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May 1998

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  • Chile's pension-fund system is admired and revered worldwide. It is the model reformers from other countries always turn to. But the system is not without blemishes. Fierce competition between fund managers has led to high-pressure sales methods and finally an industry shake-out. The gains for account holders of lower fees could be short-lived as consolidation gets under way.
  • The UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA) booked its first high-profile transfer from the private sector last month, appointing Gay Evans of Bankers Trust as director of markets and exchanges. Evans will report to head of financial supervision Michael Foot from September.
  • Visitors to this year's Asian Development Bank meeting in Geneva were less than impressed by the presentation given by the Indonesian contingent. While slick and technical, the central bank's plans did not address the critical issues still facing the country and by extension the region. As Asian finance ministers admitted in private, the real economy has ground to a halt. Trade finance has dried up and foreign banks will not accept letters of credit or guarantees from Indonesian banks for imports. In the absence of a multilateral system to overcome this problem, the band-aid of bilaterals is now being used. It is not enough.
  • Sitting on the balcony of his plush Bangkok apartment building, sipping his gin and tonic and watching the city's pollution-enhanced sunsets (the fumes make for some spectacular pink and orange evenings), one of Bangkok's most prominent farang investment bankers is amused to see a poignant sign of the times.
  • They wear well-cut suits, shun bodyguards and are fluent in the language of the IMF. As Africa regains its capacity for growth, we profile five of the men who are leading the renaissance. Ex-guerrillas or veterans of industry, the reformers share a pragmatism born of a desire to see their countries succeed.
  • Having so long been the whipping-boy of its big cousin in London, the German futures exchange (Deutsche Terminbörse - DTB) can be forgiven for taking a full-page advertisement in the Financial Times in March to trumpet its victory.
  • Difficulties at one Middle East bank have focused attention on a fast-growing sector of the finance market. Islamic banks used to be simply places for those with strong religious convictions to deposit their money. Now, as Nigel Dudley reports, these institutions want to grow internationally, get into new business areas and compete for non-Moslem customers. International firms such as Citibank think the sector is attractive enough to set up their own specialist operations.
  • Just how much intense hard work can the market's leading traders pack into one three-day conference? Consider the schedule for the International Securities Market Association (Isma) conference in Prague.
  • Banks everywhere are muscling in on foreign exchange - just as the costs of building a forex business are rising and spreads are tightening. Europe's commercial banks are trying to replace business lost with the onset of Emu. US investment banks are bolting forex on to their core activities. They can't all be winners. But, as Antony Currie reports, they can make life harder for those already at the top. Euromoney's 20th annual foreign-exchange poll follows. Research by Rebecca Dobson.
  • Are today's issuers in Ecu paying over the odds? Borrowers and their bankers argue that it pays to establish a benchmark this year, before the latecomers crowd into the market next January. No, say the contrarians: borrowing in other currencies is cheaper. Mooyaart Consult, an independent bond consultancy, examines recent issues in Ecu and major currencies, comparing the levels they would have achieved by swapping the proceeds into US dollar Libor. Brian Mooyaart weighs the evidence.
  • It's not a bad idea. One stock exchange for all of eastern Europe's blue chips, a brand new trading system that will access investment dollars through a stable western market. The Vienna stock market's plan to do this looks superficially sound, but there are pitfalls.
  • At the end of April, Thomas Renyi, chief executive of Bank of New York, and several senior colleagues set off across America to persuade institutional shareholders in Mellon Bank of the value in the merger proposals Bank of New York first made public on April 22 in a letter to Mellon's directors. By appealing over the head of Mellon CEO Frank Cahouet - who swiftly rejected the proposal - Bank of New York has come within an ace of that rarest of things in the recent tumble of bank mergers: a hostile deal.
  • A single European currency should mean a single market for capital. That may create an opening for a borderless stock exchange such as Easdaq. But Europe's national exchanges don't plan to fade away. Their survival strategies are based on cross-border alliances and new technology. Their secret weapon, though, may be sheer momentum. James Rutter reports.
  • Next time your bank appoints a law firm to conduct a piece of litigation, ask the firm to explain what it understands by "regret" and "the theory of the matter" By Christopher Stoakes.
  • State bail-outs for indebted, inefficient and over-politicized banks were supposed to be a thing of the past in Hungary. Not so. As its rivals rake in profits - transforming Budapest into the financial hub of eastern Europe - the country's second-largest financial institution, Postabank, has limped back to the warm milk of public funds for yet another capital increase as the government makes yet another push to find a buyer for the troubled bank.
  • I expect the US equity market to fall 30% to 40% this year. The catalyst for the turn in sentiment will be static (or falling) corporate profits, rising inflation and higher interest rates. Mania will drive the collapse. When the dust settles, the US economy will slide into recession. Consumers will retrench to pay down debts. The dollar will fall. It will be the dawn of a two-year bear market.
  • Hotel Cipriani,
  • Dennis Doherty is looking for an underwriter for the private placement of his new investment fund. If all goes according to plan, he will raise $250 million from institutional investors in the first two weeks of June. Then he can go and blow it all on paintings.
  • The bad-loan troubles of Japan's banks are no secret. Western vultures have been circling Tokyo for months knowing that at some point the banks would go through their pain threshold. When that happened they would start offloading problem loans at the best prices they could muster. For many Japanese banks that point has been reached and the market in Japanese distressed loans is getting into full swing. US banks especially are expanding distressed trading operations in Tokyo - Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch have all recently expanded their operations.
  • BankAmerica and NationsBank had both bought into hi-tech investment banking, so when they merged there was bound to be surplus capacity. It was worse than that, though. BA's Robertson Stephens and Nations' Montgomery Securities had a bitter mutual history and could hardly have worked together. Michelle Celarier reports.
  • When there's not much left to merge in an industry the stakes rise and the government gets edgy. That's what Bear Stearns has found since it cornered the market in US defence M&A. Now, as Michelle Celarier reports, contractors and investment bankers are looking abroad for opportunities.
  • Most commercial bankers acknowledge the illiquid loan problem. But not many of them are freeing their loan book with loan sales, credit derivatives, and collateralized loan obligations - yet. It's a new game. But a handful of banks have sipped from the holy grail, and are pressing the regulators to change the Basle capital requirements. Antony Currie reports.
  • Who's to blame for Asia's crisis? And what happens now? Nine of the region's movers and shakers give their views on the pace of change across the region, the part played by the Japanese banks, the future of Hong Kong's currency peg and the role of China.
  • Euromoney's latest poll of Eurobond and government bond trading comes at a time of change, with the advent of the single European currency set to affect both the size and structure of the market. James Rutter reports. Research by Rebecca Dobson.
  • Remember when Euromoney was an eight-page pamphlet? Remember what the financial markets looked like at the time? Those interested in the history of the markets will find the answers - along with much else - in the recently published memoirs of Peter Spira, whose successful banking career with SG Warburg, Goldman Sachs and County NatWest between 1957 and 1991 was no doubt spurred on by appearing in those first issues of Euromoney in the late 1960s.
  • "Five years from now, financial services will be virtually unrecognizable. The industry, like airlines and aerospace before it, will be dominated by a handful of national and global giants that will dwarf even the biggest players we know today." Although that's how consultants McKinsey predict developments in banking and insurance, it only echoes what every bank CEO is saying, in public or private. And they have very little time in which to answer the questions this trend raises: What is our role? Do we have the management talent to be a buyer? Should we give up and sell to the highest bidder?
  • No more panic waiting for that dollar payment to come in: the solution is at hand. Within three years the world's leading banks expect to have a mutual bank in place that will accept and digest the bulk of their foreign exchange deals, reducing settlement risk to zero. So where's the catch? By David Shirreff.
  • Banks are building up their European credit research in the run up to Emu. Teams are being bolstered and specialists hired. But who is getting it right? The first ever poll of European credit research gives investors the chance to decide. SBC Warburg, Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan all did well, writes Brian Caplen. The poll was conducted by Rebecca Dobson.
  • The Grand Duchy's bankers don't seem too worried, but Luxembourg's point of difference as a financial centre is fast disappearing. James Rutter finds out how its bankers intend to fill their time after the introduction of the euro.
  • Does Stephen O'Sullivan know something we don't? The former head of research at MC Securities in London has decided to move to Moscow to join the more discreet United Financial Group (UFG), a majority Russian-owned investment bank. The leading oil and gas analyst in the Russian market admits that the sale of MC Securities' Russian business (United City Bank) to Flemings has triggered his decision.