How much impact did a Mail on Sunday piece have on Société Générale's share tumble earlier this week? The French press leads on the economic turmoil as French banks feel the heat, slapping a triple zero rating on the credit ratings agencies along the way. That's the focus for Friday, 12th August, 2011.
France’s front pages cover the market turmoil, with France’s banks in the line of fire. La Tribune and Le Figaro both lead on that. Société Générale has been the worst affected by the rollercoaster ride. It was obliged this week to deny its financial stability was at risk. As James Creedon reported in our Media Watch slot on Thursday, the UK’s Mail on Sunday may have inadvertently caused Société Générale’s stocks to plummet when it said the bank was in a 'perilous' state and possibly on the 'brink of disaster'. It’s been suggested the Mail on Sunday picked that up from a “Summer Fiction Series” in Le Monde, in which Le Monde imagines a situation in 2012 where the euro might have collapsed.
L’Expansion.fr points out that the bank's share value sank on Wednesday even after the Mail on Sunday issued an apology. It adds that an accumulation of bad news for Société Générale gave the rumour credibility.
Le Figaro's coverage includes a piece entitled: "When Twitter and the craziest rumours steer the markets". It reports that a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon raised the prospect of a Soc Gen bust over the space of a few hours, so much so that it seemed probable. As a consequence, the bank lost more than 20% of its share value.
The Journal du Dimanche website asks Le Monde whether it has been in touch with the Mail on Sunday, which replies that all will be revealed in its Saturday edition. Le Monde, in the interview, says it had no way of knowing in May, when it prepared the Summer Fiction series, that its catastrophic scenario could cause crossed wires just weeks later.
The left-wing paper Libération headlines “Triple Zero”. It has a two-page report into what it says is the hidden face of the credit ratings agencies "panicking the planet". It says the analysts working for them are “eggheads” who work to speed, more so than analysts at the IMF and World Bank. And it quotes an economist saying Standard & Poor’s is more focused on short-term economic shifts, which explains why it changes its ratings more often than the other two (Moody's and Fitch). The paper reports that workloads have doubled for the credit ratings' agencies. There is under-staffing, and errors creep in.