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May 2000

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LATEST ARTICLES

  • At the beginning of 1999, so the story goes, corporate Europe suddenly got religion about shareholder value. In the wake of the introduction of the euro, a wave of corporate restructuring swept the continent. Lured by growing investor appetite for credit - and with a little nudging from their bankers - Europe's companies plunged into the bond markets. The result was an explosion of corporate bond issuance.
  • Professional headhunters might have avoided the farce surrounding the appointment of the IMF’s new managing director. But the politics of who runs the IMF and the World Bank are complex, and there’s no way to please all of the shareholders all of the time.
  • A bank called the Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of the USSR does not at first glance appear to have a very promising future. Even its chairman describes it as an ugly animal that probably has no equivalent anywhere in the world. All the same Andrei Kostin, boss of Vnesheconombank, as it is better known, has high hopes for it.
  • The beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is today a key outpost for a liberalizing India, thanks to an obscure tax treaty. Nearly half India's foreign portfolio investment, currently around $ 11.7 billion, is routed through the island and so is a large chunk of foreign direct investment.
  • Once branded the internet dullard, Merrill Lynch is on the offensive. More than a decade after the brokerage firm bought a bank in Utah, it’s launching a nationwide retail banking operation, based on the internet, and paying money-market rates on insured deposits. That, and its plans for a banking and investment-services joint-venture with HSBC, may take its head off the merger block. Antony Currie reports
  • French brokers, like those in other single-currency zone countries, are gradually adapting to a pan-European market. While investors are holding on to domestic equities, they are also boosting portfolios with other European stocks.
  • Latvia is small. Latvia is very small. Latvia is so tiny, in fact, that you may have trouble getting a price for the Latvian Eurobond or Hansabank, the largest bank in the Baltics and number one equity issue on the Riga stock exchange. If you ring up the London switchboard of any mega-global-super bank claiming to make a market in everything from options on timber futures to weather derivatives for Lesotho, and then ask for the Latvian desk, after a few minutes on hold you'll wind up speaking to PR. And then explaining where Latvia is located.
  • The alchemists sought to transform base metals into gold, but the IMF seems bent on turning ingots into dross. When president Bill Clinton's millennial offer to forgive the debts of the globe's poorest nations was blocked by mining interest protests against IMF gold sales, US Treasury strategists stayed up late over the Bunsen burners. Had the accounting subterfuge they cooked up to fulfil their promise been designed by one of the big five auditing firms for a megabank client, the US Treasury itself, the Securities&Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve would have been lining up to clamp on the handcuffs.
  • KBC Bank of Belgium and Dutch ABN Amro have not had an easy time in Hungary. After KBC took a strategic stake in Kereskedelmi és Hitelbank (K&H) in 1997, the bank lost Ft8.3 billion ($12.58 billion) in 1999. ABN Amro's Hungarian subsidiary was in the red by Ft19.8 billion last year despite a $96 million capital injection.
  • The aborted merger of two Gulf banks is a blow to regional consolidation, but it is only delaying the inevitable, as financial markets open up to foreign competition reports Nigel Dudley
  • The high-tech stock market mania has come to a screeching halt. The US Nasdaq index is now down 20% from its highs. Does this herald the beginning of a huge secular meltdown in stocks around the world? I think not. On the contrary, it marks a healthy reallocation of capital away from companies of the "new" economy towards the "old". The major argument against this optimistic view is that the new cyber economy will destroy us all by creating competition so great that prices will collapse faster than costs. Then whole swathes of the traditional economy will be wiped out, as capital structures collapse.
  • As a major figure on the Russian political scene since communism fell, Anatoly Chubais could be expected to play a leading role in the new government of Vladimir Putin. Chubais backed Putin for the presidency and a call to arms could be on the cards.
  • Hotels and airlines are gearing up for a bumper year of business travel. What are their customers most looking for? Euromoney polled more than 160 business executives on where they like to stay, city by city, and their favourite - and least favourite - airline. By Christina White.
  • Leading European technical analyst Graham Bishop has blasted off from his Salomon Smith Barney launchpad into cyberspace. After 17 years with the US investment bank in London, GrahamBishop.com goes online this month with a website providing analysis of economic and structural developments in the European financial markets.
  • What is JP Morgan up to in Asia? When the US commercial-turned investment bank announced it was hiring a raft of equities research and sales people from Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, all the talk was of this further proof of DrKB's demise. But what of Morgan?
  • Economies in the Middle East are in good shape for forthcoming bond issues, though some sovereign issuers have been deterred by the spread on Qatar's 1999 Eurobond. Lack of sovereign benchmarks has, until now, held back corporate issues but that may soon change.
  • The initial public oVering of T-Online, a German company owned primarily by Deutsche Telekom, provided some respite for a turbulent technology market when its shares climbed 39% on their Wrst day of trading.
  • One banker described Hanvit Bank as an "ambassador for Korea" after the successful raising of $850 million through a subordinated debt deal in February. As it turns out, Hanvit may be the ambassador for the entire region as international investors show new interest in the potential of the Asian markets.
  • Is Robert Fleming worth $7.78 billion? Possibly, but at this price its new owner, Chase Manhattan, is going to have to work hard to extract value from the UK-based asset management and investment banking firm.
  • Co-head of global mergers group, Salomon Smith Barney
  • Is the end of an era nigh in Italy? Investors thought so in mid-April, after the 92-year-old éminence grise of Italian finance, Enrico Cuccia, was admitted to hospital with a respiratory illness. Shares in Mediobanca rose in the expectation that the old man's departure would bring long-overdue reform at the shady merchant bank.
  • Proposals from Basel to reform the bank capital adequacy framework have triggered a wide-reaching debate on the nature of bank capital, liquidity and valuation. A hasty conclusion could waste some valuable new thinking.
  • Insurer Allianz has a headache in the wake of the scrapped merger between Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank. The deal, which Allianz did much to engineer, would have given the Munich group the dream solution to its strategic problems in its home market. It still has plenty of strings to pull in the inevitable round of banking M&A moves to come. Allianz harbours a secret wish to resurrect the deal but is more likely to get an inferior version: Dresdner-Commerzbank.
  • Issuer: Barclays BankAmount: e850 millionType of issue: tier-one Reserve Capital InstrumentsLaunched: April 12Book runner: Barclays Capital
  • Malaysia seems to have recovered better from the Asian crisis than some other countries in the region, not least because of the currency control policies that were introduced. Confidence was shaken a little last month by the volatility in US markets, but the fundamentals still appear to be sound.
  • On January 24, six banks announced plans to launch www.BondClick.com, a website set up to enable investors to trade European government bonds online. More than three months later, all is still quiet on the BondClick front.
  • Co-head of equity capital markets for Europe, Africa and Middle East, Merrill Lynch
  • The Cobra is Hansgeorg Hofmann, former Merrill and Lehman syndicate chief, former board member of Dresdner Bank, who disappeared from view in December 1997 after a debacle about his tax returns.
  • Still think that you've got time to get ready for the internet? Still sure that you've got a few quarters of easy revenues to make?
  • Deutsche Bank has the biggest market share in Europe, and nearly took Dresdner Bank’s slice too. But the frontier of the custody market is a moving target, and so is the associated risk.
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