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April 2005

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LATEST ARTICLES

  • In global terms, the Nordic region does not register highly in private banking. In fact, industry consultants estimate the size of the whole Nordic private banking market is still smaller than that of Spain. This has discouraged international banks from establishing businesses there, and has left the Nordic banks and their private banking arms to fight it out for the small customer base. But it's a growth market. The number of affluent Nordic individuals is estimated to be set to increase by some 5% by 2007. Banks are trying to develop a pan-Nordic presence to attract as many of these clients as possible. In addition, the Nordic private banks are realizing the importance of pushing out to the rest of Europe and Asia to serve ex-pats and even compete for non-Nordic clients. Euromoney asks the heads of the private banking businesses of SEB and Nordea how they are managing for growth.
  • The SEC has amended legislation in a belated effort to clamp down on naked short selling. But it remains under pressure from a lobby group that ranges from senators to lawyers, and management to shareholders, who believe the new rules are having little effect.
  • Definitions for: Naked short selling; Illegal naked short selling; Stock borrow programme; Fail to deliver; Margin account stock; Market maker; OTC Bulletin Board; Pink Sheets; DTCC; NSCC; Freiverkehr; Regulation SHO; Threshold Securities List; NASD Rule 3370.
  • Academic research into delivery failures in the US cash equity and options market support the idea that prior to Reg SHO, market makers deliberately failed to deliver securities in a strategic way.
  • The tussle between liberals and dirigiste conservatives in Russia's ruling circles shows no signs of subsiding. Analysts are uncertain of the meaning of it all. The dismemberment of Yukos was a clear manifestation of the conservative line but there are indications that liberal intransigence is winning back ground
  • Restrictions hindering participation by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in India's burgeoning equity derivatives market are slowly being lifted. The Indian finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced in his budget speech in late February that FIIs can offer stocks instead of cash as collateral to trade in equity derivatives. That permits FIIs to put their holdings of Indian stock, worth over Rs34 billion ($777 million) in total, to use, and allows them to participate in a bigger way in the derivatives market. Putting up stocks instead of cash as collateral will help reduce the cost of arbitrage between the cash and futures markets, an area where foreign institutional investors are particularly active, says Mahesh Bhagwat, vice president at ICICI Securities, a large brokerage. Those opportunities for arbitrage have been profitable over the past year when futures have generally traded at a premium to prices in the cash market, he points out. "Even though prices of stocks FIIs hold have doubled over the last year, putting them in profit in the cash market, they must pay higher cash margins on their positions in the futures market," Bhagwat explains.
  • www.breakingviews.com
  • What do the European Union's new rules on curbing pollution mean for utilities? The plans to cut carbon emissions over the next seven years to sub-1990 levels will hit the biggest polluters hardest. Utilities account for about a third of European carbon emissions.
  • Having recorded a loss of €1.5 billion in 2001 and been bought out by Permira in 2003, pay-TV operator Premiere has now completed the most successful IPO of a Germany company since 2000
  • It is hard to see how Paul Wolfowitz will be able to run the World Bank, at least in his first couple of years there. His only supporters seem to be people who think the Bank is in need of a radical shake-up. That, however, is the last thing the Bank needs: it is only now recovering from years of turmoil at the beginning of the tenure of Wolfowitz's predecessor, James Wolfensohn. But Wolfowitz comes from a US administration (where he is currently deputy secretary of defence) that has been very unhappy with the Bank, and he has surely been charged with changing things.
  • Celebrated as Latin America's success story, Chile has cut a path to prosperity that other impoverished, turbulent nations in the region can only envy. While Argentina recovers painfully from its debt default, the world's biggest, and Mexico and Brazil struggle to reform their economies, Chile looks ever closer to leaving behind its emerging-market status and becoming a developed economy. Its budget surplus hit its highest level in eight years in 2004, rising to 2.2% of GDP, and economic growth was almost 6%, the highest in seven years. At the same time, Chile's trade surplus has widened significantly and its country risk continues to diminish.
  • Successful foreign involvement in Brazilian investment banking demands some sort of venture with one of the local firms that dominate the market. Banco Pactual is among the most successful of these and Goldman Sachs seems to have recognized this.
  • Panama's president, Martin Torrijos, came in for a nasty surprise when he took over the helm of central America's biggest debtor late last year. He inherited a hefty fiscal deficit of 5.2% of GDP that the outgoing government had maintained was half as big, and was met with street riots among workers suspicious that the new administration planned to privatize the state-run social security system. Panamanian debt sank sharply at the start of 2005 amid fears that the young government would not be up to the challenge of reforming the dollar-denominated economy, once seen as a safe haven credit in volatile Latin America. Panama's global 27 bond sold off almost 2.5% at the start of January and the paper fell to its support level of 105.00.
  • www.breakingviews.com
  • www.breakingviews.com
  • Henry Blodget ponders what the lessons of the 1990s have taught us and concludes that there's nothing like hindsight to blind us to the truth
  • Foreign banks are racing to enter the Serbian banking market, one of the few in eastern Europe that still has large assets up for sale and strong potential for growth. Austria's Raiffeisen has stolen a march on its rivals but Italian and Greek banks are eager to build up business.
  • Hungary's economy is growing well, with relatively low unemployment and high foreign direct investment. But the government budget deficit is running far above EU criteria and there are divided counsels on how to control it.
  • Americans are poor exporters. A falling dollar can't change that. What with globalization, low-cost rivals and the downplaying of the greenback, a collapse rather than an adjustment looks likely.
  • Until the advent of the European IAS39 accounting standard at the beginning of the year Spanish reporting requirements for derivatives were relatively relaxed. Now, though, companies will have to lift the lid on derivative transactions, causing pain for some of them.
  • Ukraine is enjoying a huge re-evaluation in the eyes of outsiders, thanks to its Orange Revolution. President Viktor Yushchenko has set out an ambitious and investor-friendly reform programme but it is not clear that the government is capable of implementing it.
  • With the Russian state rolling back the liberalization of the economy – notably in its dealings with oil company Yukos – investment banks are faced with a dilemma. They must sometimes decide between defending the rights of private investors and forging and maintaining relations with the Kremlin in the hope of attracting current and future business. It's a tough choice.
  • Can Egypt's reformist government meet its promises to reduce the state's economic role while attracting more FDI?
  • Some 90% of trading of spot currencies in the interbank FX market is expected to be done electronically by 2007, up from today's level of 60%, according to new research. Boston-based research and consultancy firm Celent Communications also predicts that dealer-to-client volumes will be 70% electronically traded over the same period, up from 43% now. The inter-dealer spot market, which trades $301 billion a day, has historically had a higher adoption rate of electronic trading than the dealer-to-client market.
  • The US government should reinstate new issuance of the 30-year bond, and sell up to $20 billion by year end. So says Mustafa Chowdhury, head of US rates strategy for Deutsche Bank. "If they weren't to start until the third or fourth quarter this year, $10 billion would be a decent number," he says. Chowdhury is not alone in wanting to see a return of the 30-year bond, issuance of which was suspended in 2001. Strategists and economists across the US have been arguing in favour of it recently, and whether and when the government might return to the 30-year is a standard question whenever administration officials appear at Bond Market Association events. Joshua Bolten, head of the Office of Management and Budget, was most recently on the receiving end at such an event in February. He sidestepped it, stating it wasn't his department.
  • Oracle is at it again. In early March, just weeks after concluding its takeover of PeopleSoft, one of the most acrimonious, and at times personal, hostile takeovers in years, the enterprise software company jumped back on the hostile acquisition trail.
  • The lure of EU membership is encouraging Romania's recently elected government to tackle corruption and rationalize the currency and taxation regimes. If foreign investment is any indication, the reforms are working.
  • MOL, Hungary's expansive oil major, has become a leading downstream force in neighbouring markets. Now it is seeking new production sources to feed these regional markets.
  • With lending to small and medium-size enterprises and the provision of retail products the fastest-growing and most lucrative parts of Romania's financial services sector, banks are slogging it out for market share.
  • Bob Diamond is on the verge of a sporting hat trick. The Barclays Capital CEO's run of success started last October when the Boston Red Sox beat the infamous Curse of the Bambino to win baseball's World Series. They had last won in 1918.