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April 2013

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  • Most of us carry scars from the excesses of the debt-fuelled casino days. The acceleration, crash and burn of the 2005-09 period led to lost jobs, dwindling pension pots and puny returns on cash savings. But for some the great financial recession has cast few shadows.
  • For some of the highest returns around, the best bet is to invest in weed. Seattle-based firm Privateer Holdings is a private equity fund investing in industries that derive their business from medical marijuana.
  • Domestic Chilean market seen as saturated; Colombia the prime initial focus.
  • Following the second star to the right until morning might be wiser than listening to many central bankers. They may have put us all on a road to nowhere.
  • Long viewed as an under-performer, the nation has finally been rated investment grade by Fitch. How important is this stamp of approval to its economy’s development?
  • One of the most important political and economic breakthroughs for the Philippines came in October last year when president Benigno Aquino finally agreed to a framework for peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Muslim rebel group in Mindanao. It is hoped this will lead both groups to a final peace pact this year and allow for more inclusive economic development throughout the country, bringing thousands more people out of poverty. According to Standard Chartered, peace and political stability in Mindanao could add 0.1% to GDP growth at the end of 2013 and 0.3% by 2018. For the Philippines, the stars are finally aligned.
  • Someone always benefits from a crisis. And in the crisis-torn world of banking, the PR community is having a busy old time of it. Few, perhaps, are as busy as Giovanni Sanfelice of the London office of Barabino and Partners.
  • GT Bank targets east Africa acquisition; Standard Bank reaffirms Africa focus.
  • As central banks show little sign of turning off the liquidity taps, the markets are getting used to the idea that interest rates will be lower for longer.
  • January 2014 targeted for adoption; Moody’s boosts sovereign to Baa2.
  • By 2015, the establishment of the Asean Economic Community will lower trade barriers between countries in southeast Asia. The agreement will bring opportunities for increased trade and investment, but for Thailand it also means that in less than three years the country will need to grapple with growing competition from the rest of the Asean region.
  • The prize for strangest interview of the month goes to television-friendly Malaysian serial chief executive and football chairman Tony Fernandes. The founder of AirAsia and chairman of English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers turned up for his interview with Euromoney an hour late, with no socks on, carrying a plastic bag and wearing a T-shirt that he might well have slept in.
  • The flood of Chinese IPOs in the 1990s skewed the focus of investment banks in Asia towards ECM. With the near demise of this business, banks face the taxing problem of finding an appropriate balance between ECM, DCM and M&A.
  • In the ledger of economic recovery, reasons to be optimistic are neatly balanced by reasons to be pessimistic.
  • With Mexico in, market could rival Brazil’s; Peru undertakes capital markets reform.
  • “They needed a good kick up the backside” Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, on the post-crisis banking industry
  • “When you are getting 6% in high yield, something somewhere has gone horribly wrong” An investor doesn’t like what he sees in credit
  • It is not just the capital markets that are looking up.
  • The Kazakh banking sector is still burdened by a big non-performing-loan problem. Central bank governor Grigoriy Marchenko explains how the country is approaching the issue with more urgency and a more conservative approach to financial management.
  • Prompted by high liquidity and yield hunger, but appeal might be dampened by rising developed markets.
  • Public spat with Forbes over rich list; follows new CMA appointment.
  • Bahrain’s Investcorp has carved out a solid reputation over the past 30 years, but how is its founder preparing the firm for the future?
  • Competition Board rules on rate fixing; new curbs on consumer lending expected.
  • The country’s leaders and its bankers hope a renewed surge of infrastructure investment will deepen equity capital markets and drive regional integration.
  • M&A in Thailand has enjoyed unprecedented levels of activity recently. Hungry for assets, Thai companies are looking abroad for their acquisitions. According to UBS, M&A transactions involving Thai corporations have grown from an average of $3.7 billion a year to a record $18.7 billion in 2012.
  • Collateral damage from capital controls; Brazil’s policies criticized by neighbours.
  • Plan might founder due to federal stance akin to that for a wider Eurobond.
  • Fed thumbs up for Citi as JPMorgan stumbles; Citi’s Dickson says capital markets see increased demand.
  • Some would say that Orcel’s pay package is yet another example of same old, same old. So it was exciting to come across an example of the new paradigm in the financial sector. What do I mean by that over-used phrase? In short, a firm that is doing things differently from the discredited big-bank universal model. I have been seeing the name Berenberg Bank a lot recently: often in connection with research calls on European stocks. My curiosity piqued, I was pleased when a friend introduced me to two of the firm’s senior management. In mid-March, I met Andrew McNally, head of Berenberg Bank UK, and Hendrik Riehmer, a managing partner, to learn more about the business.
  • Increasingly however, bankers want to be seen as human beings and not as money machines. I was amused that even Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, is keen to portray a cuddlier image. In March, Blankfein appeared on CBS’s evening news programme espousing the cause of gay marriage.