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European Banks, Ex-RBS Bankers, MTN Counsel: Compliance

European banks, still repairing balance sheets after the credit crisis, are losing market share in the region’s commercial-property market as new lenders compete to provide credit.

Banks advanced 55 percent of European real estate loans last year, down from 67 percent in 2012, according to a report yesterday by Cushman & Wakefield Inc.’s corporate finance unit. Total lending rose an estimated 30 percent in 2013, the New York-based broker said, without being more specific.

New lenders moved in as banks struggled to sell or restructure loans that soured after the financial crisis. The number of debt funds and private-equity lenders rose 29 percent last year to 40, according to the report. Growing competition meant margins narrowed to as little as 3 percent for the best properties in Spain from 5 percent a year earlier, and shrank to 1.75 percent from 2.5 percent for buildings in the U.K.

Commercial-property loans and real estate-owned sales reached 33.7 billion euros ($46 billion) during the year, up 47 percent from 2012.

Faced with increased competition, lenders have been willing to advance credit in countries they had previously shunned. The number offering loans in Spain and Portugal rose 37 percent and 17 percent, respectively, while the percentage in the less volatile Nordic markets was little changed.

Compliance Policy

SEC Panel Opposes Planned Test of Wider Share-Price Increments

A group of investors who advise the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on market rules said the regulator should drop plans to test new incentives that would encourage trading in small-company stocks.

The SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee is meeting today to recommend the agency not conduct a pilot program to widen the minimum price, or tick, at which small stocks are quoted on exchanges. The trial program, which has supporters in Congress, would reward brokers for making markets in less liquid stocks by widening the spread they earn when buying and selling shares.

The recommendation is to be voted on today.

Some of the program’s supporters say wider tick sizes would promote trading in less liquid stocks and encourage more companies to go public. The SEC required all stocks to be priced in penny increments in 2001, after more than 200 years during which stocks were priced in fractions.

The advisory committee’s opinion is unlikely to stop plans for a tick-size pilot but could affect how regulators design it.

Compliance Action

Ex-RBS Bankers to Be Charged in Movie Tax-Avoidance Scheme

Former Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Jefferies Group LLC employees are among seven investment bankers who will be charged with using a film-production scheme to avoid 2.5 million pounds ($4.1 million) in taxes, U.K. prosecutors said.

The charges against 13 people relate to two film partnerships that allegedly submitted false tax returns so members could claim relief on losses, according to a statement by the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday.

Spokeswomen for RBS and Jefferies declined to comment.

British tax collectors are investigating whether film companies created movies that were intended to fail as a way to get illegal tax breaks.

India Antitrust Body Orders Probe of Coal India, Unit

The Competition Commission of India ordered a probe of Coal India and its Western Coalfields unit after a complaint that the companies abused their dominant position.

The complaint was filed by Wardha Power Co.

A report on the probe is to be submitted in 60 days.

Comings and Goings

MTN Names Gold Fields’ Michael Fleischer Chief Legal Counsel

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s biggest wireless operator, named Gold Fields Ltd.’s Michael Fleischer as its chief legal counsel, beginning Feb. 1.

Fleischer, who joined Gold Fields in 2006 and is general counsel at the South African mining company, will step down today, according to a Jan. 20 statement, which didn’t give a reason for his resignation.

He will lead the MTN legal and regulatory team, Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Dabengwa said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

MTN is considering legal action after South Africa’s communications regulator lowered the cost of terminating calls on mobile networks, MTN South Africa CEO Zunaid Bulbulia said in a phone interview yesterday.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Gold Fields regarding the sale of a stake in its South Deep mine in 2010 under a South African program to expand black ownership.

MTN, based in Johannesburg, is also facing legal issues. Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS, Turkey’s biggest mobile-phone operator, said in November that it’s suing MTN for a second time over the award of an Iranian mobile-phone license.

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