Britain, France settle hedge fund differences: EU sources

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Britain and France are ready to strike a deal on the single most divisive area for European regulation of financial services, hedge funds, a series of EU sources said Tuesday.

"Everybody agrees to make an agreement," said a spokesman for the European Union's Belgian presidency, while another EU official said the final details would be hammered out in the afernoon.

"The main parties accept that Europe needs a deal to take to the G20 in Seoul," the second source said, referring to talks between finance ministers in South Korea.

The agreement, which leaves the vexed details of how to issue approvals for third-country funds to market their products to the EU's half-a-billion population for later, centres on a compromise between London and Paris allowing a new European Securities and Markets Authority to adjudicate in an "emergency."

EU finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg will be asked to give their unanimous green light after experts from Britain, France and Germany thrash out the last details, with officials confident there will not be any need for a vote.

The Brussels bid, led by France, to slap strict new curbs on the trillion-dollar hedge fund industry will then go to a European parliamentary vote next month.

Britain, home to 80 percent of Europe's hedge fund industry, has fought for months to ensure that funds based in Commonwealth outposts in the Caribbean, for example, but managed in the City of London, be able to sell to all of Europe on the strength of British regulations alone.

United States Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had warned in March that the legislation would amount to a protectionist onslaught.

Germany stressed during Tuesday's talks that rules for third countries did not just affect the likes of the Grand Cayman islands, but also powerful partners like the United States.

© 2010 AFP

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