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April 2008

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  • Banco Santander in Brazil has named Banco Real chairman Fabio Barbosa as the new head of the Spanish bank’s businesses in Brazil. Barbosa will take up this new role when Banco Real is legally separated from ABN Amro. Gabriel Jaramillo, the current country head of Santander in Brazil, will "provide advice and support to the office of the chairman of Santander". Jaramillo’s post will be filled temporarily by Jose Paiva until Barbosa takes over the combined operations.
  • Brazil’s Banco Itaú plans to open a Tokyo branch of its securities subsidiary, Itaú Securities, in the autumn. The subsidiary will become the first securities firm from the Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) to set up an operating base in Japan. The new branch will sell Brazilian stocks, bonds and other financial products to institutional investors.
  • Even though spreads for most foreign exchange products are often so thin that they barely exist, the use of transaction cost analysis (TCA) to measure execution is on the increase.
  • US investment bank Merrill Lynch has created a new infrastructure equities index, giving investors convenient access to the projected infrastructure boom in Russia.
  • Deutsche Bank is believed to have suspended two of its Italian FX sales team because of procedural irregularities. Sources say that Riccardo d’Antonio, the bank’s head of Italian FX sales based in London, and his subordinate, Santo Caristo, who was based in Milan, were told of the action in early March. Their suspension is believed to relate to a small loss incurred by one of their clients, which led to an abuse of the bank’s booking procedures. Deutsche and the Financial Services Authority, which held d’Antonio’s registration, decline to comment.
  • March 7
  • But CDO managers are paying a premium, especially in the US.
  • Measures to boost the competitiveness of Brazil’s exporters might well be fruitless.
  • All market participants must still confront the reality of near total market failure across the debt and money markets, an inability to sell even quality assets for cash or to borrow against them and a complete loss of faith between financial institutions. More public money is surely coming, but how can it repair this?
  • Are banks biting the hand that feeds them? Perhaps, but what choice do they have?
  • Don’t confuse a lack of deals with inactivity; allocations to private equity are set to rise.
  • As financial stress grows, economies weaken and companies see risks looming at every turn, insurers offer themselves up as strategic risk advisers. They must prove their risk engineering skills, upgrade systems, overhaul archaic industry practices and adapt to capital market investors seeking insurance exposure. Euromoney polls 255 leading corporations to fi nd which insurers and brokers are doing the best job.
  • More assets are yet to be hit in the credit crisis and, as leverage continues to fall out of play, liquidity will keep on drying up. Equity prices are bound to fall still further too.
  • Much is made of Ben Bernanke’s academic work on the Great Depression. However, the Fed chairman seems to making policy with one eye on the recent Japanese debt deflation cycle.
  • The credit crunch is inevitably limiting banks’ ability to offer supply chain finance services. But demand for these is set to keep growing, so the broader effect might be consolidation of the business into the hands of a few truly global banks. Laurence Neville reports.
  • The stellar returns from reinsurance that lured in hedge funds in the wake of the 2005 hurricanes have dissipated. But this won’t deter managers with long-term strategic plans, reports Helen Avery.
  • Shinsei Bank is to sell the headquarters building it inherited from its previous incarnation, Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan, in order to avoid booking a net loss for a second consecutive fiscal year. The ¥118 billion ($1.18 billion) sale is to a real estate fund managed by Morgan Stanley, and will help to offset the total of ¥32.5 billion of sub-prime related losses announced by the bank so far. The bank says it will rent the space for the next three years while it searches for a more cost-efficient base. This continues a recent trend of banks selling their Tokyo headquarters, with Resona announcing on March 11 that it is seeking a buyer for its Otemachi base. Meanwhile market participants wonder what Morgan Stanley knows about Tokyo property that they don’t: in addition to its participation in the Shinsei deal, the US bank bought Citi’s Shinagawa HQ in February for just over $1 billion.
  • Despite avoiding the worst effects of the global credit crunch, Kazakh banks will need to undertake reforms in the coming months if they are to regain trust and confidence, concludes Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Ekaterina Trofimova. She says: "The Kazakh banking system has reached a decisive point in its development, with the continuing turbulence highlighting the need for a deep transformation of business practices, strategies and regulation."
  • Investors looking for attractive long-term return potential could do worse than look at bank stocks in southeastern Europe. That’s the conclusion of a recent report by Günther Hohberger and Gernot Jarny, banking analysts at Erste Bank in Vienna. Entitled South east European Banks: Boom or bust? the report looked at the banking sectors in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, and concluded that overall growth rates for banks in the emerging economies of southeastern Europe versus the more developed markets in central Europe will be higher for the next decade at least.
  • The financing of Nigerian energy company Oando’s acquisition of a 49.8% stake in two offshore oil blocks owned by Royal Dutch Shell was due to close at the end of March, according to Wale Tinubu, the company’s group chief executive.
  • As part of plans to boost Moscow’s position as an international financial centre, the Federal Financial Markets Service has announced plans to exempt investment in securities from taxation. The proposal forms part of a strategy document covering the period to 2012. If approved, the FFMS proposal will come into force in 2009.
  • The Dubai Multi Commodity Centre Authority, which is owned by the Dubai government, is buying a 4.99% stake in Shariah Capital. The two companies are also creating a joint-venture investment company that will develop Shariah-compliant commodity-linked investment products.
  • Moody’s Investors Service has assigned a Baa1 country ceiling for long-term foreign currency debt and Ba2 issuer ratings for the Republic of Montenegro. All ratings carry a stable outlook. "Montenegro’s ratings reflect the new country’s growing integration with the European Union and the financial stability afforded by the use of the euro as the official currency," says Kenneth Orchard, a Moody’s senior analyst. "Among Montenegro’s main rating constraints are its lack of administrative capacity and relatively underdeveloped judicial institutions."
  • Credit Suisse and Gulf Capital, one of the region’s biggest private equity firms, have announced an agreement in principle to launch a strategic alliance focused on investing in the Gulf and Middle Eastern economies. Karim El Solh, chief executive at Gulf Capital, says: "Of particular help to us will be Credit Suisse’s expertise in leveraged buyouts, its global footprint, its financial strength and award-winning debt and equity franchises in the Middle East."
  • Market participants say that the borrowing binge by Russian banks and corporates in recent years could come back to haunt them, given the much tighter credit market conditions in 2008.
  • If Japan’s property bubble has already expanded and popped, China’s might be close to bursting.
  • The covered bond market has not behaved in the way investors had been led to believe it would. It’s time to realize that covered bonds are not the golden child of the bond family.
  • Despite the volume of high-profile mergers and acquisitions between exchanges, the number of trading venues in the US is an astonishing 55 and rising. According to industry consultant Larry Tabb: "The US financial markets are not just in flux; they are in full-out, no holds-barred, free-for-all radical change." Moreover, it is a trend that he believes is likely to be exported.
  • "The private equity party is over," says Kevin Dolan, chief executive of $5 billion fund of hedge funds La Fayette Investment Management in London. The credit crunch has made it difficult for private equity firms to take companies private, and that is good news for activist hedge funds, he claims.
  • The European Central Bank’s term repo window shows no signs of diminished popularity. With the European mortgage-backed market firmly shut, the central bank has continued to back securitization technology and extend liquidity for triple A-rated securities issued by Europe’s banks.