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January 1997

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LATEST ARTICLES

  • Emerging market strategists looking at making a New Year foray into Chilean stocks would be best advised to adopt a strategy of "Buy into heavy rain" and "Sell on prolonged sunshine". In a new twist on the term "market barometer", the Chilean market is being dragged down by the weather, as the country endures one of its worst droughts this century.
  • How did Crédit Local de France and Crédit Communal de Belgique come to chose the name Dexia from over 100 suggestions, for their newly-merged banking group? "The name has been imagined by Bessis, which specializes in name conceptions," explains a spokesman at Crédit Communal de Belgique/ Dexia.
  • The Russian equity market came of age in 1996. Prices doubled and the range of investors broadened to include some of the world's largest institutional investors. Will the boom continue in 1997? Peter Lee reports.
  • Gimmick, party trick or great leap forward in the international capital markets? The Euro-Asian bond has no shortage of detractors. Those who have promoted its benefits usually those who have lead managed the deals maintain it has the best features of the Dragon bond, which was the first attempt to create a bond specifically for Asian investors.
  • Why is it that some banks have such incredibly irritating music, the sort that gives you that brain-damaged feeling, while other banks and financial institutions have music that is much better. BT Business Systems, a subsidiary of British Telecom, must have had the same thing in mind when it conducted a recent survey of "music-on-hold".
  • It's 2003 and European monetary union (Emu) has gone badly wrong.
  • Deutsche Morgan Grenfell makes waves in the 1996 poll of polls with a strong performance in underwriting, trading and advisory work. Other names to note for 1997 include the newly formed Chase, the highest climber, as well as ABN Amro and Nomura Securities, all of which move confidently up the ranking. By Rebecca Dobson.
  • Tight-lipped Russian officials eventually warmed to their task at roadshows worldwide. It was Russia's return to the international capital markets, its first sovereign issue since Tsarist days. For the bankers involved in the $1 billion deal it must often have seemed like trying to resurrect the mammoth. Peter Lee reports on a complicated birth
  • Last September in this column, I argued that the industrial economies could be heading for much lower growth than expected in 1997. Now I'm even more convinced that OECD growth will fall short of consensus estimates, which means that central banks will not be raising short-term interest rates until late this year. This affects all investment decisions. It means that the yen will be strong, and the Deutschmark and dollar weak in 1997; bond yield curves will flatten.
  • Banks have become more sophisticated in the way they choose their law firms. But have they got it right yet? By Christopher Stoakes.
  • Japan's public-sector institutions have the luxury of borrowing with a guarantee from their government. But they waste the opportunity, paying as much as 10 basis points more than they should for funds. The reason: lack of professionalism and bureaucratic meddling. Garry Evans reports.
  • Argentina, for so long judged by so many to be on the verge of a devaluation, has taken its boldest move yet to prove the doubters wrong by issuing an international bond denominated in pesos: its first investment-grade issue.
  • Rock star David Bowie has thought of an ideal birthday present for himself. The singer, who went by the name of Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s, turns 50 this month and is considering a $50 million bond issue.
  • The Spanish government is expected to open at least two new markets this year to provide the fixed-income sector with greater depth and liquidity. Jules Stewart reports on the interest generated as the treasury casts off its cumbersome traditional approach to borrowing.
  • As the world enters the fifth year of economic growth, regulators, shareholders and creditors of international banks must be starting to wonder what horrors are building up on the banks' balance sheets. Disturbingly, the problem loans if they exist will probably be hidden from public scrutiny in the form of bilateral lines. No doubt they are being justified to the banks' internal credit committees by that well-worn excuse that they are essential to maintain relationships with clients that offer other, more profitable business.
  • In which Ingersoll and Komarovsky are sent on a course to learn that "ethics" is not just a county to the east of London.
  • Banco de Poggibonsi e di Colle Pottine,
  • After months of delays, the Mexican privatization progamme has sprung back into life. In December, the government raised $1.8 billion from the sale of its northeastern railway line, by far its largest privatization deal since the devaluation of the peso in late 1994. Congress has also dropped its opposition to the sale to foreign investors of a 49% stake in the country's down-stream petrochemicals industry, raising hopes that privatization will speed up in 1997.
  • In their desire to get a head start over each other in India, Wall Street investment banks have forged joint ventures with local partners. Three US banks JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs have adopted this strategy. Surprisingly, all three have agreed to remain minority shareholders in the ventures even though the law permits them a majority holding. Pressures may be building, though, for the US banks to buy out their local partners.
  • The jumbo Pfandbrief was designed to attract international investors to what had been largely a domestic German debt instrument. Until recently, though, it was being marketed as if Germans were the target. Non-Germans want clearer pricing information, conventional credit ratings and more warning of upcoming issues. Some issuers are responding, not least because the Pfandbrief looks like being Germany's main contender in European debt markets when a single currency is instituted. Antony Currie reports.
  • Austrian equity visionaries remain optimistic that Vienna can yet become the market for trading in eastern European stocks. But it's likely to take more than the current reforms to lift a dismal equity performance. John McGrath reports.
  • Late last year the fledging market for syndicated loans to Russian banks witnessed its most ambitious and successful deal to date. Tokobank, in its first syndication, raised $85 million at a spread of 4H% over Libor. This was the first loan for a Russian bank at a spread below 5% and more than twice the size of any other such deal.
  • By March 1998 Europe's biggest futures exchanges will launch the first contracts to be settled in euros. Only the fittest will survive. London, Paris and Frankfurt are locked in combat to win the greatest prizes of all ­ those dominant futures contracts in short-term and medium-term interest rates. David Shirreff reports
  • Who is going to end up in control of Russia's leading industrial companies when the period of restructuring that has followed privatization finally draws to a close? More evidence emerged in December that it's likely to be the 46 financial-industrial groups (Figs) that have sprung up over the past three years. Last month two of them, Most Bank and Alfa Bank, came forward as the leading contenders for a large stake in a new holding company that will control the telephone sector. The Figs already link together over 60 banks and 20 other major financial institutions as well as 650 industrial giants including Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, and oil company Yukos.
  • After helping to put NatWest Markets on the map in his native Australia, Peter Hall was planning in 1994 on retiring from the investment banking business. Then 45 years old, he intended to devote his time to other interests, including Buddhism, which he defines as the "science of mind and consciousness". Although unable to take the week-long silent retreats that the study of Buddhism requires, he believes understanding its tenets have helped him a great deal. Far from the ego-driven mentality that seems to drive most investment bankers, Buddhism calls for a type of detachment. "It's about having a calm and receptive state of mind," explains Hall, who says he meditates for an hour a day.
  • Two groups of financial institutions are reviving the idea of trading derivatives linked to UK real-estate prices, five years after the first attempt to do this ended in disaster.
  • The IFC's Minati Misra is not prone to giving the dealers on her MTN programme an easy time. With a reputation as one of the market's most sophisticated borrowers, she is far from passive. Steven Irvine spent two days by her desk in Washington listening as she charmed and cajoled her intermediaries.
  • It's not often you get a morality tale in the bond markets. But when an obscure line of postal bonds grabbed the attention of traders in London, the conflict of interest that haunts all investment banks came horribly alive. One man decided that his bank's relationship mattered more than short-term gain, and he gave his traders' profits back. Was this the action of a saint, or just good business sense? Steven Irvine reports.
  • Boca Juniors, Argentina's most famous football club, is to break with its working-class traditions by becoming the first team to list on the local stock market. The club, supported by an estimated half of Argentina's fanatical football fans, last month won authorization from the Buenos Aires stock exchange to launch the Boca Juniors Closed Common Fund, with the aim of raising $20 million to buy a much-needed batch of new players.
  • Diethart Breipohl is a modest man. But as finance director of the Allianz insurance group he presides over Dm320 billion of investments, probably the biggest portfolio in Europe. That includes significant stakes in Germany's blue-chip firms, suggesting to some that Allianz is "the spider in the web" of corporate Germany.
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