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Archive for ◊ January, 2017 ◊

BRUSSELS Jan 23 The following are mergers under
review by the European Commission and a brief guide to the EU
merger process:

APPROVALS AND WITHDRAWALS

— Private equity investor Advent International Corp to
acquire industrial parts maker Brammer (approved Jan.
20)

NEW LISTINGS

— Swedish hygiene products and forestry group SCA
to acquire German bandage and plaster cast maker BSN from
private equity firm EQT (notified Jan. 20/deadline Feb.
24/simplified)

— Investment fund EQT Fund Management to acquire joint
control of Germany energy company Getec Energie Holding which is
now solely controlled by GEH GmbH (notified Jan. 18/deadline
Feb. 22/simplified)

— US investment fund HPS to acquire joint control of US
insurance broker NFP Holdings which is now solely controlled by
US private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners (notified
Jan. 16/deadline Feb. 20/simplified)

EXTENSIONS AND OTHER CHANGES

— US chemicals company Dow Chemical to merge with
DuPont (notified June 22/deadline extended to March 14
from Feb. 28)

FIRST-STAGE REVIEWS BY DEADLINE

JAN 25

— US medical devices maker Abbott Laboratories to
acquire US diagnostics company Alere (notified Nov.
29/deadline Jan. 25 after commitments submitted)

JAN 26

— EP Investment and EP Investment II to jointly acquire
Czech utility Energeticky a prumyslovy holding, as (EPH)
(notified Dec. 14/deadline Jan. 26/simplified)

JAN 30

— ArcelorMittal Distribution Services France and
Cellino to create a joint venture Steelcame Srl active in
industrial sheet metal workshop and steel distribution (notified
Dec. 16/deadline Jan 30)

JAN 31

— Hitachi Chemical Company and Italys Fiamm to
form joint venture in automotive and industrial lead-acid
batteries (notified Dec. 19/deadline Jan 31/simplified)

— Austrias Alpha Bank and investment management
firm Centerbridge to take joint control of debt management
service coordinator Kaican (notified Dec. 19/deadline Jan
31/simplified)

FEB 2

— REI Germany Cross Docks, a unit of NN Group, and
CBRE Group Inc together with Poste Vita to acquire
indirect joint control of over 10 real estate assets in Germany
(notified Dec. 21/deadline Feb. 2/simplified)

— Canada-listed holding company Fairfax lt;FFH.TO gt;and Sagard
Holdings, a subsidiary of Power Corporation of Canada,
to acquire joint control of sports good manufacturer PSG
(notified Dec. 21/deadline Feb. 2/simplified)

FEB 3

— Private equity firm Cerberus Group to buy majority stake
in Staples Europe from Staples (notified Dec.
22/deadline Feb. 3/simplified)

— UK private equity fund adviser Apax Partners to take sole
control of diagnostic service provider Unilabs (notified Dec.
22/deadline Feb. 3/simplified)

FEB 6

— TPG Capital to acquire majority stake in Intel Corps
cyber security unit (notified Dec. 23/deadline Feb.
6/simplified)

— Bunge to buy two European oilseed processing
facilities in France and the Netherlands from Cargill (notified
Dec. 23/deadline Feb. 6)

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Bill seeks more transparency from Hawaii tourism agency
Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Author:

HONOLULU (AP) — State lawmakers are considering legislation aimed at making the Hawaii Tourism Authority more transparent following concerns about how the agency spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to market the islands.

Democratic Sen. Glenn Wakai is working on a bill that would end a 2010 law allowing the tourism agency to discuss “competitively sensitive” information behind closed doors, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2km66JE) Monday.

Under the proposed legislation, the agency would be required to provide unredacted budgets to legislators.

The bill comes weeks after the agency was criticized by the Senate Ways and Means Committee for a lack of transparency as well as unsustainable spending and debt management.

HTA gets $82 million in transient accommodation taxes for marketing and operations and $26.5 million in transient accommodation taxes for the Hawaii Convention Center.

“We aren’t able to comment on the pending legislation until we have seen what’s been introduced,” Charlene Chan, HTA’s director of communications, said in an email sent by HTA’s public relations firm, Anthology.

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Upshifting on auto lending
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 | Author:

By Zach Fox and Zain Tariq, Samp;P Global Market Intelligence staff writers

Lenders of all stripes are working on increasing auto loans despite rising concerns about credit quality.

LendingClub Corp. and BofI Holding Inc. announced plans to enter the space, and some of the nations largest banks have made moves to increase direct loan offerings. Some of the developments underscore how dynamic auto lending has become ever since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a campaign targeting dealer markups.

LendingClub recently unveiled plans for an auto loan refinance product, and BofI Holdings direct auto loan product similarly appears focused on refinancing based on management commentary during a recent earnings call.

Concerns about auto loans have increased as delinquencies have ticked up and subprime lenders have faced increased scrutiny, seemingly making it a difficult time to enter the space. For example, data from credit agency Experian shows that 2.25% of all auto loans were 30 days past due in the second quarter, up from 2.15% a year earlier.

I do think there is a fair amount of risk, said Michael Tarkan, an analyst for Compass Point Research amp; Trading, who covers LendingClub. Sales are plateauing, prices are on the verge of declining, and credit is weakening.

Analysts from Piper Jaffray also noted the pressure on used car prices while reviewing regional bank exposure to auto in a Nov. 9 note.

[W]e continue to expect credit losses to broadly drift higher for all banks exposed to auto lending, the analysts wrote.

More from digital lenders

A spokesperson for BofI Holding declined to comment, but Todd Denbo, vice-president of consumer lending for LendingClub, said the company was not concerned about the state of auto loans in the credit cycle.

Denbo said the companys product has several defenses against the recent uptick in delinquencies, most notably its focus on prime borrowers and its limitation to refinance loans, which tend to perform better than purchase loans.

We think that this is actually a perfect time to enter with an auto refinance product given that auto purchases have hit records over last two years, so its a great time to reach out to consumers and reduce their cost of credit, Denbo said.

Beyond online players

The trend is not limited to digital lenders. The nations biggest banks seem eager to win more auto loan share, too.

Inside Mortgage Finance recently reported that Bank of America Corp. will have its mortgage loan officers closing auto loans. Terry Francisco, a spokesman for Bank of America, said the bank has always offered auto loans in its branches and has pilot tested increased involvement from loan officers.

Were making investments in many areas to increase our direct-to-retail auto loan capability, Francisco said.

And in April, JPMorgan Chase amp; Co. announced an agreement to become the exclusive private-label financial provider for more than 100 Maserati dealerships in the US

Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive financial solutions for Experian, said banks are increasingly gaining market share through similar partnerships. She said it is difficult to track the share of indirect auto loans but that there is growing chatter about banks looking for different models.

I increasingly hear from lenders that folks are exploring different channels, Zabritski said. We do hear some lenders talk about growing their direct business a bit more. A lot, though, it appears to be almost a hybrid-type scenario where it looks like a direct loan but it is still fulfilled through the dealership.

Indirect lending still dominates

Indirect auto loans often compensate the dealer via markups, where the dealer recoups a fee based on the borrowers interest rate.

The CFPB has issued multiple enforcement actions against lenders for employing the model, arguing it discriminates against minorities by charging them higher rates. That campaign has been highly controversial since the bureau does not have authority over auto dealers, and the agency has relied on statistical models to pursue the enforcement actions.

But Zabritski said indirect auto loans remain the dominant program, something that is unlikely to change soon. In fact, the auto refinance products offered by LendingClub and BofI suggest markups are very much still in use. LendingClub estimates consumers pay an additional $25 billion per year in interest due to dealer markups.

As for credit quality concerns, Zabritski is not worried. The increase in delinquencies tracks increases in subprime origination, she said. Further, subprime auto loans remain a small portion of the market and nothing compared to the subprime mortgage loans that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

In the second quarter, auto loan originations to borrowers with Equifax credit scores of less than 620 totaled $34 billion, compared to $100 billion of mortgage loans to such borrowers in the 2006 second quarter; auto loan originations to subprime borrowers are at similar levels to the months preceding the crisis.

All of the aforementioned lenders appear laser-focused on prime borrowers. Bank of Americas Francisco said the lender only targets prime and super prime borrowers. JPMorgan management recently said the company pulled back on 84-month auto loans, and the bank similarly focuses on prime borrowers. LendingClub also avoids subprime with a minimum FICO score of 640.

It would be a cause for concern if we saw rising delinquencies without increases in subprime, Zabritski said. The increase in delinquency is natural when we increase that portion of the business.

This article originally appeared on Samp;P Global Market Intelligence’s website under the title, “Lenders drive into auto even as credit concerns mount”

Download reprint of Samp;P Global Market Intelligence article

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RetireUp grabs funding from Annexus Ventures
Saturday, January 14th, 2017 | Author:

Chicago-based RetireUp, a provider of software for retirement income planning, has secured funding from Annexus Ventures. No financial terms were disclosed other than it was an eight-figure valuation.

PRESS RELEASE

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Nov. 08, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) Annexus Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on making early investments in InsureTech and FinTech companies, announced a new strategic investment in Chicago based developer RetireUp, with an undisclosed eight figure valuation.

“RetireUp is the best financial software for modeling complex product solutions in a simple, easy to understand manner for clients,” said Jim Richards, Annexus Ventures Managing Partner. “Through an interactive simulation, the client and advisor can test drive a variety of solutions. Together, they can find an approach relative to their specific situations and concerns that is in the client’s best interest. We are excited to support their continued success and innovation for the benefit of our entire industry.”

Annexus Ventures has positioned Jim Ferrell as the new SVP of Business Development at RetireUp. Bringing technology solutions to insurance carriers and their distribution channels is what Ive done for over 15 years,” said Jim Ferrell. “Its exciting to be part of an organization that is so committed and has the support required to deliver the full DOL solution.”

Annexus Ventures is actively developing partnerships with leading technology companies and intends to make additional strategic announcements in the coming weeks.

About Annexus Ventures
Annexus Ventures is a venture capital firm focused on making early-stage investments in InsureTech, FinTech and software companies. Annexus Ventures delivers a wealth of financial industry expertise, mature business networks and capital support to accelerate promising technology companies.

For more information, please visit www.AnnexusVentures.com.

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Nonprofit lenders often community development financial institutions, or CDFIs serve borrowers for-profit lenders dont: startup businesses and under-banked business owners in underserved communities with little to no credit. Many CDFIs offer business counseling and report to business credit bureaus, which helps borrowers credit scores as long as theyre paying on time. With improved credit, borrowers could be eligible for small-business loans from online lenders when they need a second or third loan to grow.

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Greenfield hosts free Medicare information session
Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 | Author:
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The following excerpt is from the staff of Entrepreneur Medias bookFinance Your Business. Buy it now fromAmazon|Barnes amp; Noble|iTunes

No one ever promised that the challenges to growing a small business would be minor. Entrepreneurs regularly confront issues that can threaten the very core of their companies, not the least of which is difficulty securing the financing they need to run and grow a sustainable business.

Finding capital is becoming harder for a significant proportion of small businesses, despite the wider variety of financing options available. Even though there are more lending alternatives for small businesses than ever before, a crucial step is missing and no one is paying attention, leaving business owners increasingly frustrated over their rejections for credit lines and loans.

The dream and the reality dont add up — a scenario confirmed by a 2015 Nav survey of 250 small and midsize business owners, which brings to light the struggle around bank financing, small-business loans, and the rejections small businesses suffer.

The realities small businesses face

The Small Business American Dream Gap Report found that despite the positive outlook for small businesses, nearly three out of ten small businesses reported finding it harder than in the past to reduce operating costs. Nearly a quarter of small businesses, meanwhile, found it harder to plan for unforeseen expenses. Within the previous year, the survey revealed, 20 percent of the small businesses surveyed said they had considered shutting down, primarily because of lack of growth or cash-flow issues.

Those kinds of struggles had led 53 percent of those small businesses to apply for funding or credit lines over the past five years — and one in four said they had sought loans multiple times. Yet 20 percent of those applying over the past 60 months reported being turned down, and 45 percent of those denied said theyd been rejected more than once. The most frustrating finding was that nearly a fourth — 23 percent — of these businesses didnt know why theyd been denied.

As a result, 26 percent of these business owners avoided hiring and expansion because they were frustrated with trying to access funds. Instead, they ponied up the money from their personal savings and used their credit cards to cover expenses and keep their businesses going, putting them at substantial risk.

In addition, the study determined that the last time the owners surveyed had needed funds, 62 percent had withdrawn personal savings, 22 percent had used business credit cards, 24 percent had used their personal credit cardsand 10 percent had relied on family and friends. Only 36 percent of those seeking funds had obtained bank loans.

Your business credit score is the crucial missing link

The study revealed that a primary reason small businesses cant obtain bank loans is their failure to understand their business credit score. Some 45 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed didnt even know they had a business credit score, and 72 percent didnt know where to find information about it. Even when they did, more than eight in ten small-business owners surveyed acknowledged that they didnt know how to interpret their score.

Education and empowerment around creditworthiness is a core issue that can make or break a small businesss ability to get financing. Many business owners starting out are unaware of business credit and may do significant damage to their credit without realizing it — primarily by maxing-out personal credit cards and/or credit lines because they believe they have no other choice. This short-term approach can lead to significant long-term damage.

Need more information about business credit? Consider the FICO score. Just as every individual consumer has one based on his or her personal credit record, every business has one developed by the FICO LiquidCredit Small Business Scoring Service — the FICO SBSS score. Banks use this score to evaluate term loans and lines of credit up to $1 million.

The score further rank-orders small businesses by their likelihood of making on-time payments based on their personal and business credit history, along with other financial data. On a scale of 0 to 300, a small business must score at least 140 to pass the pre-screening process the SBA uses for its most popular loan — the 7(a) loan.

If a business with a poor credit history — or none at all — is denied financing, lenders are not required to notify the owner of the reason for the rejection. Its crucial, therefore, for business owners to learn about their SBSS score and build credit with timely payments to vendors and suppliers to keep that score up. Boosting their score may take years for companies with a poor or nonexistent credit history, so the process of strengthening creditworthiness needs to begin long before they submit a credit application.

A number of business credit bureaus will generate a business credit score, including Dun amp; Bradstreet, Equifax, Experianand FICO. Anyone can request a business credit report from Dun amp; Bradstreet, Equifaxor Experian, but it comes at a price. Nav offers a free service that provides access to summary reports from Dun amp; Bradstreet and Experian, a personal TransUnion reportand alerts associated with any changes to business or personal credit.

Until recently, there was no direct way to access your FICO SBSS score, but small businesses can now get that number through Navs subscription service. Its the only place small businesses can get that score online.

Why this all matters

Ultimately, those who understand business credit are better positioned to succeed. The Nav study found that nearly 40 percent of small-business owners who didnt know their business credit score anticipated growth of less than 5 percent, while the nearly three-quarters who did know it envisioned growth of up to 20 percent.

Another answer to the perplexity surrounding rejected funding came from a revelation in the study about owners understanding of credit issues. The small-business owners surveyed who understood their business credit scores, the study reported, were 41 percent more likely to be approved for a business loan than those who did not. And they were 31 percent more likely to consider expanding their businesses.

Some 80 percent of those in the know about their scores, moreover, considered their funding process to have been smooth, and half of those owners indicated they were less likely to turn to personal savings to grow their companies.

Business owners, then, should determine where they stand and take control of the factors critical to the lenders, credit card companiesand even other businesses they work with. When owners understand their scores, they have an easier loan approval experience and are empowered to grow and thrive and help the overall economy thrive as well. That way, everyone wins.

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Timing is everything in marketing: make an offer too early and the consumer is likely to forget about your company when her actual need arises. Make an offer too late and that consumer is likely already someone else’s happy customer. For credit card and auto lending marketers, this issue is particularly important given typically low campaign response rates and the unproductive expense associated with making offers to consumers at the wrong time.

By Charlie Wise, Vice President, International Research amp; Consulting at TransUnion

The ability to identify consumers just before they are in market and shopping for new credit cards or auto loans can result in significant improvements in campaign response rates and return on investment. The question is: how can lenders easily and accurately identify consumers just before they are in market for new loan products?

A number of card issuers and auto lenders use inquiry triggers from consumer credit files to identify those who are shopping for new cards and auto loans. These inquiries are posted to the consumer’s credit report when she applies for credit, and are strong indicators that the consumer is actively seeking credit. However, as a call to action, these inquiries are generally not timely, in that the consumer has already applied for an auto loan or credit card. By the time another lender can see this information and contact the consumer with a rival offer, it is generally too late.

What lenders do not typically consider is using inquiry data from other loan types to predict demand for an auto loan or card. However, it is logical that there is an interrelationship between consumer loan types. The conventional wisdom is that consumers who are planning a major purchase and associated loan origination may defer taking out other loan types for a period of time, and then “catch up” soon after the major transaction is complete. If true, this may unlock a useful predictor of loan demand that could prove valuable to lenders in timing their offers. The most intuitive illustration of this dynamic is obtaining a mortgage to purchase a home.

To explore this concept, TransUnion conducted a study of mortgage borrowers to determine if their behavior before and after a new mortgage origination could predict activity on other loan types. The study looked at 16.7 million existing mortgage borrowers who originated a new mortgage — either moving to a new home or refinancing an existing one — from January 2013 to June 2015. The study looked at their behavior on credit cards and auto loans in the six months before- and 12 months after the date of their mortgage closing (the date on which the consumer pays off the prior mortgage and then opens the new mortgage).

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