Luxembourg welcomes 60 finance firms because of Brexit

Buildings in the Kirchberg quarter are seen behind people standing in roman ruins in the city of Luxembourg, Luxembourg. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Luxembourg welcomes 60 finance firms because of Brexit

  • Landlocked low-tax Luxembourg, a Grand Duchy in the heart of Europe, has a reputation for financial services
  • According to accountants KPMG, Luxembourg has welcomed 65 firms owing to Brexit, ahead of Ireland on 64

LUXEMBOURG: More than 60 financial firms have moved some operations to Luxembourg to insulate themselves from the effects of Brexit, a industry group said Wednesday.
As EU lawmakers voted in Brussels to confirm Britain’s departure from the bloc, public-private agency Luxembourg for Finance released its figures.
According to the group, 60 firms “have publicly announced the relocation of activities to Luxembourg due to Brexit,” and at least ten more will do so.
“Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, Luxembourg has seen a spike in interest from firms planning for their future EU and cross-border activities,” it said.
“A further Brexit outcome has been that Luxembourg law is increasingly being chosen by international institutions active in financial markets.”
The City of London is by all measures the biggest financial center in Europe, and is likely to remain powerful after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.
But the City’s ability to freely provide financial services within the remaining member states will depend on a future cross-Channel trade deal.
This will be negotiated during an 11-month transition period after Brexit, and some firms are already looking to move some or all of their business.
Landlocked low-tax Luxembourg, a Grand Duchy in the heart of Europe, has a reputation for financial services — and discreet bankers.
According to accountants KPMG, Luxembourg has welcomed 65 firms owing to Brexit, ahead of Ireland on 64 and the Netherlands and France on 30 each.
These companies include banks and their departments, insurers and stock brokers shifting operations from the City toward continental locations.
Luxembourg for Finance CEO Nicolas Mackel said the duchy would be “an EU hub for firms considering their post-Brexit plans.”


Oil-rich wealth funds seen shedding up to $225 billion in stocks

Updated 30 March 2020

Oil-rich wealth funds seen shedding up to $225 billion in stocks

  • Risking more losses is not an option for some funds from oil-producing nations

LONDON: Sovereign wealth funds from oil-producing countries mainly in the Middle East and Africa are on course to dump up to $225 billion in equities, a senior banker estimates, as plummeting oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic hit state finances.

The rapid spread of the virus has ravaged the global economy, sending markets into a tailspin and costing both oil and non-oil based sovereign wealth funds around $1 trillion in equity losses, according to JPMorgan strategist Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou.

His estimates are based on data from sovereign wealth funds and figures from the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, a research group.

Sticking with equity investments and risking more losses is not an option for some funds from oil-producing nations. Their governments are facing a financial double-whammy — falling revenues due to the spiraling oil price and rocketing spending as administrations rush out emergency budgets.

Around $100-$150 billion in stocks have likely been offloaded by oil-producer sovereign wealth funds, excluding Norway’s fund, in recent weeks, Panigirtzoglou said, and a further $50-$75 billion will likely be sold in the coming months.

“It makes sense for sovereign funds to frontload their selling, as you don’t want to be selling your assets at a later stage when it is more likely to have distressed valuations,” he said.

Most oil-based funds are required to keep substantial cash-buffers in place in case a collapse in oil prices triggers a request from the government for funding.

A source at an oil-based sovereign fund said it had been gradually raising its liquidity position since oil prices began drifting lower from their most recent peak above $70 a barrel in October 2018.

In addition to the cash reserves, additional liquidity was typically drawn firstly from short-term money market instruments like treasury bills and then from passively invested equity as a last resort, the source said.

It’s generally a similar trend for other funds.

“Our investor flows broadly show more resilience than market pricing would suggest,” said Elliot Hentov, head of policy research at State Street Global Advisers. “There has been a shift toward cash since the crisis started, but it’s not a panic move but rather gradual.”

The sovereign fund source said the fund had made adjustments to its actively managed equity investments due to the market rout, both to stem losses and position for the recovery, when it comes.

Exactly how much sovereign wealth funds invest and with whom remain undisclosed. Many don’t even report the value of the assets they manage.

On Thursday, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund said it had lost $124 billion so far this year as equity markets sunk but its outgoing CEO Yngve Slyngstad said it would, at some point, start buying stocks to get its portfolio back to its target equity allocation of 70 percent from 65 percent currently.

Slyngstad also said that any fiscal spending by the government this year would be financed by selling bonds in its portfolio.