Keith Horn, Merrill Lynch
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Keith Horn, Merrill Lynch

Different ways to skin a cat

The first thing to notice about Keith Horn is his giant cufflinks. They are shaped like old-fashioned taps with "Barber Wilson's, London 1905" written on them. One says "hot", the other "cold".

A birthday present from his sister, Horn says that no item of clothing has ever received so much attention. But do they turn on the deals? "It's not as easy as that," says Horn, who admits his first year as Merrill's Latin American capital-markets boss has been frustrating. He took up the position in June 1997 just months before October's turmoil put many Latin issuance plans on hold. But Horn has encountered market resistance to his career before - he joined Merrill from a Wall Street law firm just ahead of the 1987 stock market crash - and is unfazed.

The high point of the year has been the spread-adjusted notes, with a resettable coupon, done for Argentina last December. While several houses lay claim to being the innovators of this structure, Merrill's is strong as its deal was first in the recent series. Horn says that Merrill used a similar structure itself to raise money in the early 1990s when the firm was experiencing growing pains but was confident of future improvements.

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