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February 2003

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  • Bear markets breed their own types of deals - balance sheet repair, restructuring, liability management, monetization of illiquid assets, securitization, opportunistic acquisitions. The pace and intensity of such deals may vary between the long hard slog and sudden bursts of activity, but companies and bankers that do well in them tend to share certain characteristics: a refusal to accept defeat, creativity that may be inspired by desperation, and a determination to deal with complexity and hold their nerve. Banks must sometimes underwrite risks they would rather not take, just to complete deals.
  • General Hilmi Ozkok, Turkey's army chief of staff, last month expressed his displeasure at prime minister Abdullah Gul's interference in army policy towards Islamist officers. In a speech he made at the military's annual party for the media (Islamist journalists are not invited) Ozkok said Gul's attitude would "indubitably encourage those who got mixed up in recidivist [meaning Islamic fundamentalist] activities".
  • The AKP’s hefty majority in Turkey’s November elections looked promising but indecision has taken a hold on the new government, not least in its commitment to the discipline required by the IMF.
  • Just which place could Sir David Walker have been talking about when he described a country as "Wogga Wogga"?
  • If equity research is quarantined from sales, will institutional investors feel the pinch? Many feign indifference to the crackdown, which was partly triggered by their own apathy. If pressed, though, they admit new structures could be costly and fundamentally change the way they do business.
  • New business development executive, JPMorgan Investor Services
  • Ukraine
  • Middle East
  • Some points to consider before you dabble in the yellow metal.
  • Despite the continuing weakness of equity markets, institutional investment in hedge funds has grown only slowly.
  • Managed futures, a strategy used by commodity trading advisers, produced the highest returns of any strategy in the CSFB/Tremont group of indices in 2002. By betting on increases in the prices of gold and oil, and on the depreciation of the dollar, commodity trading advisers produced returns of 18.33%.
  • Amid the corporate credit meltdowns of recent months even the most highly rated of frequent issuers have been forced to defend their funding strategies and the composition of their balance sheets. GE Capital is a prime example. The financial services company has always been proud of its triple-A rating but it has been less keen in the past to demonstrate to the market and the rating agencies why it should still hang on to it.
  • ABB has had a rough 12 months. The Switzerland-headquartered power and automation technologies conglomerate was faced with the worst operating environment for its businesses in 20 years. It was making heavy losses and was also saddled with an increasing asbestos liability at US subsidiary Combustion Engineering.
  • The days of large foreign investment flows to Latin America appear to be over. Companies and countries in the region are therefore going to have to find new ways to achieve sustainable growth.
  • Executives at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange have pulled off what could turn out to be the most important coup in the institution's recent history. It's not the launch of their IPO in December, although that must count as a great success in itself given both the sheer effort of transforming from a mutual to a public company as well as going public in the toughest new issue market for decades.
  • Issuer: Tyco InternationalSize: $.4.5 billion 144a convertible bondBookrunners: Morgan Stanley, Banc of America Securities, Citigroup
  • India inched its way closer towards full convertibility of the rupee early last month when finance minister Jaswant Singh unshackled foreign investment by Indian companies, mutual funds and investors. However, the fine print shows that the old control mindset of the Indian authorities has not changed.
  • The IMF has come under heavy fire for its decision last month to roll over $6 billion it lent to Argentina. The republic has failed to implement or even promise any of the reforms the IMF considers necessary, say critics, and the Fund has lost credibility by caving in to the Argentines' blackmail tactics.
  • South Korea
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Maarten Henderson, CFO of Dutch telco KPN, ended 2002 on a high note. On December 5, Standard & Poor's upgraded the company from BBB- to BBB, praising its deleveraging efforts. It had cut net debt from e22 billion at the end of September 2001 to e13.9 billion in just a year and had improved operational performance. By December 30, Henderson was celebrating the birth of a new baby daughter. And 2003 also got off to a promising start when, at a time when Deutsche Telekom was being punished by a two-notch downgrade by Moody's in January, the rating agency changed the outlook on the KPN's Baa3 rating to positive.
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Toyota Motor Credit Corporation (TMCC), the wholesale and retail financing company that supports Toyota's North American sales activities, is unique among the big automotive companies' captive financing vehicles. It has a triple-A rating from Standard & Poor's and Aa1 from Moody's, far superior to those of its big three competitors, Ford Credit, DaimlerChrysler Financial Services and GMAC, the highest rated of which, DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, is on a low single-A.
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • The gold price has risen spectacularly in the past year but it is not clear that this buoyancy can be maintained, particularly as investment demand has far exceeded any increase in purchases by manufacturers.
  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) has achieved a breadth of funding sources that few borrowers can rival. It is the only supranational issuer with benchmark programmes in three currencies - euros, dollars and sterling - and it is also the largest non-resident borrower in central and eastern Europe. Rene Karsenti, EIB's director general of finance, says: "We have a strategic presence in the accession states as we lend in these countries. It's also important to contribute to the development of these local bond markets in the run-up to EU accession, as we did with Portugal, Greece and Spain before their own accession."
  • The next battle in the war for survival in US exchange-traded futures is about to begin, and it looks set to be much more cut-throat than before. The Board of Trade and the Merc, once seemingly set for extinction, have been reborn as fierce competitors. They must continue to evolve.
  • As investors cut back on corporate exposure, high-quality issuers are scooping up funding. Smaller ones can satisfy their needs with many bite-size deals rather than a few jumbos.