LONDON. Oil giant BP faces fresh complications in its hopes to sell its 50 per cent stake in its Russian operation. A court in Siberia has called for a new hearing into TNK-BP, the joint venture it has with Alfa Access Renova (AAR), a vehicle run by Russian billionaires. The tie-up has been highly profitable but riddled with rows and mishaps. Now the Siberian court wants to give a fresh airing to the 13bn dollar lawsuit filed last year by minority shareholders in TNK-BP. They failed in November to win damages from BP over its abortive attempt to forge an Arctic alliance with Russian state oil group Rosneft. AAR says it is not a party to the new lawsuit. However, BP’s involvement in Russia has been scarred by a litany of disputes with its oligarch partners and the latest episode could hamper efforts by Bob Dudley, the chief executive, to offload the TNK stake, The Daily mail reports.
Spain has admitted for the first time that it can no longer raise money on the global markets or roll over its sovereign bonds, threatening to set off a dangerous escalation of Europe’s debt crisis. Premier Mariano Rajoy said the country is “in an extremely difficult situation” and called on Europe to stand by the mutual obligations of euro membership. “Europe must say where it is going and show that the euro is an irreversible project that is not in danger, that helps nations in difficulty,” he told Spain’s senate. Despite the pleas, Spain’s leaders are holding out against a formal EU-IMF rescue along the lines of loan packages for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, calling instead for EU action to recapitalise Spanish banks, according to The Telegraph.
Britain’s banks are sitting on a £40bn black hole of undeclared losses that are preventing them from making vital loans to businesses and households. PIRC, the shareholder advisory group, has analysed the 2011 accounts of the UK’s top five banks to calculate how much they expect to write off as bad debt in the coming years but have yet to take against profits. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was in the worst condition, PIRC found, with £18bn of undeclared losses that would wipe out more than a third of its capital buffer and potentially force the 82% state-owned lender back to the taxpayer for another rescue. HSBC had £10bn in undeclared losses, Barclays £6.7bn, Standard Chartered £3.6bn and Lloyds Banking Group £3.6bn. PIRC presented its numbers to all the banks and none disputed them, The Telegraph writes.
The Nasdaq stock exchange is to take the first steps to compensating shareholders who invested in the disastrous Facebook flotation, according to reports. The filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday will come as the Nasdaq OMX Group reveals further details on how it will reimburse some of the reported $100m losses sustained by banks and trading firms, the Wall Street Journal claimed. Facebook’s hugely anticipated initial public offering on May 18 was delayed by about 30 minutes following problems with Nasdaq’s exchange systems. The pause left brokers with million of shares’ worth of unconfirmed trades, the results of which were not known for two hours. Shares in the social network – which began at $38 – have since plummeted more than 30%, The Telegraph explains.
Barclays is entitled to recover roughly $1.8bn of disputed assets and interest related to Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, a US federal judge said, reversing a decision by a federal bankruptcy judge. The decision by US District Judge Katherine Forrest is a setback for James Giddens, the trustee of Lehman’s brokerage unit Lehman Brothers, because it may reduce the amounts available for creditors. Forrest also said Giddens is not entitled to recover billions of dollars of other assets. She rejected Barclays’ claims for roughly $1.3bn of additional assets, including about $769m in customer accounts. The decision partially reversed a February 2011 ruling by US Bankruptcy Judge James Peck, who oversaw Lehman’s bankruptcy, The Telegraph reports.
Barclays’ attempts to shed its reputation for aggressive tax avoidance suffered a setback yesterday when three of its executives were charged with tax fraud in Italy. The Barclays executives, who deny the charges, were among 20 people ordered to stand trial by a judge in Milan on charges of taking part in an alleged plan by the Italian bank UniCredit to evade €245m (£198m) in tax. The defendants include Alessandro Profumo, the former UniCredit chief executive, who now chairs another of Italy’s biggest banks, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Sieno. Sixteen other past and present executives of UniCredit were also charged, says The Times.
The planets are aligned. The “qi” is positive. The yin and yang are favourable. Short of a sudden reversal of fortune, the London stock market will welcome its first Chinese fortune-telling and feng shui consultancy this month. New Trend Lifestyle Group intends to float on the junior market AIM, raising £1.5m through a placing of shares at 8p — a number regarded as particularly lucky in China. New Trend operates seven outlets in Singapore, selling consulting sessions to personal and corporate customers as well as products such as bracelets, ornaments, crystals and gem stones, according to The Times. Unlike Greece and Portugal, the two other countries under the yoke of EU-IMF austerity programmes, Ireland is meeting the fiscal targets required of it in Brussels and Frankfurt. It has also returned to modest, export-driven growth – of 0.7% in 2011 – and last year was ranked seventh for foreign direct investment in Europe, coming second only to Holland in percentage growth terms. According to the 2012 Foreign Direct Investment Report from Foreign Direct Intelligence, Ireland attracted 186 investment projects from overseas in 2011, up 22%. The Irish performance outstripped the European average, with the EU as a whole marking a 3% decline. But behind the gloss and glow of a successful EU referendum and encouraging signs of inward investment there is still a mountain to climb, The Telegraph holds.