French lender SocGen to open Paris hub ahead of Brexit

Clearing in euro-denominated transactions has become a political battleground since Britain voted to leave the EU

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the French bank Societe Generale is seen on the Chassagne and Alicate towers by architects Michel Andrault, Pierre Parat et Nicolas Ayoub at the bank's headquarters June 1, 2017 at La Defense business and financial district in Puteaux near Paris, France. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo                     GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD    SEARCH GLOBAL BUSINESS 31 JUL FOR ALL IMAGES
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Societe Generale is opening a Paris hub this month to clear derivatives in the European Union in the latest sign of euro business moving from Britain to the bloc ahead of Brexit.

The French bank said the new unit would join several clearing houses, including the London Stock Exchange's LCH in Paris and Deutsche Boerse's Eurex Clearing in Frankfurt.

Customers were asking for their trades at the bank to be cleared in the EU, a SocGen spokeswoman said. LCH will be used for clearing credit default swaps, and Eurex will clear interest rate swaps (IRS), she said.

The French bank currently uses clearing houses in London, and also has clearing services in New York and Hong Kong, Reuters said.

The bank did not specify how many people it would be hiring to staff this new offer, nor whether it would be relocating employees from London to Paris.

Clearing in euro-denominated transactions has become a political battleground since Britain voted to leave the EU.


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It unclear what sort of trading relationship Britain will have with the EU after March, though Brussels has said it would allow EU market participants to continue using clearers in London if Britain crashed out of the bloc without an agreed exit deal.

"Societe Generale works with clients daily on listed derivatives and OTC [over-the-counter] clearing by adapting its offering to their changing needs within the current uncertain regulatory environment," said Christophe Lattuada, global head of prime services.

LCH's London arm clears over 90 per cent of euro-denominated IRS, and policymakers in the bloc want chunks of this moved to the continent after Brexit.

French central bank governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said last month the clearing of euro denominated repurchase agreements was already moving from London to Paris.

"More generally, we would like to see the development in Paris of an enhanced and extended clearing services offering in the area of interest rate derivatives," Mr Villeroy said.

LCH in Paris has no licence to clear interest rate derivatives, meaning SocGen will have to use Eurex in Frankfurt for these contracts.

SocGen has said it would relocate or hire as many as 300 staff in continental Europe, mainly in Paris, because of the Brexit.

The news comes as Britain's economy lost speed in the three months to October, reflecting lower car sales and factory stoppages due to weaker demand that business groups blamed on uncertainty about Brexit. Gross domestic product growth slowed to 0.4 per cent, from a strong 0.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2018. Monday's data confirmed that the economy's strength over the summer represented something of a blip, caused by a boost to consumer spending from an unusually warm summer.

"The latest GDP data is further evidence that the drag effect of persistent Brexit uncertainty and the significant cost pressures faced by consumers and businesses is taking its toll on the UK economy," said Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce.

Recent private-sector business surveys have suggested the economy is slowing sharply in the face of uncertainty about the terms on which Britain will leave the European Union. The surveys have shown that fourth-quarter economic growth could be as weak as 0.1 per cent. If May loses Tuesday's vote, the options for Brexit range from Britain facing major customs barriers when it leaves the EU in March to fresh national elections or a second referendum on leaving the EU.