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June 2004

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  • 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.
  • The International Swaps and Derivatives Association is writing to capital markets regulators in the Middle East to see whether its derivatives documentation can be used in Islamic jurisdictions.
  • 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.
  • The family's toilet seat hangs on a nail in the shared bathroom. The man in the big room at the end of the corridor is always drunk. No-one cleans the kitchen properly. And the baby next door always cries in the middle of the night. Tens of thousands of Russians still live in communal apartments (komunalka) in buildings confiscated from the rich and given to the workers immediately after the revolution. Entire families are crushed into each room, with six or seven families to an apartment. The irony is that some have decent jobs but are unable to borrow from a bank, so moving remains beyond their reach.
  • 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?.
  • The timing couldn?t have been worse. The Yukos saga moved into its endgame as charges against both the oil company and its biggest shareholders went to court at the end of May. The bankruptcy of what was once Russia?s most valuable company now looks like a real possibility. Investors would have been unnerved anyway, but the start of the trials coincided with a string of bad news and Russia?s leading RTS index slipped, wiping out all of this year?s gains in a week.
  • There have been more rumours in the past two years that CSFB and Credit Suisse were about to be sold than there have been sightings of Elvis. And like the King of Rock 'n' Roll, these rumours just won't go away. The recent spate of commercial bank mergers in the US fuelled speculation, with Credit Suisse said to be hooking up with Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and, lately, HSBC.
  • 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.
  • Glittering skyscrapers, air-conditioned malls, manicured lawns, litter-free boulevards, and a law-abiding population... It is hard to believe that 200 years ago Singapore was a disease-ridden backwater populated by fisherman and pirates. And just 40 years ago the island state was racially divided, lacking in resources and reliant on unfriendly neighbours for food and water. Singapore?s transformation into a thriving global financial centre, however, is not a result of natural evolution. Rather, its leaders have approached it as a carefully thought-out project. What Singapore has lacked, it has simply created ? it?s ?a man-made miracle?.
  • Private investors and institutions have both benefited from the flexibility of hedge fund products. But as the market matures, the products available have become more complex and the strategies employed more diverse. And with market growth comes a possible dilution of the hedge fund ideal. What should investors do now?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It all looked propitious for FDI. The World Bank/IFC was touting it, reforms favouring foreign investment had been put in place and the opening of talks for EU accession seemed assured. Enter the element of destabilizing surprise that Turkey specializes in.
  • Investors panicked last month as fear spread that the US Federal Reserve would soon hike rates. Momentum players of the global reflation trade rushed to unwind positions in high-yield markets. Borrowers were forced to pull deals. The panic subsided as quickly as it arose and the sell-off failed to engulf global markets this time. What happens next?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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