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July 2008

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  • The obsession about Goldman Sachs in the financial world – not least among its competitors – is nothing new.
  • Michael Philipp, chairman of Middle East and Africa at Credit Suisse, left the bank last month to set up his own business. His new, independent company will focus on investment management and advisory services in the region.
  • The China Securities Regulatory Commission has given Credit Suisse the go-ahead to launch a joint venture with local firm Founder Securities. The Swiss bank takes a 33% share in the new entity, which will be able to sponsor and underwrite A shares, foreign investment shares and government and corporate bonds. The firm will not be able to offer secondary market services such as research and broking, however: under new regulations announced in 2007 Sino-foreign joint ventures must show a track record of five years’ unblemished service before being able to expand their activities.
  • Euromoney’s awards for excellence recognize the banks that have best performed under difficult conditions over the past year. But what of the CEOs? Profile is everything but how can one really judge the most influential chiefs of the world’s biggest banks?
  • We could be living through the last days of the independent investment banks.
  • Last month’s Global ABS conference in Cannes was shaping up to be more of a wake than its usual annual party as things in the market went from bad to worse in the first quarter this year. But speakers at the event in June were (not surprisingly, given what they do for a living) determinedly upbeat about the market’s prospects. "We come to praise Caesar, not to bury him," declared Clifford Chance’s Kevin Ingram in the opening panel.
  • Perhaps Credit Suisse is seeking to reach the parts other banks dare not reach for?
  • Jack Jeffery, former chief executive of EBS, has joined option pricing specialist SuperDerivatives as chief operations officer. Jeffery will lead SuperDerivatives’ management team and oversee the execution of its business strategy. He will be based in London. The company has also employed Anton Aucamp, who worked with Jeffery at EBS, as its head of marketing.
  • HBOS, whose dealing rooms operate under the name of Bank of Scotland Treasury, has made two senior appointments to its Australian FX operations. Michael Peric joined as head of trading from NAB in early June. He has been joined by Matt Brady as head of FX trading.
  • International investors clearly still have faith in the growth prospects for banks in Kazakhstan, despite the fact that the global credit crunch has hit the country harder than arguably anywhere else in emerging Europe. In late June, Alnair Capital, a private equity group backed by capital from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nayhan, announced its intention to take a 25% stake in Kazkommertsbank, the country’s second-biggest bank by assets.
  • 7 the average percentage return of US IPOs one month after listing so far this year.
  • The strong run in emerging market equities and the relative outperformance of non-US developed market stocks appears to have ended as a weak US housing market weighs down on consumers and credit markets and high commodity prices stoke inflation worldwide.
  • Barings, Castlepoint, AIG, Eclectica, to name but a few, have all set up agriculture funds in the past 12 months to cash in on expected commodity price increases. And if returns to date are anything to go by, more will be joining them.
  • NYSE plans rule changes to improve the competitiveness of its trading floor.
  • The transatlantic exchange group this June announced a strategic partnership with the State of Qatar to invest $250 million in a 25% stake in the Doha Securities Market. The DSM will adopt NYSE Euronext technology and gain an international partner while NYSE Euronext will gain a foothold in the fast expanding Middle East.
  • According to a survey by Tabb Group, one in four US hedge funds is planning to open a new office outside the US in the next two years. At least 400 offices will open in the next 12 months and, depending on market conditions, a further 400 in the next two years, says the report. The majority of funds opening abroad are multi-strategy. These need to move to markets in which investment opportunities arise.
  • Brazilian mining company Vale announced on June 12 that it had requested permission to issue $14 billion in shares to raise cash for acquisitions and growth. Vale, the world’s largest producer of iron ore, has filed with the Brazilian securities and exchange commission to sell an unspecified number of common and preferred class-A shares in Brazil and abroad, as well as US traded ADRs. In a statement the company said the money would help fund a $59 billion investment plan.
  • OGX, the Brazilian mining company owned by billionaire Eike Batista, and the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, the Mexican stock exchange, both came to market last month with landmark IPOs. They were important deals in a number of respects, including getting Latin primary market issuance going again this year. At least as significant was the emergence of China’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, as an investor in Latin American IPOs.
  • On June 11, Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, agreed to remove a tax of 1.5% on all financial transactions, admitting that the government did not need this revenue and that it was helping to push up inflation. He also introduced new exchange rate controls that will reduce the paperwork for capital goods imports. But this applies only to companies seeking $50,000 or less.
  • Ceiba Investments, a closed-end fund that invests solely in Cuban assets, is set to list its shares on London junior market AIM this month.
  • Man Group has bought a 25% stake in alternative investment manager Nephila Capital. The Bermuda-based manager specializes in insurance-based instruments such as catastrophe bonds, weather derivatives and insurance-linked securities.
  • This time last year, Phil Green had plenty to smile about.
  • China Merchants Bank will buy Hong Kong’s Wing Lung Bank, after beating bids from rivals including ICBC and Bank of Communications. CMB will pay HK$156.50 per share for a 53% stake in Wing Lung, valuing the bank at around $4.7 billion. Rumours of the sale have driven up Wing Lung’s share price: in a letter to shareholders on June 11, CMB’s board noted that the price paid per share represented "a premium of approximately 76.14% over the closing price of HK$88.85 per WLB Share as quoted on the Stock Exchange on 12 February 2008, being the last full trading day prior to recent news articles of the potential sale of the shares on 13 February 2008." It’s a high price to pay, and in the same letter the board of CMB announced that the bank would look to the debt markets to raise sufficient capital to finance the acquisition with an issuance of Rmb30 billion ($4.3 billion). CMB, China’s sixth-largest bank by assets, was advised by JPMorgan in the three-month bidding process. Wing Lung was advised by UBS and Credit Suisse.
  • After being among the top performers of 2007, Asia-focused hedge funds are suffering this year. In 2007, the HFR Asia composite hedge fund index returned more than 17%, and the Asia ex-Japan index almost 40%. Year to end-May 2008, however, the Asia ex-Japan index is down almost 10%. If investors piled in based on past performance, they will now be kicking themselves.
  • Many hedge funds are significantly more hedged that they were one year ago, says Steve Gross, principal of Penso Capital Markets, a New York asset management and risk management firm.
  • As one door closes, another opens. Odey Asset Management closed its $40 million Japan hedge fund in June after it fell more than $1 billion in 18 months. The same month, though, the manager announced that it would be creating a fund of hedge funds subsidiary in order to play out some of its investment theme convictions.
  • Japan’s stock markets have struggled lately as foreign investors abandon the country in droves; the Tokyo Stock Exchange, meanwhile, suffers from the perception that listing on it is still too difficult for foreign companies and that it is prone to technological problems.
  • Changes in domestic market conditions are making borrowing abroad the most attractive option for Chilean banks and corporates.
  • As part of the decision-making process for the Awards for Excellence, Euromoney journalists conduct numerous interviews with senior bankers who aim to convince us why they should win.
  • The belief that Libor is an actual rate at which banks lend substantial money to one another is a façade that the credit crunch has torn down with a vengeance.