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June 1997

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  • Borrowers are wondering how European monetary union (Emu), if it happens, will affect their credit ratings.
  • First there were commemorative watches, then there were commemorative bottles of beer - called Red Dawn. Now the Bank of England has joined the crush to make a buck out of Hong Kong's handover to China by printing special £5 notes.
  • Borrowers: Borrowers start to play a strategic game
  • Borrowers: Borrowers start to play a strategic game
  • The main banks trading in the European government bond markets are looking closely at the mechanisms used to offer government bonds in the primary market.
  • Borrowers: Borrowers start to play a strategic game
  • By all accounts the City of Moscow is in good shape.
  • April is the cruellest month, wrote TS Eliot. Chinese investors may beg to differ. They found May pretty cruel. In the past month the Beijing authorities have declared war on China's two principal stock markets, rattled by alleged speculation. This had carried the Shanghai domestic share index to gains of 55% since January, and pushed Shenzhen up 75%. By the time Beijing decided to act the two markets were on P/E ratios of nearly 50 times historical earnings. But at first Beijing's usually subtle hints had no impact on a market convinced of its own immortality.
  • Corporate entertaining has never had it so tough. Wimbledon, one of the highlights of the UK social calendar, is unveiling its rebuilt No 1 Court at this month's grand slam tennis championships. But the dynamic new era threatens to spoil the fun for those who are there to impress clients.
  • The scandal at Nomura Securities, the subject of this month's cover story, carries an important lesson for anyone dealing with Japan. Japanese financial institutions have a very different attitude to the law than do their western counterparts. Not to put a finer point on it, they have little moral compunction about breaking the law when it suits them.
  • These are nervous times for investors in Pakistan's power sector, which has attracted around $3 billion since 1994. Allegations that agreed tariffs were set too high and that several of the 18 independent power projects (IPP) that have achieved financial closure involved illegal gifts to members of Benazir Bhutto's government have prompted Nawaz Sharif's administration, which took office in February, to scrutinize terms and conditions.
  • The European Investment Bank, Euromoney's borrower of the year, is snapping at the World Bank's heels with careful timing and improved investor relations. Russia, best debut borrower, excited the market with its $1 billion and Dm2 billion opening salvos. While the experienced team in Buenos Aires makes Argentina our top emerging market borrower a few lines.
  • Who remembers the "Abbey habit"? The slogan which brought savers flocking to deposit money may still be there but, as with the Prudential's "man from the Pru", times and tastes have changed. Today Abbey National is a full-service bank with total assets of £124 billion ($202 billion). Last year Abbey reported pre-tax profits of £1.17 billion. In terms of assets it is the fifth-largest bank in the UK with a market capitalization of £13.2 billion.
  • It was a twist of fate. In the same month as Jardine Fleming sacked one of its senior executives for being involved in gun-running for rebels in Papua New Guinea, another man with miltary ties was airing his views on the similarities of banking and soldiering in Fleming's monthly research reports.
  • Coming to a screen near you soon, the all-singing, all-dancing dealing room. Gone are the days when dealers shied away from the prying gaze of television cameras.
  • Business leaders keep a close eye on rivals in Russia. "If your competitor buys a Mercedes, you'll buy a Mercedes," says Yuri Kotler, spokesman for the Federal Commission for the Securities Market. "If he hires a western chief financial officer, so will you. And if he issues a Eurobond..." Since the Russian Federation's debut $1 billion Eurobond last November, many companies have said they'll follow suit. So far none has. The state Eurobond "had the gestation period of an elephant", as one banker put it (it took nearly a year to launch the deal) so there should be little expectation that Russian companies would be right behind it. And the City of Moscow only managed to launch its $500 million debut Eurobond at the end of May. St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod are due to come to market by the end of this month.
  • At this year's Euromoney borrowers and investors conference, one of the bond market's most respected and outspoken heads of borrowing will be notably absent from the borrower panels and roundtables. Mark Cutis, former treasurer of the EBRD, has jumped back into the banking world, whence he came following stints at Merrill Lynch and Dresdner Bank. After six years at EBRD - he originally committed to stay for just 18 months - he now sits on the management committee of Nomura International, running its international market division.
  • Saudi Arabia's capital markets will require reform and liberalization if the kingdom is to build a dynamic economy on what is left of its oil wealth. The Saudi authorities are as aware of this as outside observers and their own bankers, but have been ultra-cautious about implementing change. Philip Moore reports on signs of a quickening pace.
  • New president Junichi Ujiie says he wants to introduce radical change to clean up and modernize Nomura Securities. If he succeeds, the Japanese house could pick itself up from its recent scandal and bounce back to become a global financial power-house. But first Ujiie must halt the bloody factional infighting that marred the term of his predecessor, Hideo Sakamaki, and wipe out the pernicious influence of two former presidents, the Tabuchis. Garry Evans reports.
  • Governments in emerging markets have spent $250 billion bailing out banks in the past decade. How can the industrial countries help stop the haemorrhage and any knock-on into their own markets? By imposing worldwide rules for better supervision, building markets and institutions in their own image, or by letting free markets do their work? James Smalhout reports.
  • US interest rate rises are an ever-present threat to Latin American bonds, but market bulls reckon such rises won't be as destructive as they were in 1994. Sovereign borrowing is easing, privatization is under way, rating upgrades of some corporates have left more room for lesser names and securitization is taking off. So corporates look likely to capture a much bigger market share. Michael Marray reports
  • With Russian issuance still in its early days, any new bond is a source of interest and speculation. The City of Moscow's debut didn't disappoint. Charles Piggott reports.
  • Greek banks will need to consolidate if they are to be competitive in the European single-currency system. Much as their officials dread the prospect, it looks as if the big state-owned banks will also have to privatize to get fighting fit. Privatization in Greece has not been undertaken at break-neck pace, but the second tranche of telecoms company OTE's float will be a big step forward. Philip Eade reports.
  • Portugal's banking sector has consolidated rapidly since reprivatization but assets of $250 billion are still divided among more than 40 players. Emu and foreign competition demand even more mergers or alliances. The three big controlling families already have informal connections that could form the basis for closer ties.
  • More evidence of Dresdner Bank's extraordinary preference for the long view comes in an interview given to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by the bank's chief executive, Jürgen Sarrazin.
  • The new UK Labour government has won fans in the City of London by announcing, after only a few weeks in office, a wholesale reform of financial regulation.
  • Israel is awash with companies - many in the high-tech sector - eager to make equity and debt issues. Not surprisingly, foreign banks are beginning to establish local bases. The snag for the local capital market is that much of the listing is being done abroad, particularly on Nasdaq. Nick Kochan reports on efforts to bring some of it home.
  • Despite disappointing emerging market performance relative to the US and Europe over the last three years, investors are generally confident about the rest of the year. Euromoney's survey of 33 equity investors, many of whom run dedicated emerging market funds, asked them where they intended to start, stop, increase and decrease investment in the next six months. An overall ranking of each country (see table) was established by subtracting the number planning to decrease from the number of increases and doubling the scores for stops and starts. Predictably, investors found Russia and Brazil attractive, while concern about the property markets of Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines dampened enthusiasm for Asia. Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa were popular candidates for new investment. Most investors maintained that risk in emerging markets is compensated for by their prices. Only one among the 33 polled was dissatisfied with recent emerging market performance and planned to decrease overall exposure. "I'm aware of the attractions of emerging markets," he said, "but they're good maybe one in four years. The rest of the time you're ultimately better off with the S&P 500 or the FTSE."
  • Private investigator Kroll Associates has worked hard to restore its reputation following allegations in the early 1990s that its subcontractors employed unsavoury tactics to uncover company information. It has also adapted well to changing business patterns. Now, though, it faces competition from big accounting firms. Public ownership may be the answer, but could its absorption into US insurance information services company Equifax dull its investigative edge or turn it into big brother? Michelle Celarier reports.