Italian banks in particular would benefit from a consolidation of their fragmented domestic market1. In February, Intesa Sanpaololaunched a bid for UBI Banca. UniCredit should consider a similar deal with Banco BPM, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena or BPER Banca. Also, French BNP Paribas could merge its subsidiary BNL with one of those banks.
Spanish banking is already quite concentrated. Santander took overBanco Popular in 2017. The integration was completed in 2019. Santander and BBVA could acquire Bankinter, Bankia, or Banco de Sabadell. Of course, further domestic growth of the majors depends on regulatory approval. The two global Spanish banks definitely have the expertise to execute such an operation.
Figure 1 shows the number of bank branches relative to population for Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. It’s clear that Italy and Spain have a lot of potential for cost cutting.
Portugal, Poland and the Netherlands
In neighbouring Portugal, Banco Comercial Português seems a good match for Santander. Especially since both Iberian banks are active in Poland. Speaking of Poland, Santander and ING might be interested in mBank. mBank is owned by Commerzbank, a bank that desperately needs to focus its strategy.
A foreign group could shake up the uncompetitive Dutch market by buying ABN AMRO. However, as most of ABN AMRO is still state owned, this will be complicated.
Many listed insurers like Aegon, NN Group (NL), Ageas (BE), Baloise, Swiss Life (CH) or UnipolSai (IT) trade at a significant discount to their book value. This could be an opportunity for big insurance companies AXA, Allianz and Zurich Insurance Group.
Consortiums of buyers could also divide the operations of their targets (although there is a bad precedent for this scenario).
Update 23 July 2020: Marc Rubinstein at Net Interest came to the same conclusion: “Coming out of Covid, when banks realise they don’t need such a large physical presence, further consolidation is likely. What’s more, if equity valuations don’t recover, banks may be able to use negative goodwill to cover restructuring charges.”
The number of corona infections can roughly be modeled as N ~ R^t, where t is time1 and R is the reproduction number. The reproduction number R is the average number of new infections caused by one person infected with Covid-19.
If R > 1, the number of patients grows exponentially. If R < 1, the epidemic fizzles out.
How do people get infected? Obviously, they have to come into contact with the virus.
What is the inflation rate during and after lockdowns?
Inflation is already hard to measure in normal times, as I discussed in Bankers are people, too (page 126-129).
But the corona crisis adds further complications. Some services are unavailable due to the corona lockdown, for example restaurant visits and air travel. To discourage hoarding, supermarkets stopped offering discounts.
The abrupt shock causes headaches for statisticians.
I don’t believe that the corona pandemic will fundamentally change the course of geopolitics or the global economy. As I predicted on March 25, 2020:
All the doomers, America-haters, EU-haters, permabears, moralizing nutters, communists, and libertarians are crawling out of the woodwork due to the coronavirus. However, I expect they will be proven wrong again. #timestamp#prediction
The coronavirus will not cause the collapse of society
The coronavirus will not end the dollar hegemony
The coronavirus will not be the end of the American empire
The coronavirus will not cause the end of the euro
The coronavirus will not cause the end of the EU
The coronavirus will not start a 20+ year bear market
The coronavirus will not reverse global supply chains
The coronavirus will not stop the desire for money, travel or luxury
The coronavirus will not stop climate change
The coronavirus will not cause the end of capitalism
The coronavirus will not lead to central planning
The coronavirus will not stop the government from intervening in the economy
The coronavirus will not stop central banks from “printing money”
The German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) made a decisionconcerning the ECB’s QE program1.
This article explains how the ECB can defend itself.
But I want to play devil’s advocate, and defend the German judges.
Despite buying thousands of billions of euros worth of bonds, the ECB has undershot its inflation target for years. The Court has a point that buying vast amounts of sovereign debt doesn’t seem proportional to this disappointing outcome.
Second, the Court could prohibit the Bundesbank from participating in QE. But buying German bonds was not needed for monetary policy anyway! It was a political decision to buy bonds proportional to the national capital key in the ECB.
Finally, the decision of the Court should force European politicians to fix this mess. Maybe the ECB should have a dual mandate like the Fed has, so inflation and employment carry the same weight in monetary policy decisions. Or they could change the structure of the Eurosystem. Do we still need 19 national central banks when we have the ECB? Sounds like a make-work scheme to me…