France, Espagne, Italie et Belgique restreignent les ventes à découvert


Extrait de : France, Espagne, Italie et Belgique restreignent les ventes à découvert, LEMONDE.FR | 11.08.11

Les autorités de régulation des marchés de la France, de l'Italie, de l'Espagne et de la Belgique ont décidé de manière concertée de lutter contre les "fausses rumeurs" qui déstabilisent les marchés. Dans un communiqué publié jeudi soir, l'ESMA, l'Autorité de régulation financière européenne, annonce jeudi que les ventes à découvert seront restreintes à partir de vendredi 12 août.

Les ventes à découvert sont un mécanisme spéculatif qui consiste à emprunter un actif dont on pense que le prix va baisser et à le vendre, avec l'espoir d'empocher une forte différence au moment où il faudra le racheter pour le rendre au prêteur. Cette pratique est accusée de précipiter la chute des actions les plus fragiles et d'aggraver l'instabilité sur les marchés financiers.

ONZE BANQUES ET ASSURANCES CONCERNÉES

L'Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), le gendarme boursier français, a elle-même annoncé dans un communiqué interdire les ventes à découvert des valeurs financières cotées en France pour une durée de quinze jours. Cette décision, qui pourra par la suite être prorogée, a été prise "en concertation avec les autres autorités européennes de régulation des marchés sous l'égide de l'ESMA", a précisé le président de l'AMF, M. Jouyet, à l'AFP.

Les titres de onze banques et assurances cotées sur le marché français sont concernés : April Group, Axa, BNP Paribas, CIC, CNP Assurances, Crédit Agricole, Euler Hermès, Natixis, Paris Ré, Scor et la Société Générale. L'AMF avait déjà interdit les ventes à découvert sur les valeurs financières cotées à Paris entre septembre 2008 et début février 2011, après la faillite de Lehman Brothers.

Mais cette décision représente une victoire partielle de l'ESMA, qui a échoué à convaincre les régulateurs d'autres pays de l'Union européenne, souligne le Financial Times. Le Royaume-Uni et les Etats-Unis, qui ont mis en place une interdiction similaire en 2008, sont aujourd'hui sceptiques sur leur efficacité, ajoute le Financial Times. "C'est la pire chose à faire maintenant, estime Abraham Lioui, professeur à l'Edhec, cité par le FT. Cela envoie le signal aux marchés que quelque chose de très grave est en train de se produire".

"CIRCONSTANCES EXCEPTIONNELLES"

"Nous avons à faire face dans différents pays européens à des rumeurs qui ne sont pas fondées et qui entravent le bon fonctionnement des marchés", a relevé le président de l'AMF. Ces rumeurs "peuvent être assimilées à des abus de marché", a expliqué M. Jouyet, en reprenant le terme par lequel l'AMF désigne les manipulations de cours, les délits d'initié et la diffusion de fausses informations.

"ON A VOULU TESTER LA RÉSISTANCE FRANÇAISE"

Depuis mercredi, la plupart des valeurs financières françaises sont la cible de rumeurs alarmistes sur les marchés boursiers et ont subi de lourdes pertes, de plus de 10 % pour certaines. La Société générale a perdu 14,74 % en une séance, mercredi, suite à une rumeur sur sa prétendue faillite.


Extrait de : Short-selling ban boosts bank shares, FT Reporters, August 12, 2011

A partial ban on short selling in the eurozone boosted European bank shares on Friday but led to confusion among market participants unclear about how the rules would be applied.

France, Italy, Spain and Belgium on Thursday introduced a ban on the short selling of financial stocks for 15 days in response to sharp share price falls this week, but they failed to convince other regulators to go along with a European Union-wide prohibition.

The bans on the controversial practice where investors aim to profit from price falls took effect on Friday morning. But other main markets, including the US and the UK, have said they have no plans to follow suit.

However, differences were emerging on Friday between the four countries that have introduced the latest ban. All four countries have applied the restrictions to various stocks, but the French and Belgian rule changes do not appear to cover derivatives, which are included in the Spanish ban.

Regulators said they had put the ban in place in an effort to “restrict the benefits that can be achieved by spreading false rumours”.

Germany, which introduced a ban on the practice of naked short selling or shorting stock without owning the underlying shares last year, on Friday welcomed the ban. Its ban covers not only stocks and bonds but also credit default swaps which are a form of insurance against a company failing.

The Financial Services Authority said it saw no need to extend the current disclosure rules surrounding short selling in the UK which were toughened up following the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Jean-Pierre Jouyet, head of the AMF, the French securities regulator, said on Thursday night: “They [investors] wanted to test French resistance. This is our response, as always very determined, and it will be so for all those who want to put us to the test.”

However, analysts said the experience of 2008 and the banning of shorting that followed suggests the ban may only have a limited impact.

“We think that although short sellers are active in the market there has been selling also due to uncertainty on fiscal and monetary policy issues that are yet to be resolved, which results in natural selling of asset classes,” said Atif Latif at Guardian Stockbrokers.

Lee Hardman at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ said: “With deteriorating investor confidence in eurozone debt likely to continue driving reduced investor confidence in the ability of European banks to withstand the fallout from the eurozone debt crisis we doubt that downward pressure on European financials will now dissipate.”

Academics who have studied the 2008 bans said the latest restrictions could backfire.

“It is the worst thing to do right now. This would signal to the market there may be something fundamentally bad that is happening,” said Abraham Lioui, a professor at the Edhec business school in France.

There was also confusion on Friday at London-based trading platforms, including Chi-X Europe and BATS Europe, which were unclear on how the rules applied to them.

These alternative platforms offer trading in pan-European stocks, including the banks of all four countries that imposed the ban, but are regulated by the Financial Services Authority in the UK.

Legal experts at the companies on Friday were in urgent conversations with the FSA over whether their customers were affected by the ban given that the UK has not introduced the ban.

The FSA on Friday said: “Our understanding is that all the measures introduced today are intended to apply to the shares effected, irrespective of where or on which platform they are traded. However, as was the case with the German measures last year, market participants need to understand that the FSA cannot provide guidance on the application of rules imposed by other regulators and that it is necessary for them to go direct to those authorities if they are not clear about applicability or interpretation.”


Extrait de: European banks face shortsellers’ fire, FT, By Dan McCrum in New York, August 8, 2011

At a recent breakfast in New York Steffen Kampeter, Germany’s deputy finance minister boasted that hedge funds attempting to short the euro would be outgunned. We have more money than you, he told the well-heeled audience of investors.

Recalling the moment from his office in midtown Manhattan, a hedge fund manager shakes a head of slicked-back hair. “He just doesn’t get it. Why would anyone short the euro when you don’t know who will remain in the eurozone?

The hedge funds, he says, are shorting the banks.

The reasons vary by bank, but at heart investors are placing bets against the value of what they see as fragile institutions and the inability of Europe’s politicians to address fading confidence in sovereign debt.

The trade is hardly new, even if the targets change.

·         Short interest in Banco Popular Espanol has held steady at about 8 to 10 per cent of the shares outstanding since late last year, according to Data Explorers.

·         By comparison, at Italian peer Banca Popolare di Milano few short sales registered until March, but with short interest of 29 per cent late last week, it has become the most heavily shorted bank in the Dow Jones 600.

·         Spain’s Santander, in third place, appears to come under occasional salvos of short seller fire.

Troy Gayeski of SkyBridge Capital, a fund of hedge funds, says “there is quite a bit of bank shorting that has been going on for some time in Europe. It’s no secret that Spain has to restructure its banks, or that German banks are going to be issuing equity from now until they can satisfy the more onerous requirements of Basel III”.

At one hedge fund an analyst and a banker break into argument over different measures of core tier one equity for BNP Paribas, a bank at the heart of Europe’s financial system with the largest balance sheet in the world, before agreeing that whatever the correct leverage ratio, it is too high.

In another hedge fund conference room a few blocks away, a team of analysts are at pains to draw attention to the way in which Santander is structured. Unlike most banks, which have a shell holding company, in Santander’s case its Spanish business is the holding company, which renders normal “sum of the parts” calculations flawed, they say.

However, the head of the hedge fund pins the broader problem on the lack of credit expertise among the buyers of European government debt.

European politicians’ anger at their activities is met with understanding by hedge fund managers, none of whom wish to attract attention, but they argue that this obscures the more pressing issues.

“Every time we have had a short selling ban, the sector it is supposed to protect has collapsed,” says one manager, concerned that authorities can seem preoccupied with stopping hedge funds making money, rather than addressing the real problems.

The potential profits involved are also small relative to the scale of the problem, they say. A well circulated report from the Petersen Institute for International Economics calculates that the 90 banks included in the recent stress tests must raise $5,400bn of short-term funding over the next two years, equivalent to about 45 per cent of European gross domestic product.

But hedge fund managers’ arguments in favour of shorting bank stocks lead
to unsettling conclusions. They start with anecdotes of particular funding challenges, or the absence of non-Italian buyers for Italian debt. Having sketched out the scale of the problem, they second-guess the willingness of Germans to shoulder Europe’s debts and dissect past mistakes of the European Central Bank.

A subdued pall then accompanies the realisation that while they want to be right, hedge fund managers would rather not be proved too right by the failure of Europe’s political class to act. To prevent a collapse of the banking system, they argue some form of backstop to Europe’s debts, probably as part of a fiscal union, is required.

But contemplating the attitude of Mr Kampeter and his finance minister peers, the hedge fund manager is downbeat.

“To make such a radical move for the ECB and Germany, and to change the rules, I wonder that you don’t need a dead body somewhere, like Lehman.”


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