The liquidation sales at Nordstrom stores across Canada will begin Tuesday.
UBS Group, Switzerland’s largest bank, has offered to buy rival Credit Suisse Group in a deal that could be announced Sunday evening, media reports say. Swiss regulators want an agreement before the markets open on Monday for fear that Credit Suisse’s alarmingly fast deterioration could trigger another selloff.
According to the Financial Times, the deal will see UBS pay up to US$1-billion for Credit Suisse, whose crisis of confidence accelerated last week when California’s Silicon Valley Bank imploded virtually overnight, shattering the nerves of bank equity and bond investors everywhere.
The deal will essentially wipe out Credit Suisse shareholders. The FT says that UBS is to pay CHF0.25 a share for Credit Suisse in the form of UBS stock, a small fraction of Credit Suisse’s Friday closing price of CHF1.86.
The takeover was propelled by the Swiss National Bank and Finma, the country’s financial services regulator. Various media outlets reported that the situation was fast-moving and fluid, suggesting that the terms of the deal could change throughout the day.
If the takeover happens, it will spell the end of more than a century and a half of independence for Credit Suisse, a firm that put Switzerland on the global banking map. Credit Suisse was a powerhouse in the frenzied takeover market in the 1980s and made it through the 2007-2008 financial crisis largely intact only to see a series of scandals put its fortunes in reverse.
Credit Suisse had been in rapid decline for months, and the outflow of clients and deposits reached critical levels in recent days. Last Wednesday, the Swiss central bank attempted to prop up Credit Suisse by providing it with an credit line worth US$54-billion while it sought a buyer. The emergency injection, however, ultimately failed to reverse the outflow or the share-price collapse.
UBS’s takeover of Credit Suisse has been rushed, leaving the fate of some of Credit Suisse’s businesses in doubt. UBS was reportedly happy to buy Credit Suisse’s profitable Swiss banking unit and the company’s global wealth- and asset-management businesses. But UBS had also made it clear that it had little desire to own Credit Suisse’s investment-banking division, which is dominated by CS First Boston (CSFB) in the United States.
CSFB’s future is now in doubt. Last year, Credit Suisse made plans to hive off the once-famous Wall Street business, which was a formidable mergers and acquisitions powerhouse under Bruce Wasserstein and Joe Perella in the 1980s, and sell it through an initial public offering by 2025. It is no longer certain that the spinoff can proceed. Credit Suisse’s investment-banking trading arms could be wound down or broken into pieces and sold off under UBS ownership.
UBS reportedly tried to exact a price for any agreement to buy Credit Suisse. It wanted the Swiss government to take on as much as US$6-billion in costs related to Credit Suisse’s current and future legal and regulatory woes.
It was not known Sunday morning whether any government backstop would be included in the final deal. Credit Suisse had CHF1.2-billion (US$1.3-billion) in legal provisions at the end of 2022 and said it was reasonable to assume another CHF1.2-billion would be added to the bill.
The company’s string of scandals, which propelled its fall from grace, has cost it a fortune in lawsuits and settlements.
Credit Suisse has been in decline since 2007, the year when its market value peaked at more than CHF100-billion. With First Boston, which was bought in 1988, at its side, the company was a force in banking, investment banking and trading. The international Financial Stability Board labels both Credit Suisse and UBS as two of the 30 “systemically important” global financial institutions, suggesting that the failure of any one of them could trigger a financial crisis. In other words, they are considered too big to fail.
Credit Suisse’s deterioration has been slow but steady – the bank remains solvent with many high-quality assets. A series of senior executives promised restructurings to refocus the bank, but were slow to do so as the costly, reputation-hobbling scandals piled up.
Among them was the U.S. tax fraud conspiracy, which saw the bank plead guilty in 2014 to having help American clients file false tax returns. Credit Suisse paid US$2.6-billion in fines and restitution. A year earlier, Credit Suisse was fined in Europe for its role in manipulating foreign exchange rates.
More recently, Credit Suisse’s role in the Mozambique “tuna bonds” scandal battered its image globally. Credit Suisse made US$1.3-billion of loans to Mozambique, partly to develop is tuna fishing industry. Some of the funds were unaccounted for and a Mozambique contractor was found to have arranged US$50-million in kickbacks to Credit Suisse bankers.
The upscale department store chain has a store at the Rideau Centre mall as well as a Nordstrom Rack location at the Ottawa Train Yards shopping centre
The liquidation sales at Nordstrom stores across Canada will begin Tuesday.
A spokesperson for Nordstrom confirmed the impending sales period Monday in an email to The Canadian Press, just after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice gave the U.S. retailer’s Canadian branch permission to start selling off its merchandise.
The upscale department store chain that primarily sells designer apparel, shoes and accessories has six Canadian stores and seven discount Nordstrom Rack locations, including its Rideau Centre location and a Nordstrom Rack at the Ottawa Train Yards shopping centre, which sells merchandise at discounted prices.
When Nordstrom announced the move in early March, it said it expected the Canadian stores to close by late June and 2,500 workers to lose their jobs.
The company initiated the exit from the market because chief executive Erik Nordstrom said, “despite our best efforts, we do not see a realistic path to profitability for the Canadian business.”
Nordstrom opened its first Canadian store in Calgary in 2014, followed by the Ottawa store at the Rideau Centre, which occupied the second and third levels of a former Sears location.
The Rideau Centre store has an alterations and tailoring shop and an energy drinks bar. Merchandise ranges from brand name to designer apparel, housewares, furnishings and beauty products, including brands such as Geox shoes, Gucci, Adidas and Adidas by Stella McCartney.
Later on came Nordstrom Rack, which made its Canadian debut in 2018 at Vaughan Mills, a mall north of Toronto. At the time, Nordstrom said as many as 15 more Rack locations could follow.
Nordstrom promised each Rack store would deliver savings of up to 70 per cent on apparel, accessories, home, beauty and travel items from 38 of the top 50 brands sold in its Canadian department stores.
Nordstrom had trouble with profitability because of its selection of products and the COVID-19 pandemic, said Tamara Szames, executive director and industry adviser of Canadian retail at the NPD Group research firm, a day after Nordstrom announced its exit.
“You would hear a lot of Canadian saying that the assortment wasn’t the same in Canada that it was in the U.S.,” she said.
She noticed Nordstrom started to shift its product mix away from some luxury brands around 2018 and saw it as a sign that the retailer was struggling to maintain its original vision and integrity.
The pandemic made matters worse because many stores were forced to temporarily close their doors to quell the virus and shoppers were less likely to need some of the items Nordstrom sells like dressy apparel because events had been cancelled.
Despite stores reopening and many sectors rebounding, Szames said the apparel business is the only industry NPD Group tracks that has yet to recover from the health crisis.
“The consumer has really been holding back in terms of spendâ¦within that industry.”
At a hearing at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, lawyer Jeremy Dacks, who represented Nordstrom, said the company has “worked hard to achieve a consensual path forward” with landlords, suppliers and a court-appointed monitor to find an orderly way to wind down the business.
The monitor, Alvarez & Marsal Canada, suggested five potential third-party liquidators and Nordstrom was approached by another five. The company decided to go with a joint venture comprised of Hilco Merchant Retail Solutions ULC and Gordon Brothers Canada, which were involved in the liquidation of Target, Sears and Forever 21 in Canada, Dacks said.
They will oversee the sale of merchandise, furniture, fixtures and equipment, but not goods from third parties, which removed products this past weekend, Dacks said. He added that all sales will be final and no returns will be allowed.
Lawyers for Nordstrom landlords Cadillac Fairview, Ivanhoe Cambridge, Oxford Properties Ltd. and First Capital Realty testified Monday that they were pleased with how “smoothly” and “organized” the process has gone so far.
In approving Dacks’ liquidation request, Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz agreed, saying Nordstrom is facing a “difficult time, but this process is unfolding in a very cooperative manner.”
Nordstrom required court approval to begin the liquidation because it is winding down its Canadian operations under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, which helps insolvent businesses restructure or end operations in an orderly fashion.
With files from Joanne Laucius
Canadian financial institutions’ regulator moved to reassure investors as the country’s riskiest bank debt joined a global selloff after the value of some Credit Suisse Group AG bonds was wiped out in the bank’s takeover by UBS Group AG.
Canada’s “capital regime preserves creditor hierarchy which helps to maintain financial stability,” the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions said in statement on its website.
Prices of Canadian limited recourse capital notes, known as LRCNs, fell between 2 cents and 5 cents on the dollar Monday before OSFI’s announcement, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. That has widened the spread on the notes by over 60 basis points compared with Friday’s levels, the people said. Specific levels vary depending on the security.
The bonds are another form of so-called additional tier 1 securities, issued by financial institutions and designed to act as a shock absorber in the system. They can be converted to equity to bolster a bank’s capital if it runs into trouble.
Over the weekend, Swiss regulators triggered a complete writedown of 16 billion francs (US$17.2 billion) of Credit Suisse’s AT1 bonds as part of the rescue plan for the venerable bank. While it wasn’t a surprise that the bonds were likely to take a loss, some investors in the instruments were shocked to be wiped out when Credit Suisse’s shareholders were not.
Under Canada’s capital regime “additional tier 1 and tier 2 capital instruments to be converted into common shares in a manner that respects the hierarchy of claims in liquidation,” said OSFI, referring to a situation in which a bank would reach non-viability status. “Such a conversion ensures that additional tier 1 and tier 2 holders are entitled to a more favorable economic outcome than existing common shareholders who would be the first to suffer losses.”
“Our view is that we don’t expect LRCNs would be wiped out before common equity,” said Furaz Ahmad, a Toronto-based corporate debt strategist at BMO Capital Markets. “OSFI has said that they would convert to common equity, since that is more consistent with traditional insolvency norms and respects the expectations of all stakeholders.”
Earlier Monday, European authorities sought to restore investor confidence in banks’ AT1s by publicly stating that they should only face losses after shareholders are fully written down. AT1s from UBS Group and Deutsche Bank AG fell by more than 10 cents earlier on Monday.
Last week, oil prices booked their worst week since the start of the year, dropping off a cliff on renewed fears about the global economy after the collapse of two big U.S. banks and the near-collapse of Credit Suisse. While most price forecasts for the short term have been bullish because of pro-bullish oil fundamentals, now things are beginning to change. Tight supply, cited by virtually all forecasters as the main reason for oil price rise predictions, is giving way to fears of an economic slowdown that would dent demand and push prices lower.
Goldman Sachs has already revised its oil price forecast for the rest of the year. Previously expecting Brent to hit $100 in the second half, now the investment bank expects the international benchmark to only rise to $94 per barrel in the coming 12 months. For 2024, Goldman analysts see Brent crude at $97 per barrel.
“Oil prices have plunged despite the China demand boom given banking stress, recession fears, and an exodus of investor flows,” Goldman said in a note last week, as quoted by Bloomberg. “Historically, after such scarring events, positioning and prices recover only gradually, especially long-dated prices.”
Indeed, as far as events go, this one left a serious scar. Brent crude went from over $80 per barrel to less than $75 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate slipped down close to $65 per barrel. And this happened while authoritative forecasters such as the IEA and OPEC recently said they expect stronger demand growth than supply growth.
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According to a recent CNBC report, 41 percent of Americans are preparing for a recession and with a good reason. Despite seemingly endless media debates about whether the world’s largest economy is in a recession already, about to enter a recession, or will manage to avoid a recession, forecasts are not looking optimistic.
“What you’re really seeing is a significant tightening of financial conditions. What the markets are saying is this increases risks of a recession and rightfully so,” Jim Caron, head of macro strategy for global fixed income at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, told CNBC earlier this month.
“Equities are down. Bond yields are down. I think another question is: it looks like we’re pricing in three rate cuts, does that happen? You can’t rule it out,” Caron said.
Reuters’s market analyst John Kemp went further in January when he forecast that one way or another, there will be a global recession, and debates are basically pointless.
Citing the cyclical nature of economic growth, Kemp foresaw two likely scenarios: one, in which recession begins earlier in the year as a natural consequence of events from the last couple of years, and another, in which central bank-pumped growth leads to even higher inflation, which then leads to a slowdown amid lower consumption.
Whichever scenario pans out, if any, it will lead to lower oil demand as recessions normally do. And lower demand will naturally depress oil prices, albeit temporarily. Because lower prices tend to stimulate demand, even amid a recession.
But there is one important detail here. The recession forecasts focus on the UK, the EU, the U.S., and Canada, as well as Australia. There is zero talk about a recession in China or India. Because China and India are going to grow this year, and as they grow, they will consume more oil. Meanwhile, the supply of crude is not going anywhere much further, it seems.
Be that as it may, just because oil demand from China and India, but most notably China, is seen higher this year, it does not mean higher oil prices are all but guaranteed. That’s because China’s economy is very export-oriented, and when consumer countries are in a recession or anything resembling it, these exports will suffer.
Forecasts for Chinese oil demand are still at record highs this year. OPEC said it expected demand from the world’s biggest importer to add more than 700,000 bpd this year for a total of 15.56 million bpd. The IEA, for its part, forecast that demand growth from China will push the oil market into a deficit in the second half of the year. Yet if a recession here or there dampens demand for everything coming out of China, all bets are off.
Because of oil’s fundamentals, all price forecasts are for higher prices towards the end of the year. But the basis for these forecasts came before the bank failures and the bailout of Credit Suisse.
Perhaps the baking panic will let go soon enough, and everything, including oil demand outlooks, will return to normal. Or perhaps the banking panic is a harbinger of worse things to come—things that will affect demand for everything, from crude oil to iPhones. Collectively known as a recession, these things may well prompt some very different oil price forecasts later in the year.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.
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