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February 2003

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  • Perhaps he'd had a bad night's sleep. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue. Or perhaps the man who told us last June that we needed to buck up our standards in the wake of the corporate crises in the US simply wanted to tell the truth.
  • Ukraine
  • Middle East
  • 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.
  • Romania's publicity-friendly tourism minister, Dan Matei Agathon, is looking to give a lift to investment in the state-sponsored Dracula Park - a tourist trap inspired by the vampire. He plans to start trading Dracula Park shares on the Rasdaq exchange this month.
  • 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.
  • In his first two months in the job, Bernie Dan, chief executive of the Chicago Board of Trade, has made two quick and bold decisions. It was the second that got the most publicity: the announcement to dump the exchange's joint venture with Eurex in favour of using the Liffe Connect trading platform.
  • Cades, the state-backed agency set up to pay off France's social security debt, has sizeable yearly funding needs and prides itself on the quality and regularity of the information it provides to the market.
  • 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".
  • Despite the continuing weakness of equity markets, institutional investment in hedge funds has grown only slowly.
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Stock markets started 2003 in a relatively buoyant mood. The view seemed to be that the world economy would come out of a soft patch, that the Bush administration would deliver tax cuts that sustained US consumer spending and that war in Iraq would go smoothly and quickly, slashing oil prices.
  • 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.
  • The word from Paris is that BNP Paribas chairman and CEO Michel Pébéreau is more than a little distracted from his favourite pastime of reading science-fiction novels.
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Some points to consider before you dabble in the yellow metal.
  • 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%.
  • Lang Kwai Fong - the area in Hong Kong where you go to drink before you hit the really seedy bars - used to be a good gauge of how happy and confident expatriates were. According to an Australian banker, in the 1990s it was busy during the good times and quiet during the bad. These days, though, expats have changed their drinking habits.
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • Japan
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • 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.
  • Fund management
  • Sovereign borrowers
  • M&A
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