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British Airways owner IAG says pensions deal, loan help boosts liquidity

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British Airways owner IAG says pensions deal, loan help boosts liquidity 1

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – British Airways-owner IAG said on Monday it had raised total liquidity by 2.45 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) by deferring pension contributions and finalising a loan, which will help it survive the travel slump for longer.

IAG said it continued to explore other debt opportunities to improve its finances, which have been battered by the pandemic. The group will report quarterly results on Friday, which analysts expect to show a 1.25 billion euro ($1.51 billion) loss for October-December.

In order to clinch the deferral of the 450 million pounds worth of pension deficit contributions due between October 2020 and September 2021, BA agreed not to pay any dividends to parent company IAG before the end of 2023.

Like all airlines, IAG has been burning through cash, around 205 million euros a week, after operating for nearly 12 months with minimal revenues. It scrapped its dividend last April, and then raised 2.74 billion euros in October from shareholders to ride out the crisis.

Countries around the world have tightened travel restrictions over the last two months in response to new variants of the coronavirus and it is unclear when travel will restart, putting further pressure on airlines’ finances.

“In addition to these arrangements, IAG continues to explore other debt initiatives to improve further its liquidity,” IAG said in a statement. The group also owns the airlines Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Ireland’s Aer Lingus.

Shares in IAG are trading down 55% from where they were this time last year, but news of the extra liquidity helped them rise 1.1% to 167 pence in early trading on Monday, in line with Britain’s blue-chip index.

BA said it reached a final agreement for a new 2 billion pound five-year loan, which is partially guaranteed by Britain through its UK Export Finance unit, and would draw down the facility by the end of this month.

That facility was secured in December and also includes restrictions on BA making dividend payments to IAG.

Pension trustees also agreed to BA deferring monthly contributions of 37.5 million pounds, in a deal which included putting up property assets as security, and a suspension of BA dividends to parent company IAG until the end of 2023.

BA is IAG’s biggest and most profitable airline and the pause in dividends from it means it could be years before IAG shareholders see payments again.

That is unlikely to be a surprise for shareholders, given new debts taken on by the airline group, and the fact that travel is not expected to reach 2019 levels until 2024.

“This highlights the fact that IAG will be managing debt not distributions to shareholders for at least the next two years, which could be seen as reinforcing a negative,” Goodbody analysts said in a note.

($1 = 0.7148 pounds)

($1 = 0.8258 euros)

(Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by Estelle Shirbon and Susan Fenton)

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HSBC reshuffles top jobs ahead of strategy update

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HSBC reshuffles top jobs ahead of strategy update 2

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC on Monday reshuffled several of its top regional executive roles, as it prepares to announce full year results and an updated strategy the next day.

The bank appointed Nuno Matos as chief executive of its wealth and personal banking business, while chief compliance officer Colin Bell became head of HSBC’s European business.

Michael Roberts was appointed CEO for the United States and Americas, while Stephen Moss will move to Dubai as head of the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey business, the bank said.

The bank also said it is expanding the remit of Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson, who will now also run the bank’s transformation programme and its mergers and acquisitions plans.

The reshuffle by CEO Noel Quinn comes as HSBC prepares to unveil its latest strategy on Tuesday, alongside an expected plunge in annual profits reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In moving Stephen Moss to Dubai HSBC said it is expanding its strategic ambitions in the Middle East, suggesting the region will be a big part of the new strategy alongside an existing plan to ‘pivot’ more to Asia.

(Reporting By Lawrence White, editing by Iain Withers and Jason Neely)

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Breakdown of Global Trends: The Current State of Female Professionals Working in Accountancy

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Breakdown of Global Trends: The Current State of Female Professionals Working in Accountancy 3

By Sarah-Jane McQueen, General Manager of the accountancy course comparison website CoursesOnline.

Accountancy is a strong sector, which is growing on an international level. Despite economic issues rooted in 2020, the industry expects to see a swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. So, how are women represented within this industry? Over the years, there has been an encouraging trend in this area but it’s not without pitfalls. Here’s a breakdown of the current state of female professionals in accounting.

Around 50% of Accounting Students are Women  

Women tend to make up approximately 50% of accounting students around the world. What’s more, in some regions, women are now surpassing men when it comes to undertaking courses of this nature. In 2020, internal data from CoursesOnline showed that of those purchasing accounting courses, 56% were female and 44% were male.

With that in mind, there is no issue when it comes to encouraging women into this particular field. The statistics speak for themselves, revealing that women have just as much appetite for the subject matter as men do. Over the years, initiatives toward gender equality in this sector have been well-placed and supporting female students in this area.

Women are Highly-Represented in Accounting 

Not only are many women studying accounting, but they are also entering the industry at a high rate. On a global level, women are highly-represented in the field of accounting.

In Canada, more than 50% of women were accountants than men in 2016, and in the United States, women and men are parity in accounting. Moreover, over in Europe, women make up more than two-thirds of professionals in accountancy and law.

These figures are encouraging. However, that is not to say that there is no problem in terms of equality in this growing and developing field. Statistics reveal that there is a significant gap when it comes to women of colour working in this sector.

That is a hurdle that has to be overcome in the years to come. Furthermore, the gender pay gap within the sector is notable and needs addressing. While women are entering this field en-mass, they are not gaining the same rewards and benefits as men.

Women of Colour are still Underrepresented

Women of colour are underrepresented in the field of finance and accounting. Back in 2018, the AICPA Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report revealed that 71% of professional staff members at CPA firms were white.

The same report showed that only 4% of employees were black while 6% were Latinx. Additionally, Asian and Pacific Islanders were the most represented people of colour, making up 17% of employees within this field.

This disparity is significant since almost half of graduates with accounting degrees were people of colour, accounting for 41% of Bachelor’s degree graduates and 46% of Master’s degree graduates.

With that in mind, the fact that people of colour, and particularly women of colour, are not proportionately represented in the field is concerning. It suggests a culture of inequality which stretches across the board within the finance and accountancy sectors. With social justice movements gathering speed, it is time for positive change.

The Gender Pay Gap in Accounting 

Despite the fact that women are proportionately well-represented in finance and accounting, there is a persisting gender pay gap. In the United States, for instance, women working as accountants or auditors earned a weekly median salary of $1,141 in 2019. On the other hand, their male counterparts earned a median salary of $1,419.

However, the tides may be set to change. Research now suggests that more than a third of CPA firms assess pay equity by both race and gender. That means that more finance companies are approaching the gender pay gap internally. Last year, the same review showed that 90% of firms have partners review the results of internal pay equity surveys. That figure is up from 74% when the review was last held back in 2014.

Despite these figures and a new trend toward counteracting pay inequality, the industry still has a long way to go. Given that women are highly represented within this sector, it is disturbing to see that there is a gulf of difference between their pay scales and that of men in the same industry. Many CPA firms have a responsibility to change their approach to this aspect of the work and conduct further reviews in the years to come.

The Takeaway 

More women than ever before are studying and working in the field of accounting. However, there is a need for significant change within this sector and its practices. Moving into the 2020s, there has to be continuous reviews of the pay scales and hiring practices of firms in this industry, should the sector aim to reach a level of just equality.

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Surging industry expectations drive up German business morale

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Surging industry expectations drive up German business morale 4

BERLIN (Reuters) – German business morale rose by far more than expected in February, hitting its highest level since October as the industrial sector powered along Europe’s largest economy despite lockdown restrictions, a survey showed on Monday.

The Ifo institute said its business climate index increased to 92.4 from an upwardly revised 90.3 in January. A Reuters poll of analysts had pointed to a February reading of 90.5. The reading surpassed even in the highest forecast in the poll.

“The German economy is robust despite the lockdown mainly because of the strong industrial economy,” Ifo President Clemens Fuest said in a statement.

The stronger-than-expected Ifo reading showed businesses are looking beyond the short-term effect of lockdown measures.

Once a role model for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany has struggled with a second wave. Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers have agreed to extend restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until March 7.

The government last month slashed its GDP growth forecast to 3% this year, a sharp revision from last autumn’s estimate of 4.4%. This means the economy probably won’t reach its pre-pandemic level before mid-2022.

But Ifo economist Klaus Wohlrabe told Reuters companies have revised up production plans significantly and export expectations for industry have also risen.

“The order books are well filled,” he added.

Other sentiment indicators have also been promising.

The ZEW economic research institute said last Tuesday investor morale in Germany rose beyond even the most optimistic forecast in February on expectations consumption will take off in the coming months.

Earlier this month, industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp raised its full-year outlook for the first time in nearly four years, and CEO Martina Merz said “we’re noticing signs of an economic recovery”.

Last Thursday, German carmaker Daimler AG said it expects significant improvements in sales and operating profit in 2021.

(Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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