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February 1997

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  • As the fear of interest rate rises threatens virtually every market in the world from sovereign bonds to high-tech stocks to emerging market securities investors may no doubt be wondering where they can seek refuge.
  • The governments of Asia have never trusted financial markets. They view stock exchanges as little better than Chinese gambling dens, and find it hard to comprehend that bond, foreign exchange and money markets are any less dominated by wild speculation. As a result, the regulatory and tax environment for financial markets in Asia is still rooted in the 1960s. Banking systems are rigged in a such a way that banks are forced to provide cheap finance for industry, and allowed little room to develop. The biggest Asian economies have progressed remarkably in technical and managerial competence in the past 20 years, but their financial industries remain appallingly backward.
  • Operation "Chow-mien" sees Ingersoll and Komarovsky at the Club Hot Lips and points east, on a quest vital to the bottom line.
  • Two years ago in the wake of the Mexican peso crisis, Latin American issuers were unable to raise even short-term debt. Now a Chilean credit has launched the continent's first 100-year bond obtaining the tightest pricing for an emerging market issuer in this niche area. Strong demand for the bonds of electricity generator Endesa pushed up the size of last month's issue from $170 million to $200 million.
  • Malaysia's central bank is a major force behind banking consolidation. Though cautious about repeating past mistakes, it is taking measures to ensure that Malaysian institutions can compete regionally and fend off foreign competition at home. The country's bankers have not been backward in acting on the pressure from above. Maggie Ford reports.
  • Asia's two leading financial centres, Hong Kong and Singapore, are competing as gateways to the region. They're also learning to cooperate to keep their markets clean. But maybe they're acting too tough. Some bankers fault Singapore's Monetary Authority for responding more like the Delphic oracle than a regulator. Even Hong Kong's once laissez faire regime is getting over-paternalistic, say others, although the local vice of "rat trading" is not quite dead. David Shirreff reports.
  • "Cedel Bank to consider going public." That was the rumour during the second week of January. Wouldn't every important lead manager vie for this IPO mandate? However, the likelihood of Cedel Bank going public is about the same as that of Euroclear, operated by JP Morgan for almost 30 years?
  • Investment banks see Asia as the next big market, so the largest ones have all established derivatives operations in the main centres. That means fierce competition ­ but it's a fight for relatively thin demand. Regulators in some countries restrict use and local exchanges are undeveloped. But growth has come in surrogate markets and such instruments as covered warrants in Hong Kong. Antony Currie reports.
  • "Much may be made of a Scotchman if he be caught young." So Dr Johnson had it. In the case of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), an institution founded by Scots and still governed by one, it has grown to be the world's most profitable financial group. The unique international officer culture that has driven it –­ young men caught young, trained up, messed together, posted, reposted, in the bank for life and rarely back in the UK ­ will have to change, but it's bending and adapting rather than breaking. Steven Irvine reports on its fitness for the 21st century.
  • Floating-rate notes reign supreme in Asia. Whatever kind of product gets issued, the chances are it will be swapped back into FRNs ­ the favoured investment of the region's banks. They show no sign of changing their tastes and the successful development of fixed income will require a new class of investor. Brian Caplen reports on this and other challenges to the Asian bond market.
  • International investors hoping for rapid changes to China's financial system will be disappointed. The quick fix is not Beijing's style. Nevertheless, the slow-but-sure approach is producing encouraging results, as Sophie Roell reports.
  • Brokers' analysts in Asia have been arrested for taking their duties too seriously. But that's a minor reason for the poor quality of the region's research. Corporate disclosure is limited and accounting standards are poor. And analysts are young, inexperienced, harassed by overmighty corporate finance departments and intent on careers outside research. By Michael Steinberger.
  • The key figure in China's financial reform process is Zhu Rongji, vice-premier in charge of the economy and a 68-year-old often described in western media as China's economic tsar. Though keeping a somewhat lower profile over the past year, his role as overseer of the financial reforms thus far implemented has been crucial.
  • Over the past two years, many Asian investors ­ from central banks to small Korean financial institutions ­ have suddenly become a driving force in international bond markets. Who are they? And what do they like to buy? Garry Evans reports.
  • The culture that powers HongkongBank
  • The culture that powers HongkongBank
  • The big screen portrayal of Grand Cayman as a den for criminals, has among other things prompted an international conference to plug the British dependent's impeccable credentials.
  • Five Go To Swapland won't be the title of Carolyn Jackson's forthcoming novel, but according to her latest forecast it will be about "a bunch of guys having fun during the formative years of the swap market".
  • For several months, lawyers have been fretting over the prospective introduction of Emu. Why? Christopher Stoakes explains.
  • Hillboot Intergalactic Asset Management,
  • With economic growth still running apace Asian economies are hard-pressed to maintain and develop infrastructure. Project finance deals, in an increasingly private-sector context, are hotly contested by banks, but countries in the region vary widely in their ability to undertake them. Gill Baker reports.
  • Europe is changing. Against all expectations, the advent of a single European currency, backed by a strong fiscal "Stability and Growth Pact", could prove the catalyst for a much more efficient corporate sector. Despite the economic absurdity of the Maastricht criteria, the struggle to meet them is producing what Europe needs most a smaller government take from national income.
  • Issuer: Republic of Austria
  • Kevin Keegan, manager of super-glamorous football team Newcastle United, was forced to resign in January, not by outraged fans or lacklustre performance, but by a new force in the game: investment bankers. Keegan had quietly agreed with his board to quit in May. However, Newcastle was preparing a stock exchange flotation and its bankers insisted the information had to be in the prospectus. Such a bombshell, it was realized, would have destabilized the float. Keegan took an early bath.
  • Robert Kuok's conglomerate empire was built on political astuteness, an Asia-wide network of contacts and a willingness to take risks. Its 73-year-old presiding genius is inclined to keep a low profile and operate as if he was still heading a private company. Funding needs and a reshaping of the business with succession in mind have, however, forced greater dependence on public equity. Jonathan Kandell reports.
  • Remember Cresvale, the one-time high-flier in Japanese convertible bonds and equity warrants? Cresvale was as much of a 1980s success story as Baring Securities. Both companies made huge profits on the back of the Tokyo stock market boom. Baring Securities survives thanks to Dutch courage and sympathy. Cresvale lies somewhere on the Euromarket Boot Hill in a shallow grave.
  • Any American above a certain age working in finance remembers The Bankers, Martin Mayer's 1975 bestseller. But since then Mayer has become something of a cause célèbre of all things bank-related. Then he became chairman of a New York school board.
  • While Deutsche Bank officials worry about alleged "superwoman" Nicola Horlick's next move, a senior Deutsche man in Hong Kong is more worried about a genuine superwoman: his own wife.
  • Big Blue is a big bull on China. Former Citibank man, Kent Price, now general manager for banking at IBM in Asia Pacific, has written a report forecasting an ATM revolution, with IBM at the forefront.