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August 2006

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  • Fix Protocol has issued a white paper on foreign exchange, after a 2005 survey by TowerGroup predicted a sharp increase in its use among market participants. TowerGroup found that 15% of sell-side firms and 25% of the buy side they surveyed were already using Fix version 4.4 for FX trading; this is expected to rise to 40% and 60%, respectively, by 2008.
  • Anyone investing in private equity now is making a bet that the business cycle has been abolished. Caveat emptor.
  • Grupo Santander, winner of Euromoney’s award for best bank in Latin America, has revealed plans to double its Latin American banking business with a $4 billion investment over the next three years. The region is a cash cow for Santander, which realized $787 million of profits in the first quarter, a 47% increase.
  • Critics of Goldman Sachs enjoy accusing the firm of being a hedge fund. But such accusations look wide of the mark given that Goldman’s Asia’s equity guru, Hyder Ahmad, has just quit to start his own fund.
  • The results of Euromoney’s inaugural structured credit poll provide an invaluable insight into what is often an impenetrable sector of the capital markets.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • “I’d rather put needles in my eyes than give you a mandate!”
  • 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.
  • Outstanding achievement award: Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow, Public Bank, Malaysia
  • 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.
  • Inaugural mortgage securitization is sign of a fast-developing market.
  • In a motion filed with a US bankruptcy court at the end of June, Refco announced that it had entered into an agreement to sell its retail FX business, including customer account information and related assets, to Gain Capital Group. Both parties announced that, under the proposed terms of the deal, Refco FX’s clients could recover up to 100% of their currently frozen account balances.
  • Mexico will issue its first 30-year peso-denominated bond in Q4, reflecting renewed confidence in the Mexican economy. Initially an auction of Ps1 billion ($92 million) is planned.
  • When asked what vexes him most in his dealings with investment bankers, Fabio Barbosa, CFO of Brazilian mining company Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), takes a few moments to think. He is certainly in a good position to offer an opinion. His company’s $1 billion 2016 bond was the largest ever Brazilian corporate issuance in the global capital markets; it has been able to issue cheaper debt than the sovereign; it comes to market regularly and leverages its global reputation and investment-grade rating to achieve extremely aggressive pricing on its bonds.
  • Despite a downturn in emerging markets, Latin American companies are eager to tap the developing hybrid securities market to raise money to recapitalize their balance sheets without affecting their credit ratings or causing equity dilution.
  • Hungary’s OTP Bank, the only bank in central and eastern Europe to entertain genuine regional ambitions, is turning its attention to Austria as it eyes up the possible purchase of troubled bank Bawag. “We do not know yet if we are interested,” says OTP chief executive Sandor Csanyi. “But we think that our experience could be very useful.” Austrian trade union federation OeGB is selling the bank after it recorded huge losses following murky deals involving its US partner Refco, which collapsed in October 2005. Refco’s creditors are at present trying to locate the US assets of Bawag.
  • Norway’s export credit agency, Eksportfinans, was the first issuer to take advantage of the Russian government’s decision to make the rouble fully convertible from July 1, selling a R1.5 billion ($558 million) rouble-linked Eurobond less than a week later.
  • Transelectrica is the country’s first utility to IPO.
  • G8 debt relief package will not constrain issuance plans.
  • Lebanon has announced plans to borrow as much as $7 billion by the end of this year as it struggles to reduce interest costs on its debt. According to Moody’s Investors Service, Lebanon’s gross debt had reached 727% of government revenue by the end of 2005, the highest level of any rated country.
  • SuperDerivatives, an online provider of option pricing, trading and risk management, is expanding its pricing capabilities on Latin American interest-rate derivatives products, a move that should help boost liquidity in these instruments. The firm has already rolled out its platform for Mexico and Brazil, and Chile and Argentina are next on the list.
  • The development of Latin America’s local capital markets continues apace following the first bond issue by a multilateral organization in Venezuela in 30 years. The bond, worth B215 billion ($100 million) and with a five-year maturity, was launched last month by CAF, the Andean development bank. It is the biggest non-government bond issued in Venezuela.
  • Almost non-existent a decade ago, Peru’s capital markets have flourished over the past five years, with the government and big companies such as US copper miner Phelps Dodge finding ample demand for bonds. Now the new government of president Alan García, which took office on July 28, aims to develop the markets further. There are plans to allow smaller companies to raise cash, develop a secondary mortgage market to unleash new funds to redevelop slums, and encourage pension funds to invest in productive industries, not just in sovereign bonds. “Deepening the local market in soles is going to be one of the pillars of our economic policy,” says García’s chief economic aide, Enrique Cornejo. “Our resources aren’t being put to work via the markets.” The barriers to smaller Peruvian businesses are daunting. Because many companies cannot meet the listing requirements of the Bolsa de Valores de Lima, Peru has launched only four initial public offerings with a total value of $40 million in the past 15 years, despite strong economic growth. The business sector is severely undercapitalized, with a total of $7.5 billion in debts, or around 10% of Peru’s GDP. A change in that situation is crucial to Peru’s long-term development, as small and medium-size companies generate 40% of GDP and three-quarters of all jobs in the country. However, these companies’ financing costs are up to 2.5 times those of big corporations.
  • “Bond of the South”
  • Argentine banks’ holdings of public debt are to be restricted to a maximum of 35% of their assets, the central bank has announced. The measure aims to reverse the crowding-out effect by inducing banks to focus on private investment. “This provides additional degrees of freedom to conduct monetary policy, increasing the systemic independence from treasury needs and minimizing the ‘fiscal dominance’ that historically characterized our economy,” says Martin Redrado, Argentina’s central bank governor.
  • 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.
  • Reuters and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange have announced the financial institutions that have confirmed their intention of participating in their joint venture, FXMarketSpace’s Early Adopter Program.
  • Electronic options market to open cash equity business in the third quarter.