Europe this Week: Hope for Financials

Battered financials had a better week, starting with encouraging remarks from a sovereign wealth fund seen as a signal that banks' stocks may have reached the bottom, and ending with better than expected results from reinsurer Swiss Re.

  • Monday, February 25:

Euro Banks Rise on Qatar Speculation

European banks traded higher on Monday after Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said he favors investing in the European lenders as opposed to their counterparts in the US. There was speculation that Qatar’s $60 billion sovereign wealth fund is eyeing a stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland. The prime minister’s statement illustrates that the European banking industry may have hit its bottom, analysts said. Click here for the full story.

  • Tuesday, February 26:

German Tax Investigation Grows

German prosecutors widened their tax evasion probe involving Lichtenstein bank LGT. Investigators have searched the properties of around 150 suspects while 163 Germans have already admitted to wrongdoing. So far nearly 28 million euros ($42 million)in unpaid taxes have been uncovered, but prosecutors say more is yet to be revealed, including a scandal involving an unnamed, second bank. Click here for details of the case with Philip Davies, from Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies.

  • Wednesday, February 27:

UBS Shareholders Back Capital Injection

UBS shareholders overwhelmingly backed an 11.94 billion Swiss francs ($12.42 billion) capital injection from Singapore and an unidentified Middle East investor. Shareholders voted 7 to 1 on the deal in Basel, keeping the Swiss bank above water, but not necessarily out of the woods yet. The decision came to the relief and gratitude of Chairman Marcel Ospel, who received harsh criticism over the bank's deep subprime-related losses. Click here to listen to an interview with Ospel.

  • Thursday, February 28:

D. Telekom Profits Slip, Outlook Up

Deutsche Telekom saw its net profit slip in the fourth quarter, but the company met its own targets and analysts’ expectations for the full year, despite widespread doubts over its performance. The group expanded its broadband market in 2007 and will continue to do that in 2008. Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann told “Worldwide Exchange” that increasing market share abroad and boosting competitiveness in the German market will help his company’s growth strategy in the coming year. Click here for the full interview.

  • Friday, February 29:

Swiss Re in the Green, ’08 Expansion

Swiss Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, posted better than expected figures from 2007 and escaped further subprime writedowns in the fourth quarter, unlike some of its European competitors. Friday, the group reported a smaller than forecast 9 percent drop in net profit accompanied by a dividend hike of 18 percent. According to Swiss Re’s Chief Financial Officer George Quinn, this move shows a further sign of confidence for the bank’s future. Click hereto read the story.