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Danish report Danish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-08-10 10:52:08
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Long-time leader of Denmark’s populist party to resign

The long-time leader of the populist Danish political party that pushed some of Europe’s strictest immigration policies says she will resign next month to make room for younger blood. Pia Kjaersgaard, known for her anti-Muslim rhetoric, has steered the Danish People’s Party since she co-founded it in 1995, helping it become the Scandinavian country’s third largest political force.

Although in opposition, it held the role of kingmaker and helped secure the power of minority centre-right governments in 2001-2011. During her leadership, the party was able to push for strict immigration laws, which she claims stemmed the influx of radical Muslims into Denmark. The 65-year-old is expected to step down at the party’s congress on Sept. 15-16.


A bicycle superhighway in Denmark

It is the first route in a network of 26 bicycle “superhighways” that will connect the capital to its suburbs. Anchor Lisa Mullins talks to Frits Bredal, member of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation, who says the extension is just the beginning. “The superhighways, it’s an English term which doesn’t completely translate. It’s not like they built a whole new bike lane along the suburb of Albertslund into the city of Copenhagen,” Bredal says. “They’ve taken existing stretches of bike lane and connected them and made sure that mostly you don’t have to stop in front of red lights. You can just go all the way continuously.”

In addition to bypassing traffic and red lights, cyclists have access to air pumps every mile and there are foot rests at designated stopping points. These perks are just some of many ways that Denmark encourages a biking culture. It’s common to see everyone from businessmen in suits to young women dressed up for a night on the town using bikes to get around. “What’s unusual about the Danish biking culture is that it’s so normal. As opposed to most other countries, where you either bike to exercise or you bike as a kind of political statement to show you want sustainable transportation, in Denmark it’s not a statement to bike. The overwhelming reason people bike here in Copenhagen is simply because it’s nice and easy; it’s convenient,” Bredal says.

While biking may be more convenient than waiting for a crowded bus, the sheer number of cyclists in the city can lead to other problems like bike traffic. “You do have an enormous number of people and sometimes you do have to fight for your right and for your space on the bicycle lane here. It’s how many bikes you have, there’s simply a certain degree of bike congestion,” he says. But Bredal says it is a small price to pay. In fact, he is looking forward to welcoming even more cyclists into the city.


Danske bank hints at first post-crisis dividend on 2012 earnings

Danske Bank A/S may be able to pay its first post-crisis dividend on 2012 earnings, Chief Executive Officer Eivind Kolding said, after Denmark’s biggest lender delivered profit that beat analyst estimates.  “Dividends, if any, will probably be in the lower end,” Kolding, who took over as CEO from Peter Straarup in February, said in an interview in Copenhagen today. “Obviously we would like to pay dividends, but on the other hand we also have some capital requirements that have increased quite a lot, so we have to balance that; but I’m sure we’ll have a more balanced view on that after the third quarter.”  Danske is in the middle of a cost-reduction plan that will result in the loss of 2,000 jobs by the end of next year. The bank, which is struggling to compete with Scandinavian rivals such as the region’s biggest, Nordea Bank AB (NDA), has yet to recover fully from burst property bubbles in Denmark and Ireland. While Danske’s return on shareholders’ equity improved to 4.7 percent last quarter from 3.8 percent a year earlier, it still lags behind the 12.5 percent Nordea said last month it achieved in the three months through June.

Delivering a return on equity that matches competitor levels “must be our target,” Kolding said. “I don’t think we can get there in one or two years, but obviously that’s where we need to be.”  Danske Chairman Ole Andersen said in a March interview the bank targets paying a dividend some time before 2014.  The bank, which last paid a dividend on its 2007 earnings, today reported a 27 percent surge in net income that beat analyst estimates by the most since the first quarter of 2010 to reach 1.5 billion kroner ($250 million). That compares with the average estimate of 824 million kroner in a Bloomberg survey of 15 analysts. Expenses fell 1 percent to 6.6 billion kroner and net interest income gained 7.5 percent to 6.2 billion kroner.

“It’s a bit of a relief and a bit of a credibility test” for Kolding, Mads Thinggaard, an analyst at Nykredit A/S, said by phone. “It’s the second report for Kolding and confirms that Danske Bank is on the right path to a rebound.”  Danske Bank’s shares gained as much as 7.1 percent before trading at 95.10 kroner at 1:17 p.m. local time. The stock has advanced 30 percent this year, trouncing a 0.6 percent gain in the Bloomberg index of European banks and insurers.  Danske will shut down as many as 70 branches in Denmark this year, Kolding said at a press conference today. Danske Bank plans to unveil an overhaul of its strategy including its dividend and branch policies when it reports third-quarter results. Danske also plans to raise customer rates “soon,” Kolding said.

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