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July 1997

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  • Since teetering on the edge of bankruptcy early this year amid expectations of being the world's first Brady bond defaulter, Bulgaria appears to be bouncing back. The turning point was the installation of a staunchly pro-reform government in April since when prices across Bulgarian debt markets have rocketed.
  • France may fudge its pensions, Germany may quibble over the value of its gold, but Belgium has come up with a unique solution to meeting the Maastricht criteria: selling its embassy in Tokyo. One Tokyo property agent thinks the embassy, or more particularly the site, could net the Belgians $200 million, knocking anything between 1.6% and 2.8% from the budget deficit. This could knock 0.1% off the Maastricht deficit to GDP ratio at a single stroke.
  • Euromoney's Awards for Excellence continue to generate enormous interest and to be regarded as the industry leader in independent recognition. Each year as the vetting process gets under way, our editorial offices are besieged by bankers and their public relations teams lobbying for their institutions. The excitement continues long after the results are decided as banks rejoice over the awards they have won and fret over the ones they missed.
  • Issuer: Korea Development Bank
  • Credit is this year's buzzword in investment banking. Credit analysts, credit trading, credit products and credit spreads are the talk of managers around the world. The excitement is driven by solid economic factors such as European monetary union, improving credit fundamentals, low interest rates and the search for yield. But markets are also being talked up by some traders looking for the upside in bonds almost as if they were equities. Investors are mistaken if they believe that credit derivatives provide a hedge in the same way as interest rate swaps. Will it all end in tears? Peter Lee investigates.
  • The banking system is taking steps to shape up for European competition. But so far the changes are hardly sufficient in an industry plagued by overcapacity. Analysts argue that only mega-mergers will turn the tide. Philip Moore reports.
  • Defying acute political uncertainty and a high-risk macroeconomic environment, some of Turkey's largest companies are preparing to make international offerings. Metin Munir reports.
  • Red chips have dominated headlines and share trading in Hong Kong in 1997. But who controls these new mainland-owned hongs? And how can analysts and investors value their fast-growing assets. Steven Irvine visits the new taipans.
  • The globalization of the securities markets can put issuers and underwriters in breach of us law without their realizing it. And journalists can be the unwitting bearers of illicit news. Peter Lee asks if the SEC is about to make some long overdue changes.
  • We investors are nightwalkers in a dream world, where success is not predicting what economies will do next, but what the markets will dream they will do. So in trying to predict where markets will be by the end of 1998, a realistic starting-point would be to say: we don't know. But, at least, we can outline the critical variables that will make you richer or poorer over the next year or two.
  • The postponed Philippines' yankee was finally launched last month in a way that appeared to save face for both the country and lead-manager Salomon Brothers but which, in reality, retained the quirkiness of the entire saga.
  • As charm offensives go, HongkongBank's latest effort may have produced mixed results. The territory's largest financial institution decided to invite its biggest rival, the Bank of China, round to its exoskeleton on Queen's Road for what was dubbed the inaugural Bank of China night.
  • The irrevocable fixing of exchange rates for currencies entering European monetary union (Emu) is much too important to be left to the markets. That is the conclusion of most policymakers looking at the task the EU has set itself between now and January 1 1999.
  • Exchange-traded derivatives now have their own standard-form agreement. But that's no excuse for leaving your brain at home. Christopher Stoakes reports.
  • Last National Bank of Boot Hill,
  • Issuer: Republic of Cyprus
  • Should Deutschmark and French franc bonds be converted to the nearest euro, or to two decimal places - to the nearest euro cent? Arcane as this discussion may seem it has come close to fisticuffs among the Perrier and sandwiches as government officials and trade bodies try to ensure a liquid euro securities market in 1999. David Shirreff reports.
  • Financial web sites are no longer little more than electronic advertisements. Investment banks want to offer their clients meaty services - pricing models, account-management tools, databases of trades, perhaps even real-time trading. Security is a declining problem but there are still bandwidth limitations to contend with. However, at least one bank reckons it can reduce its own costs if clients can get straight to data rather than deal with customer services. Andy Webb reports.
  • Contrasting with the bullish prices of much emerging market debt, Yugoslavia's has dropped from being traded in the high forties a few weeks ago to a low of 35%, following inconclusive talks held at the end of June between the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the FRY consists of Serbia and Montenegro) and the relevant London Club committee. Some analysts think the price could go lower still.
  • Kenshodo, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, has found a great cure for economic blues: Chinese herbal medicine. And it has its sights set on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (Aim) for its first market listing.
  • What have Mephistopheles and the financial markets got in common? A lot, according to Lothar Märkl, a private banker at Bank Hofmann in Zurich. A recent advertisement for the bank in the Financial Times touts Märkl as a "profound authority on Goethe's Faust" with a "particular flair for philosophical topics".
  • While banks spend millions on creating an "image concept" around the globe, their efforts run into the ground in China.
  • Foreign funds are reducing their holdings in the relatively expensive Spanish equity market but domestic demand is mopping this up - and more. Falling interest rates, tax concessions on equity holdings and corporate-friendly labour-market reforms have attracted the Spanish away from fixed interest. And some foreigners are finding Madrid a useful proxy for Latin America. Jules Stewart reports.
  • Three years of declining margins have lenders scrambling for yield. They are turning to higher risk areas such as project finance and emerging markets. But the curse of high liquidity soon tracks them down and ruins the rates. Only by aggressive portfolio management and offering additional services can banks make money. Nigel Pavey reports.
  • Issuer: Snap
  • No surprises at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development after the departure of treasurer Mark Cutis to Nomura. His successor is Marcus Fedder, the 38-year-old former deputy and a member of the EBRD's only profit-maximizing team since 1991.
  • Goldman Sachs promotes itself as the company's friend, saying it prefers to advise clients on friendly acquisitions. So why has it pitched into three hostile takeovers this year? Not just because times and markets have changed. Michelle Celarier reports.
  • A former colleague of Richard Briance, the recently installed chief executive of WestLB's merchant banking arm, says: "West Merchant Bank were unbelievably lucky to get him. If I was him I'd have held out for a bigger job."
  • When foreign investment banks made $250 million on an erroneously priced Italian postal bond issue last year, the then chairman of Nomura's London office, Hitoshi Tonomura, was all set to follow CSFB's example and return Nomura's profit - thought to have been around $50 million.
  • If you think risk management is a serious business, then you haven't met Mervyn Stutter. Wearing a Hawaian shirt and a garish pink suit, the singer/comedian performed a musical revue of financial risk in front of an audience of initially reticent risk management experts at the end of June.