- Office in Abidjan starting with 5 members of staff
- Bank thus increases number of locations in Africa to 7
Commerzbank AG is opening a representative office in Abidjan, the economic metropolis of Ivory Coast, thus expanding its network on the up-and-coming African continent. This means that Commerzbank, which has been operating in Africa since 1952 and maintains business relations with 50 of 54 African countries, is increasing the number of its locations on the continent to 7.Commerzbank’s strategic target is to increase its presence precisely in global growth markets. The new representative office will be a contact for local banks and for German and international companies in French-speaking West Africa.
The head of the office in Abidjan, which has 5 members of staff, will be Konrad Engber (41). In his many years of working for Commerzbank, Engber has gathered extensive knowledge of the special economic and cultural characteristics prevailing on the African continent. He has already been Commerzbank’s representative in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Tripoli, Libya.
Today Commerzbank is already the number 1 German-speaking bank in Africa. It has customer relations with 550 private and state-owned financial institutions, 29 central banks and sovereign wealth funds, as well as ministries and private companies on the continent. Currently more than 100 employees work in African business operations in various areas of the Group.
In the past few years, Ivory Coast’s economy has grown on average at rates of more than 9 per cent, boosted by a stable political framework, massive public and private investments, and structural reforms. In addition, economic relations between Africa and Europe will continue to develop dynamically. Commerzbank will participate in this growth process. “To take this development into account, we are also going to set up an African research hub in the new representative office,” explained Christof Gabriel Maetze, Global Head Financial Institutions at Commerzbank AG. “The intensive exchange with our colleagues in other African Locations and the bundling of information allow us to come even closer to market activity on the African continent,” said Maetze.
In Africa, Commerzbank also has representative offices in Johannesburg, Cairo, Addis Ababa, Lagos, Tripoli, and Luanda. The Bank is represented at more than 70 locations in over 50 countries worldwide. Its Financial Institutions division has a network comprising more than 5,000 correspondent banking relationships.
With a customer base of more than 100,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (revenue of more than €2.5 million) and banking relationships with just about all major German companies, Commerzbank regards itself as a strategic partner for corporate customers regionally, nationally in Germany, and internationally on the global markets of Germany’s strongly export-oriented economy.
Australian media reforms pass parliament after last-ditch changes
By Colin Packham and Swati Pandey
CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries.
Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.
The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users.
Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.
Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win.
“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms.
The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.
The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law.
Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.
Several media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook.
Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in Canberra and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Leslie Adler, Stephen Coates and Jane Wardell)
OPEC+ to weigh modest oil output boost at meeting – sources
By Ahmad Ghaddar, Alex Lawler and Olesya Astakhova
LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – OPEC+ oil producers will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, cut output by a record 9.7 million bpd last year as demand collapsed due to the pandemic. As of February, it is still withholding 7.125 million bpd, about 7% of world demand.
In January OPEC+ slowed the pace of a planned output increase to match weaker-than-expected demand due to continued coronavirus lockdowns. Saudi Arabia made extra voluntary cuts for February and March.
Three OPEC+ sources said an output increase of 500,000 barrels per day from April looked possible without building up inventories, although updated supply and demand balances that ministers will consider at their March 4 meeting will determine their decision.
“The oil price is definitely high and the market needs more oil to cool the prices down,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. “A 500,000 bpd increase from April is an option – looks like a good one.”
A rally in prices towards $67 a barrel, the highest since January 2020, the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery hopes have boosted confidence the market could take more oil. India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, has urged OPEC+ to ease production cuts.
Saudi Arabia’s voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) ends next month. While Riyadh hasn’t shared its plans beyond March, expectations in the group are growing that Saudi Arabia will bring back the supply from April, perhaps gradually.
Some OPEC+ members also anticipate that the Saudis will be willing to ease cuts further, but it was not clear if they had had direct communication with Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has warned producers to be “extremely cautious” and some OPEC members are wary of renewed demand setbacks. One OPEC country source said a full return of the Saudi barrels in April would mean the rest of OPEC+ should not pump more yet.
“The Saudi voluntary cut will be back to the market,” the source said. “I’m personally with no more relaxation, not until June.”
Russia, one of the OPEC+ countries which was allowed to boost output in February, is keen to raise supply and a source last week said Moscow would propose adding more oil if nothing changed before the March 4 virtual meeting.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
UK’s Sunak to build bridge to recovery with more spending
By William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will next week promise yet more spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak, who is due to announce a new budget plan on March 3, has already racked up more than 280 billion pounds ($397 billion) in coronavirus spending and tax cuts, pushing Britain’s borrowing to a peacetime record.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to lift England’s current lockdown entirely only in late June so Sunak is expected to rely heavily on the debt markets again.
His job retention scheme, paying 80% of employees’ wages, will probably be extended beyond a scheduled April 30 expiry date, further inflating its estimated cost of 70 billion pounds. Support for the self-employed looks set to stay too.
Businesses are demanding Sunak keep other lifelines, such as exempting the firms hardest hit by the lockdown from property taxes and giving them a value-added tax cut.
And calls are growing for an extension of a 20 pounds-a-week emergency welfare increase due to expire in April.
The Times newspaper said Sunak would prolong his stamp duty property tax break for three months until the end of June.
Sunak hopes that by then Britain will be emerging from its deep freeze thanks to Europe’s fastest vaccination programme.
Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane likens the economy to a “coiled spring” primed with the savings that households have built up after being stuck at home.
A strong recovery would mean a jump in tax revenues, doing some of the Treasury’s job of fixing the public finances.
Rupert Harrison, an aide to former finance minister George Osborne, said Sunak should not try to slash Britain’s 2.1 trillion-pound debt mountain, equivalent to 98% of GDP – a ratio unthinkable for decades.
Instead he should write new budget rules tied to the cost of debt servicing, which is close to record lows.
“We can safely carry higher levels of debt than before,” Harrison told a webinar organised by Onward, a think-tank.
But the scale of Britain’s borrowing is raising questions about how long Sunak and Johnson can stick to their promises not to raise key taxes, made to voters before the 2019 election.
The huge costs of tackling the worst of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to ease in the months ahead, meaning this year’s 400 billion pound budget deficit should narrow.
But Britain is probably on course to be stuck with a gap of 60 billion pounds between revenues and day-to-day spending by the mid-2020s, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank says.
In a nod to that, Sunak is expected to start raising Britain’s low corporation tax rate.
The Sunday Times said the rate would rise steadily to bring in an extra 12 billion pounds a year by the time of the next election, due in 2024.
Other options include ending a freeze on fuel duty increases which has been in place since 2012 and looks at odds with Britain’s plans to be carbon net zero by 2050.
But higher fuel prices now would hurt the haulage industry, already struggling with Brexit-related disruption, and could alienate working-class voters who backed Johnson in 2019.
Higher capital gains tax or lower pension incentives would anger lawmakers in Johnson’s Conservative Party.
David Gauke, a former deputy finance minister, said the only big revenue-raising options were the ones that Johnson has promised not to touch – income tax, VAT and national insurance contributions.
“In the end, they are going to have to say, sorry we just can’t responsibly maintain that manifesto commitment,” Gauke told the Onward webinar.
($1 = 0.7046 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)
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