You know you're in trouble when your firm actually appoints an 'Expense Czar'. But that's what Citi has done. 61 year-old Carl Levinson, a 35-year company man, will take on the new role which will no doubt focus on paper clips, loo rolls, and soap (as well as the small things).
The New York Times has come out, quoting folks briefed on the plans, who say that the fourth-quarter asset write-downs over at Merrill Lynch are likely to be in the region of $15bn - around $3bn more than most analysts have estimated. Having said this, there's a general feeling around the firm, and externally, that Merrill is in safe hands, as CEO John Thain appears to be going about the tough task of turning the firm around with typical tenacity and savvy.
Bloomberg reports that UBS has told shareholders in a recent letter that it expects 2008 to be a difficult year, as 'the problems that the financial industry faces have not evaporated with the turn of the year'. Admitting that the $17.6bn worth of measures the bank is taking to beef up its capital (including the $11.8bn cash injection from Singapore and Middle East investors which it is seeking shareholder approval for) might end up being 'too much', the bank says it favours taking this approach 'over the potential risk of not having raised enough capital'.
While the likes of former Bear CEO Jim Cayne and Morgan Stanley boss John Mack took no bonus for 2007 (and the likes of Chuck Prince at Citi, Stan O'Neal at Merrill and Peter Wuffli over at UBS all fell on their swords or got the boot), Barclays President Bob Diamond, who heads up Barclays Capital , Barclays Wealth and Barclays Global Investors, enjoyed a better year. Although Barclays sustained subprime-related losses of around $2.6bn in the 4 months to October, these were relatively insignificant compared to the huge losses sustained by rival firms. So, Bob's on track for a $30m pay-out for 2007. He'll likely get a bonus of almost $29m on top of his $500,000 base salary. And then he'll get share options too.
There's lots of gossip and speculation doing the rounds this week.
Merrill Lynch analyst Guy Moszkowski has come out and said that Citi may be forced to write-down an additional $16bn when the company posts its fourth-quarter earnings. The firm indicated that it would write-down at least $11bn in the period (that was just before former CEO Chuck Prince fell on his sword a few weeks back). And Morgan Stanley analyst Betsy Graseck has also raised her fourth-quarter CDO write-down estimate for Citi from $12bn to $13.5bn. Citi wrote-down $6bn in the third quarter.
Reuters reports that not all Bear Stearns hedge funds have had difficulty. According to the news agency, The Bear Stearns Emerging Markets Macro Fund was up 2.95% in December, taking it up 25.56% for 2007 as a whole.
Here's the edited press release issued by Bear Stearns Tuesday, which confirms that firm President Alan Schwartz, 57, is to succeed Jim Cayne as CEO. Cayne, 73, will remain firm chairman.
42-year-old Marc Howells is said to have lost his job as the $400,000 a-year head of Barclaycard's European operations over an offensive joke he is alleged to have cracked at a meeting of senior executives held to discuss the unit's quarterly figures.