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Chinese investors snap up Hong Kong property as new security law deters foreigners – Reuters

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Mainland Chinese investors are scouring Hong Kong’s commercial property market for bargains after prices plunged 30%, signalling a new wave of demand following anti-government protests last year that kept a lid on investment activity.

FILE PHOTO: Residential flats are seen in Tung Chung on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

Property agents expect the influx of Chinese capital, which has helped Hong Kong become one of the world’s most expensive property markets, can once again prop up the sector as China recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and stands ready to deploy liquidity.

In August alone, mainland buyers snapped up at least two office towers and one hotel building worth HK$4 billion ($516 million) in total, according to agents and filings.

“A majority of recent large-value building deals were bought by Chinese investors; their number has really grown in the third quarter,” said Reeves Yan, head of capital markets at CBRE Hong Kong.

“They’re looking for bargains … and they’re confident in Hong Kong in the long term.”

The pick-up in demand coincides with the imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong on June 30, which authorities in Beijing and the financial centre have said is necessary to ensure its stability and prosperity.

“We expect to see more mainland investors coming to buy land,” said Dennis Cheng, senior sales director at Ricacorp (C.I.R.) Properties.

“If Hong Kong gets more stable in the next few months after the national security law, we expect more mainland companies to open branches here, and that will help the office sector to recover.”

The move by Chinese investors is in stark contrast to foreign investors, who are staying away due to growing concerns over the city’s future. Critics of the legislation say it has pushed the former British colony onto a more authoritarian path following months of sometimes violent democracy protests last year.

“Foreign investors are still absent. I spoke to two foreign funds recently who said they won’t consider Hong Kong at the moment because the political risks are relatively high now,” said Daniel Wong, CEO of Midland IC&I.

EARLY SIGNS

In July, state-owned China Mobile and a consortium led by Chinese major developer Vanke bought one land parcel each for HK$5.6 billion and HK$3.7 billion, respectively. They were the first mainland Chinese companies to win public tenders since January.

Colliers says it expected mainland capital will become “the next wave of demand” in the Hong Kong leasing and investment markets, supported by cross-border financial initiatives in stock and wealth management, and the city’s large capital pool for fund-raising.

China called on its biggest state firms to take a more active role in Hong Kong, including stepping up investment and asserting more control of companies to help cool last year’s political crisis, Reuters reported (here) last year.

It is unclear, however, whether the latest spike in investment is being driven by Beijing, because while some of the buyers are government-backed, many of them are private investors.

But the city recorded a plunge in deal volume amid the unrest and the pandemic and has yet to witness a rise in mainland investments comparable to a few years ago.

“There are early signs of mainland Chinese demand returning,” Colliers said in a recent note.

Chinese investment accounted of 39% of total commercial real estate transactions in Hong Kong so far this year, up from 19% for the whole of 2019, Colliers said.

CBRE’s Yan expects the commercial property market to bottom-out soon as deal volumes accelerate in the fourth quarter. He cautioned, however, that prices of office and retail shops will remain under pressure for another 12-18 months as the economy slowly recovers.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Lincoln Feast.

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RBC online banking, trading inaccessible due to 'technical issues' – Yahoo Canada Finance

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RBC online banking, trading inaccessible due to 'technical issues'
The Royal Bank of Canada logo is seen outside of a branch in Ottawa

TORONTO (Reuters) – Royal Bank of Canada’s <RY.TO> online banking and retail trading platforms, as well as its telephone support system, have been down since Monday morning, with users receiving error messages attributing the failures to “technical issues.”

Irate clients of Canada’s biggest bank took to Twitter to complain about their inability to access their accounts, execute trades on the bank’s website or app, or reach customer service agents, with some pointing out that this was not the first outage experienced by the bank this year.

“We’re aware of an issue affecting our online banking and mobile app at the moment,” RBC posted on Twitter in response to the complaints. “We’re working to get this corrected as quickly as possible. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

RBC did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The bank’s shares were down 2% in afternoon trade in Toronto, versus a 1.8% decline in the Toronto stock benchmark <.GSPTSE>.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Paper towel in short supply as people stay home, clean more, industry leader says – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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MONTREAL — The head of Canada’s largest manufacturer of tissue products says he’s concerned about the industry’s supply of paper towel ahead of a potential second wave of COVID-19.

Kruger Products CEO Dino Bianco says demand for paper towel has soared as people stay at home and clean more frequently.

He says the industry is “very tight” on paper towel inventory across North America, despite efforts to build up supply.

Bianco says Kruger, which makes SpongeTowels paper towels, is pushing to open its new plant in Sherbrooke, Que., to add more capacity in Canada.

Although slated to open in February 2021, he said the company is trying to get the factory up and running faster. Some machines started over the summer, while more are set to come online in October.

Bianco said the plant will increase the company’s paper towel and toilet paper manufacturing capacity by 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, he says the company is also seeing a shortage of the recycled fibres used in about 25 per cent of its tissue products.

Bianco says Kruger recycles white paper used in offices, but that the market has dried up because people aren’t in offices printing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2020.

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Bank shares slide on report of rampant money laundering – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Bank shares slide on report of rampant money laundering

The financial sector was hit hard Monday following a report alleging that a number of banks, JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon among them, have continued to profit from illicit dealings with disreputable people and criminal networks despite previous warnings from regulators.

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, leaked government documents show that the banks continued moving illicit funds even after being warned of potential criminal prosecutions. The documents were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the ICIJ.

The report compounded a massive sell-off across global markets because of gloom and doom over COVID-19 infections and the economic damage from the pandemic.

The consortium reported that documents indicate that JPMorgan moved money for people and companies tied to the massive looting of public funds in Malaysia, Venezuela and the Ukraine. The bank also processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, according to the documents, which are known as the FinCEN Files.

Shares of JP Morgan tumbled 4.4%.

The consortium’s investigation found the documents identify more than $2 trillion in transactions between 1999 and 2017 that were flagged by financial institutions’ internal compliance officers as possible money laundering or other criminal activity, and $1.3 trillion of that activity took place at Deutsche Bank. Shares of Deutsche Bank dropped 7.7%.

Deutsche Bank has been under scrutiny for years. The bank, based in Frankfurt, Germany, agreed to pay the state of New York $150 million to settle claims that it broke compliance rules in its dealings with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein killed himself last August in a Manhattan federal jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported last year that Deutsche Bank gave expensive gifts to senior Chinese officials and hired family members of Chinese elite as it was trying to establish itself as a major player in China’s financial industry.

In a related action, the bank agreed last year to pay about $16 million to settle civil charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by hiring relatives of government officials in Asia and Russia in an effort to improperly influence the officials to help its investment banking business. Deutsche Bank neither admitted nor denied the allegations in the settlement.

Also in 2019, German prosecutors indicted a 48-year-old former employee of Deutsche Bank as part of a probe into a massive tax evasion scam that’s led to more than a dozen prosecutions.

In 2018, German authorities raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters on suspicions that its employees helped clients set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros. The case was spurred by the release of the Panama Papers. A long-running money-laundering investigation of the bank is being pursued by federal prosecutors in New York.

In the wake of the Epstein scandal, Deutsche Bank said it had invested almost $1 billion to improve its training and controls and had boosted its staff overseeing the work to more than 1,500 employees “to continue enhancing our anti-financial crime capabilities.”

For years, Deutsche Bank has wrestled with regulatory penalties and fines, high costs, weak profits and a low share price. The bank went three straight years without turning an annual profit before recording positive earnings of 341 million euros for 2018.

The London Bank HSBC, Europe’s largest acknowledged in 2012 that it had laundered at least $881 million for Latin American drug cartels. However, according to the report, HSBC continued to manage money for shady clients, including suspected Russian money launderers and a Ponzi scheme under investigation in multiple countries.

Shares of HSBC, already down more than 50% this year, slumped to levels not seen in more than two decades Monday.

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This story has been corrected to show that Deutsche Bank’s $16 million settlement last year was related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, not a criminal money-laundering case.

The Associated Press

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