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August 2006

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  • Acquisition financing can always run into difficulties, as Axa found out to its cost last month when it printed its €2.25 billion equivalent hybrid debt deal at the high-water mark of volatility. The deal, which financed the purchase of Winterthur from Credit Suisse, was adversely affected by weak equity markets, high hybrid supply and by a surprise announcement by Generali that it would borrow an addition €1.2 billion of hybrid for an acquisition.
  • Building materials company Lafarge has become the first French issuer to issue an SEC-registered deal for five years. But despite the ease with which it did this it seems unlikely many will follow its example.
  • Electronic options market to open cash equity business in the third quarter.
  • We mentioned earlier this year how Marcus Browning, former co-head of FX trading at Merrill Lynch, had engineered a move to Citi, purely, if rumours are to be believed, to get some sustained training for this year’s Etape du Tour. Unfortunately, Browning failed again this year to get the gold standard handed out to high finishers in the event. Having finished a splendid 820th out of more than 7,500 starters, Browning has every right to feel slightly aggrieved.
  • According to TaraCapital’s summer barometer of European investors, demand for long/short equity strategies, particularly those offered by Japan and Europe funds, has fallen. More investors plan to reduce than increase their exposure to European long/short equities. Instead, investor appetite is growing for relative value, CTA and multi-strategy hedge funds.
  • Investors who might have hoped that their allocations to hedge funds would have provided some relief from falling equity markets in June must have been disappointed. The Hennessee Hedge Fund Index underperformed the broad equity market that month, falling 0.23 percentage points, a performance that was slightly worse than the 0.16 point fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the same period, and much worse than the 0.14 point rise in the S&P500.
  • 73 the percentage of retail investors who expect the FTSE 100 to end the year higher than its present level, according to a survey conducted by share-trading website ADVFN.
  • About a third of sell-side analysts could lose their jobs over the next two years as fund managers do more of their own research and independent providers gain market share.
  • Users of the EU’s clearing and settlement systems would like to see a firmer hand on the tiller.
  • EFG Private Bank has bought English traditional private client stockbroker Harris Allday, adding £2 billion in assets under management for the UK and Channel Islands. Harris Allday’s 27 client relationship officers will be absorbed into EFG but will trade as EFG Harris Allday.
  • Despite grumblings from hedge fund managers about the way they are treated by the media, a survey by Horizon Cash Management shows that not all of them are unhappy with the coverage. Forty seven percent of hedge fund managers surveyed considered press coverage of the sector to be unfair, but 46% thought it was pretty neutral.
  • Our congratulations to Elaine Bridge, a PA at HBOS Treasury Services in London, who won the prize draw for participants in our revamped Business Travel poll (go to page 85 to see what investment bankers consider the best hotels, airlines and restaurants in the world).
  • Complacency can lead to extinction according to Goldman Sachs’s key principles. The extent to which its bankers take that tenet to heart was amply demonstrated at Euromoney’s inaugural Asia Awards for Excellence in July [see Asia awards 2006 for more on the event]. As guests arrived for the pre-dinner cocktail reception, one sharp-eyed Goldman banker spotted an unfamiliar but evidently important dignitary entering the room, accompanied by an impressive entourage of aides and hangers-on.
  • HSBC becomes the first private banking client to sign up to SEI’s global wealth service. SEI has spent three years developing front-to-back-office products and services to aid wealth managers and individual high-net-worth clients.
  • Outstanding achievement award: Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow, Public Bank, Malaysia
  • The latest GDP figures from China make startling reading. First-half 2006 GDP grew 10.9%, with second-quarter growth accelerating to 11.2%, the fastest pace since 2003 when China’s economy last overheated. The news has reignited concerns that China’s economy is out of control.
  • You always need seat 1A, unless you’ve got a private jet. Your hotel room has to be just so. You’ve got a British Airways black card. Then you’re a travel diva, as Abigail Hofman knows only too well.
  • The results of Euromoney’s inaugural structured credit poll provide an invaluable insight into what is often an impenetrable sector of the capital markets.
  • Following the recent appointment of Robert Taylor as CEO, Kleinwort Benson Private Bank and Kleinwort Benson Channel Islands are amalgamating and will become known simply as Kleinwort Benson. The bank has also begun an expansion of its regional office network in the UK.
  • One year on from its prototype of efunding, Ekportfinans has launched the full version of its electronic funding platform, an innovative approach by the Norwegian export financing agency to operating its structured medium term note funding operation.
  • Private equity firm Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) has taken a minority stake in multi-bank trading platform FXall for $77.5 million. FXall declined to reveal what percentage of the company this represents, but in February, Euromoney revealed that the company, established in 2000 by a consortium of 17 banks, was in discussions with private equity to sell a stake of between 25% and 30%.
  • Further proof – if any were needed – of Russia’s increasing financial clout on the international capital markets came one balmy Friday evening in July.
  • If equity investors paid closer attention to what is going on in parts of the bond market they could avoid kneejerk reactions to what is essentially old news.
  • “I’d rather put needles in my eyes than give you a mandate!”
  • “As you can see, we’re keeping our operating expenses down,” jokes Nigel Harris, CEO of New Philanthropy Capital, as he ushers Euromoney into a cramped and bare meeting room in its LondonBridge office. It’s probably a far cry from the plush quarters to which he was accustomed in his investment banking days at Schroders but such frugality seems appropriate to his new role at a firm that seeks to galvanize the charitable sector. By providing detailed analysis of charities to donors, New Philanthropy Capital hopes to help them direct their money where it will be best used. “We want money to be better allocated,” says Martin Brookes, head of research, “and then hopefully the realization that this is happening will encourage more people to give.”
  • Anyone investing in private equity now is making a bet that the business cycle has been abolished. Caveat emptor.
  • The increasing focus on principal finance in Europe was further in evidence in July when UBS hired Andrea Perona from BNP Paribas. Perona will head a new principal finance business at UBS that lost three of its senior securitization team to Bank of America in early 2005. He was previously head of southern European securitization at BNP Paribas.
  • A week is a long time in politics; a month in European CMBS can bring an almost complete reversal of sentiment. The €10 billion of supply in July took everyone by surprise
  • Further welcome signs that Asia’s real estate investment trust investors are getting more choosy arose in July when Cambridge Industrial Trust relaunched its stalled IPO in Singapore with an enhanced yield to persuade punters to subscribe.
  • Results from the fourth semi-annual surveys of foreign exchange volume, published simultaneously by the US Foreign Exchange Committee (FXC) and UK Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee (JSC), show that the market is continuing to expand strongly.