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Editorial: The empire strikes back

The panic’s over. We can all go back to normal. We’ve got it all under control. That’s the message now coming from the investment banking world as we wind down for Christmas.

It’s very different to the mood at the same point last year. Following the rush to invest in a variety of independent equities platforms in 1999, especially in the US, and after everyone staggered through the millennium bug, the focus shifted first to the credit markets and then to foreign exchange.

Banks made a series of announcements, first about proprietary platforms, and then about linking up with competitors to form multi-dealer platforms. The amount of people leaving to join start-ups has also slowed considerably, and is even flowing back the other way. At the end of last month, for example, Mike Hollings left to rejoin his old bank, BNP Paribas. He is by no means the exception; B2B, goes the joke, now stands for Back to Banking. No wonder that banks feel that they have done more than enough to see off the threat from the net.

It’s not the only industry that is leaning to this view. Car companies, book sellers, toy companies, pet shops, all are breathing a sigh of relief following the internet and tech stock market crashes of March-April and October-November.

In the US alone, more than 120 different internet companies have gone bust, including such former favourites as

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