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June 2011

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  • The big-five UK banks have promised to lend £76 billion ($124 billion) to SMEs this year as part of the Project Merlin deal with the UK government whereby they avoided being forced to split off their investment banking arms from their retail operations. But fury at the banks still boils in the UK. The Forum of Private Business, an SME lobby group, was scathing at news UK banks had lent only £16.8 billion to SMEs in the first three months of 2011, well short of the target of £19 billion. Chief executive Phil Orford dismisses the banks’ explanation of muted demand from creditworthy borrowers as "the same old excuses". He decries a "widening knowledge gap when it comes to lenders’ ability to gauge small business risk" and called on banks to "hand decision-making powers back to local branch managers" that are better placed to assess borrowers and away from "the over-centralized, tick-box mentality we are seeing now". At least he did not endorse the tactics of one frustrated loan applicant, Gabriel Radzikowski, who took offence at the failure of a neighbour, Sara Lilly, to use her influence as a director of the local Barclays bank in Bath to help him obtain a loan to pay his rent.
  • Euromoney was surprised this month when the press department at the best borrower in the world, Germany’s Finanzagentur, started suggesting a change of name in our article about its success (see Best borrowers 2011: A triumph for transparency, Euromoney June 2011).
  • "We pulled the old Top Gun on them: hit the brakes and watched ’em fly right by!"
  • Who’s "Bad"? While most bankers relax by playing golf or sailing, one City dealmaker has a more "Off the Wall" hobby. Euromoney has learnt that a senior banker in London is such a big Michael Jackson fan that he has taken lessons to learn how to moonwalk – clearly the dance is not as easy as "ABC".
  • In January this year, when Bob Diamond opined that the time for "remorse and apology" by banks over their role in the financial crisis should end, some people were listening more closely than others. Two purported Wall Street financiers have taken up the cause in cyberspace, rapping on YouTube in defence of people like Bob. Dubbing themselves Leeman Brothaz the duo argue that Wall Street greed was not to blame for the crisis as it helped the "corporate drones" take "neg am loans" to buy some "sick-ass homes". Not many rappers spend time rhyming "credit default swaps" with "were bought by wealthy WASPs" so the song is something of a departure for the genre. But its conclusion that "greed is good" is surely one thing that Diamond and other bonus-laden bank chief executives can agree on.
  • "It is highly optimistic, if not naïve, to believe that forcing debt investors to contribute to a bank’s recapitalization would encourage them to lend fresh money to this bank"
  • Rapid urbanization puts pressure on infrastructure. It also raises opportunities for banks to develop a range of electronic payment systems to improve city-dwellers’ lives. Laurence Neville reports.
  • "All the planes to Dublin are now full of guys in North Face fleeces and jeans instead of business suits"
  • The costs of fighting legal battles at Countrywide increased 70% from 2005 to 2006, an early warning sign of the horrors to come. As litigation mounts, banks’ expenditure to fight charges still attracts too little attention. Greater transparency could be one key to reform. Helen Avery reports.
  • A fresh wave of independent financial services companies has emerged in Turkey in the past few years. They are set to challenge the big banks and family conglomerates that dominate the markets. Nick Lord presents five firms that are intent on making the grade.
  • Local firms are finding their own difficulties with funding and credit exacerbated by national crises in growth, inflation and a fiscal deficit. Can they get out of this vicious circle? Nick Kochan reports from Lisbon.
  • As the volume of Chinese renminbi bonds issued in Hong Kong soars, previously starved investors are becoming fussier. While debt bankers talk up e market in public, in private the rush of synthetic, high-yield and even unrated deals worries some. Lawrence White reports.
  • Brazil is a big financial market with lots to manage and plenty of challenges. New investment rules offer broader opportunities. International investors are starting to see the potential too. Rob Dwyer reports.
  • The forced removal of Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus as head of the lender casts a shadow over an institution that has flourished in Bangladesh and spread its message around the world. Elliot Wilson reports.
  • On April 29 the US Treasury proposed exempting foreign exchange forwards and swaps from clearing and trading rules contained in the Dodd-Frank Act. The Global FX Division, a trade group representing the biggest users of foreign exchange, mainly banks, said at the time. "We very much welcome the US Treasury ‘proposed determination’, as moving FX swaps and forwards to centralized clearing will not only create additional costs for business users, but could also increase systemic risk." However, one influential financial market academic argues that the proposal to exempt FX might be a mistake, and could indeed foster systemic risk.
  • The European stranglehold over the head of the IMF needs to be replaced with an appointment based on merit alone.
  • Purisima says more local funding to come; Republic targets investment-grade rating
  • As domestic equity markets grow, Wall Street firms will lose their dominance of new issues.
  • Suramericana makes first move after upgrade; Investors clamour for Colombian exposure
  • Investors fear they cannot rely on banks’ calculations of their own risk-weighted assets.
  • Political unrest damaging Lebanese economy; Banks’ regional growth strategies revised
  • Local/foreign companies looking to list; Economic recovery underpins investor demand
  • The FDIC is reporting fewer failed banks but economic data suggest there are more to come.
  • Rothschild, Moelis see more business; Foreign firms say US IBs too ‘fast and loose’
  • Local banks attractive thanks to cash rewards; International firms constrained by regulations
  • The primary debt markets in Europe seem to have come to terms with the threat of a peripheral sovereign debt restructuring. But proposed regulation that will require bondholders to be bailed in when banks fail might be the last straw for some buyers in the FIG market. Louise Bowman reports.
  • Finance minister claims country deserves status; Ratings agencies say Uruguay vulnerable to external shocks
  • Kazakh-Chinese trade/investment on the rise; More Hong Kong equity issuance likely
  • Vietnam’s stock markets are experiencing wrenching volatility as market rumours, inflation-curbing rate increases and a lack of positive economic data take their toll. On May 18 the Ho Chi Minh City exchange’s VNIndex dropped 2.03% to 454.91 points, the most it had in a single day since mid-March. Since then markets have continued to be volatile, with several consecutive days in May in which over half of the stocks in the market were at or near the limits of their trading bands (after which trading is suspended). Several factors are contributing to the unusual amount of volatility.
  • Pilot-fishing no longer works; More bookrunners hamper consensus