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Wirecard’s Missing Billions Forces Out CEO, Panics Lenders – Yahoo Canada Finance

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(Bloomberg) — Markus Braun’s almost two decades as Wirecard AG’s chief executive officer ended after accusations about the company’s accounting culminated in a shock disclosure that it was unable to locate 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion).

James Freis has been appointed interim CEO, the German payments company said in a short statement Friday. A recent hire and former compliance executive at Deutsche Boerse AG, Freis was only named as a member of the management board on Thursday.

Braun’s exit comes after a catastrophic few days for Wirecard, which suffered a share price collapse after the two Asian banks that were alleged to be holding the missing cash denied any business relationship with the company.

Read More: Germany’s Fintech Star Falls on Failure to Clean Up Wirecard

Wirecard is now facing a potential cash crunch. The company warned Thursday that loans of as much as 2 billion euros could be terminated if its audited annual report is not published on Friday. Analysts at Morgan Stanley estimated that Wirecard has available cash of around 220 million euros if it cannot locate the missing $2.1 billion.

Wirecard’s lenders are considering hiring outside help as they seek to navigate the risk of a potentially massive default, a person familiar with the matter said.

Named CEO in 2002, Braun has put tens of millions of euros of his own funds into the firm. The value of his stake, which once made him a paper billionaire, has dwindled in the course of the rout.

His replacement is stepping into an almost unprecedented situation. Freis wasn’t supposed to join until July, when he was going to be responsible for a newly created department called “Integrity, Legal and Compliance.”

Freis was previously head of compliance at Deutsche Boerse AG, and held the position of Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, where he was responsible for the regulation of financial institutions.

The interim CEO will need to quickly reassure Wirecard’s business partners. Wirecard has licenses with Visa, Mastercard and JCB International, through which Wirecard’s banking arm issues its credit cards. If Wirecard is unable to find its missing cash, Visa and Mastercard may have cause to revoke the licenses.

“The big question is whether they retain the Visa and Mastercard licenses,” Neil Campling, analyst at Mirabaud said. “Without those they have no business.”

Mastercard said it is following the developments at Wirecard but did not want to comment on specific customer conversations or situations. Visa did not have an immediate comment.

Missing Cash

Wirecard claimed on Thursday that auditor Ernst & Young couldn’t confirm the location of the missing cash that was supposed to be held at two Asian banks and reported that “spurious balance confirmations” had been provided.

The confusion deepened on Friday when BDO Unibank Inc., the Philippines’ largest bank by assets, and the Bank of the Philippine Islands, said on Friday that Wirecard isn’t a client.

“It was a rogue employee who falsified documents and forged the signatures of our officers,” BDO Unibank CEO Nestor Tan said in a mobile phone message. “Wirecard is not even a depositor — we have no relationship with them.”

A document purporting to show a link between Wirecard and the Bank of the Philippine Islands was “bogus” and may be part of an attempted fraud, the president of the Southeast Asian lender said in a phone interview.

Wirecard shares plunged as much as 52% in Frankfurt on Friday. The selloff in Wirecard’s bonds also intensified, with the company’s 500 million-euro bonds maturing in 2024 falling a further 14 cents to trade at 24 cents. Its 900 million euros of convertible bonds are now indicated at less than 10 cents on the euro.

Wirecard was worth 24.6 billion euros in September 2018 when it entered Germany’s Dax index, and widely considered as one of Germany’s few successful fintech stories. It was valued at about 2.4 billion euros on Friday morning.

Wirecard spokespeople did not return calls and emails for comment.

Historic Slump

Wirecard’s reversal of fortune has caught its supporters off guard. Some of the company’s most loyal shareholders are now dumping their stakes as allegations of accounting impropriety engulf the German payments company. Analysts are also quickly changing their recommendations, despite continued concerns about the company’s accounting.

As of Wednesday, 10 out of 25 analysts tracked by Bloomberg recommended buying the stock. Since then, at least nine analysts have removed their recommendations and three have downgraded the stock to sell.

German financial markets regulator BaFin said it is also examining Wirecard’s disclosure on Thursday as part of its investigation into whether the company violated rules against market manipulation, according to a spokeswoman.

BaFin has three investigations of Wirecard running: whether the company manipulated markets with its disclosures, whether Braun’s stock purchase ahead of the planned publication of the company’s annual report violated market abuse roles and whether the company and its management are fit to be the owners of a bank.

Fraud Claims

Braun has previously painted the company as a potential victim, resisting calls to resign and aggressively defending Wirecard against accusations of accounting fraud, led by a series of articles in the Financial Times.

“It cannot be ruled out that Wirecard has been the victim in a substantial case of fraud,” Braun said in a statement published overnight.

The company temporarily suspended its outgoing Chief Operating Officer Jan Marsalek, it said in a statement late Thursday. Marsalek — who has been suspended on a revocable basis until June 30 — had tried to get in touch with the two Asian banks and trustees over the past two days to recover the missing money, but wasn’t successful, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday. It’s unclear if the funds can be recovered, the person added.

German politicians are now asking how such a rapid collapse could happen to a fintech company that was once worth more than Deutsche Bank, and previously supported by local regulators. Early last year BaFin took the unprecedented step of temporarily banning short sales of Wirecard shares following reports of suspicious accounting practices.

“Markus Braun’s resignation was overdue,” said Danyal Bayaz, a lawmaker with Germany’s Greens. “Wirecard is not a small fintech, but a DAX member.”

(Updates with statement from Visa and the Bank of the Philippine Islands.)

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Get ready for an awful earnings season – CNN

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A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.
Brace yourself: According to estimates compiled by FactSet, analysts predict that earnings for the S&P 500 plummeted nearly 45%, which would be the biggest drop since a 69% plunge during the depths of the Great Recession in the fourth quarter of 2008. Revenues are expected to have fallen more than 10%. Retailers, energy companies and industrial firms likely reported the biggest declines in sales and profit.
Financial firms take center stage this week. JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), Goldman Sachs (GS), Bank of America (BAC) and BlackRock (BLK) are just a few of the big banks and asset managers that will post their latest results.
Trump warns stocks will 'disintegrate' if he loses. But stocks are climbing as Biden pulls ahead
“Now that we are getting through the first full quarter of Covid-19 lockdowns … the effects of the pandemic and resulting loss of economic activity are starting to show an impact,” Mark Doctoroff, managing director and global co-head of the financial institutions group for MUFG, said in an email to CNN Business.
Doctoroff said investors will be keeping a close eye on loan quality — especially after a recent spate of high-profile corporate bankruptcies. Consumers may have struggled to make auto and credit card payments as well, even as many banks have offered mortgage forbearance programs.
But Doctoroff added that there could be some bright spots to bank earnings. Profits from trading desks could be robust, thanks to the surge in stock market volatility. Financial firms may also post solid results from their debt underwriting businesses. Companies have been rushing to issue new bonds as interest rates remain near zero.
Banks won’t be the only companies in the earnings spotlight. Pepsi, Delta, Netflix and Dow components Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and UnitedHealth (UNH) are also due to report their latest results.
It seems unlikely that many of these firms will provide much in the way of financial guidance due to the uncertain nature of the economy. For what it’s worth, analysts expect the profit picture to improve as the year progresses. And analysts now predict a big rebound next year, with profits expected to rise 12% in the first quarter and nearly 30% for all of 2021.
Hopes for a rapid, pronounced V-shaped recovery in earnings have been one of the main reasons why the overall market has rebounded so quickly from its March lows.
The S&P 500 is now down only 1.4% this year. It’s possible that the bear market is already over even though the overall economy remains weak and there are worries about another surge of Covid-19 cases in the United States. But the Federal Reserve has helped fuel expectations of a comeback with its trillions of dollars of loan programs.
“What you are looking at over the next 12 months is still a moderate recovery,” said Erik Knutzen, chief investment officer of multi-asset for Neuberger Berman, adding that there is a “titanic struggle” in the markets between bears focusing on weak fundamentals and bulls who have expectations for more stimulus.

Why Wall Street may be turning on US stocks

Is it time to look for stock buys outside the United States?
It’s a question investors are asking more and more as they ponder how long the massive run-up in US shares can continue.
Amazon, Apple and Microsoft race to $2 trillionAmazon, Apple and Microsoft race to $2 trillion
The numbers: The S&P 500 has risen 42% since its low point on March 23. Europe’s Stoxx 600 index has gained 31% since its March low.
But Wall Street strategists are increasingly looking at European shares more favorably, noting the strength of the region’s recovery from Covid-19 and seeing opportunities to tap value.
Last week, BlackRock downgraded US equities to a “neutral” rating, warning that a surge in coronavirus cases could hit the recovery just as support for more government stimulus starts to wane. Its strategists said they now favor European shares, citing robust public health measures and a “ramped-up” policy response.
They’re not the only ones. On a recent call with reporters, Evan Brown, head of multi-asset allocation strategy at UBS, praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for quickly moving to roll out fiscal stimulus measures. There’s a lot of room for Europe to outperform, he said.
The counterargument: The massive rebound in US stocks has been driven by surging shares in companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet, which helped push the Nasdaq toward a series of all-time highs last week. There’s no reason to think these companies will falter soon.
Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets, said Friday that he believes US tech stocks can keep outperforming over the next 12 to 18 months given expectations for longer-term growth. But he told clients that selectivity may be increasingly important, and encouraged them to look beyond the traditional Big Tech names.
Monday: PepsiCo (PEP) earnings
Tuesday: US inflation data; UK balance of trade; Germany economic sentiment; Citigroup (C), Delta Air Lines (DAL), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) earnings
Wednesday: US industrial production; Goldman Sachs (GS) and UnitedHealth (UNH) earnings
Thursday: China GDP; US initial unemployment claims and retail sales; Bank of America (BAC), Charles Schwab (SCHW), Honeywell (HON), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Morgan Stanley (MS), Truist (TFC) and Netflix (NFLX) earnings
Friday: US housing starts and building permits; BlackRock (BLK) earnings

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The Most Desirable Crude Oil On The Market – OilPrice.com

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The Most Desirable Crude Oil On The Market | OilPrice.com

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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    China bought up so much oil during April and May’s oil price crash that now they don’t know what to do with it all. A huge volume of the purchases that Beijing made when the market was down are just now coming into port, and China simply can’t get them all into storage fast enough. And as China’s seas fill up with oil tankers, the country’s onshore storage tanks are filling up too–and they’re getting dangerously close to overflowing As China’s own Caixin News reported earlier this week, “as of Wednesday, China had used up 69% of its crude oil storage capacity with the 33.4 million tons it had stockpiled, up by 24% from the previous year, according to data from energy information provider Oilchem China. That’s only 1 percentage point away from the 70% threshold that experts view as the country’s capacity limit.”

    This week, Bloomberg told the story of just one of these ships currently crowding Chinese ports. “Leaving behind the waters of the Caribbean Sea, the 1,100-feet long oil tanker Maran Apollo is emblematic of the wider petroleum market,” the report begins. “Steaming at 11.5 knots, she’s heading toward China, where oil demand is fast recovering, hauling a cargo of two million barrels of U.S. crude. But her voyage didn’t start a few days ago. She loaded in early May, and with no buyers during the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, the supertanker stood floating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico for almost two months, waiting for better times.”

    The fact that Maran Apollo has now departed for Rizhao, China is a promising one, indicating that refiners are finally starting to demand more crude that has been sitting unwanted for months out at sea. But it’s not just any kind of crude. In order to really understand the oil industry’s uneven recovery, you have to look a little closer. 

    “Refiners are competing for barrels in one corner of the market known as medium-heavy sour crude — barrels with a higher content in sulfur and relatively dense. It’s the kind of oil that Saudi Arabia and its allies pump. And also the type of crude that’s pumped offshore in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico — and that’s what’s in the Maran Apollo’s tanks.” Bloomberg compares different kinds of crude oil to different vintages of wine. “Urals of Russia and Arab Light from Saudi Arabia are normally two of the most widely consumed — think Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe a Merlot. But in today’s oil market, such crude is in increasingly short supply due to record output cuts by the two nations and their allies.”

    Related: Saudi Arabia Hikes Oil Prices For The Third Consecutive Month

    The production cuts from OPEC+ don’t just remove any old crude oil from the oversaturated market, they remove the most in-demand kinds of crude, and its absence has caused problems for an energy industry trying to get back to business-as-usual. “Deep OPEC+ cuts and demand recovery have tightened balances and this has been reflected in improvements in physical differentials,” Bassam Fattouh, director of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, was quoted by Bloomberg. “But the recovery has not been even, with medium-sour crudes faring better than light-sweet crudes.”

    The shortage of medium-sour crude, and “particularly those known as light sweet crude that have a lower sulfur content and are less dense” has also upset conventional price brackets for crude oil. Usually, these barrels are plentiful and inexpensive, but as austere production cuts have removed so much medium-sour crude supply from the market, these barrels’ prices have soared. 

    While recovering oil prices can be seen as a sign of success for OPEC+ and their production curbing strategies, they don’t necessarily indicate a healthy market for oil. “Not only is medium-heavy sour crude trading at a premium to benchmarks, but barrels for immediate delivery are commanding premiums to forward contracts, a price pattern known as backwardation that also reflects a tight physical-market,” writes Bloomberg. As the world slowly returns to normal, markets will have to absorb the often unpredictable impacts of economic intervention like stimulus packages and production cuts on top of all the other externalities of economic recession. No one said the road to recovery would be easy. 

    By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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      Quick Compare: 2020 Tesla Model 3 Vs Model Y After $3,000 Price Cut – Forbes

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      Here’s a very short, very basic comparison of the Model Y and Model 3 for newbie electric car buyers just getting their feet wet:

      *Pricier Model 3 configs offer up to 322 miles of range

      **The Model 3 with rear seats folded has “almost comparable cargo capacity [to the Model y], not as bad as those numbers from the owner’s manuals suggest,” according to Motor Trend.

      Type:

      —Model Y: CUV (crossover utility vehicle)

      —Model 3: sedan

      Production start date:

      —Model Y: January 2020

      —Model 3: mid-2017

      Price:

      2020 Tesla Model Y Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive Long Range: base price: $49,990* (cheapest version currently available / price as shown on Tesla’s website)

      2020 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus base price: $37,990 (cheapest model)

      Cheaper Model Y version:

      The cheapest Model Y now available isn’t cheap. A cheaper version of the Model Y will eventually be offered, according to Tesla.

      American made:

      Both the Model 3 and Model Y are made in America in Fremont, Calif.

      How similar?

      The Model Y is based on the Model 3 and shares 75% of the parts, according to Tesla. And to the untrained eye, they can be hard to distinguish.

      How different?

      But there are some big differences like cargo space and ground clearance — the Model Y has more of both. And you sit higher in the Model Y because the Y’s seats are on risers, which makes it easier to get in and get out of the car compared to the Model 3.

      The Model Y also uses a more efficient heat pump versus the resistive heating system in the Model 3.

      And the Model Y is taller, wider, and longer than the Model 3. It’s only a matter of inches (e.g., the Y is about 7 inches taller) but it can make a difference for things like headroom.

      How popular?

      The Model 3 was the best-selling car in California — the hottest electric car market in the U.S. — in the first quarter of 2020, beating both the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. Since the Model Y is just beginning to ramp up production, the jury is still out but CEO Elon Musk has said that he expects it to outsell the Model 3.

      Seating capacity:

      5 passengers for both the Model 3 and Model Y, though the Y has an option for seven passengers (see “options” below).

      Ground clearance (think: light off-roading):

      —Model Y: 6.6 inches

      —Model 3: 5.5 inches

      Basic warranty:

      4 years / 50,000 miles for both the Model 3 and Model Y.

      Major options:

      —Model Y will offer a third row of seats, allowing it to seat seven passengers ($3,000 option)

      —The Model 3 Performance offers 0-60 in 3.2 seconds for thousands of dollars less than the Model Y Performance (which is a plodding 3.5 seconds by comparison).

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