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January 2006

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  • Like bespoke tailors, private bankers have to offer clients just that little bit extra.
  • When Malcolm Glazer bought UK Premiership football club Manchester United in May, alarm bells rang. The £790.3 million ($1.4 billion) deal was partly funded by a high-cost loan of £275 million from three US hedge funds, and subject to strict ebitda targets over the first two years.
  • Dresdner Bank has sent out a request for proposals for a sale and leaseback of its retail banking network in Germany. The deal involves some 300 banks and will raise an estimated €2 billion. In mid-December four buyers were left in the auction process – Babcock and Brown, Carlyle, Citigroup Property Investment and Fortress.
  • Greece’s economy grew faster than expected in 2005. But its government faces a major challenge in 2006: to maintain its strong growth rate while complying with the EU directive to cut its budget deficit by the end of the year. By Dimitris Kontogiannis.
  • Nobody in their right mind would spend the week before Christmas trawling through the credit outlooks for 2006 published by investment banks, so Euromoney has done it for you. The good times should continue to roll, but look out for some painful bumps along the way.
  • In early December HSBC and Deutsche Bank simultaneously engaged in a charity event to raise funds for London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital’s development fund. In order to entice its workers to stump up some cash, the two banks had a number of celebrities tour their trading floors.
  • The Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported record FX volume on December 12. A total of 872,271 futures and option contracts were traded, representing $96 billion in notional value. This was 16.6% up on the previous record of 748,050 contracts, set on June 8 2005. Electronic transactions on the exchange’s Globex platform accounted for 71% of the turnover. Even though calendar rolls into the March contract inflated the total, if the CME can maintain levels at anywhere near the record, the debate on whether or not FX can migrate to an exchange-traded environment will grow louder.
  • A recent report by BreakingViews has revived the familiar story that EBS is up for sale, claiming that the company was hawking itself around via its adviser, Citigroup. The £1 billion ($1.8 billion) valuation that BreakingViews has put on EBS looks a little toppy and might well scare potential suitors away. Back-of-the-fag-packet calculations suggest that EBS captures about 20% of the total spot market. As FX volumes are still expected to grow, and EBS could quite conceivably increase its market share, someone with deep pockets might well decide it is worth a punt, even at £1 billion. However, whether its multiple owners will ever agree on the attractions of a suitor remains to be seen.
  • The security for the sixth ministerial conference was intense but Korean protesters were still able to set off a police fishing operation and the director-general did not escape a barracking, while residents wonder what it’s all for.
  • Euromoney might have found the ultimate gift for the finance nerd in your family. An interesting posting on Ebay appeared just before the festive season – a white Fender Stratocaster guitar signed by well-known names in finance including Warren Buffett, George Soros and Bill Gross. The guitar had been shipped around the US for two months to be signed by 19 industry figures and was being auctioned by hedge fund manager Todd Harrison for charity.
  • The markets revere individualists who are prepared to follow their hunches – think Soros, Buffett or Kerkorian. But are the many actually smarter than the few?
  • Congratulations to the winner of the inaugural Euromoney award for media relations. This bank, before pitching a CDO as part of our deals of the year research, invited the relevant Euromoney journalists to sign a beautifully drafted, five-page confidentiality agreement.
  • “What surprised me when I became minister of finance was that we had the debt situation, but nobody wanted to talk about it. We need to first explain how we got into this position before we can talk about how we will get out of it.”
  • Acceptance as asset class and Ucits III mean new retail currency funds.
  • In an open letter to market participants, the New York-based Foreign Exchange Committee has warned about some of the dangers posed by the advent of retail FX products. The committee says technology often separates “the wholesale foreign exchange dealer from the end user, perhaps by multiple intermediaries”. This makes it difficult for banks to “know their customer”, and possibly hampers such compliance measures as anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism obligations.
  • After months of complaints from debt syndicate managers, UK regulator the Financial Standards Authority has responded to their complaints about the Market Abuse Directive’s stipulation that supposedly stopped new issues being over-allocated by more than 5%.The requirement, which originally targeted mispriced equity issues in southern Europe, was limiting the ability of lead managers to control aftermarket performance, particularly on volatile credits. The FSA has now said it was feasible for firms to document their reasons for over-allocating beyond the 5% but that such action would not be automatically regarded as market abuse by the regulator.
  • The general picture’s good and the four biggest economies are simultaneously on a growth path.
  • If Mifid forces banks to physically trade illiquid bonds they publish prices on, they won’t risk their capital.
  • Although Asia remains in the vanguard of private banking growth, a new survey from Boston Consulting Group highlights key challenges ahead.
  • As economic growth slows in 2006, more businesses are expected to fail, with the biggest increases likely in Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US.
  • Malaysian retail bank Southern Bank had its expansion plans scuppered in December by Bank Negara Malaysia, the country’s central bank, after BNM refused to approve Southern Bank’s proposed acquisition of Asia General Holdings, a Singapore general insurance company.
  • Scotland’s richest man, Sir Tom Hunter, plans to pull out £100 million ($177 million) he has invested with UBS Wealth Management after falling out with UBS executive Jon Wood, according to the UK press. The two have been battling it out in a court case in connection with their personal involvement in The Gadget Shop.
  • With the Bombay Sensex, India’s benchmark index, hitting new highs, it is perhaps not surprising that December saw India’s second largest ever equity deal and one of the biggest deals in Asia in 2005. Leading private sector bank ICICI Bank raised more than $1.5 billion from a local and American depositary share offering through Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.
  • A new series of private banking indices is to be launched this month, replacing those ABN Amro established in May.
  • Market dismisses concentration risk claims.
  • Just as Schroders Investment Management joins the ranks of company pension funds to dramatically cut equity exposure, the debate about the merits of such moves is heating up.
  • Complaints about the prices of bank privatizations do nothing to further the cause of China’s continued integration into the global economy.
  • JPMorgan found itself in a sticky hole last month when its private equity arm, JPMorgan Partners, was part of a consortium bidding for US doughnut company Dunkin’ Brands, which was being sold by French drinks company Pernod Ricard.
  • The Tokyo Stock Exchange found that a malfunction in its new and trouble-prone trading system prevented Mizuho Securities from being able to cancel the mistaken J-Com order.
  • With just weeks to go before the SEC’s new hedge fund regulation comes into force, its legitimacy has been questioned by a federal appeals court. Philip Goldstein has been challenging the rule in court, arguing that the regulator does not have the power to alter or make law [see Euromoney March 2005]. Although it was widely supposed that Goldstein’s complaints would go unnoticed, judges in the case last month questioned whether the SEC had overstepped its authority. A decision is expected in two months.