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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.
  • 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.
  • In the ledger of economic recovery, reasons to be optimistic are neatly balanced by reasons to be pessimistic.
  • “When you are getting 6% in high yield, something somewhere has gone horribly wrong” An investor doesn’t like what he sees in credit
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • January 2014 targeted for adoption; Moody’s boosts sovereign to Baa2.
  • Public spat with Forbes over rich list; follows new CMA appointment.
  • 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.
  • Prompted by high liquidity and yield hunger, but appeal might be dampened by rising developed markets.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • With Mexico in, market could rival Brazil’s; Peru undertakes capital markets reform.
  • Domestic Chilean market seen as saturated; Colombia the prime initial focus.
  • It is not just the capital markets that are looking up.
  • “They needed a good kick up the backside” Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, on the post-crisis banking industry
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • The country’s leaders and its bankers hope a renewed surge of infrastructure investment will deepen equity capital markets and drive regional integration.
  • Competition Board rules on rate fixing; new curbs on consumer lending expected.
  • GT Bank targets east Africa acquisition; Standard Bank reaffirms Africa focus.
  • More banks could ease their regulatory capital requirements by securitizing loan or derivative portfolios.
  • April 2013 marks my seventh anniversary with Euromoney. During that time, I have watched, sometimes awe-struck, sometimes gobsmacked, developments in the financial markets. I have written about big banks, hedge funds, asset managers and the twists and turns of politics at these institutions.
  • The annual report for 2012 released by UBS in March demonstrated that its management continues to flounder, while offering perverse hope that the disaster-prone bank might be stumbling towards a sustainable business model.
  • 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.
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