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Market Monitor: EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK - Karsenti's first year

The first thing the new director general of finance did when he arrived at the European Investment Bank almost a year ago was to ask his four division chiefs about their strategic approach to markets.

Barbara Steuer, who covers Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and who had joined only a few months earlier from CS First Boston, replied that she favoured a flexible approach that might involve large, negotiated benchmark transactions.

This was the answer René Karsenti was looking for. His predecessor, Philippe Marchat, who had been in charge for 13 years, was less flexible. He liked competitive bidding. As a result, the EIB had an aggressive reputation in the market.

"One of my objectives," says Karsenti, "is to communicate even better with investors. I want them to say, 'With the EIB, the issues are correctly priced and well handled afterwards'. That is the image we must continue to develop. We have excellent placement with European retail, but we must strengthen our appeal in the institutional world."

In this respect Karsenti's debut did not disappoint. Last July, the EIB launched its first-ever negotiated deal, a successful Dm1.5 billion five-year bond, lead managed by Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, launched at a spread that was almost certainly tighter than a competitive bid would have achieved.

Banks prefer negotiated deals because they use a price-discovery process which means, theoretically, that the deal's spread should not widen and the lead managers should not be left with bonds on their books.

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