Thursday, April 28, 2016

Deutsche Bank net profit falls 58%; Billionaire Carl Icahn sells out of Apple; South Africa's big malls, souring economy

1 Deutsche Bank net profit falls 58% (San Francisco Chronicle) Deutsche Bank saw net profit fall 58 percent in the first quarter as turbulent financial markets deterred client activity and the bank pressed ahead with a costly restructuring of its business.

Germany's largest bank made 236 million euros ($268 million) net profit, down from 559 million euros in the same quarter last year. Revenues fell 22 percent, to 8.1 billion euros from 10.4 billion euros. Still, the profit figure beat analyst expectations for a loss of 13 million euros.

The bank is in the midst of a wrenching transition as it tries to meet tougher regulatory requirements, cut costs and settle multiple legal investigations. It is shedding some 35,000 jobs and contractor positions through 2018 by dropping riskier or less profitable businesses, spinning off its Postbank retail bank division, and pulling out of 10 smaller countries. It didn't pay bonuses to top managers for last year and canceled its dividend for 2015 and 2016.

The bank's effort to downsize and get out of some business activities depressed revenue. Co-CEO John Cryan said that "our results reflect these challenging conditions." Deutsche Bank's results were still an improvement on its 6.7 billion euro loss from all of last year, when the bank took write-downs for the fallen value of businesses and paid billions in litigation and restructuring expenses.

2 Billionaire Carl Icahn sells out of Apple (The Guardian) Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn says he had sold his entire stake in Apple Inc, citing the risk of China’s influence on the stock. Icahn told CNBC that he was “still very cautious” on the US stock market and there would be a “day of reckoning” unless there was some sort of fiscal stimulus.

Icahn had been a huge cheerleader of Apple, acquiring a stake in the company almost three years ago, repeatedly calling the investment a “no brainer.” In an open letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook in May 2015, Icahn had argued that shares of the iPhone maker were worth $240, about 90% more than they had been trading. At $240 a share, Apple’s market cap would be $1.4tn, Icahn asserted.

But Icahn, who owned 45.8m Apple shares at the end of last year, said China’s economic slowdown and worries about how China could become more prohibitive in doing business triggered his decision to exit his position entirely. “We no longer have a position in Apple,” he said. “Tim Cook did a great job. I called him this morning to tell him that and he was a little sorry, obviously. But I told him it’s a great company.

Asked when he might get back in, Icahn replied: “I don’t think it’s the price point. I think it’s my opinion about what is happening with China. I think the stock is very cheap on a multiple basis. China could be a shadow for it, and we have to look at that.” Icahn suggested that he made roughly $2bn on his shares in the company.

Apple on Tuesday posted its first decline in iPhone sales as well as its first revenue drop in 13 years. The company’s sales fell by more than a quarter in China, its most important market after the US, and it forecast another disappointing quarter for global revenues. Apple shares have now declined more than 10% this week.

3 South Africa’s big malls, souring economy (Johannesburg Times) Thousands of shoppers queued on Thursday at the opening of one of the largest malls in South Africa, set in middle-class suburbia between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Mall of Africa will house over 300 shops, including global brands. They want to attract the rising number of young consumers in Africa's most developed economy which has thrived on demand for commodities.

But the opening comes as the outlook for the economy worsens with rising interest rates and prices putting a squeeze on spending while demand for exports such as gold and other metals is depressed. Political uncertainty has also unsettled the rand currency, making imports more expensive and investors nervous.

Retail sales have stayed robust, however, comfortably beating expectations in February and retailers at the mall were in an optimistic mood. Shiny malls have sprung up throughout South Africa, creating thousands of jobs. But they come amid a backdrop of rising debt levels.

Nearly half of all credit-active South Africans, or 9.9 million people are over-indebted, according to debt counselling firm Debt Rescue, and the number will swell as interest rates and inflation rise while the economy slows. Retail sales grew by 4.1 percent year-on-year in February, but are expected to slow.

The Treasury expects the economy to grow by 0.9 percent this year, down from 1.3 percent in 2015 and the central bank is expected to raise interest rates further to rein in inflation that has been driven higher by wage hikes, a depreciating rand and surging food prices after the worst drought in decades.

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