Frankfurt In the past weeks there have been repeated attempts to recover the course, on some days one could believe that the corona pandemic has already been overcome. But on Friday, disillusionment returned – the collapsed ifo business climate index made the whole dilemma clear.
The course of the mood barometer looks like a “Highway to Hell”, was the analysis of the VP Bank. The index is now significantly below the values of the crisis year 2009. The simple message for the future was: “Massive income losses are imminent. We will all get poorer. This applies not only to Germany, but to all economies. ”Sometimes it is better to hear the unvarnished truth.
Other analysts and experts are also skeptical about the weekly outlook. Cautious savings by consumers and companies create a completely different economic and inflation environment than one knows from the post-war period, the analysts at MFS Investment Management believe.
They expect the earnings recovery to be weaker than the market and point to the possible dilution of earnings through capital increases. They particularly highlight 2008 as a comparison.
“When the extreme risk of the international financial crisis subsided, companies were no longer concerned with distributions, but with recapitalization. To this end, new shares were issued – at the expense of existing shareholders, whose capital was heavily diluted, ”said the investment professionals. The new wave of recapitalization has probably just started. In the past few weeks, leisure companies and service providers in the United States and Europe have already offered new shares.
Warning to bargain hunters
The BLI – Banque de Luxembourg Investments is also cautious. “The financial markets are currently giving the impression that they are underestimating the extent of the economic damage and are counting on a rapid recovery as soon as the containment measures are reversed,” is the BLI’s assessment.
Many investors are conditioned to view any decline as an opportunity to buy. However, the analysts recall that while the fall in share prices in February / March was dramatic, the valuations were also very high. As a result, the markets today are anything but cheap, especially after the recent price recovery.
Quality companies with a very solid balance sheet, one or more sustainable competitive advantages and the ability to self-finance should be preferred. The main factor that will continue to speak for stocks remains the low interest rate level and thus the lack of alternatives. At the same time, gold will become an “indispensable part of a balanced portfolio because of the inflation risks.”
After the significant recovery since mid-March, the European stock market has recently lost some momentum, the Weberbank experts believe. In addition, the balance sheet season that is already underway shows significant impacts on corporate balance sheets due to the global “lockdowns”.
Correspondingly, the analysts have also significantly lowered their profit expectations for industrial companies, but also for the banking and energy sectors. Due to the economic slump, banks faced increased write-downs on their credit books and the massive drop in yields clouded interest income. Most recently, they also negatively impacted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P).
The Deutsche Bank and the Commerzbank were therefore particularly under pressure on Friday “We continue to distance ourselves from these sectors and prefer creditworthy pharmaceuticals or companies from the non-cyclical consumption. In addition, titles from the technology sector are promising in our eyes, ”said the Weberbank experts.
Central banks meet worldwide
If the economic situation continues to be poor, the states and central banks will have to take further support measures. Robert Greil, chief strategist at Merck Finck Privatbankiers, sees an opportunity for this next week because the European Central Bank, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan are meeting.
“As a result of the unprecedented economic downturn caused by the Covid 19 consequences, all central banks will reaffirm their willingness to support,” says Greil. The economic downturn left neither governments nor central banks a choice but to take further measures to support and recover the economy.
The gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2020 will be published in the euro area on Thursday, and new growth figures will come in the US on Wednesday. Further important economic data in Germany are the preliminary inflation figures and the labor market report for April.
According to DZ Bank, the next quarter should bring an improvement in the economy, but there does not have to be a “V” or “I” recovery. This is not ignored on the stock market, many stocks are up to 80 percent down.
The bank refuses to provide information to the US senators.
Frankfurt The Deutsche Bank With reference to banking secrecy, has denied four Democratic U.S. senators an answer to questions about their business dealings with U.S. President Donald Trump. “We hope you understand that Deutsche Bank must respect the legal and contractual limits that exist with respect to such confidential information,” wrote the bank’s law firm, Akin Gump, in a letter to Reuters on Saturday.
In the past, Germany’s largest money house, one of Trump’s largest lenders, had responded to requests from Democrats by referring to banking secrecy. Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the letter.
Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, the White House and the Akin Group were initially unavailable for comment on Saturday. In the most recent case, there are questions from four democratic US senators about the prominent banking critic Elizabeth Warren.
It makes a difference whether individual senators or a Congress committee requests information, the bank’s lawyers explained. For years, congressional committees and prosecutors have been requesting information on Trump’s finances and regularly dealing with the courts.
The issue is now pending at the US Supreme Court. The hearing, originally scheduled for late March, has been postponed due to the spread of the corona virus. It should now take place on May 12th. Senator Warren was initially unavailable for comment on Saturday.
Deferred payment for Trump?
The four democratic senators had sent bank manager Christian Sewing a letter at the beginning of April with a deadline of April 21 to answer the questions. She was startled by a New York Times report.
According to this, representatives of Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, approached Deutsche Bank to talk about postponing payments, at least for some of the loans. This process led to “new, serious concerns” when asked how much financial influence Deutsche Bank had on the President and his family, the senators wrote.
That Trump’s family business is asking the money house for a favor in the midst of a severe economic crisis “raises the question of whether Deutsche Bank treats the Trump Organization better than other companies in a similar situation.”
The senators fear that the government may either accommodate the bank’s regulatory issues if it responds positively to the Trump Organization’s request, or punish the bank if it does no financial favor to the family business.
The Trump Organization owns several hotels and golf clubs that are closed due to the corona crisis. The family business is run by Trump’s sons Eric and Donald junior.
More: The digital boss of Deutsche Bank’s private customer business has significantly shaped the online strategy. The austerity course curtailed its scope of action.
The digital expert at Deutsche Bank leaves the company with an unknown destination.
Frankfurt Deutsche Bank is facing a prominent departure: Markus Pertlwieser, previously the top digital strategist in Deutsche Bank’s private customer business, will leave the institute in the foreseeable future. A corresponding report by the “Manager Magazin” was confirmed in financial circles. Deutsche Bank did not want to comment on the information.
Pertlwieser’s farewell is a loss for the institute. The former partner of the management consultancy McKinsey was the head behind the bank’s strategy towards a platform concept that has long been propagated by CEO Christian Sewing. “Either we become a fairly interchangeable provider of financial products that are sold on large platforms. Or we want to be the ones who design the shelves, ”Sewing postulated at the banking summit in the Handelsblatt in 2018.
Pertlwieser had expressed himself similarly several times. Among other things, the digital boss had introduced digital asset manager Robin or Deutsche Bank’s interest rate market at Deutsche Bank, through which customers can use fixed-term deposits from other banks. In doing so, he created in-house competition for his own products – a procedure with which he not only made friends in the group.
However, the institute’s tough austerity measures had recently significantly curtailed Pertlwieser’s room for maneuver. According to Finanzkreise, the bank is looking for an external partner for the further development of “Yunar”, an app for bonus programs for a virtual wallet (“Mobile Wallet”), because they no longer want to make the necessary investments on their own. Ultimately, Yunar could also be sold.
However, this is just one example of the bank’s shrinking digital ambitions. As the last component of Pertlwieser’s agenda, the bank wants to activate a digital insurance broker on Monday, according to financial circles – initially for 100,000 customers, then over the summer for all customers of the institute.
This means that digital expert Pertlwieser no longer has an exciting task in his riding. Pertlwieser and the bank had apparently not been able to agree on any other use for him that would have appealed to him.
More: Amazon is the big role model in platform economy
DThere are currently no big deals. Mergers, acquisitions, IPOs – everything the investment banker likes to boast about has initially put the Corona crisis on hold. And yet Patrick Frowein is anything but bored. “I haven’t worked as much and intensively in a long time as I do now,” says Frowein, Deutsche Bank’s top investment banker in German-speaking countries, in an interview with F.A.Z. “And that also applies to my entire team.” After all, every company is currently concerned with how to get through the crisis safely and with sufficient liquidity, and some of them are getting ready for the time afterwards.
TUI and Adidas show that even large corporations are stumbling, both of which had to access rescue loans from the state development bank KfW. In both cases, Deutsche Bank was not only a financing partner, but also an advisor, as Frowein points out. However, he does not want to comment on why a corporation like Adidas, which has enjoyed success for years, has to resort to government aid so quickly.
Many investors are puzzled as to where the markets will go.
Frankfurt The uncertainty is great. The oil price and many stock prices are in the basement. The mood among many managers is bad. The corona crisis keeps the financial markets in suspense every day. Many investors are now thinking more than ever about where to invest their money in these unstable times.
Because the violent ups and downs on the markets shows that there is still no peace on the stock exchanges. This leaves many investors in doubt about their previous investments. Keep or prefer to sell? This is an important question for many investors, especially with equities.
Frankfurt The Commerzbank is holding a virtual general meeting for the first time this year because of the corona crisis. But even without protests from small shareholders on site, there will be no shortage of critical topics at the event on May 13.
Added to this is the criticism of Commerzbank’s remuneration system. The influential voting rights advisor Glass Lewis and his German subsidiary Ivox recommend that shareholders reject the slightly modified remuneration system for members of the Management Board in March 2020. This emerges from the recommendations of both companies for the Annual General Meeting, which are available to the Handelsblatt.
“From our point of view, there is great potential for improvement in the company’s remuneration policy,” says the Glass Lewis study. The goals on which the variable remuneration of the Board of Directors depends are too vague and too focused on the bank’s performance in the past.
Anglo-Saxon investors in particular often follow the advice of proxy advisors such as Glass Lewis and ISS at general meetings. If the Commerzbank shareholders did not endorse the remuneration system, the Supervisory Board would have to deal with it again. Germany’s second largest private bank did not want to comment on this.
Criticism of the number of positions
In his study, Ivox also speaks out against the planned election of Jutta Dönges to the Commerzbank Supervisory Board. The co-boss of the finance agency is to be elected as the new representative of the federal government to the control committee in May – together with Frank Czichowski from the KfW development bank.
Dönges and Czichowski are to replace State Secretary Markus Kerber and Anja Mikus, who heads the State Fund for Nuclear Waste Management. After Commerzbank’s rescue from the crisis, the federal government still has a good 15 percent stake in the bank – and anything but satisfied with the development of the money house in recent years. In Berlin, some have hopes that Dönges and Czichowski can give new impetus to the supervisory board.
But at least Ivox has reservations about the Dönges personnel. There are no doubts about the manager’s qualifications, according to the study based on guidelines of the BVI fund association. “However, there are concerns about the number of mandates.”
Dönges is already a member of the supervisory bodies of the FMS Wertmanagement and the Deutsche Pfandbriefbank. In addition, there is her job as managing director of the finance agency, which Ivox rates as an “executive position” like two mandates.
According to this method of counting, your work on the Commerzbank Supervisory Board would be your fifth mandate. And that would be two more mandates than Ivox recommends for people in an “executive position”. “Therefore, this election should be viewed very critically,” said the voting rights advisor.
The finance agency did not want to comment on Ivox’s criticism. However, a spokeswoman pointed out that Dönges had resigned from the supervisory board of Eurex Clearing in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
In contrast to Ivox, the parent company Glass Lewis has no objection to the choice of Dönges. Other persons familiar with the personnel also consider the appointment to be sensible, after all the financial agency manages the federal government’s participation in Commerzbank and is in close contact with the institute anyway.
Dönges is also highly valued in Berlin because it closely monitored the Commerzbank strategy review. Some also believe that Dönges’ work at FMS Wertmanagement cannot be viewed as a full supervisory mandate.
More concrete goals for 2020
The core remuneration system for Commerzbank board members has existed for several years. In March it was slightly adjusted to take account of the new requirements of the second Shareholder Rights Directive (ARUG II) and the new version of the German Corporate Governance Code. The most important innovation is that a maximum remuneration for each member of the Board of Management of six million euros per fiscal year has now been fixed.
The variable remuneration of the Management Board depends 70 percent on the achievement of the Group’s goals and 30 percent on the development of the department for which the respective Management Board member is responsible. In addition, individual goals have an impact on the amount of bonus payments.
When calculating the variable remuneration for 2019, the development of the bank and the respective department in 2017, 2018 and 2019 is taken into account. Glass Lewis criticizes this approach as backward and advocates “forward-looking” goals. However, this would have the consequence that Commerzbank could not set the bonus payments for 2019 until 2021 – and that the actual payment to the Management Board would then be postponed even further.
Voting rights advisers also take a critical view of the fact that the expectations of the Management Board are not described clearly enough. The performance goals are “only presented in a descriptive manner, but not clearly disclosed,” complains Ivox. As a result, it is not understandable for shareholders whether the goals for the Management Board are ambitious enough, emphasizes Glass Lewis.
Strictly speaking, these comments do not refer to the remuneration system, but to the remuneration report, which the Annual General Meeting does not vote on this year. Nevertheless, there are employees within Commerzbank who find this criticism justified. According to financial circles, the goals for the Executive Board in the 2020 financial year have therefore already been formulated more specifically.
It is of course another matter whether there will be any significant bonus payments in view of the Corona crisis 2020. In addition, the payment of Commerzbank management is generally rather below average compared to other institutions. In the past year, the total remuneration of the Management Board amounted to EUR 12.1 million. At the neighbourhouse Deutsche Bank the executive committee received almost three times as much despite a loss of billions.
Assistance: Jakob Blume
More: Bank President Zielke: “Must review Corona business model”
Frankfurt The series historically poor economic datathat investors currently have to digest does not stop. That is also a burden for the German Leading index Dax. The stock market barometer closed on Friday 1.7 percent lower at 10,336 points.
“This drug had recently made a significant leap on the stock markets,” said Thomas Altmann, portfolio manager at QC Partners. “Therefore, this announcement is a clear warning to all euphoric investors.”
The puzzle is only slowly completing, how badly the corona pandemic is paralyzing the global economy. It was announced on Friday that the UK retail collapsed by more than four percent in March compared to the same period in the previous year – a decline that was not achieved even in the 2008 financial crisis.
Also in Japan the retail sector is idle: Merchants in the capital city of Tokyo reported a drop in sales of almost 35 percent in March. A similar decline to this extent is not to be found in the Bloomberg financial services time series.
There were also bad numbers from industry on Friday: The European commercial vehicle market fell almost half in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. With 105,196 vehicles, 47.3 percent fewer were registered than in the same month last year, the responsible industry association Acea announced on Friday in Brussels.
The number of registrations had already declined in January and February, but the decline in March was again considerably greater. The falls were most pronounced in the countries particularly hard hit by the Covid 19 pandemic: Italy (minus 66.1 percent), Spain (minus 64.4 percent) and France (minus 63.1 percent).
The managers surveyed by the Ifo Institute also assessed their situation as worse and are also more skeptical about the future. The published on Friday Ifo business climate index for April fell more clearly than expected: from 85.9 points in March to 74.3 points. That’s the lowest value ever measured. Economists interviewed by the Reuters news agency had expected a drop to 80.0 points. “The mood among German companies is catastrophic,” said Ifo President Clemens Fuest.
On Thursday, the GfK consumption barometer in Germany and the purchasing manager indices for the European service sector signaled that Germany and Europe were heading for a severe recession. The European Union is steering because of the corona crisis, according to EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton towards a drop in economic output of five to ten percent.
In addition, investors are also looking at the Federal Chancellor. Angela Merkel consults with representatives of business and trade unions on the corona crisis. This could also involve possible further easing and economic policy measures.
Look at the individual values
Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank: The rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has given it a thumbs-up because of the economic impact of the corona crisis at Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank and other German financial institutions. In the Commerzbank S&P downgraded the credit rating by one grade to “BBB +”, the outlook remains “negative”, as the credit rating officers announced on Thursday.
At Deutsche Bank, S&P confirmed the rating of the creditworthiness with “BBB +”, but lowered the outlook to “negative” from “stable”. While the creditworthiness guards doubt that Commerzbank can implement its new strategy “Commerzbank 5.0”, including the planned sale of the Polish subsidiary M-Bank, as planned, they see the restructuring of Deutsche Bank basically on track. The shares of the two largest German financial institutions fell by 6.8 percent (Deutsche Bank) and 4.1 percent (Commerzbank) and were among the biggest losers on the stock market on Friday.
Lufthansa: Down eight percentit went for the papers from Germany’s largest airline. So that leads Lufthansa the Dax’s list of losers. At € 7.20, the shares cost less than they had since the Sars pandemic 17 years ago. According to insiders, the airline plans to put together a government aid package of up to ten billion euros early next week. The loss increased to EUR 1.2 billion in the first quarter. Due to the pandemic, air traffic in Germany is almost completely stopped.
Nestlé: The Swiss food giant, on the other hand, is doing very well. Nestle accelerated its growth in the starting quarter 2020. Organic sales growth in the first three months was 4.3 percent, as Nestle announced on Friday. The share rose 1.8 percent. As the full impact of the Covid 19 pandemic could not yet be assessed, Nestle is tentatively sticking to the original outlook for 2020 as a whole. The Group expects organic sales growth and the underlying operating profit margin to improve.
Sanofi: The French pharmaceutical companybenefits from the strong demand for painkillers and antipyretic due to the spread of the coronavirus. In the first quarter, currency-adjusted profit rose by 16.1 percent to 2.04 billion euros Sanofi announced. Sales climbed 6.6 percent to EUR 8.97 billion. Around half of the profit and sales growth is due to the corona pandemic. The corona effect will subside in the course of the second quarter. Sanofi confirmed the forecast for 2020. The group has set itself a five percent increase in earnings per share. The papers climbed 1.9 percent.
Eni: The Italian oil companythe corona pandemic and collapsing oil prices drove a billion dollar loss in the first quarter. The net loss was 2.9 billion euros, as the Italian company announced on Friday in Rome. Had in the previous year Eni earned just under 1.1 billion euros. For example, Eni had to adjust the book value of its oil inventories to falling market prices, as well as depreciation on oil and gas activities. Adjusted, Eni achieved a small plus of 59 million euros, a fraction of the previous year’s profit of 992 million euros. Revenues plummeted by a quarter to around 13.9 billion euros. The stock lost 2.9 percent.
Look at other asset classes
Oil prices continued their recovery from the previous day on Friday despite the price losses in the meantime. The decisive factor on Wednesday, however, was not the easing of weakness in demand and excess supply, rather political tensions between the USA and Iran caused rising risk premiums for crude oil. In Asian trade, a barrel (159 liters) of the North Sea type Brent last cost $ 21.57, up 1.1 percent. The US WTI was traded at $ 17.09 per barrel, up 3.5 percent.
The euro exchange rate rose slightly on Friday. The European common currency was trading at $ 1.0804 in the late afternoon. The European Central Bank (ECB) set the reference rate on Friday at $ 1.0800 (Thursday: 1.0772).
Italy’s central bank Market insiders broadened their purchases of domestic government bonds on behalf of the ECB on Friday. The Banca d’Italia is buying slightly more titles on average than in the past few days, said a primary trader. A second insider said that she was more active on the market. Yields on ten-year bonds fell around ten basis points over the course of the day to 1.899 percent. They had previously climbed above the two percent mark when disappointment over the results of the EU summit on Thursday spread on the bond market.
The rating agency warns of a significant deterioration in results.
Frankfurt The rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has given it a thumbs-up because of the economic impact of the corona crisis at Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank and other German financial institutions. At Commerzbank, S&P downgraded the credit rating by one grade to “BBB +”, the outlook remains “negative”, as the credit rating officers announced on Thursday.
At Deutsche Bank, S&P confirmed the rating of the creditworthiness with “BBB +”, but lowered the outlook to “negative” from “stable”. While the creditworthiness guards doubt that Commerzbank can implement its new strategy “Commerzbank 5.0”, including the planned sale of the Polish subsidiary mBank as planned, they see the restructuring of Deutsche Bank basically on track. Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank declined to comment.
With “BBB +” the credit ratings of the two largest German private banks are still three levels above the junk level. A negative outlook means that the credit rating is in danger of being lowered.
S&P warns that even if the economy begins to recover in the third quarter, all banks will see a significant deterioration in results, credit quality and, in some cases, capital resources. The risks that the economy will recover later and the situation will worsen are considerable.
At the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe Hessen-Thüringen, which includes Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen (Helaba), S&P confirmed the credit rating with “A”, but lowered the outlook to “negative” from “stable” due to the corona crisis.
At the leasing provider Grenke The rating with “BBB +” also remained stable, here too the outlook was reduced to “negative” from “stable”. At Deutsche Pfandbriefbank (pbb), S&P left both the credit rating “A-” and the outlook “negative”.
More: False incentives, fraud, debts – the side effects of the corona crisis.
The Chancellor is in top form in times of corona crisis. Angela Merkel explains complicated population doubling rates and reproductive numbers. But she also knows everyday things. “They have to be washed or ironed regularly, put in the oven or in the microwave,” Merkel explains how to care for respiratory masks. “Even if that sounds a bit housewife, so to speak.”
The omniscient state – embodied in the chancellor. The subjects are explained life down to the smallest detail. With this self-image, Merkel takes “measures that have never existed in our country before”. Fundamental rights are restricted, the economy is pushed to the brink and then supported with unprecedented aid.
One of Merkel’s closest confidants, Peter Altmaier, is more than enthusiastic. “An uncle who brings something is better than an aunt who plays the piano”, the Federal Minister of Economics remembers of his childhood.
And what is brought along! If you add up everything the federal government now wants to offer to combat the corona crisis, you get a gigantic sum of at least 1.2 trillion euros. No other country in the world has raised so much money in relation to its economic strength.
Germany has a full 35 percent, far more than the EU average or the USA. Federal finance minister Olaf Scholz did not understate what he promised a few weeks ago: “It is not spilled, but padding.”
The increase in importance and power is unique. Never in the history of the Federal Republic has a government intervened so quickly and deeply in public life and thus in the economy. After the financial crisis, German government debt rose by 315 billion euros in one year. The value of the federal, state and local governments will be far exceeded in this crisis. “I am worried whether we will be able to return to normal economic policy,” says Lars Feld, Germany’s top economy.
The measures to protect health are understandable. But the question increasingly arises: what side effects do the multi-billion dollar rescue programs have? The free market is disturbed, competition is distorted, prices lose their signal strength.
“As much market as possible, as much state as necessary”, the famous words of former Federal Minister of Economics Karl Schiller lose their meaning every day.
There is a risk of higher prices, inefficient companies and loss of wealth. It is significant that more and more companies are turning to the Bundeskartellamt during the corona crisis in order to be exempted from cooperating with competitors. The new spirit of state economy speaks.
Spend as much as you can. The year 2020 will be disastrous. Kristalina Georgiewa (IMF chief)
Certainly, help for companies with no fault of their own must be provided. But with the flood of support funds, the risk of misallocation is high. Capital and labor are tied up in companies with below-average productivity, less investment and innovative strength.
A few weeks ago, after a parliamentary request from the FDP for possible support from zombie companies, the Federal Ministry of Finance had to admit that “necessary market processes of creative destruction are hindered”.
The concern is justified that the state is eating itself too deeply into the economy, throwing privacy and data protection partially overboard and that the influence on the market will not be reversed after the end of the crisis.
A look at history suggests little good. The federal government is still 25 years after the IPO Deutsche Telekom still the largest single shareholder.
Fundamentally, there is a problem that is known in the economy as moral hazard: companies and citizens behave irresponsibly or carelessly due to existing false incentives. The news of fraudsters sneaking up subsidies is increasing.
“The state is a lousy entrepreneur”
The appearances of Altmaier and Scholz are characterized by superlatives. At the federal press conference, they will be presenting the rescue packages worth billions to the public with great regularity. “This is the most comprehensive and effective guarantee that there has ever been in a crisis,” said Altmaier in mid-March. “This is the bazooka, we’ll look for small arms later,” the Federal Minister of Finance said at the appearance.
The small arms that have now been added are quite large-caliber. Scholz announced a debt-financed supplementary budget of 156 billion euros. This includes an emergency fund with a volume of 50 billion euros, which is aimed at the self-employed and small businesses with up to ten employees.
The federal guarantee for the state bank KfW is increased by up to 450 billion euros. And then there is an Economic Stabilization Fund (WSF) with a volume of 600 billion euros. The majority is earmarked for government guarantees to keep companies liquid.
100 billion euros are reserved for possible investments, i.e. partial nationalization of companies. The battered Lufthansa is already holding talks about state participation.
You can still hear Altmaier’s words: “The state is a lousy entrepreneur.” The Federal Minister of Economics at least dedicated the most beautiful hall in the ministry to Ludwig Erhard. But he is currently just as far away from Erhard’s mantra as the Germans are from summer leaves in Mallorca.
Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (standing) and Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz (front)
The father of the “German economic miracle” throbbed to measure, he remembered sentences, the state should not be a player, but an arbitrator in the economy. Now the state is preparing to take over the entire football club.
No other industrial country is helping its economy with such large sums as the Federal Republic. This shows a new evaluation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He does not criticize Germany, on the contrary. “Spend as much as you can,” advises IMF chief Kristalina Georgiewa. The economic situation is too depressing.
The Council of Experts is now assuming that the economy will decline by more than 5.5 percent this year. This is the case that was previously treated as a worst-case scenario. The economic downturn would be worse than in the global financial crisis. 725,000 companies have registered financial difficulties and short-time work.
Including: hospitals. Health Minister Jens Spahn ordered them at the beginning of March to postpone all planned operations. For the hospital operator, this means severe revenue losses. More than a third of the intensive care beds are not occupied. With the Hospital Relief Act, the federal government created a regulation to compensate the clinics for the failures. But that’s far from enough.
This is the bazooka, we’ll look at small arms later. Olaf Scholz (Federal Minister of Finance)
Some private organizations have registered short-time work, including the Schön-Klinik group. The head of the German Hospital Society, Gerald Gaß, sees the time for a “careful, gradual resumption of regular care”.
Spahn also said last week that clinics could “gradually return to normal”. “We do not want to keep 40 percent of the intensive care ventilation beds in Germany permanently”, said the minister.
The pressure on the companies is huge, the need for help is great. This year alone, the federal government is raising 156 billion euros in new debt. The federal states are also preparing an extensive flood of money for pumps.
According to a survey by the Handelsblatt newspaper among the 16 state finance ministries, they are currently planning 65 billion euros in new debt to fight the crisis. In addition to the federal government’s huge € 1.2 trillion rescue package, the federal states are also helping their companies and the self-employed. Bavaria alone has launched a fund with 60 billion euros.
The IMF chief not only welcomes the gigantic aid package in Germany, the monetary fund also calls for thorough control. “Keep the bills,” said Georgiewa. Transparency and accountability should not be put off in the face of the crisis. Whether Germany is world champion in this discipline, doubts are increasing.
Risk zombie company
The financial crisis shaped a saying by the former head of central bank in Europe, Mario Draghi: “What ever it takes”. In this crisis, it becomes a “Whatever, take it!” Aid is mostly spent without checking, the money cannot be distributed quickly enough.
According to an overview by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economics, over 26 billion euros were applied for by KfW Hilfen. Almost 13,000 of the more than 13,200 applications were approved. In other words, almost anyone who wants help gets it, most likely companies that didn’t have a working business model before the pandemic.
This easily creates zombie companies that are only alive because of generous state aid. After all: With the large sums, the KfW steering committee seems to be examining it more closely. So far, around 8.5 billion euros have been approved. So it takes a little longer for the large-volume applications.
In contrast, the self-employed and small businesses with up to ten employees are suspiciously fast. So far, according to the overview of 1.65 million applications, around 1.1 million have been approved and more than nine billion euros paid out. These are not loans, but aid that does not have to be repaid.
“Speed and thoroughness go hand in hand: it is carefully checked who receives the money,” Finance Minister Scholz promised. But is that true? North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin were even recently forced to suspend immediate payments because large-scale fraudsters wanted to get to the pots.
There are also problems with honest entrepreneurs. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the self-employed and small businesses are always granted the maximum amounts of EUR 9,000 and EUR 15,000 – regardless of need. This practice is not well understood in the Federal Ministry of Economics. Because a flat-rate payment of maximum amounts was actually not intended.
The aid should amount to up to 9,000 euros for companies with up to five employees and up to 15,000 euros for up to ten employees. The emphasis here is on the “up to”. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the actual amount should be based on sales and operating expenses for the next three months. An entrepreneur with zero euros turnover and 1000 euros costs would be entitled to 3000 euros in emergency aid.
But these details were lost somewhere in the confusion between the federal states and the federal states. The up to 50 billion euros are provided by the federal government. Although federal money is at stake, it is up to the federal states how much they scrutinize companies. In Hamburg, for example, a liquidity check is required. Other countries are significantly less strict so that aid can flow as quickly as possible.
In Berlin, more than a billion euros were paid out to solo and small entrepreneurs within days. And the Berlin Senate also admits behind the scenes that surely there are also deadweight effects. Since no examination was carried out, almost everyone received 14,000 euros in a combination of federal and state funds. These include the self-employed, who normally have annual sales that are significantly lower, they say.
Some recipients are now voluntarily repaying the aid for fear of sanctions. But whether a subsequent thorough examination is possible to convince fraudsters is skeptical in financial management.
Dangerous false incentives
The economic nonsense, which is operated partly in the name of Corona, is great. Governments in the federal and state governments are increasingly creating the illusion that they can regulate everything with state trillions. And more and more, government intervention and expansion is creating false incentives in all areas of the economy, which can be revenged bitterly.
Take the housing market as an example: the Federal Minister of Justice, a woman from the SPD, wanted to protect the tenants. The result is a half-baked law that gets small landlords into trouble. The law was so badly made that solvent companies like Adidas or Deichmann used the gaps and simply suspended the rent payments. Only after a storm of indignation did Adidas row back.
Take the example of KfW loans: After the institutes hesitated to pass on the subsidized loans from the Staatsbank KfW to companies because they still had to bear ten percent of the default risk, the state assumed full liability. With the danger that house banks will now be able to provide loans to companies that have long been bankrupt.
The banks don’t care, they are released from any liability, but of course they still make good money from their business. The fool is the taxpayer who has to answer for the defaults.
Example of short-time work: Short-time work allowance is a tried and tested crisis instrument. The state replaces up to 67 percent of net wages. However, the SPD was not enough. In the coalition committee on Wednesday, she pushed for an increase to 80 percent.
It is the most comprehensive and effective guarantee that there has ever been in a crisis. Peter Altmaier (Federal Minister of Economics)
However, a general increase would have significant deadweight effects: Many companies are already increasing short-time benefits from their own resources. Apart from that, the short-time work allowance is not meant to secure the standard of living, but rather to ensure the survival of companies and thus avoid unemployment.
In other areas, the federal corona strategy is rather arbitrary. The craft complained that the vehicle registration offices were closed. There is also much discussion about opening shops up to the limit of 800 square meters. This border was communicated at least improperly and caused confusion and indignation among the shopkeepers.
Now a Hamburg administrative court has declared the 800 square meter rule to be illegal. The court could not understand why opening larger sales areas alone should attract more people to the city center. Necessary infection protection measures could be followed at least as well in larger stores as in smaller facilities.
Whimsical and impractical was initially the requirement that repair shops were allowed to remain open, but the sales rooms had to be closed. Many craftsmen wondered if they could lead the customers through the sales room into the workshop. Another detail from this series of undesirable side effects of the rescue policy.
The border closures, for example with the Czech Republic, mean that the bricklayers are missing in the construction industry and the harvest workers in agriculture from Romania. The state decides a lot, but the consequences are borne by the entrepreneurs and their employees.
The argument for the state’s rapid generosity in the crisis is: rather spend more now to prevent the economy from crashing and millions of jobs be lost than have to finance mass unemployment for a long time. This approach is absolutely correct. But it also remains true: somehow the state rescue billions have to be financed at least in the medium term if the next generations are not to be overwhelmed.
Currently this is done through the use of reserves and debts. Germany certainly has scope. The Federal Republic had just pushed the debt level to below 60 percent, thereby meeting the Maastricht criteria for the first time in many years in 2019. But that will be the last time for a long time.
As a result of the corona crisis, the federal government expects a general government deficit of 7.25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year. The debt ratio as a share of all debts in GDP is estimated at 75.25 percent, as can be seen from the German Stability Program 2020.
“The projection is currently subject to very high levels of uncertainty,” says the current report. In other words, the debt level could be even higher. This mainly depends on how high the losses are that the federal government will incur from its guarantees and sureties.
Given the huge commitments, some in the grand coalition are trying to put the brakes on. “I don’t like the fact that we almost always get new suggestions every hour, what else can you do,” said Union leader Ralph Brinkhaus. “All of this must also be paid for.”
In a crisis, the state’s money is loose. Some sense their chance to finally implement long-held plans.
Bangkok Lim Oon Kuin worked on his raw material empire for more than half a century, which made him one of the most important oil traders in Singapore. Given the crash in the oil markets, a few weeks were enough to bring his company down. What remains are investigations by Singapore’s law enforcement officers and a mountain of debt of almost four billion dollars with several international banks – including the one German bank.
Hin Leong is the name of Lim’s company that became the first major victim of the oil crisis in Asia. Translated, the company name means “prosperity”. But there seems to be little left of the billion dollars Lim used to juggle the oil market and recently bet against a drop in prices.
Hin Leong filed for bankruptcy protection at the end of last week after the banks asked for the loans to be repaid. Now the auditing and consulting firm PwC should take control of the group during the debt restructuring talks, as the local newspaper “Straits Times” reported on Thursday, citing insiders.
The credit institutions threaten to remain on a large part of their claims. The remaining oil traders in the Southeast Asian financial metropolis are also facing a severe crisis: In response to the turbulence at Hin Leong, the banks are cutting their credit lines. The industry is now afraid of massive liquidity shortages. “Banks cancel their positions wherever possible,” commented industry consultant Jean-Francois Lambert. Singapore’s central bank was forced to warn the financial industry of a complete lending to the oil sector.
The loss of confidence is also responsible for the impending credit crunch: Lim Oon Kuin, known in Singapore as O.K. Lim, admitted in an affidavit that he had hidden losses of $ 800 million. “I told the finance department not to let the losses show up in the books,” Lim wrote in the court document, according to the Bloomberg news agency.
The balance sheet for 2019 thus showed a profit of $ 78 million. “In truth, the company hasn’t made a profit in the past few years,” said Lim, whose assets the US magazine “Forbes” estimated in early April at $ 1.3 billion. The 76-year-old founder also admitted to having secretly sold millions of barrels of oil, which he guaranteed to the banks as collateral.
With the admission, Lim may be trying to avert harm from relatives who are also involved in the family business. His son, Evan Lim, who runs the Ocean Tankers spin-off with a fleet of around 100 oil tankers, said they hadn’t known about the events. As announced on Monday, Singapore’s police opened an investigation into Hin Leong.
The company’s approximately $ 4 billion in debt was only offset by assets of $ 700 million recently, the company reportedly told creditors. The losses at the 23 banks that loaned Hin Leong money could total $ 3.3 billion.
The UK Bank HSBC, which owes the company $ 600 million, is hardest hit. ABN Amro and the Rabobank from the Netherlands and the French Société Générale and the British Standard Chartered Bank has loaned Hin Leong between $ 200 million and $ 300 million each. Three local banks from Singapore collectively have claims of nearly $ 700 million.
Deutsche Bank and DZ Bank were also reportedly involved in the business with Hin Leong – with relatively low amounts. According to Reuters, Deutsche Bank is about $ 70 million and DZ Bank is about $ 40 million. Both banks did not want to comment on this on request.
Hin Leong was one of the largest suppliers of marine fuel in Singapore and played an important role in Southeast Asian gasoline trading. The group also owns a stake in a huge fuel depot. Sales talks with the Chinese company are now reportedly under way Sinopec.
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