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May 2004

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  • A high-spending chancellor and a continuing consumer boom might not be in the long-term interests of the UK. They are, though, fundamental to foreign investment that is pushing up sterling.
  • The continued strength of the oil price means that Saudi Arabia is set for another successful economic performance this year and unless there is a change in this market, should deliver a second successive year with a budget surplus.
  • With foreign players set to start investment banking operations in Saudi Arabia, local banks are confident that they can meet the challenge.
  • Rising volumes of primary issuance in Europe mask the fact that most companies are not selling shares to fund growth or to restructure.
  • Credit provision is once again becoming a dangerous game. Tight bond spreads on high-grade, high-yield or emerging-markets paper are one obvious warning sign that investors? desperate chase for yield has overcome any sensible discrimination about underlying credit risk. But the clearest indication that institutions have failed to learn from the last recession and credit crunch is in the syndicated loan market.
  • Bankers are eager for the implementation of Saudi Arabia's capital markets law. But this won't happen until the regulator's chairman is appointed
  • For the first time in a generation, Saudi Arabia has posted two budget surpluses in a row. Sustained oil prices underlie this, though, and economic reform needs to be kept at the top of the kingdom's agenda.
  • GlaxoSmithKline used careful timing to make the most of the dearth of jumbo dollar corporate issues so far this year.
  • Greece?s newly elected conservative government has managed to convince most market participants that it is serious about making good on its promises for faster economic growth. It will, however, have to work hard and deliver fast to avoid disappointing these high expectations in its race against time to prepare the country for the Olympic Games.
  • The EIB vehemently disputes the criticism that its risk management isn't up to scratch – a criticism contained in Emac's draft report but removed from the final version. At the end of last year, it put all its risk management functions in its risk management directorate, headed by Pierluigi Gilibert.
  • When the European Parliament approved the Investment Services Directive, including the controversial Article 27, hearts sank across the City of London.
  • The latest new name in European banking, Calyon, becomes fully operational this month. It?s the product of the 2003 merger of Crédit Agricole Indosuez and Crédit Lyonnais, bringing together their investment banking and capital markets businesses. The rebranding and relaunch are being kept relatively low profile, mainly because the new name is already well known among clients. Indeed it is backdated, having been used to refer to the bank since January.
  • The accession of 10 new states to the EU on May 1 provided an opportunity to reflect on the success of the European project. For a continent riven by centuries of war and rivalry to build peace and prosperity is a momentous achievement.
  • The noose tightened around oil company Yukos?s neck last month and bankruptcy loomed large only weeks before the trial of its former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was due to start.
  • ECM bankers at an investment bank near Liverpool Street in London have added a new twist to an old English pub game.
  • Crédit Agricole?s Alternative Investment Products Group plans to launch a directional fund of hedge funds this year using a global macro and systematic trading strategy. The alternatives manager would also consider launching an equity futures single-strategy fund of funds, which would round out its single-strategy fund offering.
  • May has arrived, which means it?s time for City gents to swap their bowler hats for boaters, and head to the English countryside for summer sporting events. Or was that just the way it was before Big Bang?
  • By Camilla Palladino
  • Political rhetoric in the US about the loss of service-sector jobs to India has not deterred American companies from consolidating their offshore outsourcing business in the country.
  • The completion of several high-profile corporate restructurings in Japan has convinced many investors that at long last the country is shaping up to come out of recession. Domestic value investors are driving change. Others fear that it's too little too late and that time is not on Japan's side. By 2007 public debt could be three.
  • UBS has sparked controversy in electronic trading by becoming Bloomberg?s sole provider of dealer-to-client execution in exchange-traded derivatives (ETDs).
  • Latin America's high-net-worth individuals have followed their peers in the rest of the world in demanding more sophisticated and personalized services from their private bankers.
  • Cheap, profitable and geared for growth - that is how Moscow?s investment bankers are selling Russia?s burgeoning steel sector. Years of investment are bearing fruit and high international prices are boosting bottom lines. But the big-four steel companies are getting too big for their boots. As they turn their attention to landing large international contracts, the leading companies are getting ready to step into the big league by getting their corporate governance act together and analysts are expecting a round of mergers.
  • While the European Investment Bank wants partnerships with commercial banks to reach SMEs, commercial banks and borrowers can in turn pitch deals to the EIB so long as they are technically and economically viable and support EU policy objectives. The role governments might play in seeking EIB support is not entirely clear. Nor is the extent to which they might seek to palm off onto the EIB the burden of funding quasi-public works.
  • Macquarie has steered a profitable course, avoiding head-on confrontation with global competition through niche strategies. So its acquisition of ING?s Asian cash equities business is puzzling. Can it succeed where ING failed or could this mark the unravelling of the Macquarie miracle? Chris Leahy reports
  • Barry Colvin gave up his competitive running career years ago to devote himself to keeping Tremont?s fund of hedge funds business on track. ?My favourite hobby is working to run this business,? he says. While he exudes dedication to his job he says: ?If I wasn?t doing this, I?d run a health club. I love that environment.? In his position as president and CIO of Tremont since the beginning of 2002, Colvin leads the firm?s research and investment management activities. Over coffee at the Park Lane Hotel in London, he explains he?s in the city to research hedge fund managers. He spends a lot of time on business travel, so his wife usually joins him.
  • It took a year and at least one false start, but John Walsh has finally returned to the markets. He turned up at Royal Bank of Scotland, nearly a year after he walked out of his role at CSFB as global head of debt capital markets. His title at RBS is head of North American corporate credit markets.
  • The new member states of the European Union offer foreign fund managers a fast growing asset pool. However, the market has already been targeted by such firms as Allianz Dresdner. Is it too late for others to make an impression? The chance to shine may come when investors look outside their home markets.
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