Poverty levels hit new high as Greek woes continue

BY Fraser Tennant

In a further depressing development for the beleaguered citizens of Greece, new research shows the under pressure European Union (EU) member state as having the highest increase of people finding themselves at risk of poverty or social exclusion, some 800,000 compared to 2008.

According to data compiled annually by Eurostat (the statistical office of the EU) on poverty rates in Europe (EU28), more than one out of three (36 percent) of the Greek population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion – the highest level in the Eurozone. Cyprus is the next closest on 28.9 percent.

The average rate for the EU28 has remained at 23.7 percent between 2008 and 2016.

Additionally, and in what should perhaps be viewed as an unfortunate piece of timing, the Eurostat findings coincide with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – an initiative by European decision-makers known as the Europe 2020 strategy which aims to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020.  

"Austerity politics have failed in the Eurozone,” is the view of Dimitris Rapidis, a policy and communication advisor at Bridging Europe. “The poverty and social exclusion rate in Greece is worsening, despite the efforts by the government to balance side effects of austerity.

“We have reached a point where even those supporting extreme financial consolidation at the expense of social cohesion and development can no longer convince even the most conservative parts of the European electorate.”

The main challenge facing progressive EU leaders, according to Mr Rapidis, is to address the appeal of far-right parties that seek to capitalise on social grievances, and foster a broader democratic alliance that can deliver a fresh, growth-oriented vision for the EU.

“Broadly speaking, the leaders of the European South that have been direly hit by austerity and financial slowdown - such as Spain, Italy and Cyprus - need to push Brussels and Berlin for change of course in practice and not exhaust their will in statements,” says Rapidis. “The EU and Eurozone have to choose between two distinct options: either gradually collapse under the pressure of nationalism and the far-right or find a way out by reviewing and improving the Stability and Growth Pact so that it can be beneficial for all member-states and leave space for flexible economic policies."

Next up for Greece is a European Council meeting in Brussels on 20 and 21 October, where prime minister Alexis Tsipras will be focusing on the second programme review, as well as attempting to source further debt relief for his embattled country.

News: There is little indication Europe is winning the battle against poverty

Period of ‘prolonged weakness’ for UK

BY Richard Summerfield

Since the UK voted in June to break away from the European Union, the country’s economy has been surprisingly resilient. That durability has made a mockery of the many apocalyptic predictions around Brexit which preceded the vote. Although sterling has tumbled in recent weeks, dropping under $1.21, the UK’s economy has been relatively trouble-free since the summer vote. Indeed, according to the 'EY ITEM Club Autumn Forecast' released this week, the UK’s economy is still expected to grow by 1.9 percent this year, driven by strong consumer spending, which is up by 2.5 percent, and very low inflation of 0.8 percent.

Yet despite of this positive outlook, the report claims that the UK is set for a period of ‘prolonged weakness’, thanks, in part to rapidly increasing inflation which is expected to reach 2.6 percent in 2017, before easing back to 1.8 percent in 2018. Consumer spending, too, is expected to slow to 0.5 percent in 2017 and 0.9 percent in 2018.

Uncertainty surrounding the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU is also likely to adversely affect corporate confidence. EY expects business investment to decline by more than 2 percent in 2017, after a drop of 1.5 in 2016.

Peter Spencer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, comments: “So far it might look like the economy is taking Brexit in its stride, but this picture is deceptive. Sterling’s shaky performance this month provides a timely reminder that challenges lie ahead. As inflation returns over the winter it will squeeze household incomes and spending. The pressure on consumers and the cautious approach to spending by businesses mean that the UK is facing a period of relatively low growth.”

Though EY’s prediction is worrying, there is a silver lining: the pound’s weakened position is great news for the country’s exporters. Exports are likely to jump 4.5 percent in 2017 and 5.6 percent in 2018, according to the report. The resiliency of the export space is contingent, however, on the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Given that 45 percent of the country’s exports are to the EU, a ‘hard Brexit’ may spell trouble for the UK’s export industry.

Report: EY ITEM Club Autumn Forecast

Note fiasco sends Samsung profit up in smoke

BY Richard Summerfield

The smartphone industry is a fast moving and fickle market. As Samsung Electronics well knows, a company’s fortunes can rise and fall on the strength of a single device. When the company released its Galaxy S7 line of phones earlier this year, Samsung recorded its strongest profits in over two years.

In July, revenue of $45.2bn was up 5 percent on the previous year, while the firm’s operating profit was up 18 percent to $7.22bn.

However, as quickly as things can improve, they can fall apart. The debacle surrounding the release, replacement and subsequent recall of its Galaxy Note 7 device has plunged the company’s brand and reputation into chaos. Indeed, the furore surrounding Samsung’s exploding ‘phablet’ could not have come at a worse time for the South Korean firm, with major rivals Google and Apple launching competing devices in the last few weeks. It appears that Samsung’s brand and balance sheet may be adversely affected, contrary to what the company originally claimed.

Just last week, Samsung issued earnings guidance which claimed that the company’s recall of the device would not adversely impact its balance sheet. However, on Wednesday it said it expects third quarter profits of $4.7bn or 5.2 trillion won, around a third lower than its original estimate of 7.8 trillion won. The company has also dramatically reduced revenue expectations, cutting them by 2 trillion won to 47 trillion ($41.8bn).

Samsung also noted that in light of the difficulties it has had with the Note 7 device, it was stopping all sales and production of the phablet, citing consumer safety concerns. “For the benefit of consumers' safety, we have stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 and have consequently decided to stop production," Samsung said in a statement.

The day before the company made the announcement, Samsung saw $18bn wiped off its market capitalisation. The following day the company’s shares continued to fall. How Samsung recovers from here will be telling. Undoubtedly, the momentum the firm built up through the release of the Galaxy S7 device has slowed considerably.

News: Samsung slashes profit forecast over Galaxy Note 7 crisis

The danger within: internal risks increasing, claims new PwC report

BY Fraser Tennant

Amid a complex and constantly changing risk landscape, internal cyber attacks are an increasing threat that can damage a company’s profits and reputation, according to PwC’s ‘Global State of Information Security Survey’, published this week.

Indeed, a multitude of data is lost each day in this way through mistakes, misuse or malicious attacks; however, the PwC survey contends that the threat to an organisation no longer comes purely from outsiders and that insider risk is now a matter of growing concern.

Drilling down, the top insider risk and source of security incidents for UK organisations is current employees, with former employees a close second. In addition, third parties, including service providers, consultants or contractors, are also now increasingly likely to be the cause of a cyber threat to a business.

In light of the reconfigured threat, the survey highlights four key trends: (i) digital businesses are adopting new technologies and approaches to cyber security; (ii) threat intelligence and information sharing have become business-critical; (iii) organisations are addressing risks associated with the internet of things (IoT); and (iv) geopolitical threats are rising.

“Organisations spend so much time focusing on protecting themselves from external threats that it’s often easy to forget the insider risk – stemming not only from employees, but also a wider ecosystem of business partners," said Richard Horne, cyber security partner at PwC. “Business leaders need to shine a light on who has access to their critical systems and data. Poor access governance and controls can damage not only your reputation but ultimately profit.”

The report also examines the likely impact of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to come into effect in April 2018. In essence, the GDPR means an uptick in privacy demands that will require companies to refocus their data privacy arrangements.

“GDPR requires a level of internal control over privacy practices we’ve never seen before,” said Jay Cline, cyber security and privacy principal at PwC. “A half-billion EU citizens will be poised to hold multinationals accountable to this higher bar through new rights they will begin exercising one spring morning a year and a half from now.”

The ‘Global State of Information Security Survey’ showcases the views of more than 10,000 CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, CISOs, CSOs, VPs and directors of IT and security practices from more than 133 countries (34 percent of respondents are from North America, 31 percent from Europe, 20 percent from Asia Pacific, 13 percent from South America and 3 percent from the Middle East and Africa).

Report: Moving forward with cybersecurity and privacy - Key findings from The Global State of Information Security® Survey 2017

Global M&A volume down 22 percent YOY, reveals nine months review

BY Fraser Tennant

Mergers & acquisitions (M&A) activity during the first nine months of 2016 is the topic of a new report released this week by Dealogic.

Among the headline figures contained in ‘Global M&A Review: Nine Months 2016’ is the 22 percent year-on-year (YOY) drop in M&A volume, down to $2.55 trillion from $3.27 trillion.  

In terms of key regional headline data, the report reveals that US targeted M&A volume was down 30 percent YOY. Furthermore, domestic US M&A volume fell 38 percent to $771.3bn.

Looking to M&A volume in Europe, the UK reached $62.1bn by the end of 3Q 2016, its highest recorded 3Q figure since 2008.

As far as global cross-border M&A volume is concerned, activity in the first nine months of 2016 was valued at $899.5bn, down 9 percent YOY. Furthermore, US inbound M&A was $327.9bn, only slightly behind the all time record of $330.6bn set in 2015.

In terms of M&A in the Asia Pacific region, China and Japan were the top acquiring Asian nations of US targets. Chinese acquisitions reached an annual record high for both volume and activity, with $35.7bn via 124 deals. Japan announced 132 deals worth $17.4bn, down 39 percent YOY.

Leading the M&A advisor rankings is Goldman Sachs with transactions totalling $613.3bn, followed by Morgan Stanley on $476.3bn and JPMorgan on $459.9bn.

Technology was the top sector (replacing healthcare) with a total of $475.4bn, just ahead of its previous record of $446.1bn in 2015. Conversely, healthcare, which also hit an annual record high in 2015, was down 48 percent YOY to $255.4bn.

The report also showcases the ‘Top 10 Announced M&A Transactions First Nine Months 2016’ with Bayer’s $66.3bn acquisition of Monsanto, announced in May 2016, top of the list. Second is the $46.7bn acquisition of Syngenta by China National Chemical Corp (ChemChina) in February 2016 - the largest ever cross-border transaction by a Chinese acquirer. In third place is the September 2016 deal which saw Enbridge Inc acquire Spectra Energy Corp for $43bn, in the largest Canadian outbound deal on record and the fifth largest utility & energy deal on record.

Finally, Dealogic confirms that the total of withdrawn M&A in the first nine months of 2016 was $752.8bn. This includes the $28.9bn Praxair/Linde deal and the $25.4bn Mondelez International/Hershey transaction.

Report: Dealogic – ‘Global M&A Review: First Nine Months 2016’

©2001-2016 Financier Worldwide Ltd. All rights reserved.