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August 2002

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  • It could be crunch time for European convertible issuers as redemptions fall due with stocks at long-term lows. Others face the prospect of investors putting the bonds back to them. Yet again it's the telecoms companies in the thick of it all.
  • Bank regulators are getting tougher. There's no surer sign of that than when senior executives apologize in public. Sandy Weill, chairman and CEO of Citigroup, was the high-profile executive seeking forgiveness last month for his firm's dealings with Enron.
  • South Africa
  • What will the investment management industry look like in the coming years? What are the forces and trends that will shape that future? State Street’s David Spina looks forward.
  • Insurance
  • Issuer: Bank Markazi Iran (central bank)Amount: e500 millionLaunched: July 10 2002Bookrunner: BNP Paribas, Commerzbank
  • European exchanges
  • These are not happy times in corporate credit. Accounting and trading scandals, miserable results and defaults have produced dire results for investment-grade issuance. Now finance directors are doing their utmost to avoid suffering humiliation in the markets.
  • Business fashions never take long to change. But the current fad for one-stop shopping in financial services looks like being one of the shortest lived of all.
  • Russia
  • "There comes a time in every man's life when he must make way for an older man." Those parting words - scornfully delivered by a sacked member of the British shadow cabinet in the 1970s - must have been ringing in the ears of at least three ousted European CEOs in recent weeks. Jean-Marie Messier of Vivendi Universal, Ron Sommer of Deutsche Telekom and Thomas Middelhof of Bertelsmann will not be the last rock-star CEOs to go, but all three have been replaced by their seniors: Messier by former Rhône-Poulenc head Jean-Rene Fourtou (aged 63); Sommer by Deutsche Telekom management and supervisory board veteran Helmut Sihler (72); and Middelhof by Bertelsmann stalwart Gunter Thielen (59).
  • “I think we needed examples of bad governance to force people to change”
  • Forget about bulls and bears. Bulls are virtually extinct in this sorry-looking market anyway. What you need to look out for are zebras and lions. More specifically, any zebra in its right mind should watch out for preying lions around the next corner.
  • The recent equity collapse may well mark the end of the bear market. But I doubt it. Sure, there is a strong equity rally from oversold levels out there somewhere. And improving corporate and macro news will at some point drive it. But there are powerful opposing forces. Wealth destruction in equity markets, a plummeting dollar and rising risk aversion in debt capital markets will damage the global economy.
  • Spain's national treasurer, Gloria Hernández García, was caught in a rather embarrassing fix at a conference last month.
  • Mexico
  • Scourge of the establishment Ian Hislop kept the audience under control at this years Euromoney awards dinner.
  • Until the market debacles of the past couple of years investment banks had grown used to new doors to profit opening as old ones closed. That's no longer the case and in the absence of anything better proprietary trading seems to be back in vogue.
  • There's no shortage of clichés about Rome. Mention its name and several phrases will spring to mind: "when in Rome ... la dolce vita ... the Eternal City ... lunatic driving". It's good to see at first hand that a lot of them are soundly based on fact.
  • India
  • Project finance has been hampered by misperceptions of its riskiness — among bankers and regulators alike. Although its risk-return profile is better than vanilla corporate lending, the Basle II risk proposals could weaken the market further. Paul Ashley of Oliver, Wyman looks at the threat and possible solutions.
  • WorldCom symbolizes the pitfalls of the current market
  • Shareholders of Norwegian insurer Storebrand are disenchanted with DnB after it dumped the company at the altar. Did management lose its nerve as the merger loomed or is there more to it?
  • The travails of Credit Suisse never cease to surprise and enthral.
  • CBOT, which bars futures block trading, remains its strongest opponent – most recently complaining about a rival’s reporting-time rules. Is this an objection to deals that make the market less transparent or a backstop defence of CBOT’s pit traders? And can it hold out against a strategy widely regarded as vital to modern markets?
  • Investors reacted unenthusiastically to Pfizer's plan to merge with rival US drug company Pharmacia, sending the shares 11% lower. It's not that the deal doesn't make sense but in today's volatile markets any bold move is frowned upon.
  • Restructuring, cost-cutting and consolidation have enabled some emerging-market banks to post growth and profits that set them apart from stagnant global rivals.
  • In the face of the most volatile markets in many people’s working lives, investors in the west are looking for safe havens away from New York and London. Is Asia the answer? Some market players think so. “There is something very special about Asia,” says one. Others label the region a perennial basket case. Who’s right?
  • Italy’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, is engineering major changes in the management of the country’s assets and liabilities. His goal: tax and spending cuts. Can he pull off this double feat? Probably not, but positive things may still emerge from his efforts.
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