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May 2007

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  • Which US investment bank is back in the top 10? Which Danish bank breaks into the top 25 for the first time? What’s the best multi-bank platform – FXall or Currenex? And who are the leading local banks in emerging market FX? Here are the views of over 8,000 end-users who transacted over $120 trillion in the past 12 months.
  • Is a high level of consolidation in the FX market sustainable? And what of the hundreds of banks that fall outside the bulge bracket?
  • The present run of stock market buoyancy cannot be sustained. And that’s not just because credit is set to contract – so, too, are corporate profits.
  • Chinese regulators now want the largest state-owned firms to list at home, leaving smaller private companies to trade in Hong Kong. But these might be the best Chinese companies and losing them may be a big mistake.
  • The usual post-bonus round of recruitment has generated a typical flurry of activity in Asia’s investment banking community. The one area that has been notably active is the debt capital markets business as banks reposition their businesses to reflect the exceptionally strong market conditions of 2006 and the start of this year.
  • But Tate & Lyle puts itself on the Pink Sheets.
  • Credit Suisse closed the first issue of long/short collateralized commodity obligations notes in April. Rated AAA by Fitch Ratings and denominated in US dollars, euros and Australian dollars in three-year and five-year tranches, the $190 million issue of notes offers protected coupon payments and principal repayments based on the performance of long and short positions on a portfolio of commodities.
  • Eurex is clearly very proud of its new exchange-listed credit index futures. To celebrate the launch, the international derivatives exchange threw a party at the London Aquarium in Westminster, giving it the full James Bond treatment.
  • Unsolicited approach looks as if it could get nasty.
  • Given that it bought Advantage Home Loans as long ago as December 2005, Morgan Stanley has taken its time to launch its first non-conforming RMBS transaction, ResLoc UK 2007-1. But the deal is not an Advantage deal; just 9.87% of the loans in the deal are actually originated by the lender. Morgan Stanley has been busy buying whole loan portfolios from other non-conforming lenders to ramp up this deal and the lion’s share of the collateral is actually originated by GMAC-RFC (79.9%). This will certainly offer investors comfort, given GMAC’s longevity in the sector. However, given the intense scrutiny that sub-prime lending has been under of late, the low, 6.1-month seasoning of the portfolio together with its 82.6% loan-to-value ratio might give some pause for thought. The US bank hired mortgage market veteran Rob Collins from Abbey last year to front its residential mortgage securitization business.
  • Dominion Bond Rating Service is now an eligible External Credit Assessment Institution with 11 EU countries. It is part of a long drive by the Canadian-headquartered rating agency to break into the industry oligopoly.
  • With Hoteloc still ringing in the market’s ears, Deutsche Bank’s conduit trips up on its pub valuations.
  • In the second half of last year, outstanding volumes of credit default swaps grew by 33%. This compares with the first half of the year, when outstanding CDS volumes grew by 52%. In 2005, CDS volumes rose by 105%. The numbers were produced by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, which announced on April 18 the results of its year-end 2006 market survey of privately negotiated derivatives.
  • Icap has widened the distribution of its electronic forward foreign exchange platform after what it says is its successful take-up in Europe. The company says the platform will build on the success of EBS, the spot platform it bought from its mainly bank owners in 2006.
  • Private equity specialist Carlyle is moving into the hedge fund business on the back of "client demand and product diversification", according to a source familiar with the firm.
  • The maturation of Asia’s hedge fund industry is evidenced by the number of new funds being set up by hedge fund employees in the region.
  • FXMarketSpace, the 50/50 joint venture owned by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Reuters, officially went live as planned at the end of the first quarter.
  • Niall Cameron, who left ABN Amro as head of traded markets in February this year, has joined the Markit Group.
  • "Oh shit!"
  • Small and mid-sized companies have outperformed larger ones for the past six years and their winning streak has so far continued into this year. While the S&P 500 has risen 2.2% year to date, the S&P 400 mid-cap index has shot up 7.7% and the small-cap S&P 600 by 4.7%.
  • Slackening underwriting standards in loans that back a burgeoning CDO market? It all sounds horribly familiar.
  • Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) came to the market in January with a $350 million Eurobond and became the first domestic borrower from Nigeria to access the international markets. Since then, two other banks, First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) and First City Monument Bank (FCMB), have also completed international deals.
  • The International Securities Exchange, which pioneered electronic equity option trading in the US, has listed contracts on four currency pairs: US dollar/euro, US dollar/sterling, US dollar/yen and US dollar/Canadian dollar. Timber Hill will serve as the primary market maker, and Citigroup Derivatives Markets, Lehman Brothers and Optiver US will act as competitive market makers. The contracts are very much aimed at the US retail sector.
  • As of June 1, Rupert Allan, president of Tremont Capital, will be taking on the role of CEO.
  • Boards spend more time discussing alternative investments.
  • Czech power provider CEZ has been voted central and Eastern Europe’s best-managed company for the second year running. Rising energy prices are helping the firm to record strong profits, but why are analysts so impressed by the firm’s management? Lawrence White reports.
  • Société Générale has acquired a 100% stake in Banco Cacique, a Brazilian retail firm specializing in consumer credit with 1,800 employees and about 600,000 active clients. A spokeswoman for SG told Euromoney that the move was not indicative of any plan to rush into Brazil but is rather the targeting of a specific market where strong growth is expected.
  • Belgian bancassurance player KBC has become the latest foreign bank to buy into Russia. Late in April it agreed to pay up to €761 million to acquire at least 92.5% of Absolut Bank, 3.8 times the book value. It is the biggest banking M&A deal in Russia. Absolut Bank is one of the fastest-growing banks in Russia and has doubled its loan book on an annual basis for the past five years. "Over the past decade, KBC has built up a strong presence in many of the countries that joined the EU in May 2004 and January 2007. KBC’s long-term strategic plans entail further expansion in the markets of emerging Europe. Russia is therefore an extension of our existing presence in neighbouring central and eastern Europe," says André Bergen, KBC Group chief executive.
  • Political horse-trading in Serbia continues following the late January elections. However, despite the lack of a new government the country remains a strong magnet for foreign direct investment. In recent weeks, Serbia has concluded the politically sensitive sale of a leading mining company and the Belgrade Stock Exchange remains one of the best-performing bourses in the region. Romania’s Cuprom has secured the ownership of RTB Bor, Serbia’s largest copper mine, paying €303 million for a company the World Bank had suggested be closed down. Additionally, Cuprom has agreed to invest a further €137 million, alongside a €120 million commitment from the Serbian authorities to upgrade and provide equipment for the facility. Despite opposition from nationalist politicians and RTB Bor’s own management, the sale was pushed through by the outgoing government in the hope that it would boost economic prospects in Bor, one of Serbia’s poorest towns. Cuprom managing director Horia Simu says that the government had achieved the best possible price for the mine at a time of high copper prices. Copper prices have risen 44% in the past three months alone.
  • Bank hires entire team of Ritchie Capital Management in Hong Kong.
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