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June 2004

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LATEST ARTICLES

  • Free money and a profligate fiscal policy in the US have achieved the near impossible - job creation. But don't count on a sustained upswing and meanwhile look to equities as the asset of last resort.
  • When WestLB put the venerable but slightly dishevelled corporate broker Panmure Gordon up for sale in January 2004 it was probably rather surprised to find 35 bidders competing for the toy it had got bored with.
  • The publication of Turkey's first set of corporate governance guidelines and plans for a new index on the ISE measuring compliance are encouraging. But the high level of family ownership is an impediment to good practice.
  • If you ask a trader to explain the emotional relationship he has with his positions, you will usually be met with a gruff rebuff.
  • Development bank AFD's issue offered government-style risk with enhanced yield. That was a winning formula with investors, whose interest rapidly took the e300 million deal's book to e1.2 billion.
  • It seems Bank of England governor Mervyn King?s love of football is catching on at the UK?s central bank.
  • It was a case of save the whales but lose the CEO on the island of Sakhalin off the far-east coast of Russia last month. Sakhalin Energy, a multi-billion dollar oil and gas project whose majority shareholder is Shell, is rethinking plans to build an offshore pipeline in the Piltun-Astokhskoye field ?to ensure minimal disturbance to the western grey whale?.
  • www.breakingviews.com
  • The panic selling that hit high-yield bonds, high-yield currencies, and emerging-country debt and equity markets last month has utterly destroyed market consensus.
  • The promised crisis never came and instead last year turned out to be a good one for most banks. This year is set to be even better as banking becomes structurally ever safer, though it will never be entirely risk free.
  • Economic recovery in Japan is not expected to be accompanied by a rush of corporates to the bond markets. Many companies are still paying down debt and those that are borrowing can do so relatively cheaply through bank lending. Nevertheless, there are signs of growing activity from Japanese credits both domestically and in international markets.
  • M&A activity in Australia, which has the largest M&A market in the Asia Pacific ex-Japan region, is set to grow by 20% this year, according to JPMorgan.
  • Continuous Linked Settlement (CLS), the electronic settlement network for foreign exchange, is handling a growing proportion of transactions globally, according to a new report.
  • There was great potential for confusion at Deutsche Bank?s London office one day last month. Standing in the grand reception area was a large sign bearing the words ?Welcome to Marks and Spencer?.
  • UK bankers depressed by the size of their last bonus should stop reading now. The news gets worse.
  • BNP Paribas has long been a staunch supporter of tennis and is firmly connected with the French Open championships at Roland Garros in Paris. But the surprising success of Tim Henman this year will surely have raised Gallic eyebrows.
  • There is rarely much middle ground between deluge and drought in Hong Kong's IPO market, which is powered by a powerful but fickle wall of retail money. The failure of several high-profile issues has started to claim victims. With mainland China's increasing reliance on Hong Kong to absorb issues from its frantic restructuring efforts, a market closure could have a serious impact.
  • Barclays’ announcement last month that it had agreed to outsource cash management services for its larger UK corporate clients to Deutsche Bank is remarkable. Maintaining account services, domestic and international payments and collections, liquidity management and electronic banking are bread-and-butter banking activities. The provision of such unglamorous but vital services is an essential part of the cement that binds corporate customers to their relationship banks. So it can’t have been easy for Barclays to admit that its customers would be better off using Deutsche’s products and services than its own.
  • Portuguese banks got through last year's recession remarkably smoothly. But despite their strength, there's still talk of further consolidation. Quite how this would be achieved is not clear, particularly as the government is likely to resist further foreign involvement.
  • As Euromoney's annual awards show, best borrowers come in all shapes and sizes, winning acclaim because of their investor appeal, tight pricing, good timing, or structural ingenuity. But, as Kathryn Tully reports, activists on the buy side are developing a more formal view of the basics of an investor-friendly issuer.
  • Central America's republics share the problem of heavy fiscal deficits, which incoming administrations hope to cure. Much is also expected of the implementation of a free trade agreement with the US.
  • Igor Yurgens, executive secretary of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, is a little wistful. “We used to have regular meetings with president Putin, roundtable discussions, normally in the presence of the prime minister and chief of staff,” he says. “We delivered a message, and usually he listened attentively, then we prepared a draft law if required. Then we’d work through bilateral committees and commissions.” But invitations from the Kremlin have got scarcer. “There has been a pause since the Khordorkovsky case,” Yurgens says. “We haven’t had any of these roundtable discussions since June last year. We had a chance to express some of our concerns to the president at our congress in October 2003, and that’s it. So now we’re waiting for a new meeting. It’s supposed to take place this month, and we’re hoping the dialogue will be resumed there. But at the moment, it’s pretty tense.”
  • By Fiona Maharg Bravo
  • Of the 10 countries to join the EU last month, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been identified as offering the most opportunities for wealth managers. According to a report by Datamonitor, the relatively high national savings ratios in the three countries offer an encouraging sign to banks looking at entering the wealth management sector in central and eastern Europe. "In comparison to the UK, with a national saving ratio of 13.1%, individuals in all three countries save, on average, a far greater proportion of their disposable income," says the report.
  • Six years of haggling came to an end last month when Russia and the EU finally signed off on a bilateral trade agreement that clears away a major obstacle in Russia?s efforts to join the World Trade Organization.
  • ABN Amro last month made a curious choice of words to announce the arrival of some new staff in its commodity derivatives division.
  • The European high-yield market ran into volatility last month on fears of US interest rate rises. But it is not life threatening. Fundamentals look good: fewer defaults, more diversity in issuers and buyers, and landmark deals.
  • Investment banks are bulking up their presence in mortgage lending, once the exclusive domain of their commercial and retail brethren. For some, such as Merrill Lynch, the advantage lies in being able to offer yet another financial product to its wealthy private clients.
  • Siemens Financial Services (SFS) has teamed up with UK securitization boutique SecDebt to try to bring SMEs and mid-cap companies to the capital markets. SFS and SecDebt reckon that between them they can cut the cost of issuing bonds backed by invoice debt in trade receivables-style deals.
  • It has been more than seven months since Bank of America bought FleetBoston, and almost six since JPMorgan Chase and Bank One announced their deal. But still Citigroup hasn?t pounced, confounding those who were sure that the world?s largest bank would feel compelled to join the rush to build a national retail franchise in its home market.