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August 2008

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  • Armins Rusis is joining Markit’s executive team from Morgan Stanley as vice-president and global co-head of fixed income, alongside a founding partner at Markit, Kevin Gould. Rusis worked at Morgan Stanley for 17 years and was latterly head of US credit trading and global head of securitized and structured credit trading. Prior to that he worked in Europe, until May where he was head of credit trading. He was replaced by Patrick Lynch.
  • Moscow-headquartered investment bank Renaissance Capital has teamed up with France’s BNP Paribas to offer investors a diversified form of structured equity exposure to the Russian market.
  • It’s been a ropey year so far for Pakistan’s embattled stock markets but better news is on the horizon for global investors. Over the next 12 months, the government is expected to push ahead with aggressive plans to privatize a clutch of state-run firms, as the government seeks to cut into a current account deficit that widened to $14 billion in the fiscal year to end-June 2008, from less than half that a year earlier.
  • China’s National Development and Reform Commission announced on July 22 that it would strengthen approval requirements for foreign capital inflow in an effort to control more speculative investments. In a note analysing the potential impact of the changes, Qu Hongbin and Ma Xiaoping, economists at HSBC, say that the major changes include requirements for all foreign investments to seek NDRC approval, stricter reviews of the credibility of foreign investment projects and "the prevention of capital inflows that are not based on real investments."
  • Promising "a new exchange for the new economic world order", the Singapore Mercantile Exchange (SMX) aims to be the Asian hub of commodities derivatives trading. The exchange, announced on July 9, will offer futures and options trading in precious metals, base metals, energy, agricultural commodities, currency pairs, carbon credits and commodity indices.
  • When the US SEC announced in July that it would impose a 30-day ban on illegal naked shorting in 19 stocks, some hedge funds were up in arms.
  • As the woes in western banking continue, Euromoney thought it would offer its readers something to salve their wounds as they deal with the underperformance of their financial stocks.
  • It has always been a big contributor to investment banking profitability – and with credit derivatives in turmoil, the market’s importance is rising again. Total Derivatives, in association with Euromoney, polled the market to find out who is the best of breed in rates.
  • Investment into UK mortgage bank Bradford & Bingley by private equity firm TPG has been scrapped following a downgrade of the firm. TPG was due to invest about $350 million in B&B but had protected its agreement by including an escape clause that allowed it to withdraw if Moody’s downgraded B&B twice prior to investment. Moody’s downgraded B&B from A3 to Baa1 last month.
  • In-house hedge funds look to have been a costly mistake for investment banks. Far better, it seems, is to take stakes in independent ones.
  • In the new world of covered bonds, it really does matter where you come from.
  • The last of the traditional monoline insurance companies to maintain their triple-A rating are facing a downgrade.
  • Investors worry that proposed regulation will punish the European market for weaknesses in US sub-prime origination.
  • The market, it is said, is always right, but the performance of Icap’s share price is seemingly at odds with the company’s financial growth. Of course, Icap’s shares have been caught up with the general malaise affecting global equity valuations in general and financial stocks in particular but as the company pointed out in an interim management statement issued in mid-July, it has continued to benefit as a result of the continuing volatility in financial markets.
  • Bernardo Parnes has been named as the new chief country officer for Deutsche Bank Brazil. Parnes has more than 23 years’ banking experience. Most recently he was chief executive of Banco Bradesco’s BBI unit. Before that, he spent 14 years at Merrill Lynch. "Brazil is a key growth market for Deutsche Bank and an important part of our emerging markets business," says Dalinc Ariburnu, global head of emerging markets at the German bank.
  • Third regional development bank will have an initial $10 billion capital.
  • Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has an important decision to make in the coming weeks: whether social spending should take precedence over debt repayments.
  • The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, struck a new deal with countries in the Caribbean during the PetroCaribe summit last month. In order to adjust prices in line with rising oil prices, Chávez has proposed that member countries pay 40% of the cost of oil purchased from Venezuela. The rest will be paid over 25 years with 1% interest charged. If the price of oil rises above $200 a barrel, the members will pay only 30% within 90 days and the rest under new long-term conditions. Under a 2005 agreement, Venezuela provides countries in the Caribbean basin with oil at a preferential rate in order to "help the weakest countries".
  • The precise responsibility of parties such as accountants and administrators in the event of hedge fund portfolio valuation discrepancies has been of growing concern among service providers.
  • Do you find aspects of the credit crunch confusing? Fear not, all will be explained by US law firm Patton Boggs. In a recent presentation in London hosted by the European Securitization Forum, US attorney Talcott J Franklin from the Washington DC-based law firm was charged with explaining the implications for European market participants of the explosion in US sub-prime litigation.
  • It’s not often you overhear comments about commercial banks on the upper deck of the number 26 bus heading for the London borough of Hackney. Situated on the City of London’s doorstep, Hackney is known for trendy pubs as well as street gangs, drug dealing and general villainy. Banter on the number 26 includes, but is not limited to, sincere discussions on the merits of mobile phone models, kebabs, gambling and stern child-rearing.
  • One might be forgiven for doubting that an invitation to a pension fund conference could bring light relief from the doom and gloom of the financial markets. But a US fire and police pension fund conference being held in September might prove an exception. The California forum is called Guns ’n’ Hoses. If that isn’t reason enough to go, the "beer round tables" might be the clincher.
  • James Crosby, former head of HBOS, delivered his interim report on the state of mortgage finance in the UK to the government on July 29. But it does not make for good holiday reading. Despite outlining the extent to which lenders have completely withdrawn from the market and the effect that the shortage of mortgage finance is having on the housing market, Crosby emphasizes that his final recommendation might well be to do nothing. "I should stress that I may yet recommend that the government should not intervene in the market, on the grounds that such intervention would create more problems than it would solve," he says.
  • G8 ECM The number of ECM transactions from issuers in the G8 countries in the year to date has fallen 42% to 941 deals compared with the same period in 2007. The total volume of equity raised, however, fell by just 9%. Russia has experienced the sharpest decline in volume, with $3.5 billion raised via 12 deals and 1% market share, down from 9% in the 2007 period. US issuers, by contrast, have raised $143.7 billion via 269 deals so far this year, compared with $134.8bln via 496 deals in the 2007 period.
  • The bad news has been piling up at HBOS, but we shouldn’t call in the movers just yet.
  • Former GMAC chief executive Eric Feldstein has joined $13 billion hedge fund Eton Park as CFO; Jamil Baz, portfolio manager for Pimco’s global multi-asset fund, joins GLG as chief investment strategist; KKR has hired William Sonneborn, president and COO of TCW, to develop its asset management business.
  • US fixed-income trading volume generated by hedge funds declined to 20% over 2007-08 from 29% in 2006-07 according to Greenwich Associates. In distressed debt, however, hedge funds account for 95% of US trading volume. Lehman Brothers ranked as top dealer to hedge funds in the survey despite decreases in hedge fund trading share.
  • With returns of 27% over the past 12 months, vintage champagne investment is not to be sniffed at. The Liv-ex Champagne 25 index to the end of June outperformed even the leading fine wine index, the Liv-ex 100, which returned 8.5%. Since January 2004, the champers index has returned 138%. The best-performing champagnes, such as Krug, Cristal and Dom Perignon from the acclaimed 1996 vintage, are up by as much as 56% since last June. The rise in price is attributed to new wealth and new markets.
  • Luis Valdivieso was named as the new finance minister in Peru last month. After nearly two years as finance minister, Luis Carranza stepped down from office. The move was not a surprise and Valdivieso is expected to maintain the same conservative approach to fiscal and debt management. Many applaud Carranza’s austere fiscal policies and credit him with moving Peru towards investment-grade status. On the day of Carranza’s resignation, Standard & Poor’s awarded Peru an investment-grade rating, the second rating agency to do so after Fitch in April.