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January 2004

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  • Nobody doubts that European debt restructuring has been transformed in the last three years. Consensual restructurings have started to replace formal, court-based insolvency proceedings. And US bondholders, with their more aggressive style, have shaken up the traditional, bank-led European approach.
  • We're familiar with the concept of broadsheet newspapers producing tabloid editions, but credit research reports masquerading as novels? In an effort to sex up credit analysis, Barclays Capital's European 2004 outlook is a 628-page book with a lurid cover design more reminiscent of Douglas Coupland or Stephen King than Gary Jenkins, who heads global credit research at the bank.
  • If you are accustomed to the light and space of the trading floor, sitting on orthopaedically sensitive office furniture in front of ergonomically designed keyboards, spare a thought for your counterparts in private banking.
  • Most corporates are trying hard to improve credit ratings. But Coca-Cola's second biggest bottler, frustrated with its rating by Moody's after improving its ratios, is bucking the trend by increasing its debt regardless. Kathryn Tully reports.
  • Veteran visitors to South Africa are always full of good ideas for things to do for those who are about to go for the first time.
  • There are two types of banks – those that are good to work for and those that are good to own. Investment banks fall into the first category. They deliver huge financial rewards to their employees, who have succeeded through good times and bad in extracting extraordinarily high pay in return for risking shareholders' capital. If their bets pay off, they scoop a healthy chunk of the winnings. If they don't, bankers can lose only their jobs.
  • Europe's retail investors are about to be inundated with securities that claim to put them on a par with the most prized funds.
  • The powers that be at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein are no doubt raising their eyebrows and saying: "I told you so."
  • It is a common view, especially in the US, that continental Europe is shackled by big government and a lack of reform. The corollary is that its economy and its stock markets will underperform those of the US or the UK.
  • The new management fee structure adopted by Infiniti Capital is likely to ruffle a few feathers in the fund of funds industry. The Swiss investment house is launching a fund of funds, for wealthy individuals and institutional investors, on a zero entry fee basis.
  • Islamic banks have much potential to tap Islamic, ethical and conventional borrowers and investors. The key will be whether the industry can introduce the regulatory standards to reassure investors. Nigel Dudley reports.
  • Iraq's banks look set to bounce back this year, shrugging off the crippling impact of nationalization, a decade of sanctions and a US-led invasion. Economic reforms introduced by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council have opened the way for the entry of foreign banks and the consolidation of the local private banking sector.
  • Deal: Cablecom's debt-for-equity swap
  • While bankers are going through hoops to sell structured financial products to retail investors, UK private investors can now buy one of the oldest and simplest commodities in the world – gold.
  • UK banking group HBOS has received many plaudits for its innovative financing in 2003. Deals have included covered bonds, securitization programmes and retail-driven tier 1 capital deals. When you have had to fund £55 billion of asset growth in the past 12 months alone, you are always going to be on the look-out for new funding methods. "In 2003 we had to fund this growth and lengthen wholesale maturities, but we didn't want to over issue in any sector," said HBOS head of funding and liquidity Tony Main at a Credit Suisse First Boston credit conference held in December.
  • Not long ago, any claim that Indian manufacturers could make acquisitions abroad would have been dismissed as wishful thinking. Cheap IT services and software development might some day make India a global player in the services industry but it had clearly missed the opportunity in manufacturing.
  • Investment bankers are used to pitching for business in far-flung places. But even for such old pros as Deutsche Bank's Ken Borda and Jeremy Paul, the hill tribes of northern Thailand must have seemed an unlikely venue.
  • Senior credit analyst, Cheyne Capital
  • Spandex-clad, mullet-haired cult band The Darkness has made it – and we're not talking about the million album sales, or sell-out worldwide tours. Rather, the members of Lowestoft's flamboyant quartet, born out of a Queen-inspired karaoke night in a Norfolk pub, have just become customers of prestigious private bank Coutts.
  • The brainchild of Santander's chairman, Emilio Botín, Santander Group City is set to become Europe's largest corporate headquarters. But not everyone at the bank is happy to embrace a US-style working culture. Jules Stewart reports.
  • Deal: Center Parcs flotation
  • As the lead singer of Radiohead, Thom Yorke is one of the world's biggest rock stars and he's known for having quite a temper.
  • Founding partner, Woodstone Capital Partners
  • In 17 years the Carlyle Group has become one of the world's biggest private-equity firms, with an impressive track record. Managing director David Rubenstein talks about its deals, its image, succession plans and going public. Joanna Hickey reports.
  • The EBRD has done such a good job in central and eastern Europe, opening up market access and catalyzing transformation of financial systems, that it now may no longer be needed. It must look once again to more troubled economies farther east to renew its mission. Julian Evans reports.
  • The Kazakh banking sector, which has leapt forward at a remarkable rate for the past four years under the strict supervision of the central bank, is about to get a new supervisor. What next for this success story? Chris Pala reports.
  • So far, the three western banks active in Kazakhstan have been a success. In order of appearance, ABN Amro, Citigroup and HSBC have turned tidy profits from lending at low rates to top state and corporate institutions. They now hold about 6.5% of the country's banking assets. Is it time to expand into retail?