nick Corbishley via NakedCapitalism.com,

The ECB has already warned once about the potential impact a plummeting lira could have on Euro Area banks heavily exposed to Turkey’s economy.

Turkey is in the grip of another big wave of its multiyear currency crisis. The value of the lira against the dollar has plunged by almost 40% so far this year, making it the worst performing emerging market currency. The currency is currently trading at just over 13 units to the dollar, compared to 7.44 in January and 3.78 at the start of 2018. On just one day this month (Nov 23), the currency plunged almost 20% before recovering slightly. The main cause of the collapse was the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey’s decision to reduce interest rates for the third time since September, despite a slumping lira and surging inflation.

Contagion Risks

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At the height of the last big wave of Turkey’s ongoing crisis, in August 2018, the European Central Bank issued a warning about the potential impact the plummeting lira could have on Euro Area banks heavily exposed to Turkey’s economy via large amounts in loans — much of them in euros — through banks they acquired in Turkey. The central bank was worried that Turkish borrowers might not be hedged against the lira’s weakness and would begin to default on foreign currency loans, which accounted for 40% of the Turkish banking sector’s assets.

In the end, the contagion risks were largely contained. Many Turkish banks ended up agreeing to restructure the debts of their corporate clients, particularly the large ones. At the same time, the Erdogan government used state-owned lenders to bail out millions of cash-strapped consumers by restructuring their consumer loans, many of them foreign denominated, and credit card debt.  

But concerns are once again on the rise about European banks’ exposure to Turkey. On Friday, as those concerns commingled with fears about the potential threat posed by the new omicron variant of Covid-19, Europe’s worst-affected stocks included the four banks most exposed to Turkey: Spain’s BBVA, whose shares fell 7.3% on the day, Italy’s Unicredit (-6.9%), France’s BNP Paribas (-5.9%) and the Dutch ING (-7.3%).

The collapsing lira is almost certain to fuel even higher inflation in Turkey. In October, consumer price inflation in the country was already at an eye-watering 20%. That’s still not as high as the 25% peak registered in 2018, but it is likely to go a lot higher as the lira weakens. As prices soar, further eroding the savings and incomes of many Turks, so too will the risk of social and political unrest. Another cause for concern is that a weaker lira will make it even harder for businesses already battered by the fallout of the virus crisis to repay their foreign-denominated debts.

The one silver lining for Turkey’s economy is that the crumbling lira has boosted exports while making imports prohibitively expensive for many people. Even before the currency’s latest rout, Turkey registered two straight months of current account surpluses in August and September — a rare feat for a country so heavily dependent on imports. Meanwhile, Erdogan, who maintains de facto control of Turkey’s central bank, continues to dig in his heels over interest rate policy, as the Guardian reports:

[…] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s declaration of an “economic war of independence” has pitched him against many in his own party and the country’s technocrats who fear an inflation rate running at 20% will create further bouts of social unrest.

“Some people who wanted to convey the opinion to the president that a different policy should be followed were not successful in this,” a senior official in the ruling AK party told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

Three central bank governors who stood against Erdoğan’s demand for lower interest rates have been sacked since mid-2019, leaving the way clear for the governor since March, Şahap Kavcıoğlu, to bring down the base rate in three separate cuts from 19% to 15%.

Reduced Exposure

Spanish banks have by far the highest loan exposure to Turkey, with just under $63 billion of loans outstanding, followed by France ($26 billion), Germany ($14 billion) and Italy ($6 billion), according to recent data from the Bank of International Settlements. The good news for the ECB is that some Eurozone banks with large-scale operations in Turkey have pared back their exposure to the country, or at least not added to it, since 2018.

Italian megabank Unicredit has sold down its stake in the commercial bank Yapi Kredi from 40% in 2018 to around 20% today. Under a strategy aimed at offloading non-core assets, the bank’s current business plan envisages achieving zero contribution from Yapi by the end of 2023. Nonetheless Yapi Kredi will still contribute around 5% of group earnings in 2021, according to estimates by Citi analysts.

French giant BNP Paribas operates various businesses in Turkey, from retail banking to leasing and insurance through a string of subsidiaries. But the country accounts for a low single-digit contribution to BNP profits, according to Jeffries. What’s more, BNP claims that most of its Turkish business is self-financed.

Another European bank with operations in Turkey is the Dutch group ING but its exposure is also limited. In 2020 it generated a total income of 420 million euros in the country, making it the Dutch bank’s third biggest market outside Europe after the United States and Australia. Assets in Turkey stood at around 7.3 billion euros in 2020, or less than 1% out of a total of 937 billion euros.

Bucking the Trend

There is one big exception to this trend: Spain’s second largest lender, BBVA. In 2020, Turkey was BBVA’s third largest market after Mexico and Spain, providing €563 million of net attributable profit, up 41% from 2019. That represents 14.3% of BBVA profits, excluding the corporate centre.

Until two weeks ago, BBVA owned just under 50% of Turkey’s second largest private bank, Garanti, for which it had paid €6.9 billion in incremental purchases beginning in 2010. Since then the Lira has done nothing but fall. Garanti’s market cap as of two weeks ago, converted into euros, was €3.7 billion (it is now €3.3 billion). BBVA’s 49.85% stake in it was worth €1.85 billion. In other words, BBVA had lost 73% of its investment.

But instead of cutting back its exposure to Turkey, BBVA has doubled it. Flush with cash after selling its U.S. subsidiary to PNC last year, BBVA announced two weeks ago — just days before Turkey’s central bank cut interest rates for the third time, triggering the lira’s worst daily collapse in 20 years — plans to buy the rest of Garanti for the price of TL12.20 per share. The move amounts to a massive gamble Turkey’s Erodgan-dominated economy and has found little favour among investors. Since the day of the purchase BBVA’s shares have fallen almost 20% while Garanti’s are now below the takeover price.

“It was our best investment option,” said BBVA’s CEO, Onur Genç, on in an investor call on Monday aimed at allaying shareholders’ concerns. The Spanish lender sees its purchase of Garanti as a long-term proposition that cements its position in a high-growth market it already knows well — and what’s more at a bargain price! Genç, himself of Turkish descent, said even the recent decline of the lira, which has decimated Garanti’s market value, was beneficial to BBVA since it meant that its offer price for Garanti, converted into euros, has fallen from €2.25 billion on the day BBVA announced its offer, to €1.8 billion today. At the same time, the amount of capital committed has fallen from €1.4 billion to €1.2 billion.

But while the collapsing lira may mean that BBVA is getting a cheaper and cheaper deal as each day goes by, it could still end up paying dearly. As a Reuters Breaking Views article cross-posted in El País points out, the crisis could hurt Garanti in two ways:

First, a weaker lira makes it harder for borrowers to service dollar-denominated debt, increasing the risk of defaults. Garanti has reduced its foreign currency exposure much faster than other banks, but at $11.6 billion (€ 10.3 billion), it is still almost a third of total loans. Second, the unorthodox monetary easing raises the prospect of a sharp rise in rates at some point in the future. That would reduce loan margins, as deposits instantly become more expensive while loans take longer to appreciate.

But BBVA’s CEO is for the moment nonplussed, or at least appears to be. “Since the beginning,” he said, “we have been aware of the risks and have controlled for them in multiple ways.” One prime example is the way BBVA has set up its global business to limit the spread of financial wildfires from Turkey or other emerging markets to the wider group, as a Bloomberg article recently pointed out (comment in parenthesis my own):

As a legacy from the Argentine debt crisis of the late 1990s, the bank uses a model of self-sufficient subsidiaries, which insulates other units if one of its businesses runs into trouble. That means that if Garanti were to start failing, it could be liquidated or restructured without affecting the rest of the group. In a worst case, BBVA would risk the value of its equity stake in Garanti — currently just under $4 billion.

In other words, BBVA would simply walk away from the smouldering wreckage as well as Turkey as a whole — at least in theory. The one thing the Bloomberg article doesn’t mention is that BBVA’s silo-based damage control system has never been properly road tested before.

Tyler Durden Wed, 12/01/2021 - 06:30

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Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion

The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of…
The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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The EasyJet share price shed over 3% today to give up a chunk of the gains the budget airline had made earlier in the week. The new slide came after it announced a £213 loss for the last quarter of the year covering the Christmas period, taking losses for the Covid-19 pandemic period to £2.2 billion. The airline also told investors it is still burning through £150 million in cash every month as it struggles to build capacity back up.

The short-haul airline that makes most of its income shuttling holidaymakers and business travellers around Europe said it is still only operating at around half of its pre-pandemic capacity. However, it is hopeful that pent-up demand and an end to travel restrictions mean it will return to pre-pandemic levels by summer and enjoy much brisker trade than of late over the Easter and spring period.

easy jet plc

But before then the airline company will again have to absorb deep losses over the current quarter, which is traditionally its weakest of the year. Even a strong summer period, think most analysts, will be insufficient to see the company return to profit this year. EasyJet’s value is still less than half of what it was in February 2020 before the coronavirus-induced market sell-off that hit later that month and saw markets dive into March before starting to recover. The share prices of rival budget airlines Ryanair and WizzAir have recovered much more strongly in comparison to EasyJet’s and are now close to their pre-pandemic levels. There have been concerns around whether EasyJet could survive the pandemic but investors contributed £1.2 billion last autumn to bolster its balance sheet.

The EasyJet share price is closing the week at around £6.15 compared to over £15 before the pandemic. However, there is now hope the worst may be behind the airline and it can begin its, potentially long, journey back to health. Chief executive John Lundgren attempted to soften the announcement of another hefty loss with a bullish statement on where things go from here for his company:

“Booking volumes jumped in the UK following the welcome reduction of travel restrictions announced on January 5, which have been sustained and given a further boost from the UK government’s decision this week to remove all testing requirements.”

“We believe testing for travel across our network should soon become a thing of the past. We see a strong summer ahead, with pent-up demand that will see easyJet returning to near-2019 levels of capacity, with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well.”

For now, however, forward guidance for the immediate quarter remains cautious with the company admitting it has fallen short of its expectations to be at 80% capacity by this quarter, sitting at just 67%. However, with most analysts confident the company will eventually return to strength, and profit in the 2022-23 financial year, EasyJet shares could offer a good buying opportunity at current levels.

The post Easyjet share price down 3% as pandemic losses hit £2.2 billion first appeared on Trading and Investment News.

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Government

Xi Jinping Seeking “Global Domination”: Mike Pompeo

Xi Jinping Seeking "Global Domination": Mike Pompeo

Authored by Nathan Worcester via The Epoch Times,

Mike Pompeo said Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants “global domination—hegemony for the Chinese Communist Party,” warning that the…

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Xi Jinping Seeking "Global Domination": Mike Pompeo

Authored by Nathan Worcester via The Epoch Times,

Mike Pompeo said Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants “global domination—hegemony for the Chinese Communist Party,” warning that the rise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could destroy the rules-based international order in place since the end of World War II.

“It’s not about putting a Chinese tank division in Taiwan. It’s about accreting political power and influence throughout the world,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo, who served first as CIA director and later as Secretary of State under President Donald Trump, made the statement in an appearance at the Argus Americas Crude Summit 2022.

He said his tenure as CIA director came at a time when U.S. attention had to shift from terrorism to other threats, foremost among them the CCP.

He added that a “global awakening” is taking place about what he sees as the ambitions of the CCP.

“Most of the credit goes to Xi Jinping. He foisted a virus on the world, for goodness’ sake, and refuses to let anybody go figure out where it came from,” Pompeo said.

The CCP has met with international criticism for blocking access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and related facilities in Wuhan by the United Nations. Many scientists and journalists suspect the CCP virus that causes COVID-19 originated at the WIV.

Pompeo also commented on ongoing trade-related conflict between the United States and China, raising questions about the United States’ initial decision to open up to China in the context of its primary Cold War conflict with China’s then-rival, the Soviet Union.

“The trade war began maybe in 1972,” he said, referring to Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China in the context of restoring diplomatic ties.

“Maybe it was the right thing to do in 1972—but the trade war long predates the Trump administration.”

“We encouraged business together. I don’t fault the businesses who went there. Notice the past tense of this. America’s policy encouraged connectivity with the Chinese Communist Party. Today, that is an enormous liability for the world, and Xi Jinping knows that,” Pompeo said.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/28/2022 - 23:00

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwal

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Authoritarian Madness: The Slippery Slope From Lockdowns To Concentration Camps

Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwald, the Auschwitzes—all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.”

- Rod Serling, Deaths-Head Revisited

In the politically charged, polarizing tug-of-war that is the debate over COVID-19, we find ourselves buffeted by fear over a viral pandemic that continues to wreak havoc with lives and the economy, threats of vaccine mandates and financial penalties for noncompliance, and discord over how to legislate the public good without sacrificing individual liberty.

The discord is getting more discordant by the day.

Just recently, for instance, the Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board suggested that government officials should mandate mass vaccinations and deploy the National Guard “to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.”

In other words, lock up the unvaccinated and use the military to determine who gets to be “free.”

These tactics have been used before.

This is why significant numbers of people are worried: because this is the slippery slope that starts with well-meaning intentions for the greater good and ends with tyrannical abuses no one should tolerate.

For a glimpse at what the future might look like if such a policy were to be enforced, look beyond America’s borders.

In Italy, the unvaccinated are banned from restaurants, bars and public transportation, and could face suspensions from work and monthly fines. Similarly, France will ban the unvaccinated from most public venues.

In Austria, anyone who has not complied with the vaccine mandate could face fines up to $4100. Police will be authorized to carry out routine checks and demand proof of vaccination, with penalties of as much as $685 for failure to do so.

In China, which has adopted a zero tolerance, “zero COVID” strategy, whole cities—some with populations in the tens of millions—are being forced into home lockdowns for weeks on end, resulting in mass shortages of food and household supplies. Reports have surfaced of residents “trading cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples and sanitary pads for a small pile of vegetables. One resident traded a Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns.”

For those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, China has constructed “quarantine camps” throughout the country: massive complexes boasting thousands of small, metal boxes containing little more than a bed and a toilet. Detainees—including children, pregnant women and the elderly— were reportedly ordered to leave their homes in the middle of the night, transported to the quarantine camps in buses and held in isolation.

If this last scenario sounds chillingly familiar, it should.

Eighty years ago, another authoritarian regime established more than 44,000 quarantine camps for those perceived as “enemies of the state”: racially inferior, politically unacceptable or simply noncompliant.

While the majority of those imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, forced labor camps, incarceration sites and ghettos were Jews, there were also Polish nationals, gypsies, Russians, political dissidents, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.

Culturally, we have become so fixated on the mass murders of Jewish prisoners by the Nazis that we overlook the fact that the purpose of these concentration camps were initially intended to “incarcerate and intimidate the leaders of political, social, and cultural movements that the Nazis perceived to be a threat to the survival of the regime.”

As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains:

“Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were political prisoners—German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats—as well as Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of ‘asocial’ or socially deviant behavior. Many of these sites were called concentration camps. The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”

How do you get from there to here, from Auschwitz concentration camps to COVID quarantine centers?

Connect the dots.

You don’t have to be unvaccinated or a conspiracy theorist or even anti-government to be worried about what lies ahead. You just have to recognize the truth in the warning: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is not about COVID-19. Nor is it about politics, populist movements, or any particular country.

This is about what happens when good, generally decent people—distracted by manufactured crises, polarizing politics, and fighting that divides the populace into warring “us vs. them” camps—fail to take note of the looming danger that threatens to wipe freedom from the map and place us all in chains.

It’s about what happens when any government is empowered to adopt a comply-or-suffer-the-consequences mindset that is enforced through mandates, lockdowns, penalties, detention centers, martial law, and a disregard for the rights of the individual.

The slippery slope begins in just this way, with propaganda campaigns about the public good being more important than individual liberty, and it ends with lockdowns and concentration camps.

The danger signs are everywhere.

Claudio Ronco, a 66-year-old Orthodox Jew and a specialist in 18th-century music, recognizes the signs. Because of his decision to remain unvaccinated, Ronco is trapped inside his house, unable to move about in public without a digital vaccination card. He can no longer board a plane, check into a hotel, eat at a restaurant or get a coffee at a bar. He has been ostracized by friends, shut out of public life, and will soon face monthly fines for insisting on his right to bodily integrity and individual freedom.

For all intents and purposes, Ronco has become an undesirable in the eyes of the government, forced into isolation so he doesn’t risk contaminating the rest of the populace.

This is the slippery slope: a government empowered to restrict movements, limit individual liberty, and isolate “undesirables” to prevent the spread of a disease is a government that has the power to lockdown a country, label whole segments of the population a danger to national security, and force those undesirables—a.k.a. extremists, dissidents, troublemakers, etc.—into isolation so they don’t contaminate the rest of the populace.

The world has been down this road before, too.

Others have ignored the warning signs. We cannot afford to do so.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free:

“Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.”

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, life was good.

Life is good in America, too, as long as you’re able to keep cocooning yourself in political fantasies that depict a world in which your party is always right and everyone else is wrong, while distracting yourself with bread-and-circus entertainment that bears no resemblance to reality.

Indeed, life in America may be good for the privileged few who aren’t being locked up, locked down, discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed or killed, but it’s getting worse by the day for the rest of us.

Which brings me back to the present crisis: COVID-19 is not the Holocaust, and those who advocate vaccine mandates, lockdowns and quarantine camps are not Hitler, but this still has the makings of a slippery slope.

The means do not justify the ends: we must find other ways of fighting a pandemic without resorting to mandates and lockdowns and concentration camps. To do otherwise is to lay the groundwork for another authoritarian monster to rise up and wreak havoc.

If we do not want to repeat the past, then we must learn from past mistakes.

January 27 marks Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a day for remembering those who died at the hands of Hitler’s henchmen and those who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Yet remembering is not enough. We can do better. We must do better.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the world is teetering on the edge of authoritarian madness.

All it will take is one solid push for tyranny to prevail.

Tyler Durden Fri, 01/28/2022 - 23:40

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