News, analysis and personal reflections on the markets & the financial sector

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

=Chicago : Washington Federal Bank for Savings fails after CEO's suicide

A low-profile, 104-year-old thrift in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood became the city's second bank failure of 2017 with no warning that the lender was troubled.

Washington Federal Bank for Savings, a $166 million-asset institution that on paper was a simple mortgage lender, was closed Dec. 15 by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The thrift was extremely well-capitalized and showed no signs of liquidity issues.

In a terse statement, the OCC said it "acted after finding the bank had experienced substantial dissipation of assets due to unsafe or unsound practices, and that the bank's assets were less than its obligations to its creditors and others."

A spokesman declined to elaborate.

Adding to the mystery: The bank's chairman, CEO and president, John Gembara, hanged himself on Dec. 3, according to a spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. That was just 12 days before the feds moved in.

Gembara's grandfather started the bank in 1913, and his father, Emil Gembara, ran it from 1980 to 1997 and remained chairman until his death in 2005. Emil Gembara was a deacon in his church and assisted in a Mass said by Pope John Paul II during the pope's 1979 visit to Chicago.

Efforts to reach Gembara's widow and other family members were unsuccessful.

The bank's sudden collapse apparently will leave some depositors holding the bag—a rarity when a bank fails and another lender assumes the branches and deposits.

The parent of Chicago-based Royal Savings Bank agreed to acquire only the insured deposits of Washington Federal from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That left about $11.6 million that were above the FDIC's $250,000 threshold for insuring deposits when a bank fails. That amounted to 8 percent of Washington Federal's total $144 million in deposits, according to the FDIC.

The last time a Chicago bank's uninsured depositors weren't made whole in similar circumstances was in 2002 when Chicago-based Universal Federal Savings Bank failed, an FDIC spokesman said. Before that, the failure of Superior Bank & Trust, co-owned by the billionaire Pritzker family, led to losses for some depositors and then years of litigation to try to recover some of that shortfall.

More recently, the FDIC was unable to find a buyer for the deposits and assets of Chicago's New City Bank. Depositors in that case received checks for just the insured portion of their deposits.

The FDIC estimated the bank's failure would cost the agency's insurance fund more than $60 million. That was the most solid hint from the regulators that Washington Federal's filings bore no resemblance to the thrift's true financial condition.

In addition to Washington Federal's insured deposits, Royal agreed to purchase just $23.7 million of the thrift's $166 million in assets, according to the FDIC. The remainder will stay with the FDIC, which will attempt to sell or collect them to reimburse uninsured depositors for at least some of their losses.

The two locations of Washington Federal, in Bridgeport and Little Italy, now are branches of Royal Savings. Royal, which has $324 million in assets and seven local branches, has the option to purchase the buildings, it said in a release.

As of Sept. 30, Washington Federal's FDIC's filings showed virtually no delinquent loans. It posted $1.7 million in net income year to date, an annualized return on equity of 10.7 percent—quite healthy for a bank that small.

Last year, the bank generated $2.3 million in net income, a market it was on pace to hit in 2017 as well.

The failure appeared to be so sudden that Washington Federal's website still was up as of this afternoon. A note from the now-deceased Gembara read, "We know that many banks have more branches than we do, but few, if any, can offer the legacy of service to the community and to our customers that we can. It is how my grandfather began in the banking business 100 years ago, and it is how we continue to operate today."

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Industria de Diseño Textil, S.A. (Inditex) is a Spanish multinational clothing company headquartered in Arteixo, Galicia.   Inditex, the biggest fashion group in the world, operates over 7,200 stores in 93 markets worldwide.  The company's flagship store is Zara, but it also owns the chains Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Uterqüe.

  • Owner: Amancio Ortega (59%)
  • Headquarters: Arteixo, Spain
  • Founded: 1963, A Coruña, Spain
  • Stock: ITX (BME) 
  • Profit: €2.9 billion (2015)

Monday, July 17, 2017

=Uber rival Grab raising $2 billion from SoftBank, China's Didi

  • Operates in 55 cities and seven countries.
  • Formerly Known as GrabTaxi, Grab is Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing platform. Grab solves critical transportation challenges and make transport freedom a reality for 620 million people in Southeast Asia. Grab offers a wide range of services through one mobile app.
  • Founders: Tan Hooi Ling, Anthony Tan

Grab, Uber Technologies's biggest rival in Southeast Asia, is raising as much as $2 billion in funding from Japan's SoftBank Group and China's top ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The deal, which could close in the next few weeks, would value Singapore-based Grab at more than $5 billion, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The reported funding comes amid efforts by Grab to transform into a consumer technology firm that also offers loans, electronic money transfer and money-market funds.

Grab declined to comment, while SoftBank and Didi did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Grab, which operates its ride-hailing platform in 55 cities across seven countries, raised $750 million in a funding round in September, with sources then valuing the five-year-old startup at over $3 billion.

The reported deal also comes at a time when San Francisco-based Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing service, faces setbacks at home ranging from accusations of a sexist work culture and driver protests.

Uber's challenges have culminated in the departure of co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, who stepped down under investor pressure last month.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

=H&M chairman Stefan Persson ups ownership stake

H&M Chairman Stefan Persson has bought 2.1 million shares in the company, taking his ownership to 40 percent in the clothes retailer, documents filed with the financial watchdog showed on Tuesday.

Persson bought 1.6 million B-shares in the company at the price of 209 Swedish crowns ($24.50) per share on 29 June, the day of quarterly report, and 520,000 B shares on July 3 for 214 crowns per share.

Stefan Persson, along with his family, now owns 468 million B-shares and 194 million A-shares in the company, representing 40 percent of the share capital and 70.9 percent of the vote.

  • H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB (STO:HM-B)
  • Div/yield 4.85/4.58

H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB is a Sweden-based company active in the clothing industry. It operates under such brand names, as H&M, H&M Home, COS, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday and & Other Stories. It is engaged in the design, manufacture and marketing of clothing items and related accessories. The Company’s product range comprises clothing, including underwear and sportswear, for men, women, children and teenagers, as well as cosmetic products, accessories, footwear and home textiles. The Company offers its products in a number of branded stores spread across over 40 markets. Additionally, the Company offers online and catalogue sales in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom, among others.

Key stats and ratios

Q2 (May '17)2016
Net profit margin11.48%9.69%
Operating margin14.89%12.39%
EBITD margin-16.55%
Return on average assets23.83%20.21%
Return on average equity40.83%31.25%

Thursday, June 29, 2017

==Executive pay : TJX Companies Inc. (TJX)

The CEO of T.J. Maxx parent company TJX Companies Inc. Ernie Herrman reported $18.5 million in total compensation last year, a slight decrease from 2015, according to a regulatory filing.

The Framingham, MA company (NYSE: TJX) reported that CEO and President Ernie Herrman's pay included $1.5 million in salary, $9 million in stock awards, $ 613,574 in option awards and $ 5 million in non-equity plan incentive plan compensation.

Herrman was named CEO of TJX in October 2015, taking over from Carol Meyrowitz, who now serves executive chairman of the company. Meyrowitz reported $14.5 million in total compensation in 2016, down from the $19.6 million she reported the year before.

TJX, which sports a $51 billion market value and also owns discount-retail brands Marshalls and HomeGoods, has mostly escaped the challenges faced by other brick-and-mortar retailers.

For the fiscal year ended Jan. 28, 2017, TJX reported net sales of $33.2 billion, a 7 percent increase over the previous year.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Avis Budget Group (CAR) to manage driverless-car fleet for Alphabet (GOOG)’s Waymo

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is hiring rental-car firm Avis Budget Group Inc. to store and service its self-driving cars in a deal that shows Alphabet’s vision of a network of driverless taxis is getting closer to reality.

Shares in rental-car companies Avis Budget Group (CAR) and Hertz Global Holding (HTZ) jumped in trading Monday after Avis announced a pact with Waymo, the self-driving auto unit of Google-parent Alphabet (GOOGL).

Under the deal, Avis will manage Waymo's small fleet of autonomous vehicles in Phoenix, where the Alphabet unit is testing a ride-hailing service with volunteer members of the public. Avis will service and store Waymo's Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Waymo will pay Avis for its service, though financial terms were not disclosed. Waymo could partner with Avis in other markets if it expands trials or finds other partners.

Avis stock jumped 8.5% to 26.32 in the stock market today. Shares in Hertz were up 7.7% to 10.28, as Wall Street apparently expects the car-rental leader to score its own self-driving deal with one of several entities involved in the effort.

Tech firms developing self-driving car technology are not interested in manufacturing autonomous vehicles and also need logistical partners such as Avis, analysts say.

Waymo's initial auto industry partner has been Fiat Chrysler (FCAU). Waymo has also been in discussions with Honda, General Motors (GM) and Ford (F).

Apple (AAPL) recently received permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state. Apple has never publicly acknowledged its Project Titan self-driving efforts, which reportedly have shifted from an Apple-made car to Apple self-driving software.

GM is testing self-driving cars in Michigan, while Uber is doing the same in Pittsburgh.

Waymo also has an alliance with Lyft, Uber's rival in ride-hailing services.