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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.
  • Asian research brokerage CLSA has not found it easy to move into new markets. But after costly forays into non-Asian countries it has started to expand again. Its decision to open in Tokyo was impeccably timed and well executed.
  • 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.
  • Corporate issuance is down in Europe but supply is being bolstered by dollar issues from European corporates. So is this a good year for the debt markets? Bankers are not sure.
  • 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.
  • Small private banks wanting to offer their clients investments in soft commodities are increasingly using hedge funds as a point of entry. Interest in commodities has risen as high-net-worth investors seek diversification, but small private banks lack choice when offering third-party products.
  • 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.
  • By 2002 Capital One's rapid growth took it deep into sub-prime territory, stirring up a crippling rise in its borrowing costs and scaring off bond investors. Having learnt its lesson, the credit card firm has made a remarkable return to favour.
  • Demand for equity-linked issues remains strong but issuance has dropped off dramatically from 2003 levels. Bankers look to slowing stock markets later in the year to revive the sell side of the market.
  • Have French efforts to create a national champion in the pharmaceuticals industry left its companies more vulnerable to hostile takeovers?
  • 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).
  • Norilsk Nickel's Gold Fields deal is the largest single Russian cross-border merger and the second-biggest single foreign investment in South Africa. It needed a record-breaking unsecured Russian loan.
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