Largest banks retrench 80 000

Europe’s largest banks cut their staff by another 3.5 percent last year and the prospect of a return to pre-crisis employment levels seems far off, despite the region’s fledgling economic recovery. Spurred into action by falling revenue and the need to convince regulators they are no longer “too big to fail”, banks across the globe have shrunk radically since the 2008 collapse of US bank Lehman Brothers sparked the financial crisis. Last year, the tide of bad news began to turn for banks, which are among the region’s largest employers. But despite the improved outlook, Europe’s 30 biggest banks by market value cut staff by 80 000 last year, calculations by Reuters based on their year-end statements showed. Recruitment consultants warn workers’ hopes for a turnaround this year could be misplaced, which is bad news for countries like Spain where tens of thousands of bank lay-offs have helped drive unemployment to 26 percent. – Reuters


Blackouts set to persist

The government would not be able to prevent power cuts, Egypt’s Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Mohamed Shaker, said at the weekend, an acknowledgment of the severe energy crunch facing the country. “Eliminating blackouts and reducing loads this summer is impossible,” Shaker said. Summer blackouts have hit Egypt in the past few years as successive governments have failed to develop a sound strategy to tap major natural gas reserves even as a rapidly growing population has raised demand for the fuel. But power cuts have come early this year, ahead of peak electricity use in the summer when many households crank up their air-conditioning units – a sign of the most severe energy crunch in years. – Reuters


More bonds to be issued

Greece would issue more bonds after last week’s successful five-year debt sale that ended a four-year drought, the head of the Greek debt agency said yesterday. “The bond sale was just the first step,” Stelios Papadopoulos, the head of the Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA), said. Greece on Thursday raised e3 billion (R44 billion) at under 5 percent interest, a move welcomed by its EU-International Monetary Fund creditors. A day later, visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Greece’s return to the international bond markets showed “renewed confidence” in the crisis-hit country. The PDMA chief said Greece wanted to “pique the interest of foreign investors, so they can focus on the real reform carried out in the country”. – Sapa-AFP