Financial analysis

Europe’s banking stocks recover as SVB deal brings respite

European banking stocks rose Monday, boosted by the news that US lender First Citizens Bank would buy most of the business of failed Silicon Valley Bank.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Banks index, which tracks 42 big EU and UK banks, ticked up by nearly 1% in morning trade, while London’s bank-heavy FTSE 100 (UKX) was 0.5% higher.

Deutsche Bank (DB) rose 6% in early trade, before paring gains to trade 4% higher by mid-morning. Its stock closed down 8.5% on Friday as investors fretted that Germany’s biggest lender might be vulnerable to the crisis of confidence triggered by the collapse of SVB, and the emergency rescue of Credit Suisse (CS).

Shares in HSBC (FTRXX) were up 0.13%, Barclays (ATMP) 2.1% and Commerzbank (CRZBF) 3.2%.

But the stock of Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS (UBS), fell 0.55%, following a 3.5% decline last Friday. UBS (UBS) agreed a week ago to buy Credit Suisse (AMJL) in a 3 billion Swiss franc ($3.25 billion) deal brokered by the Swiss government to prevent a wider crisis in the financial sector.

Anxiety over the stability of banks has whipped through global markets since SVB collapsed on March 10 and US regional lender Signature Bank followed two days later.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at investing platform Hargreaves Lansdown, said in a note Monday that SVB’s buyout “has brought some respite to the beleaguered banking sector.”

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) announced late Sunday that First Citizens (FCIZP) Bank would buy SVB’s deposits and loans that regulators had transferred to a bridge bank after its demise. The FDIC said First Citizens (FCIZP) was getting the $72 billion in SVB loans at a discount of $16.5 billion.

Banking stocks in Asia were less buoyant Monday. In Hong Kong, Standard Chartered (SCBFF) closed 0.4% down. In South Korea, major lender Shinhan Financial Group (SHG) closed 0.87% lower.

Life & Culture

‘I’ve been doing fashion longer than I did music:’ Victoria Beckham on finding her stride as a designer –

With her second runway show at Paris Fashion Week behind her, Victoria Beckham appears to be ushering in an exciting new era for her eponymous label, nearly 15 years since it launched.
“I’ve been doing fashion longer than I did music,” Beckham said, introspectively, over a phone call from London just days after her Fall-Winter 2023 show in the French capital.
Still known by many beyond the fashion world as “Posh Spice,” her nickname as one-fifth of the Spice Girls, she is a celebrity gossip site mainstay, with a famous husband, David Beckham, and increasingly well-known children: Brooklyn, who married actor Nicola Peltz in a high-profile wedding last year, Romeo, Cruz and Harper.
Yet, Beckham’s brand, launched in 2008, has been warmly supported by the upper echelons of the fashion industry (Anna Wintour is a regular guest at her shows).
Having shown regularly during New York and London fashion weeks before making her Paris Fashion Week debut last September, she is certainly no fashion novice and her label has long been synonymous with a sexy and streamlined aesthetic — not a far cry from the sharp minis and sleek silhouettes that were so integral to Posh Spice’s look, although now rendered in an undoubtedly more grown-up, glamorous way.
The fact that her fashion line has existed for so long is notable. While Beckham has received critical praise in her tenure, it’s rare for celebrities without formal design training to find success. Even Rihanna’s ready-to-wear line, Fenty, backed by the luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton-Moët Hennessy, was shuttered after two years (though, it should be noted, Rihanna’s beauty brand of the same name is thriving).
Despite her longevity, the commercial viability of Beckham’s operation has often been questioned — though it appears business may finally be on the up. According to Women’s Wear Daily, Victoria Beckham Holdings Limited, which is the centralized entity between Beckham’s fashion and beauty ventures, reported profitability for the first time for the 2022 fiscal year. In January, the brand’s CEO Marie LeBlanc also told the Business of Fashion that sales have grown by double digits over the last four seasons.
“I think that now I can really, truly start building,” said Beckham while reflecting on these milestones.
Beckham’s company recently underwent a complete restructuring on both the business and creative sides — from improved IT and digital planning systems along the back end to the lowering of prices (slightly) to a “new design team, new atelier and new members across every department, if you like,” she said.
While she’s made many changes, Beckham’s commitment to quality control has long been unwavering: “I never want to rush anything. I think, ultimately, it’s got to be right. I never want to compromise,” she explained.
Her oeuvre doesn’t appear to court trends, and she doesn’t operate with flash nor ephemerality (perhaps belying expectations set by her Spice Girls persona). Her clothes mix fantasy with a distinct matter-of-factness: a Fall-Winter 2023 look, for example, featured a layered chiffon and feather-accented dress styled with a practical khaki trench. And, significantly, there isn’t really a Victoria Beckham logo or mark, save for her typeface.
This isn’t to say her brand is without signature pieces. Beckham’s “watch chain” accessories, which feature a bold, reflective accent reminiscent of a timepiece’s wristband, are proving popular. “It was inspired by a strap detail on a watch that my husband bought me,” said Beckham. “A vintage Patek Philippe.”
The metalwork is seen, front-and-center, on nano to jumbo sized handbags, along with select shoes and jewelry. The carriers have caught on. From the newest collection, the extra large sizes have already sold out in pre-orders. And Beckham seems to have found a fan from, perhaps, an unanticipated market indicator: her son, Cruz, who wore a chain-accented crossbody “Eva” bag and custom Victoria Beckham monogrammed denim to his mother’s presentation.
“It’s funny because Cruz called me on the way to the show and he was like, ‘Mom, can I borrow your glasses?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, of course you can borrow my glasses.’ And then he said, ‘Yeah, and I’ve just found this bag in your wardrobe,'” Beckham said, laughing. “It was interesting that an 18-year-old boy would be attracted to that and say, ‘I want to wear it.'”
Might this mean menswear is on the horizon? “That would be a dream. Not quite yet. But I’m always inspired by menswear — you see that in the tailoring,” Beckham said.
While menswear may not be coming soon, she did introduce a dedicated makeup and skincare brand, Victoria Beckham Beauty, in 2019. And more recently, she launched VB Body, a “permanent capsule collection” of knitted shapewear-inspired separates, skirts and form-slimming dresses. These pieces are part of the overall Victoria Beckham line, but are sold at a lower price point.
“VB Body was an idea that I had when I was actually spending a lot of time in Miami,” said Beckham. She and her husband maintain a home in the Florida city; David is a partner in Inter Miami, the American soccer club. “I find the way that women dress there quite liberating in how they like to show off their bodies and celebrate who they are. I think there’s a real confidence in that.”
Since relocating her runway show to Paris last year, Beckham has noticed an uptick in editorial and red carpet attention. For Fall-Winter 2023, she recruited Drew Barrymore for social media teasers around the collection as a nod to the lore of the documentary and film “Grey Gardens” (Barrymore starred in the latter). “The story doesn’t inspire me in a literal sense, necessarily,” says Beckham. “It’s more so in the sense of how we can have fun with clothes.”
That kind of energy feels fresh. There’s a newfound wind in Beckham’s sails. She herself seems more optimistic and this is being reflected in her own styling. “I always used to wear black,” she said. “And then, I don’t know exactly what changed or what happened, but I rarely wear black nowadays. I love wearing color and I love wearing unexpected colors together.” (Unique color use and pairings are another feature in Beckham’s brand codes.)
What tenets, outside of the Victoria Beckham aesthetic, have helped her stay the course? “Years and years ago,” Beckham shares, “(fashion designer) Roland Mouret, who was a mentor to me in the beginning, said ‘no matter what anybody says or what anybody tells you is the right thing to do, ultimately, you’ve got to go with what you think is right.’
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.” And, with that, she adds: “There is so much that I want to do with my brand, across fashion and beauty. And, like I said, now, I really believe that I can start building. It was about getting the business back on track, which we have done. And we have a fantastic design team. We have quite a well-oiled machine.”
“Everything I do is rooted in reality,” she concluded. “But, it hasn’t been at the compromise of the dream.”
In the media

NPR to cut jobs by 10 percent

National Public Radio is cutting around 10 percent of its workforce amid falling ad revenue and economic uncertainty, its CEO John Lansing announced Wednesday.

The nonprofit media organization’s financial outlook “has darkened considerably” in recent weeks, Lansing wrote in a memo to staff, shared with The Hill, as it faces a “sharp decline” in revenues from corporate sponsors in a weakened ad industry.

“We had created a plan to address a $20M sponsorship revenue falloff for FY23 but we are now projecting at least a $30M shortfall. The cuts we have already made to our budget will not be enough,” Lansing said in the memo.

“Unlike the financial challenges we faced during the worst of the pandemic, we project increasing costs and no sign of a quick revenue rebound. We must make adjustments to what we control, and that is our spending. We have reached a point where we can no longer protect all jobs,” he added.

NPR will reduce filled positions by approximately 10 percent in job cuts falling evenly across the organization, and most vacant positions will also be slashed, Lansing said.

Leadership plans to make final decisions on which posts the new layoffs will affect by the week of March 20, after conversations internally and with unions — working to ensure the cuts don’t disproportionately impact people of color in its workforce.

Lansing said the company has already cut $14 million in expenses through job freezes, nonessential travel restrictions and other measures — NPR axed its annual summer internship program in an effort to cut costs back in December.

NPR joins a number of top media companies, including The Washington Post as well as CNN, that have been slashing their workforces amid economic woes and financial uncertainty. Job cuts throughout the media industry jumped up around 20 percent between 2021 and 2022, according to research released last month.

Life & Culture

The oldest Hebrew Bible to be auctioned for $30-50 million

According to Sotheby’s of New York, the Sassoon Codex is the oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible ever discovered and will be offered at auction with an estimate of US$30-50 million. This makes it the most valuable printed text or historical document ever offered.

The oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible, more than a thousand years old, will be auctioned in May 2023 for an astronomical price of up to $50 million, Sotheby’s announced on Wednesday.

“A founding text
The Sassoon codex, named after its most famous owner, David Solomon Sassoon (who died in 1942), dates from 900 AD and is “the most complete Hebrew Bible (…) estimated at between 30 and 50 million dollars, among the most expensive manuscripts ever sold,” Richard Austin, head of ancient books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s told AFP.

The sale will take place in May 2023, during the classic spring auction season for contemporary, modern and impressionist art held by the industry’s behemoths in New York: Sotheby’s, owned by French-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi, and rival Christie’s, controlled by French billionaire François Pinault’s holding company Artemis.

Asked about potential buyers for the codex, Richard Austin said the list of buyers was “a bottomless pit”: it is “a founding text of civilisation, and it would be difficult to find a text that has had more influence than the Bible in the history of humanity”.

This Bible in Hebrew – the original language of the Old Testament which also contains passages in Greek and Aramaic – “belonged to important collectors in the 20th century; it is obviously possible that it will go to an institution to be studied there, including abroad” and “whatever the beliefs”, added the expert, referring to Judaism, Christianity, Islam or atheism.

In perfect condition
This Sassoon codex, in a visibly exceptional state of preservation and with only a few pages missing, links 24 books of the Hebrew Bible taken from the famous Dead Sea Scrolls dating from the 3rd century BC.

The bible, which is more complete than the Aleppo codex, has been authenticated by carbon 14, “confirmed by palaeographic and codicological research (…) and has survived for more than a millennium in the hands of public and private collectors,” Sharon Liberman Mintz, a specialist in Jewish texts at Sotheby’s, told AFP.

The art auction company boasts in a press release that it is the specialist in the market for old manuscripts and books. In November 2021, it sold an original copy of the Constitution of the United States of America for the record price of 43 million dollars. The document was acquired by the American billionaire Kenneth Griffin, owner of the investment company Citadel, who was to lend it to a museum in Arkansas.