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Lines warns of global depression risk

Failing to “unlock” economies around the world within the next couple of months would risk a global depression, a Bermudian financial-services firm CEO has warned.

Scott Lines, the chairman and chief executive officer of LOM Financial Ltd, urged more debate on the financial costs of measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

“The outlook for the markets and the global economy, going forward, very much depends upon the steps taken by governments around the world, over the next couple months,” Mr Lines said.

“There has never before been an event that has resulted in the whole world shutting down in synchronisation.

“Unlocking business and individuals to be able to resume wealth creation is vital, as it is a fantasy that governments have resources or money. They have other people's money and, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, it can soon run out.

“Unlocking the globe will be critical in the next couple months or we could potentially risk a 1930s global depression.”

The pandemic and the lockdown would have repercussions that lasted far into the future, he added.

“Very little debate by either the private or public sector has as of yet focused on these costs, but the costs of the lockdown are real and they will have far-reaching and unexpected consequences,” Mr Lines said.

“It is, without doubt, that the world has gone into recession; what is unclear is the recovery and that will lie in a large part on the actions of various governments.”

Mr Lines's comments came in a letter to shareholders that reported profits of $1.26 million for LOM in 2019, down from $2.08 million a year earlier, as brokerage revenues declined.

Assets under administration rose from $954 million at the start of the year to $1.12 billion at the end of 2019, with all the firm's offices — in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas — seeing an increase in business through the year.

However, steep declines in stock market valuations in March and April have caused a consequent drop in LOM's assets under administration.

Mr Lines added: “Our current challenge is that, although we are able to keep our operations running using mostly remote working, we cannot grow under these conditions of lockdown and I fear that 2020 may prove to be a difficult year for the organisation.”

Markets around the world performed well last year, Mr Lines said, amid growth with little to no inflation and low interest rates, but “then the global economy got the flu”.

LOM's total revenues fell 8.3 per cent, while operating expenses fell 2.6 per cent.

Management and advisory fee revenue rose 14.1 per cent to $5.42 million, while broking fees fell 27 per cent to $3.84 million.

Net interest earnings rose 18 per cent to $1.65 million, while foreign exchange revenues rose 29 per cent to $501,541.

Employee compensation costs rose 1.7 per cent to $4.19 million, while commission and referral fees declined 7.4 per cent to $3.57 million.

LOM's net income broke down to 22 cents per share, while its net return on equity was 6.2 per cent.

The company's board of directors have decided to pay a dividend of one cent per share on May 15 to shareholders of record on May 12.

LOM's share price on the Bermuda Stock Exchange, as of yesterday, was $2.72, which equates to 73 per cent of LOM's book value of $3.71 as at the end of last year.

During 2019, LOM repurchased for cancellation 395,650 of its shares.

Urging crisis costs debate: Scott Lines, chairman and CEO of LOM

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Published April 29, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 29, 2020 at 9:00 am)

Lines warns of global depression risk

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