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Supervisors put off finalising reforms to bank-capital rules

SOME banks find existing capital requirements too taxing. To no one’s surprise, on December 23rd Monte dei Paschi di Siena, at present Italy’s fourth-biggest bank, asked the Italian state for help, having failed to raise from the private sector €5bn ($5.2bn) in capital demanded by the European Central Bank before the year’s end. Three days later Monte dei Paschi said that the ECB had redone its sums—and concluded that the stricken lender faced an even bigger shortfall, of €8.8bn.

Plenty of other European banks—in far better nick than poor old Monte dei Paschi, which is overloaded with bad loans—are grumbling that they too may eventually have to find more capital. They have spent years plumping up cushions that the financial crisis showed to be worryingly thin, but fear that proposed adjustments to Basel 3, the latest global standards, will require more. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, which draws up the standards, had hoped to agree on the revisions by the end of 2016. It’s not there yet: on January 3rd an imminent meeting of central-bank governors and supervisors, to approve the changes, was postponed.

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Two big European makers of eyewear agree to merge

GIANT, cross-border mergers in Europe have been rare in recent years. Deals fail to happen even when mid-sized companies—such as family-owned and run specialist manufacturers in northern Italy or the Mittelstand in Germany—have the chance to gain global heft. For that blame founding owner-managers, many of whom are reluctant to lose control of treasured companies. Blame too an artisanal culture, particularly in southern Europe, in which firms’ owners say they are content to remain small and relatively obscure. Occasionally, too, nationalist politicians block efforts by perfidious foreigners to snaffle prized local brands.

Now, though, one of the largest-ever mergers in Europe actually looks set to go ahead. Luxottica, an Italian maker of fancy specs that was founded in 1961—it owns brands such as Ray Ban and Oakley—is to merge with Essilor, a spiffy French producer of lenses. The joint entity is set to combine Italian style with deft French engineering. The deal is supposed to be completed by the end of the year, creating a new entity with a market value of €46bn ($49bn), 140,000 staff and annual revenues of €15bn. It will be...Continue reading

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