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May 2004

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  • It's a wonder that the Philippines is still afloat. Rafael Buenaventura, central bank governor, has steered it clear of disaster. But with a presidential election this month, an unimpressive line-up of legislators and the governor's term coming to a close, the republic faces an uncertain passage.
  • 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.
  • “When I arrived, Depfa wasn’t just German,” says Gerhard Bruckermann. “It was ultra-German. This was 13 years ago, just after privatization, and nobody thought about profitability.”
  • The EIB lends more than any other multilateral but receives far less scrutiny. Many people don't know if it is a bank or an EU institution. Critics say it is unsupervised, opaque and unwilling to deal with conflicts of interest and misdirected lending. Now, stung by a critical report prepared for the European Parliament, EIB president Philippe Maystadt is having to fight hard to defend the bank.
  • UBS has sparked controversy in electronic trading by becoming Bloomberg?s sole provider of dealer-to-client execution in exchange-traded derivatives (ETDs).
  • Rising volumes of primary issuance in Europe mask the fact that most companies are not selling shares to fund growth or to restructure.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development decided to restrict its already minimal lending to Uzbekistan in April, after the bank decided that the country had failed to meet economic and humanitarian benchmarks it set one year ago.
  • 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.
  • GlaxoSmithKline used careful timing to make the most of the dearth of jumbo dollar corporate issues so far this year.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Have French efforts to create a national champion in the pharmaceuticals industry left its companies more vulnerable to hostile takeovers?
  • When the European Parliament approved the Investment Services Directive, including the controversial Article 27, hearts sank across the City of London.
  • ECM bankers at an investment bank near Liverpool Street in London have added a new twist to an old English pub game.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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 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.