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February 2008

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FEATURES
  • No fresh start for capital markets

    For the first time since 2002 debt is a buyer’s market, and investors are getting what they have long wanted: wider spreads. But at what cost?
  • Banking: European banks go direct to São Paulo

    New York no longer holds the key to success in Latin America for some European banks.
  • No more level playing field as the cost of bank funding goes up

    Banks must come to terms with higher costs of funding, putting some at a competitive disadvantage to their peers for the first time. The worst hit might have to rethink completely how they fund themselves.
  • The greening of Qatar

    Perhaps it’s a feeling of guilt, or an urge to give something back. After all, according to new figures from the IMF, nature has gifted Qatar with oil and gas that have helped it achieve a GDP per capita approaching $70,000.
  • The Sepa revolution quietly creeps in

    Unprecedented co-operation between European banks has, at last, created a single euro payments area. It will transform the cash management business and possibly the whole banking industry. Laurence Neville reports.
  • Bank CEO ranking

    Which CEOs have created (or destroyed) the most shareholder value? Euromoney's latest ranking shows that, despite the reverses of 2007, most remain in credit with investors.
  • FX debate (part two of two): Towards a golden age for foreign exchange

    Last month the panel examined volatility and the reported demise of the dollar. This month, they discuss the merits of prime brokerage, the weakness of algos and how to generate alpha.
  • Greek banks face up to doorstep challenge

    The leaders are busy expanding in the Balkans and beyond in emerging Europe. But will buying more and more on their doorstep prove better than an organic growth strategy in the long term? Chloe Hayward reports from Athens.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

  • US and European fund managers are snapping up stakes in Brazil’s small, specialist fund boutiques. They are looking to gain exposure to some of the world’s fastest-growing financial markets, diversify revenues, and capture the huge Brazilian shift out of bonds into equities and other assets. For their part, Brazilian managers are gaining know-how, technology and access to well-oiled marketing machines.
  • The credit crunch has spurred an increase in the number of new hedge fund launches. Marco Masotti, partner in the fund formation practice at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York, says he has had an increasing number of enquiries from new managers over the past two to three months. "Some are setting up as they wish to take advantage of the investment opportunities that have sprung up, others are leaving financial institutions to start on their own as they are unhappy with management changes, or bonuses at their financial institutions."
  • Fund of hedge funds group Financial Risk Management (FRM) has launched a new business to provide seed capital to early-stage hedge fund managers. Group chairman Blaine Tomlinson cites the need for managers to reach critical mass through partner ventures as the reason for the creation of the new platform. The business, FRM Capital, will also provide investment opportunities for existing fund of hedge funds clients. Industry participants say that the number of seeding funds is increasing as entering managers find it harder to attract capital, and as firms such as FRM seek to diversify their business.
  • The Republic of Turkey, emerging Europe’s most prolific issuer in the international debt markets, made a strong start to 2008 with the reopening of its 2018 6.75% dollar Eurobond for $1 billion.
  • Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez raised the regulated price of milk and threatened to seize dairies that tried to charge more as he attempted to increase milk supplies.
  • The strategic investment case for emerging European equities remains solid despite the deterioration of global markets caused by liquidity constraints in the banking system, says Martin Majdaniuk, manager of Baring Emerging Europe, which has $850 million under management and has returned 195.6% over the past three years.
  • Aureos Capital’s Aureos Latin America Fund has held its first closing, with $140 million in committed capital. The fund is expected to close at $300 million in June and will focus on investments of between $2 million and $10 million in Mexico, central America, Colombia and Peru.
  • In a sign of growing economic cooperation between Russia and China, VTB, Russia’s second-largest bank, has become the first bank from the country to receive a licence to open a branch in China. VTB’s Shanghai branch will primarily service Russia-China trade, big industrial inter-state projects and the investment projects of Russian and Chinese companies.
  • According to prime brokers in New York and London, funds of hedge funds are reducing the number of new managers they are taking on their books, and, in some instances, are reducing their existing portfolios of managers. One prime broker says that some funds of hedge funds have reduced their books of managers by 10% to 20% over the past two quarters.
  • After a stop-start year of asset-backed securities issuance in 2007, Fitch Ratings expects European emerging market securitizations to perform comparatively well in 2008. However, it says that a prolonged credit squeeze could hit demand for structured bonds. "Borrowers with hard-currency refinancing needs have so far weathered the liquidity crunch remarkably well but their funding needs will become more acute if the international capital markets remain closed for another two or three quarters, and local markets are not deep enough to provide alternative funding," says Jaime Sanz, head of European emerging market securitization at Fitch in London.
  • As the probability of a US recession rises, the best- and worst-performing credits of 2007 reveal the state of play in global economies. Jethro Wookey reports.
  • We asked leading debt market officials what products they thought would be hot in 2008.
  • The Brazilian financials sector is set to suffer a hit on its profits in 2008 after the government increased banking profit taxes.
  • "It’s mainly America’s fault," says a Tokyo analyst with a smile as he walks to the elevator after a meeting. The US is often unjustly invoked as the cause of problems in Japan but this time it’s hard to argue with the assessment. On January 22 the Nikkei 225 stock average plummeted 5.7% to 12753, prompted largely by fears of a US recession. It was a depressing year for Japanese stocks in 2007, with IPO volumes shrinking by more than 50% year on year and the Nikkei creeping downwards. This year looks to have had a bad start too: blame the US or not, local analysts say the index could dip below 12000 this year.
  • In a signing ceremony witnessed by UK prime minister Gordon Brown and Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, Standard Chartered Bank agreed on January 18 to provide credit to a microfinance organization in China. It is the first time an international bank has backed such a project in China. The bank is to supply an initial Rmb20 million ($2.76 million) to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) to support farmers and small business owners. Microfinance initiatives are seen as key tools in the fight against poverty. Providers of microcredit in poor areas get help in reducing their operating costs; the investment banks benefit from being attached to these PR-friendly projects and often make decent returns on their investments. Standard Chartered is no idle investor: in return for its expertise and reach the bank expects CFPA’s assistance to expand its business in rural China.
  • Ulan Bator has become the latest destination for hedge fund managers, following the creation of the first offshore investment fund to be focused exclusively on Mongolia. The Mongolia Discovery Fund has been established by Alisher Djumanov, formerly of Uzbek investment banking firm Asher Group, who has raised an initial $5 million of seed capital for the new fund, which is being launched by newly established management company Silk Road Fund Management.
  • Central and eastern European issuers are likely to find accessing the international bond markets a challenging experience in the coming months given the continued US-inspired global liquidity squeeze. Speaking at Euromoney’s conference on central and eastern Europe in Vienna, Fokion Karavias, general manager of the global markets division at Greece’s EFG Eurobank, says that on the back of a general flight to quality from emerging towards developed markets all borrowers will face tougher market conditions but that government borrowers should find it easiest to issue. "Sovereigns will need to pay much higher spreads, but they will be able to issue," says Karavias, adding that even potential Euromarket debutantes such as Albania and Azerbaijan could get maiden issues away if they are prepared to pay the higher market clearing levels being demanded by investors.
  • The Argentine government under the leadership of Cristina Kirchner will have to reach a resolution with the holdout investors from the sovereign’s debt restructuring of 2005 if it is to avoid financing issues, according to analysts.
  • Electronic broker Icap, the world’s biggest interdealer broker, acquired a 15% stake in the Bolsa de Productos de Chile (BPC) commodity exchange in January. This deal makes Icap the first international investor to have an ownership stake in a Chilean exchange, after acquiring the last three shares that belonged to BPC for Ps400 million ($800,000). This deal values the Chilean exchange at $5.6 million.
  • Emerging markets Equity indices in emerging markets outperformed those of developed markets in 2007, rising 42% compared with a gain of just 9.4% in developed markets, according to Standard & Poor’s global stock market review, The World by Numbers.
  • Our annual poll shows which banks are best positioned to benefit from any upturn in the credit market's fortunes.
  • Fitch Ratings has placed Sigma Finance’s senior note programme on negative watch, in a move affecting $31.6 billion of medium-term notes rated triple A and some $2.3 billion of F1 rated CP.
  • Put off by past experience, but the consensus is that its time has come.
  • The growth in size, expertise and therefore competition in the Shariah-compliant market in 2008 made Euromoney’s choices for our Islamic finance awards the hardest to date. The best firms not only got bigger, they brought new levels of innovation to bear in a series of landmark deals.
  • Lehman’s new loan modification programme reveals its pessimistic view of the UK housing market.
  • Euromoney has been informed by a source claiming to have been close to an eight-figure deal that cash-rich Saudi Islamic bank Al Rajhi entered into with troubled US bank Bear Stearns just before Christmas.
  • Bolsa de Mercadorias & Futuros, the Brazilian derivatives exchange, has announced that it will introduce a new electronic platform to trade spot US dollar/Brazilian real. The venture is a joint initiative with the Brazilian Federation of Banks and the Banco Central do Brasil. BM&F says it is currently responsible for the registration and settlement of about 95% of transactions in the domestic dollar/real market. About 85% of this is traded OTC. The exchange says the addition of transparency and easier access to the market will improve efficiency and facilitate the execution of arbitrage and hedge strategies. The platform is scheduled to go live in the second quarter of 2008.
  • Structured finance departments have taken a bit of a battering in the past few months but in southern Africa there is still belief in and appetite for the business. The domestic market in South Africa is growing rapidly, partly to meet political pressure to transfer assets to people with little money and no equity. Electricity shortages might well also be a key driver of new deal flows.
  • CFTC and NFA are being inconsistent with the rules for futures and forex traders.