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Austrian report Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-09-02 07:19:36
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Volksbanken triples H1 pre-tax profit

Partly nationalised Austrian lender Volksbanken AG tripled first-half profit before tax to 49 million Euros ($61.2 million) as it tries to shrink back to health. The bank said group net profit doubled to 14 million as risk provisions and administrative costs fell. It reported its tier 1 capital ratio rose to 11.3 percent at the end of June from 8.8 percent at the end of 2011 as recapitalisation measures kicked in.

Its balance sheet shrank by 10.6 billion Euros from the end of 2011 to 30.5 billion at the end of June, primarily as a result of the sale of its eastern European arm VBI. In April, Austria took a 43 percent stake in the lender as part of a rescue that cost the state more than 1 billion Euros in write downs on previous aid, fresh capital and guarantees. The bank has been paring back activities and selling non-core assets.

Impairments on businesses in Eastern Europe, losses on Greek debt and other bad loans hammered Volksbanken, which failed last year's European stress tests and lost 1.35 billion Euros in 2011. Its regional banks owners also injected fresh funds to keep a majority stake in VBAG. The shake-up curtailed the roles of other shareholders DZ Bank, Ergo and Raiffeisen Zentralbank.


Freedom Party condemned for Nazi-like cartoon

A far-right Austrian politician has caused anger after posting a cartoon on Facebook, likened to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. Heinz-Christian Strache posted a caricature of a banker with a hooked nose, wearing Star of David cufflinks. Austrian Jewish leader Oskar Deutsch likened it to images used by the Nazis in the 1930s. Mr Strache, who leads the Freedom Party, has denied he was being anti-Semitic. The cartoon was posted on Saturday, accompanied by a comment from Mr Strache decrying "EU banking speculators" for taking tax money from Austrians.

On Sunday Mr Strache posted a second version, labelled in English. The Star of David emblems had been removed from the banker's cufflinks and the shape of his nose had also been changed. Both images show another figure labelled "The Government" pouring a drink for the banker, while a third, poorly clothed and thin figure labelled "The People", sits opposite the banker with a bone on his plate. "It is not a coincidence that a caricature of Jews, similar to the ones in 'Der Stuermer' in the 1930s and 1940s, appeared on the Facebook page of Freedom Party leader Mr Strache," Mr Deutsch said, referring to a newspaper published by the Nazis.

Austrian politicians from both centre-left and conservative parties have condemned the cartoon. The conservative People's Party called on the Freedom Party (FPO) to address "the incendiary and discriminating tones within the party itself". A lawyer in Vienna has also said he will sue the FPO for holocaust denial, which is illegal in Austria. Mr Strache and the FPO have frequently faced accusations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.


Billionaire car boss joins Austrian political race

A new headline grabber has emerged on the Austrian political stage. He’s Frank Stronach, an 80-year-old auto parts magnate who’s launched a new party that seeks control of the government – and an end to the euro. Frank Stronach was born not far from Graz, the location of the Austrian production arm of Magna International, a company Stronach formed in Canada after emigrating as a young man.

Stronach made millions in Canada in the auto parts industry, only to return in the 1980s to Austria where he made many more millions.

But as new cars continue to roll off production lines at Magna Steyr in Graz, and parts are assembled at factories belonging to Magna International in 26 countries around the globe, Stronach is now concentrating his efforts on the upcoming general election in Austria.

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Emanuel Paparella2012-09-02 11:28:40
What a wonderful oxymoron and what an embarassment for the EU: the freedom party of Austria advocating anti-semitism in the name of the people!

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