Natixis refocuses activities, cuts jobs

Amid a refocusing on lower-risk activities, French bank Natixis has announced it has placed 19 billion euros of high-risk assets aside. It also confirmed a planned reduction of staff in its finance and investment banking division.


AFP - French bank Natixis said on Friday that it had placed 19 billion euros (27 billion dollars) of assets in a special vehicle for parking while positions were purged, sending its shares up 8.04 percent.

The bank, brought low by repercussions of the US subprime home-loan crisis and facing big potential losses from the so-called Madoff scandal, had already announced that it will end its investment activities on its own account.

The bank said that it had given responsibility to a "special team" charged with separating the riskiest assets and clearing them out.

At the beginning of the month, the two parent banks, Caisse d'Epargne and Banque Populaire, said that they would withdraw from market activities carrying a particularly high level of risk.

The price of shares in Natixis jumped by 8.04 percent to 1.37 euros in morning trading. The overall CAC 40 index of leading shares was showing a fall of 1.30 percent.

One Paris broker, who declined to be named, told AFP: "The jump in the shares was provoked by the violent measures to reduce investment banking costs.

"Natixis, in contrast to BNP Paribas and most other big European banks, has logically reduced its activity in this field."

He said: "Natixis did not have the critical mass needed to carry out these activities profitably."

The price of shares in Natixis has slumped this year, and lost 11.89 percent on Wednesday.

The bank has said its exposure to suspected fraud by US financer Bernard Madoff could total 450 million euros, which puts it at the top of the list of French banks potentially at risk.

Natixis said on Friday that its supervisory board had approved the new vehicle on Thursday.

The purpose was to "radically refocus the activities of finance and investment banking (RFI) on the historic client base, with simple products and by offering products based on being close to customers."

But the bank said that its two parent companies rejected all unfounded allegations that it might close all of its market activities, change the board or that there might be "a dismantling of Natixis."

The bank confirmed the planned reduction of staff in the finance and investment banking division, amounting to 40 percent of those involved in the most complex markets. It represents a reduction of 15 percent of the division for which staff numbers would fall from 5,700 at the end of March to 4,860 at the end of 2009.

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