Edition:
United Kingdom

Rob Cox

Breakingviews - Greece’s new PM needs to avoid banking own goal

01 Aug 2019

ATHENS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Greece’s new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is off to a great start. It would be a shame for the former Chase banker to retard that progress in his efforts to revive Greek finance. At issue is the leadership of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, which was established to oversee the government’s stakes in four of its largest institutions, including 40% of National Bank of Greece and 26% of Piraeus Bank. Two years ago HFSF named an Austrian, Martin Czurda, as its chief executive. That choice rankled Greek bankers and politicians. But it was demanded by euro zone institutions involved in the country’s bailout, including the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism. The fund needed someone to put pressure on the banks who was free of any conflicts of interest that might inhibit a former or future member of the local financial industry. The fruits of that decision were on display again at NBG’s annual meeting on Wednesday. Shareholders approved expanding the board of the 2.4 billion euro bank to include two new independent non-executive directors. One, former Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, will serve in a senior capacity. The revamp was the result of a campaign by Czurda’s team as well as Velos Advisory, an external governance consultant. Though it met with resistance from NBG’s chairman and others, it received a positive reception from international investors. The bank’s stock has more than doubled this year. The new government hasn’t yet publicly sought a changing of the guard at HFSF. However, the idea of putting a Greek in charge cropped up during the recent election campaign and is popular in the banking community. Another suggestion would see the fund tucked into the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations, a holding company for state-owned assets, diluting HFSF’s independence. Either move could provoke a potentially distracting fight with constituents like the ECB. It would also detract from the work the fund is doing, alongside the Bank of Greece, to reduce dud loans which still account for 45% of all bank credits. And it would remind investors of Greece’s previous Syriza government, which in 2016 pressured the CEO of Piraeus Bank to resign against the wishes of shareholders. Czurda’s mandate expires in June 2020, a little more than two years before the fund itself can be wound down. To avoid scoring an own goal, Mitsotakis should bide his time.

Breakingviews - Cox: A mall and gold mine are key to Greek revival

30 Jul 2019

ATHENS (Reuters Breakingviews) - The word most frequently used by Greeks to describe their new government is “weird”. That is not meant pejoratively. Instead, it describes the unusual speed and specificity with which Kyriakos Mitsotakis has taken to the job of prime minister. What people mean is: “This is really weird for Greece.”

Breakingviews - Cox: Parisian elite’s offsite exposes fractures

09 Jul 2019

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters Breakingviews) - French politicians see three unstoppable forces that threaten the well-being of Europe: China, U.S. President Donald Trump, and “les GAFA”, or Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Yet the leaders of Gallic multinationals say they are investing more in the United States, desperate to get the right Chinese commercial strategy, and partnering with Big Tech.

Breakingviews - Cox: Not all Italians dislike the French, just 33%

21 Jun 2019

PARIS (Reuters Breakingviews) - At the ticket office to the sprawling villa built by Emperor Hadrian outside Rome in the second century, an attendant asked a recent visitor if he spoke English or French. “American,” came the reply. “Good,” said the ticket seller, “because we Italians like Americans better than the French these days.” 

Breakingviews - Review: Rockonomics nicely reflects the real world

07 Jun 2019

PARIS (Reuters Breakingviews) - One way to understand the economics of rock and roll would be to comb through the Breakingviews archive, reading stories on the buyouts of record companies, the rise and fall of file-sharing service Napster, industrial experiments by artists like Radiohead and Taylor Swift, the boom in festivals and the emergence of streaming services. Or you could just read “Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life” by the late economist, Alan Krueger.

Breakingviews - Cox: Bruno Le Maire’s an awesome investment banker

06 Jun 2019

PARIS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Bruno Le Maire is either the greatest investment banker roaming the earth, or a living transfiguration of Charles de Gaulle’s industrial policy. The French finance minister on Wednesday night single-handedly blew up the $35 billion merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Renault, a deal that ticked nearly every box imaginable for shareholders and would have created the world’s third-largest carmaker.

Breakingviews - The Exchange: Dustin Yellin

03 Jun 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Is there a better way to signal the hydrocarbon era’s end than by flipping a 1,000-foot oil tanker vertically from the sea to create the world’s largest sculpture? Not according to the artist behind “The Bridge,” who discussed his project with Rob Cox at his Brooklyn studio.

Cox: Merger of equals is French expletive

30 May 2019

PARIS (Reuters Breakingviews) - When two lovers announce plans to marry, to have and to hold and share their lives in equality and mutual respect, it’s normally cause for festive celebration. In business, where a so-called merger of equals binds two parties to communal goals and interests, it’s much the same.

Breakingviews - Viewsroom: A new game of carmaker matchmaker

30 May 2019

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Fiat Chrysler spurned Peugeot by offering to merge with France’s Renault, which is itself joined to Nissan. How will the pairings play out, and what does it mean for the automotive sector? Plus: Why fossil-fuel giants like BP are painting themselves a pale shade of green.

Breakingviews - Fiat gets motors revving on auto consolidation

27 May 2019

MILAN, PARIS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ marriage proposal to Renault lovingly delivers gifts to everyone in the wedding party. The Italian-American group’s planned tie-up with its European rival should keep partner Nissan Motor warm, give the French state a graceful exit and give the Agnelli family and other Fiat shareholders a chunk of cash. It also promises to unleash a 5 billion euro bonanza of cost savings that will put industry rivals on notice.

World News