UBS ‘tampered with rates since 2001’
UBS ‘tampered with rates since 2001’
“We must learn from this crisis and avoid further damage to the bank,” Weber told the Blick in a joint interview with UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti. “We are in the process of improving the control systems,” he said.
His comments came as a separate report charged that UBS had not only manipulated global interest rates, but had also tampered with Swiss franc interest rates for more than a decade.
UBS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
US, British and Swiss authorities last week hit Switzerland’s largest bank with $ 1.5 billion in fines — the second-largest banking penalty ever — for massive misconduct in the setting of the Libor rate. That rate is used as a benchmark for global financial contracts worth about $300 trillion and affects financial products worldwide such as student loans and mortgages.
Both Weber and Ermotti stressed in yesterday’s interview that Swiss investigators had found no indication top UBS executives were aware of the misconduct.
But Weber acknowledged that responsibility for the Libor scandal lay “not only with the people who committed crimes, but also with those who were tasked with supervising them,” noting that people not directly involved in manipulating rates had also been fired.
The French-language daily Le Matin meanwhile reported in its Sunday edition that UBS had not only contributed to manipulating global interest rates on the dollar, the British pound and the yen.
It also “systematically played with interest rates on the Swiss franc. And that for more than 10 years,” Le Matin reported.
Quoting findings in a US justice department probe, the paper said there was evidence that UBS traders had manipulated the rates from 2001.
The paper criticized Switzerland’s financial regulator FINMA for not looking further back than 2007 when it calculated UBS’s misdeeds in Switzerland, and also lambasted the Swiss national bank for not releasing numbers on how much the bank had cost the Swiss economy.
The Swiss portion of the bank’s massive fine amounted to just 59 million Swiss francs ($ 64 million).
Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates
- Debt restructurings on the rise, but below crisis levels
- Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since last March
There has been an uptick in recent months in heavily-borrowed companies in the Gulf seeking to restructure their debts with lenders. Although the pressure on companies is not comparable to levels witnessed in the region following the 2008 global financial crisis, rising interest rates will eventually begin to have a greater impact, say experts.
Speaking exclusively to Arab news, Matthew Wilde, a partner at consultancy PwC in Dubai, said: “We do expect that interest rate increases will gradually start to impact companies over the next 12 months, but to date the impact of hedging and the runoff of older fixed rate deals has meant the impact is fairly muted so far.”
The Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since the start of last year, in line with action taken by the US Federal Reserve. The Fed has signalled that it will raise interest rates at least twice more before the end of the year.
Wilde added that there had been a little more pressure on company balance sheets of late, although “this shouldn’t be overplayed”.
Nevertheless, just last week, Stanford Marine Group — majority owned by a fund managed by private equity firm Abraaj Group — was reported by the New York Times to be in talks with banks to restructure a $325 million Islamic loan. The newspaper cited a Reuters report that relied on “banking sources”.
The Dubai-based oil and gas services firm, which has struggled as a result of the downturn in the hydrocarbons market since 2014, has reportedly asked banks to consider extending the maturity of its debt and restructuring repayments, after it breached certain loan covenants.
A fund managed by Abraaj owns 51 percent of Stanford Marine, with the remaining stake held by Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Waha Capital. Abraaj declined to comment.
Dubai-based theme parks operator DXB Entertainments struck a deal last month with creditors to restructure 4.2 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) of borrowings, with visitor numbers to attractions such as Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai struggling to meet visitor targets.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sharjah-based Gulf General Investment Company was in talks with banks to restructure loan and credit facilities after defaulting on a payment linked to 2.1 billion dirhams of debt at the end of last year.
Dubai International Capital, according to a Bloomberg report from December, has restructured its debt for the second time, reaching an agreement with banks to roll over a loan of about $1 billion. At the height of the emirate’s boom years, DIC amassed assets worth about $13 billion, including the owner of London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, as well as stakes in Sony and Daimler. The firm was later forced to sell most of these assets and reschedule $2.5 billion of debt after the global financial crisis.
Wilde told Arab News: “We have seen an increasing number of listed companies restructuring or planning to restructure their capital recently — including using tools such as capital reductions and raising capital by using quasi equity instruments such as perpetual bonds.”
This has happened across the region and PwC expected this to accelerate a little as companies “respond to legislative pressures and become more familiar with the options available to fix their problems,” said Wilde.
He added that the trend was being driven by oil prices remaining below historical highs, soft economic conditions, and continued caution in the UAE’s banking sector.
On the debt restructuring side, Wilde said there had been a “reasonably steady flow of cases of debts being restructured”.
However, the volume of firms seeking to renegotiate debt remains small compared to the level of restructurings witnessed in the aftermath of Dubai’s debt crisis.
Several big name firms in the emirate were caught out by the onset of the global financial crisis, which saw the emirate’s booming economy and real estate market go into reverse.
State-owned conglomerate Dubai World, whose companies included real-estate firm Nakheel and ports operator DP World, stunned global markets in November 2009 when it asked creditors for a six-month standstill on its obligations. Dubai World restructured around $25 billion of debt in 2011, followed by a $15 billion restructuring deal in 2015.
“We would not expect it to become (comparable to 2008-9) so barring some form of sharp external impetus such as global political instability or a protectionist trade war,” said Wilde.
Nor did he see the introduction of VAT as particularly driving this trend, but rather as just one more factor impacting some already strained sectors (e.g. some sub sectors of retail) “which were already pressured by other macro factors.”