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January 1998

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  • Wanted: swap dealers to work for department seven of the federal finance ministry in Bonn. Why? Because in November, the budget committee voted to allow the government to write interest rate swaps on its debt.
  • Issuer: Ambroveneto International Bank
  • For several weeks following the collapse in Asian financial markets in October, emerging market borrowers from around the world were, with a few minor exceptions, shut out of the primary debt markets. But frequent issuers can stay out of the markets for only so long.
  • The spin-off has been heralded as the tool of the future - the means to prepare sprawling European companies for the next century. But is it as successful as investment bankers and their clients would have us believe? Not according to Paul Gibbs, an equity analyst at JP Morgan in London.
  • Economic growth in several major east Asian, Latin American and eastern European economies will halt in 1998. Emerging market banks' $550 billion of non-performing loans (probably well above $600 billion if unofficial estimates are correct) may cause a rash of failures ­ or even systemic financial crisis in some countries. Korea, China and Slovakia are among the most vulnerable.
  • Pakistan's power privatization programme was once the jewel in the crown of a country whose private sector was generally underdeveloped and poorly performing.
  • The crisis in Asia is changing perceptions about almost every currency, and no-one is certain what will happen next. Suzanne Miller reports on uncertain times in the currency markets.
  • You read it here first. In May 1996 Euromoney quoted a normally well-informed source in Switzerland as follows: "Who do you think has been buying UBS shares for the past few weeks?" Swiss Bank Corporation, he says. "They're already merging, they're doing a dance together." Apparently they had been doing this dance since 1995.
  • Days before South African president Nelson Mandela lambasted "apartheid patterns of ownership" in a five hour speech to December's ANC congress, the final nails went into the coffin of South Africa's showpiece black empowerment deal.
  • It's often said that Hong Kong moves faster than other places. And staff at Indosuez WI Carr can testify to just how quickly life can change. In the space of a week the firm went from all the bacchanalia associated with a bull market to huge job cuts.
  • Last National Bank of Boot Hill,
  • A native of Calicut, India, Arjun Mathrani was one of a cadre of foreign-born bankers groomed for leadership at what was historically the most international of US financial institutions: Chase Manhattan Bank. But now Mathrani has become one of the last of such senior executives to leave at a time when the bank seems less internationally focussed.
  • It's just under a year until the start of European monetary union, and you would expect banks to be pulling out all the stops. But while they wrestle night and day with the technical details, little is being done to inject some fun into the proceedings. Salomon Smith Barney is leading the pack with its "Countdown to Emu calendar" - displaying the number of weeks left until January 1 1999 - recently erected in the firm's lobby.
  • Never let it be said that Euromoney doesn't break new ground in its tireless coverage of finance. Last year we brought you the news, from Bowie bonds to Chechen bonds, financing lapdancing to book-writing bankers.
  • Lending to European borrowers backed by a government guarantee should be as safe as houses. But beware of the state aid rules, warns Christopher Stoakes.
  • Rating agencies have been strongly criticized for failing to spot the Asian crisis. Investment-grade bonds have been downgraded to junk status - but only after problems have appeared and without much warning. For the first time the agencies are having to justify themselves. Are they as good in Asia as they are in the US? Steven Irvine reports.
  • If you're impressed with the inexplicably long hours your colleagues have been putting in over the past couple of months, ask them what they've been up to. They may be part of the growing number whiling away the small hours playing computer games such as Doom, a virtual-reality shoot-'em-up game of extreme violence.
  • Euromoney's definitive annual guide to winners and losers in the world's capital markets charts the struggle to join the select group of top-flight firms. But a number of banks have failed to boost their position through acquisitions, and some of the most improved firms are those that have grown organically. A synthesis of all the polls run in the magazine in 1997, the poll evaluates underwriting, trading and advisory activities over the past year. By Rebecca Dobson.
  • Reading economic reports can be a chore, even for the committed. So it is hardly surprising that those who write them try to liven them up. Some opt for catchy titles, but at Bankers Trust in London economist Ian Amstead goes that little bit further.
  • With trillions of dollars of securities lent or temporarily sold each day the risks, once thought minimal, began to look higher in November. There's a rethink on counterparty risk and the practice of making a spread on lower-grade collateral, but the credit-spread business is growing. Michelle Celarier reports.
  • They were sent from Athens, London and Madrid. They burned the midnight oil and engaged in intellectual debate, hammering out the finer points of monetary union. But by spring, the economists will be rolling up their spreadsheets and leaving Frankfurt as the European Monetary Institute is transformed into the European Central Bank. In the meantime, the battle for influence has to be won all over again. In the committee rooms, it is already beginning. By Laura Covill.
  • Riccardo dei Conti Pavoncelli is the younger son of an Italian count. He plays polo, sits at London's finest dinner tables and is married to the daughter of controversial socialite Claus von Bulow. In short, he is an obvious target for gossip columnists.
  • Investment bankers' pay has been pushed through the roof as European firms seek to compete with Wall Street. But now banks are squeezing costs as they see their growth prospects fade. For all but the very best employees, the days of sky-high salaries may soon be over. So don't spend that seven-figure bonus all at once - it may be the last for some time. By Suzanne Miller.
  • They flyfish, birdwatch, trek and mountain climb. They have brought us Bowie bonds and Brady bonds. They've worked on privatizations and flotations. They head top banks, have founded their own firms, introduced new markets and strengthened fragile emerging economies. Meet Euromoney's top fifty financial whizzkids from around the world - and take note. They are impressive now, but their peers believe they are destined for even greater things
  • On Friday November 21, when the board of Yamaichi Securities met to discuss downsizing the firm, president Shohei Nozawa stunned board members by proposing instead that it should wind itself up. Andrew Horvat reports on the events leading to the collapse of one of Japan's big four securities houses.
  • An easy transition to capitalism is proving a mixed blessing in the Czech Republic. The so-called Velvet Revolution has left many essential works undone. Banks remain in state hands and underegulated markets have encouraged asset stripping and fraud. Then as former prime minister Vaclav Klaus began to get serious about change, his government fell. In the ensuing political stalemate, reform is the chief victim. Nigel Dudley reports.
  • Why did NatWest refuse Deutsche Morgan Grenfell's offer of £150 million ($248 million) for the equity operations of NatWest Markets?
  • Will Asia's economic crisis knock eastern Europe off course? Will political disagreement stall privatization? Will the region's small companies flock to join the stock market? Rebecca Bream gauges the flow of new east European equity in 1998 and looks ahead to the year's biggest deals.
  • When Daniel Lian changes his job, the media are sure to follow. When he resigned from the NatWest office in Singapore recently, the permanent Reuters camera, one of only four in the country, also moved out. Sure enough, when he started at ANZ the camera reappeared, enabling his popular television appearances to continue. This is impressive testament to the currency and bond strategist's reputation as a television economics pundit.
  • When markets crash canny investors seize the opportunity to buy cheap. A few will make huge profits from the turmoil. But it's a risky business. Calling the bottom and selecting recovery stocks is challenging the analysts. No wonder the majority of investors are too terrified to come off the sidelines. Peter Lee talked to strategists about their 1998 plans.