HSBC sells sells its stake in Greek mutual fund manager HSBC Hellas

UK-based HSBC Holdings plc (LON:HSBA) said its unit HSBC Bank plc had agreed to offload its 73% interest in Greek mutual fund manager HSBC (HELLAS) Mutual Funds Management SA (HSBC AEDAK) to minority shareholderholder in the target, John Vezanis, for an undisclosed sum.

Upon completion, which is contingent on regulatory green light and is seen to occur in the first quarter of this year, Vezanis, currently the general manager of HSBC AEDAK, will leave the HSBC Group, HSBC Holdings said.

HSBC AEDAK, which will assume a new name on closing, is manager of eight local mutual funds. It also engages in the provision of advisory and discretionary portfolio management services to clients and distribution of HSBC Group funds.

The business will continue to distribute HSBC Global Investment Funds, the vendor noted.

Why use a foreign exchange service when buying property abroad?

Buying property abroad is a popular ambition in the UK. The option of living a life of leisure in a place that offers guaranteed sunshine, or just having a holiday home at your disposal at all times, can be hugely tempting. Some might be drawn to the money-making opportunities foreign real estate can offer, either from rental income or from capital growth.

Regardless of precisely why you are buying a property in another country, you are unlikely to achieve your desired goals unless you have planned everything very carefully – including the process of exchanging currency to pay for your purchase. After all, this is a highly costly and complex transaction, and nobody wants to end up paying over the odds unnecessarily if they can possibly help it.

Expert help

Sometimes, overseas property buyers can be easily swayed by their emotions, with their natural eagerness and excitement clouding their judgment. As a result, they can end up making very expensive mistakes, so it might be a good idea for you to get a foreign exchange service involved in the transaction.

They not only have extensive expertise and know-how on the finer points of purchasing real estate abroad, but also offer highly competitive exchange rates when compared with traditional banks, and they generally don’t charge commission either. This can potentially lead to considerable savings, freeing up cash that you can put towards other vital expenses.

Dealing with changing rates

In these turbulent economic times, exchange rates can be highly volatile and if you’re purchasing a foreign property, you can’t spend all your time monitoring fluctuations in order to decide when you should start transferring money. However, a foreign exchange specialist will be able to determine exactly when is the right time to start making international payments for a property purchase, so you can be confident of getting the best possible deal.

They can also offer you a forward contract that enables you to fix your exchange rate for a certain period of time. This guarantees some stability in these uncertain times, so even if a massive economic shock occurs and leads to chaos on the worldwide currency markets, it will not affect the cost of your transaction.

Changes in currency rates can add thousands of pounds to the cost of any deal and, in the worst case scenario, can end up making your dream of buying a foreign property completely unaffordable. So, securing your exchange rate and sticking to a particular figure can act as a valuable safety net to stop this happening. It also allows you to keep on top of your wider finances, as knowing exactly how much your property is going to cost will let you plan for other expenses, such as tax and insurance.

Ease the stress

Purchasing a property at home can be incredibly stressful and buying abroad can be just as difficult, if not more so, given the fact you have to consider exchange rates, rules and regulations in different countries, and the likelihood of key legal documents being written in another language.

Foreign exchange specialists can take some of the stress of managing such a complex transaction away and offer valuable support throughout the process. Experts will have good knowledge of the area in which you are purchasing and will be well-placed to answer any questions you may have. The advice you get won’t be of the one-size-fits-all variety and will instead be specifically tailored to your individual needs – and be straightforward and easy to understand.

 

UK prime minister pledges referendum on EU membership

The UK faces years of uncertainty over its place in the European Union, critics claim, after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on membership of the EU.

In a long-awaited speech today on Europe, Cameron said that he wanted to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then ask people to vote on whether they think the country should remain part of the alliance. He also called for a more “flexible, adaptable and open” relationship between all EU members, seeking a more flexible cooperation between the partner nations instead of “compulsion from the centre.”

The prime minister said that a commitment on the renegotiation and referendum would be included in the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the next general election.

Nick Clegg, leader of Cameron’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, spoke out against the plans, saying that the extended period of uncertainty caused by the proposals would hit jobs and economic growth and “was not in the national interest”.

Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy, together with Labour and Liberal Democrat colleagues in the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the European Parliament, wrote a letter to the Guardian, advising against putting in question Britain’s membership of the EU.

A number of business groups took a more positive view of the speech, with the CBI’s director general, John Cridland, claiming that there are benefits to be gained from retaining membership of a reformed EU. He said that the CBI will work closely with government to get the best deal for Britain.

John Longworth of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also said that Cameron is right to renegotiate Britain’s place in Europe, pointing out that the country starts with a strong negotiating position as the UK runs a trade deficit with the EU. However, the BCC director general feels that a shorter timescale for negotiation and referendum would be better, with the aim of securing a cross-party consensus and the outline of a deal during the current parliament.

Support for renegotiation also came from the Institute of Directors, whose director general, Simon Walker, said that the prime minster’s approach is “realistic and pragmatic.”

Addressing the matter of the uncertainty brought about by the plans, Walker said that the issues need to be dealt with and British business is resilient and flexible and can cope with change or uncertainty. “The eurozone crisis is the source of far more uncertainty than a referendum,” he added.

QROPS for USA Residents

Thousands of people make the decision to relocate to the USA from the UK every year, yet there are many who make the decision without being in possession of all the facts surrounding the taxation of their pension funds. The decision to leave the UK to enjoy retirement in a country that offers a better quality of life is often driven by the heart. However, retirees need to be absolutely certain that their pension will cover the entire length of their retirement. Leaving the UK to enjoy the latter years of life will remove the safety net of the British welfare system, and that can have devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, QROPS pension rules in the USA are more complex than in most other countries in the world, and this means that a foreign-based pension fund cannot simply be ‘plugged in’ to the American system. However, recent changes to the regulations mean that QROPS USA is now live, and there are a number of schemes that have recently been brought to the market. Several US 401K pensions have now been officially registered with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), but there are still various compatibility problems seem to originate in the USA.

Problems of incompatibility arise when USA residents have accrued their pension funds in the UK or another foreign jurisdiction. Foreign pension funds are not recognised by the American government, so contributions and investment growth may be subject to taxation from the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) in the States. The IRS has extremely stringent guidelines governing the reporting of taxation issues, so a new breed of QROPS is needed specifically for expats living in the USA. Thankfully, there are now pension products that comply with the reporting requirements of both the HMRC and the IRS.

The benefits of transferring pension funds to a QROPS pension with American compatibility are wide-ranging, but the most significant involves the protection of investment growth from US Federal Income Tax. This type of overseas pension fund will also enable people to draw a tax-free initial lump-sum of up to 30% of the fund’s value. USA residents can also be confident that their pension incomes are not subject to UK taxes, and that is an issue that can allow people to plan their financial future accurately. The advantages and benefits of QROPS USA are extensive, but both the HMRC and IRC websites contain detailed information for fund-owners.

Under the British taxation system, a 55% charge is levied on unused funds that still remain in a pension fund; however, American-compliant pension funds incur absolutely no charges. This type of pension scheme incurs no tax on funds that pay regular benefits, and funds which aren’t in drawdown are also free from taxation. A QROPS also falls outside of UK inheritance tax laws, so there really are several benefits to setting up such a pension arrangement.

 

A Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme is open to foreigners wishing to reside in the USA, American nationals who have been working outside the USA and American nationals who currently live outside the USA. It allows retirees to take control of their finances, as they can protect their pensions from the unfair or unnecessary tax burden imposed by the country of their origin. For more information, please visit – http://www.whichoffshore.com/qrops

 

 

 

Search company Yahoo! acquires social bookmarking service Snip.it

Yahoo! Inc (NASDAQ:YHOO) has acquired domestic social bookmarking service Snip.it, the US search engine provider said.

The terms of the transaction were not revealed.

Technology blog AllThingsD was the first to report the takeover of Snip.it, which was established by former Khosla Ventures investor Ramy Adeeb in 2011. The acquired firm enables users to create and share collections of news articles on the Internet.

Snip.it said in a blog post it was terminating its current service and was in a process to incorporate its capabilities within Yahoo!, without elaborating further.

The move matches Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer’s drive to acquire young firms and attract new talent.

BG Group’s eroding market value could attract “opportunistic” buyers

UK natural gas company BG Group Plc (LON:BG), with a current market capitalisation of USD60bn (EUR45bn), could become a takeover target for big oil firms, following a decline in its valuation by half in less than two years, Bloomberg cited today analysts as saying.

BG, which reported a 26% decrease in its stock price last year, expects project delays to impede its output growth in 2013. Jane Coffey, head of UK equities at investment manager Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), told Bloomberg that there was a danger for the UK firm to be bought by an “opportunistic” large company at a very cheap price.

According to UK investment manager Brewin Dolphin Ltd, US oil group Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM) could be interested in BG to help it revive its growth. Nplus1 Singer Advisory LLP believes that UK’s BP Plc (LON:BP) could welcome a combination with BG as it would enable it to contest the European leadership of Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell Plc (AMS:RDSA).

Neil Burrows, a spokesman at BG, refused to say whether the company was considering a sale. Patrick McGinn, a Houston-based spokesman for Exxon, did not wish to say if the company was interested in buying BG. Bloomberg could not extract a comment from Sheila Williams, a London-based spokeswoman at BP, either.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (HKG:0386), or Sinopec, Cnooc Ltd (HKG:0883) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) are also considered to be among the interested buyers. Bloomberg could not contact representatives of the three Chinese companies outside normal business hours.

Enagas-led group withdraws from race to acquire gas network TIGF

A consortium led by Spain’s Enagas SA (MCE:ENG) unveiled its decision not to submit an offer for French oil and gas firm Total SA’s TIGF gas network and storage business as the target does not match its strategy.

The consortium also includes Canadian fund Borealis and two other firms.

The remaining participants in the race are two group of investors. Belgium’s natural gas operator Fluxys Belgium SA (EBR:FLUX) and French state-controlled lender Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC) have joined hands with AXA Private Equity, Credit Agricole SA’s (EPA:ACA) Predica insurance unit, CNP Assurances SA (EPA:CNP) and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

The other consortium includes French energy giant Electricite de France SA (EPA:EDF), which has teamed up with Singaporean sovereign wealth fund The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Pte Ltd (GIC) and Italy’s Snam SpA (BIT:SRG).

The vendor expects firm bids by 4 February, Reuters said previously, citing sources.

The sale of TIGF, announced last autumn, is part of Total’s strategy to sell as much as EUR20bn (USD26.7bn) worth of assets by 2014 to bolster its cash flow and provide funds for substantial investments. According to analyst estimates, TIGF is valued at some EUR2.5bn.

BNP’s asset management arm to sell clean energy unit CEP

BNP Paribas Investment Partners (BNPP IP), the asset management business of French BNP Paribas (EPA:BNP), will spin off BNP Paribas Clean Energy Partners (BNPP CEP) to become Glennmont Partners, the latter said on Monday.

The parent company, BNP Paribas Group, will remain an investor in the fund and will back the new entity via a distribution deal. Following the spin-off, BNPP CEP’s management staff will remain with Glennmont. Joost Bergsma will keep his position as chief executive.

Bergsma commented that as a separate entity, the focus of the business’ interests will be more closely aligned with the interests of its investors.

Glennmont is a EUR437m (USD582m) fund investing in renewable power projects including biomass, wind, solar and hydro power plants. The transaction is pending relevant regulatory authorisations.

Toshiba considers bidding for UK nuclear fuel firm Urenco

Japanese industrial group Toshiba Corp (TYO:6502) is mulling over a possible bid for UK nuclear fuel producer Urenco Limited, the Sunday Times reported without quoting any sources.

According to the paper, Toshiba is holding discussions with several parties, including Japan’s Mizuho Bank Ltd, to provide funding for a potential deal. Reuters could not immediately reach Toshiba for comment.

Several buyout firms have also shown interest in Urenco. Apax Partners LLP, KKR & Co LP (NYSE:KKR), The Carlyle Group LP (NASDAQ:CG) and CVC Capital Partners Ltd reportedly hold discussions to create two separate consortia.

Urenco was formed in 1971 by the German, Dutch and the UK governments. Unlike the UK and Germany, whose stake is held by RWE AG (ETR:RWE) and E.ON AG (ETR:EOAN), the Dutch government is unwilling to sell its stake in the firm over concerns that unfriendly regimes or terrorists could take possession of Urenco’s centrifuge technology.

The vendors are expected to launch an action in the coming months if the Dutch and UK governments come to terms about the sale. Urenco is estimated to be worth up to GBP10bn (USD15.9bn/EUR11.9bn), the paper said.

US Liberty Media walks away from deal to acquire Belgian Telenet

US cable TV company Liberty Global Inc (NASDAQ:LBTYA) said it would not prolong its offer for Belgian takeover target Telenet Group Holding NV (EBR:TNET) after the expiration deadline set for today.

In an official announcement in Belgian business dailies De Tijd and L’Echo, the US firm said that it held 58.3% of Telenet’s shares and 58.4% of its voting rights after on Monday a further 9.49m shares and 3,000 warrants were tendered to its voluntary cash offer.

Liberty, which previously owned 50.2% in Telenet, launched on 18 December a EUR1.96bn (USD2.6bn), or EUR35.00 a share, offer for the rest of the stock. The bid, to be funded with cash on hand and borrowings, could result in Telenet being delisted.

Last week, the target released a trading update ahead of schedule, saying its revenues last year had increased 8.2% to EUR1.49bn, up from analysts’ average forecast of EUR1.48bn and the company’s expectation for 7% to 8% growth.

Liberty had previously questioned the target’s growth forecasts for the period between 2012 and 2018, saying it would not lift its bid.