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December 1999

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  • Author: Pauline Loong
  • John Grisham got it wrong of course. Grand Cayman is not a place where private aircraft land at night and men in dark glasses deliver bulging suitcases of banknotes to dummy banks sporting no more than brass nameplates.
  • Bad vibes in Bishopsgate
  • Bad vibes in Bishopsgate
  • Bad vibes in Bishopsgate
  • The US could be in for more than a few surprises this holiday season as it unwraps the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 - its latest gift from Congress. It's a big bill with lots of attachments. Principally, it allows banks to conduct securities and insurance business under the umbrella of new financial holding companies and boosts the power of the Federal Reserve as regulator of these. Another outcome may be to extend federal safety net protection to lending for pork-barrel projects. James Smalhout reports.
  • Author: David Shirreff
  • Author: Peter Lee
  • Climbing Steadily From Behind
  • Author: Rebecca Bream
  • Asia 100 table
  • Author: David Roche
  • Take your pick: Latin America is a basket case doomed to a constant cycle of spurts of short-lived growth followed by economic collapse; Latin America is a continent transformed, with a healthy respect for economic freedom, a burgeoning middle class and an economy on course for convergence with the developed world. Michael Peterson reports.
  • A year on from the Basque separatists' ceasefire and the region is booming, led by Bizkaia, largest of the three Basque provinces. Its capital city, Bilbao, is upgrading its infrastructure to cope with the huge numbers of visitors to the new Guggenheim Museum. It's attracting international banks and technology companies, partly thanks to favourable tax rates. But Madrid is contesting these. Meanwhile ETA extremists remain a threat. Jules Stewart reports.
  • Author: Nigel Dudley
  • Author: Dominic Jones
  • After the summer craze for investing in all things electronic and e-commerce-related, things have calmed down on the surface in the US. Now the challenge is to make the investments work. The major stock and derivatives exchanges know they have to respond more forcibly to the myriad threats to their franchises. At the same time the start-ups and the investment banks which are equity partners must transform their ideas into reality while trying to avoid the organizational nightmares which have plagued the exchanges. The next few months are more likely to be ones full of frustration for both groups, reports Antony Currie.
  • Europe's largest telecoms operators have a new ambition. Having lost monopolies at home, they now want to build networks that stretch across Europe all the way to Vladivostok. Charles Piggott reports on the telecoms battle for central and eastern Europe.
  • The conditions are right to transform this year's steady stream of European bank capital issues into a torrent. That is good news for firms who see these finely crafted products as one of the last areas of value in an increasingly low-margin bond business. Michael Peterson reports.
  • Author: Antony Currie
  • Excessive reliance on short-term foreign currency debt lay behind the Asian financial crisis. Asia needs local sources of long-term funding to prevent a recurrence, especially with the banking systems still so unhealthy. Bond markets in a range of local currencies are springing up, with active encouragement from financial authorities. Peter Lee reports.
  • Euromoney editor Peter Lee talked to Donald Tsang, finance secretary of Hong Kong, during his hectic visit to the UK in November. Though he is finance secretary of what is only a special autonomous region of China, Tsang cuts the figure of a fully fledged finance minister on the international stage. He shot to worldwide prominence last year when, in an extraordinary step for an official from a freewheeling free-market centre, he intervened massively in the local stock market, buying up HK$118.1 billion ($15 billion) of shares in response to an attack by international hedge funds that was set to spread from the stock market to a devaluation of the Hong Kong dollar.
  • Most Asian economies have in recent months recovered strongly from the 1997 crisis. But there's a distinct lack of irrational exuberance among both borrowers and lenders. The irresponsible big spenders have been cleared away and the best credits don't necessarily want to borrow at all. Banks aren't exactly falling over themselves to lend to responsible corporates that survived the crisis because of their prudence and integrity. But their merits are increasingly being recognized. Peter Lee reports.
  • During 1999 there has been a steady improvement in investor sentiment towards Asian issuers of debt and equity. For the right deal, American, European and Asian buyers have all shown themselves willing to bid for Asian paper at competitive prices. For the most part, it has been only the top quality corporate and quasi-sovereign names that need apply. At the start of the year a highly successful loan for the Hong Kong Airport Authority and a debut euro deal for Hutchison Whampoa showed leading Hong Kong names reopening markets for the region's issuers. Even then below investment grade deals could be done, as the Philippines proved. Equity markets have been open, if highly selective, with offers from Korea Electric Power Co and China Telecom notable successes. An undoubted highlight was the recapitalization of Siam Commercial Bank which showed the benefits of full transparency. Luciano Mondellini reports.
  • The World Bank's mission is to alleviate poverty by channelling resources to developing nations - but without displacing the private sector. Instead, over the last seven years, it has concentrated on heavily subsidized financing for countries with ready access to private capital. 70% of its non-aid resources went to 11 nations - equal to an insignificant 1% of private sector flows. Funding for countries without international ratings dropped from 40% to less than 1%. Adam Lerrick argues that the Bank must transform itself from a capital-intensive lender into the designer of an intellectual infrastructure for the emerging world.
  • Two crucial meetings this month may settle the uncertain future of Bavarian giant HypoVereinsbank, in turmoil since chairman Albrecht Schmidt and merger partner Eberhard Martini had a very public row. Auditors, former board members and the Munich state prosecutor are embroiled in a high-octane war. It was born in the euphoria of German unification, brewed in the property slump of the late 1990s, and exploded into a battle of numbers that no-one can win. David Shirreff reports.
  • Triple-A Dutch bank Rabobank wanted to build a flourishing international business in London. Things didn't go well, not least because the local staff were given too free a rein. A crackdown had to come. Now Rabo's taken a new tack, an alliance with Germany's DG Bank. It could be a fruitful match, but negotiations are protracted and the final arrangements far from settled. Laura Covill reports.
  • People: Mark Collier, Chairman and CEO, Investia