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June 1999

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  • The last 12 months have not been kind to borrowers. A succession of blows to investor confidence have caused huge swings in sentiment. We started the period with the flight to quality, superliquidity and an avoidance of all things emerging market. We have ended it with a clamour fro credit product, a flight from quality and a surge in emerging market issues. These are the borrowers who best rode the storm.
  • Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez may have worried democrats with his moves to curb congressional powers but for debt underwriters and investors it promises to be good news. The reforms have made it easier for Venezuela to issue and the country is set to join other emerging-market sovereigns returning to the international capital markets this year.
  • Reflexologists, iridologists and physiotherapists are not the analysts usually associated with Warburg Dillon Read, but a platoon of them was hired in to "destress" the bank's London workforce. Over the three-day event, all but 40 of the bank's staff turned up to get their cholesterol and blood pressure tested, and to take in advice on alternative therapies.
  • During the past few months we have been swamped with gadgets incorporating the euro symbol. All the major European banks have been distributing euro-inspired watches, clocks, calculators and even food items to their main clients and their employees to celebrate the birth of the new currency.
  • For international equity investors these days, working without an array of technological equipment is inconceivable. When Art Lerner began actively to invest in 1969, though, his main tool was the telephone. Even then it could be frustrating. "Back when I started, the companies we visited were usually shareholder unfriendly. There was very little information or research material available - some annual reports didn't even have an English version. You could ring up a company in, say, the Netherlands and have the CFO say to you: 'What do you care for? We run the company, we make money, and that's that.' Of course, they were salaried staff, and had no incentive to improve the share price."
  • Two months ago, Stephen Saali had plans. The bank of which he is president, Republic New York Corporation, had been through a rough six months. Republic, which is ultra-conservative in its approach and proud of it, had tarnished its image with a $200 million loss betting on Russian treasury GKOs during the Russian crisis, and reported a third-quarter loss as a result.
  • Thirty years ago, US withholding-tax regulations kick-started the Eurodollar market which Euromoney was founded to report on. And today, withholding-tax regulation is again a hot topic in the international bond markets. Although the European Central Bank (ECB) has refused to comment publicly on the recent furore over savings tax harmonization, saying it is purely a matter for the European Commission, it is understood that senior ECB figures are in favour of harmonizing withholding taxes throughout Europe. This would involve the introduction of a withholding tax to be enforced in London. The ECB's motivation to support such regulation could be said to be the same as that behind its determination to restrict the access of UK institutions to the European cross-border payment system, Target. The bank is believed to be extremely uncomfortable with the idea of having the principal money market for its new currency located outside the eurozone, fearing that this would compromise the ability of the ECB to conduct monetary policy.
  • It's one of the most famous addresses in the world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective hero Sherlock Holmes had his home at 221b Baker Street in London and for many tourists travelling to London a visit is high on the list.
  • Is the international sovereign bond market on the verge of a great transformation or will the recent debate over terms and conditions turn out to be so much hot air? Investors and bankers are hoping for the latter proclaiming that any changes would cut off the supply of capital to emerging markets. Others decry a situation in which they see different lenders getting different treatment due more to historical evolution than to any set of rational principles.
  • Over 200 clients of Barclays trooped out to see the US premiere of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant's film Notting Hill., an event sponsored by the UK bank.
  • Like most emerging markets Argentina is unused to hostile takeover bids and certainly not those on the scale of Repsol's bid for YPF. To some analysts the takeover is a case of a company with a poor investment record in Latin America -- Spain's oil company Repsol - gaining control of a well-managed firm - YPF has been remodeled since privatization with a clear strategy and strong balance sheet. They warn of the dangers of leveraged takeovers.
  • An extensive audit of 18 Russian commercial banks shows that many bigger ones are - by western standards - clinically dead. International lenders have lost patience. They want to push Russia's central bank and government into a major overhaul of the sector. But they lack the leverage to enforce it. And the central bank lacks the will. John van Schaik reports.
  • Portugal's banks are performing well, stimulated by the new single currency. In the long term, though, they will need to consolidate if they are to carve out profitable niches in euroland. One route to this, arrangements with Spanish banks, has just closed, at least temporarily. James Rutter reports on the likely next steps
  • Prompted by the ravages of Hurricane Mitch and the crisis in emerging markets, Central America is changing - fast. As the crisis in Brazil finally explodes the myth of monetary sovereignty, Central American capital markets and institutions are being restructured in line with global developments. Michael Peterson toured Central America's banking sector, stopping off in Costa Rica to interview the president.
  • Given the number of banking and commercial agreements written under English law, bankers and corporate lawyers need to be aware of new litigation rules in the UK. By Christopher Stoakes
  • At the unlikely venue of Durbanville racecourse in autumnal South Africa, a little-known four-year-old pipped Like A Rock by a length to win the Maiden Plate over 1,200 metres on April 28.
  • Iceland's financial markets will barely be recognizable by the end of the year, such is the pace of change. Having opened its markets to foreign investment, the country is now pressing ahead with privatization. Rebecca Bream reports
  • Corporate restructuring is bound to generate frictions. Even so, long-suffering shareholders in Hong Kong red chip Guangnan hardly expected to witness a public row between two of the world's leading accountancy firms KPMG and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
  • How does an emerging-market sovereign extract the best from its underwriters? Argentina, praised for its borrowing success, has learnt its tough tactics the hard way. Gone are the days when freewheeling bankers could sell the republic a pup. Now they are met with controlled aggression and barbed comments alternating with soothing charm. Good cop, bad cop, Argentine-style, has shaved basis points off the nation's funding costs. Brian Caplen reports on the team behind the strategy
  • What does the birth of a big new capital market in euros mean for the world's existing pool of liquidity, the US market? So far, few US borrowers have issued in euros, but they, along with American investors, are keeping a keen eye on the development of the market
  • An interesting document, which came into Euromoney's hands, maybe sheds some light on the furore in Japan about deals allegedly designed to defer losses over future reporting periods. David Shirreff reports
  • The credit market in Eurobonds is becoming deep and varied. For the first time, corporates - including lower-rated borrowers - are driving the market. Securitization and hybrid debt are taking off as well. But which firms are best placed to sell these products to European investors? Marcus Walker reports.
  • Issuer: Hutchison Whampoa
  • The quest to find the best-guarded bank in Central America begins in Costa Rica. Raids on branches have become a problem in this traditionally peaceful, unarmed society. Crédito Agrícola de Cartago has taken on a nervous-looking youth with a rifle. Few such worries at the central bank, where the security guard is armed only with a pistol and is too busy chatting with the shoe-shiners to notice me sneaking past.
  • Monumentum aere perennius - a monument more lasting than bronze. That is probably the last piece of Latin readers of Euromoney will have to endure outside the legal page - just one, small difference between the worlds of 1969 and 1999. When Euromoney was founded in June of that year, every senior banker in London, certainly, and probably Frankfurt, Paris and Milan too would have read the works of Horace - the poet who believed his work would last longer than the statues of Rome's dignitaries.
  • The contrasting economic fortunes of the core of Europe and those at the edge of, or outside, the euro area persist. The consensus view has been that euroland economic growth will begin to accelerate this year and that there will be a slowdown (or even recession in the case of the UK) in the periphery.
  • Lebanese banks have lived well by investing in high-yielding treasury bonds. But with government debt issuance and interest rates set to fall, banks are looking for new ways to make money. Charles Olivier reports
  • Zambia's economy remains as dependent as ever on copper, and there is no immediate prospect that the current depressed price of this commodity will improve. Zambia also desperately needs currency stability. The kwacha has fallen by more than 70% against the dollar in the past two years and interest rates are over 30%. Helen Henton reports
  • This is a brief and highly selective history of the international financial markets over the past 30 years. Who were the heroes, who were the villains and who made a difference? It's the story of hopeful financial centres that flourished, showed promise but ultimately lost out to London, of banks and bankers with vaulting ambition who made it big, came a cropper or laid waste the markets around them. It's a story of creativity, excitement, success and spectacular failure. By David Shirreff.