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February 1998

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  • Issuer: investment banks
  • The secretive world of private international banking is set to change. Regulatory reform may be slow but it is coming. By Christopher Stoakes.
  • It has all the makings of a tax haven. It's somewhere people tend to go only on holiday, if at all; it has a population of under a million, and a capital city with just 25,000 inhabitants; it's stable, with a median family income in 1989 of over $28,000. It even has snow-capped mountains.
  • You thought banking was about money, markets and return on risk-adjusted assets. Not in the 21st century. The Banque Imaginaire exists because it had to be invented. It thrives on its wits, in the land of Cats and fat tails. David Shirreff reports.
  • There can be few industries that have changed as much this decade as banking. And there will be few that will change as much over the next decade.
  • Grand Hyatt Hotel,
  • Retail banking is undergoing dramatic change. New delivery mechanisms such as the internet and aggressive new competitors such as supermarkets will eat into the easy profits previously enjoyed by retail banks. Can the big banks see off the threats? Rebecca Bream reports.
  • Having spent his entire career at Smith Barney, Steven Black is no stranger to mergers and the blood on the floor they create. He cut his teeth on the 1992 merger of Shearson with Smith Barney, where he headed capital markets. In that position, after the merger, he took the axe to the fixed-income division.
  • Deal: Buy-out of IPC
  • The financial world will feel better now Korea has got most of its foreign debts rolled over. The bankers who lent Korea the money in the first place declare they have solved the Korean crisis a mere momentary liquidity squeeze and the Asian crisis along with it. The world may believe them for a short while (though it's ironic it should grant credibility to bankers it was their stupidity that let the crisis happen).
  • Weak and unreliable may be their image ­ but the best emerging-market banks are among the most robust in the world. Faced with hyperinflation, political instability and crippling credit crunches, they need to be tough to survive. Along the way they have turned into centres of excellence. Euromoney picked banks from widely differing regions to illustrate this winning streak. They are Brazil's Itau, Poland's Handlowy, Taiwan's Shanghai & Commercial Savings Bank, the UAE's Mashreq, South Africa's Investec and Ghana's Social Security Bank.
  • BankAmerica, Bankers Trust and NationsBank, each bought a specialist West Coast equity house last year. Integration proceeds apace with the predicted clash of cultures. Cross-selling of products is a controversial issue as are compensation systems. Even office environments are a total contrast. Says one investment banker: "Nothing has really changed here. That's the way people like it." It may be 10 years before we can judge these mergers' success or failure. By Michelle Celarier.
  • It's boom time in Europe's private-equity business. But what if your client is so far behind the times that the term leveraged buy-out leaves a blank look on his face and he thinks high-yield bonds are a reference to 007's success rate with the ladies?
  • It was fun while it lasted but National Bank of Poland's unique approach to monetary control has been knocked on the head. Following this year's introduction of a new banking law, the central bank, headed by tough-minded Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, will no longer be able to take retail deposits.
  • Salaries and bonuses paid to workers in the City of London are unfair and unjustified. At least according to the majority present at the Futures and Options Association's third City debate, held last month.
  • A few decades from now, a loan syndication desk will come up with a novel way of conducting its business: it will print and distribute documents on paper. Clients will be impressed with this innovative approach. They will point to improved efficiency, potential cost savings, as well as the exotic feel of paper on flesh. A few of the market's more aged participants will have a sense of déjà vu.
  • Not a good start to the year for investment banks in eastern Europe. The advisory role for the $1 billion sell-off of most of Bulgaria's petrochemicals industry was up for grabs.
  • "I went into my boss's office to ask if I could have a new computer. He said 'no and, by the way, you've been made redundant'." This was the rather typical experience of a junior equity analyst at Jardine Fleming in the new Hong Kong.
  • When president Ernesto Zedillo appointed his finance secretary, Guillermo Ortiz, to head the central bank for the next six years, tongues wagged. In Mexico, political pundits speculated endlessly about the reasons Zedillo would overlook the most obvious choice for the position, the eminently qualified central bank vice governor Francisco Gill Diaz, and sacrifice the most vital member of his cabinet.
  • You could never get them together in one room at the same time. But, using the wonders of technology, Euromoney did the next best thing. We collected the views of seven top European bank chairmen and CEOs on the challenges facing the banking industry, and synthesized them into a virtual roundtable. Garry Evans moderated the discussion.
  • Issuer: Optimum Finance
  • Corporate-finance teams are preparing for some late nights in Bangkok as they try to sort out the mess surrounding Thailand's corporate Eurobond issuers. In a movement akin to plate spinning, bankers are working on delicate negotiations over existing defaults while keeping an eye out for the next hapless issuer about to hit the floor.
  • Brazil's investment banks are engaged in their own distribution build-up a mini-version of the Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Salomon Smith Barney megamergers in the US. Banco Bozano Simonsen has purchased the retail bank Meridional in a privatization auction and Banco Pactual has bought Sistema, a Sao Paulo commercial bank which ran into trouble. Both banks say they are looking to make further purchases.
  • It's every risk manager's worst nightmare. One trader amasses enough losses to bring the bank down, as Nick Leeson did with Barings, or forces a wholesale retrenchment, as happened at NatWest Markets following the discovery of Kyriacos Papouis's mispricings.
  • France has long maintained a proprietorial attitude towards its national treasures, including both financial institutions and the French language. But now, though the Académie Française rejects the use of such imported terms, corporate governance and shareholder value are becoming common currency. Some banks are even putting the ideas into practice. Tess Read reports.
  • Investors in Japan's privatized companies are getting worried about the government's attitude towards its former charges. Less than two years after thrashing out an agreement with a number of former state-owned companies about the extent of their pension liabilities, the government has issued a demand for a top-up payment. Several railway companies some already privatized, others slated for privatization have been asked to cough up ¥360 billion ($2.8 billion) by accepting an increase in their pre-privatization era pension obligations.
  • In a time of fierce competition partly prompted by technological change, commercial banks are struggling hard to make decent margins from traditional business. Diversification into investment banking and derivatives trading has led to as many failures as successes. Suzanne Miller reports on alternative views on how the banks might turn an honest penny.
  • To many of the small family-owned firms of Switzerland's Lac Léman, private banking is still all about providing a discreet service to those old-money Europeans who still have time to contemplate their investments amid champagne corks and peacocks. But the leisurely approach of these private bankers is under threat from aggressive global institutions who see private banking as nothing less than a personalized form of investment banking. Jules Stewart reports.
  • Developers used to put up offices for banks on a speculative basis. Now banks' requirements have become too specialized for this to work. In the late 1990s building boom in London, the trend is for the major houses to design their own. Philip Eade reports on the many projects underway.
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