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March 2008

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  • Published in conjuction with: ABN Amro - BNP Paribas - Citi - Commerzbank - Deutsche Bank - Fortis - HSBC - ING - Rabobank - SEB - Société Générale - Standard Chartered
  • Marking everything that is complex down to zero, because markets are illiquid, does not seem to be a particularly equitable or sensible way of going about things. And that’s before you even consider the way the marking malaise is contributing to systemic risk.
  • Two SIVs endured very different fates in February. On February 21, Dresdner Bank announced plans to shore up its K2 vehicle, providing liquidity support to the $19 billion vehicle as it restructures. But parent company Allianz has confirmed its plans to wind the vehicle down by the year-end. K2 runs three portfolios, one of which has entered a restricted operating period. Standard Chartered, however, has walked away from its SIV, Whistlejacket, which entered receivership on February 11 and was teetering on the brink of default by February 21.
  • Richard Herman has moved across from his role as European head of debt sales to become Deutsche Bank’s global head of sales following Jim Turley’s decision to take a sabbatical and focus on rugby coaching. The bank has also announced that Mark Carrodus has stepped down from his position as global head of FX spot and options at Deutsche Bank for personal reasons. Carrodus, who is returning with his family to New Zealand, will be replaced by Rob Mandeno, who coincidentally is at present based in New Zealand. Mandeno will move to London to take up his new role.
  • Banker: "We looked at SG, but the integration would have been very difficult and, in any case, the French don’t like to sell to foreigners"
  • Fitch’s proposed new methodology will tighten CDO ratings, and Moody’s is considering abolishing its current ratings scale altogether.
  • Anticipation of the much-discussed but now postponed launch of the European residential mortgage-backed securities index (ERMBX) is behind violent swings in spread levels on single-name credit default swaps on RMBS tranches. Markit, ERMBX’s owner, announced that the index’s debut has been delayed because of market volatility. That volatility, in fact, has been caused by buyers of protection on single-name CDS referencing prime RMBS AAAs, say market participants.
  • Anyone who follows the travails of England’s football, cricket and rugby teams should easily have predicted Northern Rock’s troubles.
  • Corporate earnings forecasts might still need to fall but the near 20% collapse in global equity markets since their 2007 peaks suggests that the worst might already be almost fully priced in.
  • Volatility creates opportunities but, in the case of some strategies, high levels can be lethal. Helen Avery talks to the founder of CTA Pirates of Profit about how risks need to be fully understood.
  • The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is putting $350 million with smaller managers. The $240 billion fund is putting $150 million with emerging manager fund of funds FIS Group. It is the scheme’s first allocation to emerging long-only managers. FIS Group was set up in 1996, and its emerging manager fund of funds allocates to small investment management entrepreneurs that usually fall below the radar screens of large institutional investors. The maximum assets under management of managers will be $2 billion from around the world. Calpers will also be putting $200 million into Redwood Investment Management.
  • Saxo Bank has promoted Tobias Straessle, who was chief information officer, to chief operating officer. The bank has also promoted Claus Nielsen to the new role of chief operating officer for trading. Saxo says Nielsen’s promotion reflects a change in its structure and will help to ensure coordination between all of the bank’s growing list of services. As a replacement for Nielsen, Saxo has hired industry veteran Steve "Wham" Braithwaite as its director, global head of foreign exchange and fixed income. The bank has also appointed two new spot dealers, Steve Bellamy, who joins from JPMorgan, and Matt Strand, who was at Bank of America.
  • February 11 was supposed to be so much fun for Anil Ambani. The billionaire younger son of the late Indian industrialist Dhirubhai had just floated his latest investment vehicle on the Mumbai stock exchange. Reliance Power’s stock sale was a cracker: sold in less than 60 seconds, its mid-January roadshow was a whopping 73 times subscribed, sucking huge chunks of liquidity from the system. Investors scrambled to buy paper linked to India’s latest infrastructure play – a company so shiny new that its valuation is based on a dozen huge power plants that won’t come online until 2012. Yet Ambani’s party, held at his plush Mumbai residence, turned out to be more wake than celebration. In the few weeks since Reliance Power’s roadshow, India’s markets tanked. The local benchmark Sensex index lost more than 20% in the five weeks to February 12. Several infrastructure-related IPOs were also pulled in early February, including Indo-Dubai real estate joint venture Emaar MGF, whose initial stock sale was slightly less than 90% subscribed when it was pulled.
  • Companies are beginning to look to their neighbours for investment flows.
  • The Indian stock market is in free fall, but on the sub-continent that story has had to take second billing to the forthcoming Indian Premier League 20/20 cricket tournament set to take place in April.
  • Going up
  • Mid-East equity capital market volumes
  • Chinese banks face a potential corporate defaults crisis for the first time in five years.
  • The financial services sector in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia looks set to remain a magnet for foreign direct investment thanks to growing economic and political stability.
  • Lebanon still has no president, and now its public debt has been downgraded.
  • The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, sent a calming message to US motorists this month, reassuring them that Venezuela is not about to cut off oil shipments to the US.
  • Six months into a credit crunch there are few signs of an improving outlook for non-government bond markets. It is a signal equity investors would do well to heed.
  • Credit Suisse is building its investment banking presence in the Andes. The Swiss house is adding an executive in Bogotá and is on the lookout for a person in Lima to bolster client coverage. The group has been aggressive in the region for the past 12 months and wants to consolidate its position. Credit Suisse took part in a series of high-profile deals in 2007, including the $2.8 billion privatization IPO of Ecopetrol, as well as deals for some first-time issuers such as Peruvian fishmeal company Copeinca.
  • Citi has hired Jaime Yordan to head its Latin American banking business. Yordan comes to the bank from CDK, a New York alternative investment fund, where he was advisory director. At Citi he will be vice-chairman of global banking for Latin America, reporting to Manuel Medina Mora, chairman and CEO of the business. He will also report to Raymond McGuire and Alberto Verme, co-heads of investment banking.
  • The reporting season in the Middle East this year has been an incongruous affair. There has been record revenue growth as the economic boom continues but some banks have had to be content with much smaller growth in their profits.
  • Exchange-traded funds backed by physical gold are to be launched on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, following last August’s debut on the Osaka exchange of ETFs backed by bonds linked to the price of the precious metal. Japan’s investors have long had an affinity for gold: it is the only country where buyers of gold-related options contracts frequently exercise their right to delivery, according to Itsuo Toshima, regional representative of the World Gold Council. It is also the only country in which gold accumulation plans, whereby investors gradually acquire small amounts of the metal through diligent monthly payments of as little as ¥3,000 ($30), have succeeded.
  • From a subsidiary of an English public school to a UAE migrant labour camp: diversification can hardly be said to be lacking at Evolvence Capital. The Dubai-based alternative investment group is reportedly planning to market bonds backed by commercial mortgages worth up to $700 million in order to kick-start a $1 billion Reit. Aside from a migrant labour camp, the Reit, the company’s first, will also contain a warehouse and offices. Evolvence is apparently aiming for the CMBS to be sold in the fourth quarter.
  • The downward curve on Reliance Power’s post-launch stock price chart (see India: Reliance Power unplugged by inconstant investors, Euromoney, March 2008) wasn’t the only graphic shocker in India last month. In a single week in early February, three Indian corporates – Wockhardt Hospitals, real estate firm Emaar MGF and SVEC Constructions – pulled their IPOs. The lack of demand for their paper among every class of investor was stunning. Emaar’s $1.64 billion stock sale performed best but was subscribed just 0.83 times. Investors were even more Scrooge-like with SVEC’s tiny $10 million sale, which was only a quarter covered. But pity poor Wockhardt, whose $165 million was subscribed a pitiful 0.15 times on the institutional investor side, and just 6.44% among qualified institutional buyers.
  • A report by EDHEC says funds of hedge funds returned more than 10% in 2007 on average, compared with just 3.53% for the S&P 500 and 4.14% for the Lehman Global US Treasury Bond index. The best-performing strategy last year in single managers was emerging markets. All strategies produced positive returns, although a majority suffered a slight fall-off in performance on 2006.
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