Luxembourg Enhances Its Banking Options

Swiss banks, with Credit Suisse Group AG leading the pack, have been enhancing their operations in Luxembourg. As a result of the financial secrecy that made Switzerland’s offshore wealth center so appealing, and an impasse in Swiss-EU political relations, the banks are now turning their attention to Luxembourg.

Among others, Pictet and Lombard Odier, Geneva’s two largest private banks, are expanding their present in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is now vying with London and Frankfurt to be the main hub for banks and fund managers to export their service across the EU.

Romeo Lacher, head of private banking for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Zurich-based Credit Suisse “We want to double the amount of money we book in Luxembourg in three years. It’s a sound anchor in the European Union.”

More EU Students Coming to the UK

Interestingly, Ucas data shows that higher education providers in England have 20,430 EU learners from outside the UK. This is a 14% increase from the same point last year. This shows a significant acceleration, as the 2014-15 English universities EU recruitment was 8% higher than the year before that.

As Nick Hillman, the director of Higher Education Policy Institute told Times Higher Education that:

“There are push factors, in that people want to study in a good university system, and pull factors, which are partly financial, because universities can fill their places and these are full £9,000-paying students. They also stand to get good students who can help the diversity of the classroom.”

However, while the increase in diversity on campus is being applauded, many are worried about the impact these changes will have on the student finance system. It can become difficult to get repayments on tuition fee loans if the learners leave the UK when they finish their learning.

Read more about these issues and get the full picture of the concerns.


Barack Obama Tells Britain: Stay in the EU

Barack Obama has recently warned that Britain will lose its influence if it leaves the EU. During an interview with the BBC broadcast on Thursday night, Obama said the EU “made the world safer and more prosperous” and he confirmed that American hopes that Britain will remain a member. As Obama said,

“Having the UK in the EU gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union, and is part of the cornerstone of the institutions built after [the second world war] that has made the world safer and more prosperous. We want to make sure that the United Kingdom continues to have that influence.”

Certainly, Obama’s comments will be a welcome reinforcement to David Cameron, who intends to lead the referendum campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

UberPop Suspends Services in France…For Now

Uber is soon going to suspend its UberPop service in France. While the California based company had been adamant that they would continue, despite demands from President Francois Hollande’s gobernment to stop their service, they have finally given in. Their services were deemed illegal since they use an app to connect clients to private car-owners. These drivers charge for rides but don’t have special training or a special license.

As Uber explained, “Security is our priority. Today is a dark day for the 500,000 regular users of UberPop in France.”

They may not stay off the streets for good, however, They have agreed to suspend their services until France’s Constitutional Court ruled on the UberPop service in a decision expected by the end of September.

Other Uber services will continue as usual.

Read the full news report and the chaos that UberPop, and France’s taxi drivers, have been creating on the streets.

Spain and Morocco Sign Joint Declaration

Spain and Morocco have recently signed a Joint Declaration and other agreements focused on judicial cooperation, tourism promotion, water resource management and care for women, children and pensioners.

At the 11th Spain-Morocco High-Level Meeting at Moncloa Palace, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkiran reviewed the partnership that exists already between the two countries.

As Mariano Rajoy said, “Morocco is our main client outside of Europe, behind only the United States, and Spain is Morocco’s leading trade partner. In 2014, trade exchanges between the two countries hit almost 10 billion euros and more than 17,000 Spanish companies targeted the Moroccan market for their exports.”

Read the full story here.

Car Design Takes the High Road

With an extensive background in marketing in the motorsports and automotive industry, Dany Bahar of Ares Performance comes with an impressive CV for offering customers the opportunity to design their own cars.

Bahar launched Ares Performance last year.  Following his key executive roles at Ferrari and Lotus, Bahar set up his own firm in Italy specializing in the design of “bodykits, interior upgrades and power improvements.” Is anyone else doing this?  Well, it could just be the case that Bahar is one step ahead of the computer giant Mac.  In a recent article in Extreme Tech, Bill Howard suggested “the time is ripe for Think Different vehicles.”  He said, “Great things may come when the automaker, not just the design, is a fresh sheet of paper.”

But even with Howard’s idea, car design seems to still just be relegated to design technology in the dashboard, giving the driver “adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and lane departure warning,” etc.  Bahar, on the other hand, is offering something much more holistic. He feels that if one is spending over a million dollars on a top car like a Bugatti, they might not want to see another 400 just the same as it on the road.  He believes:  “Having something you cannot buy anywhere else is what fascinates clients. This was the main reason we launched Ares… to take, for example, a Bugatti and give it a makeover, a real makeover. We don’t touch what Bugatti is famous for: the engine, gearbox, fantastic aerodynamics. We give it a new look that is whatever the client wants so it’s a Bugatti but covered with a different skin.”

Today, Ares is providing clients with “unlimited personalization, tailored to perfection,” via its philosophy, ‘beyond performance, beyond design, beyond expectation.’

Small Business in the UK Want to Remain with the EU

A survey of 1000 small businesses in the UK has shown that they want to remain in the EU. They put this wish above taxes and highly skilled workforce desires. Their EU membership is a key concern of theirs with the new government.

Bibby Financial Services is an independent finance specialist that conducted the report. As their UK chief executive David Postings said, “The new Government must address the economic challenges ahead and create a stable environment for small businesses to flourish. The businesses we speak with tell us that this should encompass a reduction in the business tax rates and clarity on the tax regime over the next five years.”

David Cameron has pledged to hold an EU referendum on UK membership by the end of 2017.

EU Officials come to the Ukraine

Top officials from the EU recently met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to speed economic and political reforms. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrived in Kiev from Luxembourg and joined Mr Poroshenko and European Council President Donald Tusk to talk at the presidential offices. In addition to their talks, Kiev will be the location for the National Reform conference taking place today.

The bloc has, as of now, agreed to $3.7 billion in balance of payments for their assistance for the Ukraine. The EU has said it could eventually make up to €11 billion available through various loans and grants in coming years.

The EU is also expected to announce stepped-up assistance for efforts to clean up the area around the Chernobyl nuclear site. However, it is not expected that Mr. Juncker and Mr. Tusk will meet Mr. Poroshenko’s demands for an EU peacekeeping presence in eastern Ukraine. They are also not expected to accept the idea of granting Ukranians visa free access to the bloc.

Help European IPOs Says the IPO Task Force

Financial trade groups have started to lobby the European Commission to implement changes that helped to bring about the US biotech IPO boom. What the European IPO Task Force specifically wants is for politicians to slash the regulatory and administrative cost that is involved in going public by as much as 50%. This would help more small companies to stay afloat.

They have identified cost as one of the main reasons that companies haven’t been going public. Together, EuropeanIssuers, the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association and the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) have figured out that up to 10% of an IPO that raises less than $55 million is taken up by fees. And that this keeps the little guys from going public.

They argue that current legislation is designed around the top 10% of companies. They want a 50% reduction in fees and they want small companies spared from certain requirements. As Philippe de Backer, a Belgian Member of the European Parliament, said “Although Europe continues to build and grow businesses with the potential to be world class the failure of the IPO market to facilitate their access to capital hampers their growth and ultimately their potential to create jobs.”

E-Book Tax Raises Price and Hackles

The EU has recently ruled that e-books sold in Europe constitute an electronically supplied service and are subject to higher taxes (VAT) than physical books. This could raise the price of e-books in some countries.

This change will primarily impact France and Luxembourg. Ironically, these are the two countries that created the need for the ruling when they petitioned the EU’s Court of Justice to be allowed to sell e-books at the VAT rate of regular books. With the new ruling, the VAT rate in France will increase from 5.5% to 20%. In Luxembourg, the rate will go from 3.5% to 17%. Counties such as the UK and Germany, which already sell e-books at the higher tax rate, won’t have any affect.

France and Luxembourg both say that they will fight against the new tax. As French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said, “We will continue to push for what is called technological neutrality, meaning the same taxation for books, irrespective if they are on paper or electronic.”