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January 2009

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  • Deleveraging is the key word of the moment and there is still a long way to go for banks and hedge funds. Beyond that, the impact in the real economy of the banking crisis is only just starting to appear. The tools at governments’ disposal may not be strong enough to handle the challenge. Is a raft of new regulation inevitable?
  • As in all other areas of financial services, the credit crunch has made its presence felt in international cash management. Banks and corporates have found their relationships and business practices severely tested and have found out who they can, and cannot, trust in a downturn.
  • Those of us involved in finance tend to treat the vagaries of investment banking as a matter of life and death.
  • Investment bankers are struggling in so many ways. The operating environment is far from rosy. Round after round of redundancies are announced and yet even those spared the black-bin-liner treatment are left wondering whether they might have drawn the short straw – the business is not going to be much fun for the few left behind. For those who do have jobs, such is the disdain in which the profession is held by the general public that many are finding themselves having to lie to avoid discomforting situations.
  • "I was going through passport control and they asked me the purpose of my visit and what I did. For the first time in my career, I thought "I can’t say I’m a banker, I’ve got to say something else – maybe I can tell them that I’m a doctor."
  • "We call upon the top management of the commercial banks to take these decisions into account and recognize that they are operating in an environment in which a lot of the fundamental risks to liquidity and solvency have been addressed. There now is a different situation because of the actions of central banks and governments. The banks should recognize that they are no longer in a similar state of shock as they were for example in September"
  • It wasn’t all gloom as a post-crisis financial world looked forward to a belt-tightening 1998, though: one reader found time to send a poem eulogizing the euro before its launch. Perhaps Ms Opal Innsbruk’s ode can encourage in these dark times as it did over a decade ago:
  • "There are concerns that bonuses may increase the appetite for risk," warned Anthony Bellchambers of London’s Futures & Options Association in a prophetic comment from a January 1998 Euromoney, ‘The end of the bonus bonanza?’
  • Who dropped the ball?
  • The credit crunch has spread to emerging Europe – despite what the region’s central bank governors may claim. They have taken action to bolster liquidity and shore up the banking sector. Chloe Hayward asked 14 monetary authority heads what more they can do to manage the inevitable downturn.
  • In the first of a series of interviews for 2009 with some of the world’s leading corporate chief executives, boss Antonio Brufau talks to Laurence Neville about his strategy for keeping a top-10 energy company on track in challenging times.
  • Euromoney was emailed this from a Wall Street contact:
  • For those senior bankers bemoaning the fact that they were not awarded a bonus this year take heart – things could be worse. You could be working for Credit Suisse. The Swiss bank decided to pay employee bonuses for 2008 with illiquid leveraged loan and CMBS debt that no-one else will touch with a bargepole.
  • Just two years after facing its previous financial crisis, Hungary is once again in trouble thanks to over-reliance on foreign markets. But it is not necessarily the banks that need saving. Jethro Wookey reports from Budapest.
  • Kazakhstan has emerged as the principal conduit for South Korean investment in central Asia. Guy Norton reports from Almaty on the future for cooperation.
  • Global stock markets are at their cheapest for 25 years. Belated measures taken by the US authorities, and possible stimuli from the new Obama administration – and not forgetting a proper historical analysis – show rewards will come in 2009 for those brave enough to buy, writes Charles Dumas.
  • In the past few months the Russian capital markets have been hit by a rush of selling as spooked investors head for the exit, sending valuations into free fall. Guy Norton reports from Moscow on what lies in store.
  • US policy failures in the autumn of 2007 were crucial both in letting the financial crisis fester and then spiral out of control, and in a premature, panicky slashing of interest rates that paradoxically aggravated the slowdown severely, writes Charles Dumas.
  • In 2009 corporate issuers are likely to join financials in seeking to push through equity issues aimed at repairing balance sheets. Intricate measures might be needed to attract investors. However, IPOs look set to be less thin on the ground than in 2008 – at least by mid-2009. Peter Koh reports.
  • Unlike most sovereign wealth funds, the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan is still growing strongly and looking for more foreign risk. Will the country’s experience of the global downturn rob the international capital markets of a new hope? Dominic O’Neill reports from Baku.
  • After enjoying years of plenty, the country’s investment banks are facing up to the prospect of leaner times ahead. Guy Norton reports from Moscow on how they are looking to survive the economic downturn.
  • Jordan’s Arab Bank is one of the most influential financial institutions in the Middle East. It has thrived for nearly 80 years, largely because of a strict risk management policy. Sudip Roy reports from Amman on how the bank is managing the financial crisis.
  • In this downturn, corporate restructurings will be driven by problems at the banks rather than the struggling companies themselves. Louise Bowman explains why.
  • Agency brokers have returned to fixed income just as investment banks have withdrawn from the market. Will they be able to create dark pools of liquidity and repair the breach in the distribution of debt securities? And does their increasing power herald the return of the primacy of relationships?
  • Credit insurer Coface is to launch a financial ratings service in the UK. By using company information, credit insurance expertise and its own expertise, the firm aims to be able to offer spot ratings on a medium-sized company for a starting price of just £4,000. Coface has criticized the draft EU regulation for rating agencies saying that it will increase costs without having any impact on quality.
  • At the start of 2008, Paul Day, deputy head of research at MIG Investments, predicted that sterling would be the dog of the FX market in 2008. He reckoned that it would plunge to parity against the euro – a prediction that many thought singled him out as being barking mad.
  • Five years ago, Euromoney was catching up over lunch with a senior figure at a large European bank. Something was troubling him. His private bankers were reporting that emissaries from a large US-based hedge fund had been approaching wealthy European clients telling them that they had unearthed a secret formula to extract regular, risk-free returns from the stock markets.
  • Saxo Bank has had a mixed press this year, which is perhaps testament to the fact that it can no longer be considered to be a junior upstart in foreign exchange.
  • Markets are positioned for something akin to the Great Depression. With so much doom and gloom in the air, now is the right time to buy equities.
  • TraderTools has unveiled a compact keyboard, the AI-1, which it says will simplify the trading process. It comes with extra-large, colour-coded keys that should prove extremely useful for those old spot dealers who have delayed their retirement because of the lack of a bonus in 2008. The keyboard can be connected to a wide range of trading platforms. I did suggest to TraderTools that it should launch a version with a ‘mom tick’ button for all the snipers that still exist in the market, but apparently there’s not that great a demand for it any more in spot. In options, though, it’s a different matter.