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May 2012

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  • As JPMorgan's losses in credit derivatives are revealed, Euromoney columnist Jon Macaskill reveals just how the CIO division worked and the positions it took - and warns that other houses on Wall Street could try to make their rivals' losses worse.
  • Rich Ricci, the co-head of Barclays’ banking and markets division (until recently known as Barclays Capital), made history in April. No, not for the size of his bonus – but for the success of the racehorses that he owns.
  • "If you call yourself a relative return fund, you need to actually sell things to make that return. Lots of asset managers seem to have forgotten that"
  • "The entire lending industry was so inefficient, and the way to make it efficient was to cut out the bank"
  • Citi remains the FX bank with the most wind in its sails and is now breathing down the neck of top-placed Deutsche Bank.
  • The investment case for Africa has never been more compelling. But while global investment banks are keen to invest, the opportunities for them to put boots on the ground are limited.
  • There was a surprise in Shanghai last month and it had nothing to do with the terrible 1986 film starring Madonna and thuggish social activist Sean Penn. All eyes were on Hong Kong, which staged its first large IPO in what seemed like ages – we think the last one was when the aforementioned material girl was an actual girl and not like your grandmother in a leotard. But the Hong Kong debut flopped, whereas in Shanghai the surprise in question was the stock market launch of the People’s Daily website, which soared 78% on its first day. The website belongs to the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.
  • The firm has moved up Euromoney’s FX rankings as it broadens its client base.
  • The UK tax authorities are continuing their clampdown on tax avoidance, and once again the name of Barclays surfaces at the centre of investigations into a highly complex scheme.
  • Euromoney never stops working. So even when one of our correspondents was on holiday in Spain during April, he was deeply disturbed by direct evidence of the property crisis engulfing the country.
  • With primary Asian equity markets quiescent so far this year, ECM bankers are hopeful that the well-supported IPO expected from Haitong Securities will spark off an issuance revival.
  • Saudi Arabia’s new economy minister, the former central bank governor Mohammed Al Jasser, says rapid change is under way in his country. But is the reformist energy sparked by the Arab Spring already flagging?
  • Five years ago, corporates began to expand, setting up manufacturing facilities and offices at home and around the world. As those companies buy fixed assets and trading companies across multiple markets, they need a way of linking that local entity to their group head offices back home in each of these territories.
  • Russia’s state-owned bank is forging ahead with market-share gains in Kazakhstan as local competitors fail to make a comeback from the financial crisis. And Sberbank’s success seems to presage a broader Russian resurgence that might counter Chinese influence.
  • According to one foreign survey, Bulgaria has the most business-friendly environment on the continent. However, it is burdened by stagnant capital markets and a reliance on the debilitated economies of western Europe.
  • Every investment bank has spent huge investment dollars on FX since 2008. Now a shake out seems to be occurring. Banks with scale and budget are winning more share, but there are decent returns to be had for institutions of all sizes if they are focused.
  • The top five FX banks have increased their share of total market volume to 55%, and the top 10 banks now account for 78.5%. Citi has made the biggest strides in the top five, rising two places to second and closing in on Deutsche Bank’s long-established top spot.
  • With lending booming again, Russia’s banks need recapitalizing. Ironically, partial privatization of state-owned financial institutions may be crowding out much-needed stock offerings by private-sector lenders and smaller banks.
  • Some are calling him ‘bloated Bob’. Others prefer the prefix ‘bountiful’. I would suggest the adjectives ‘baffling’ and ‘burnished’.
  • There needs to be universal agreement on what is shadow banking to tackle its regulation.
  • Last month, I had lunch with a former City trader who is a trustee of a big investment bank’s pension fund. Trader was gloomy. "Returns are abysmal," he wailed. "Pension funds can’t function when the risk-free rate on 10-year UK gilts is 2.2%, equity markets have gone nowhere for a decade and inflation is running at 3.5%." Trader confessed that in his bleakest moments he could see a situation where funds were not able to honour their obligations to those who enjoy favourable defined-benefit schemes."And governments will have to find billions in the next decades to make good the holes in the western civil service pension schemes," he said glumly as he speared a lettuce leaf.
  • Of course, there is another big IPO coming to a screen near you shortly. I am talking about the phenomenal Facebook deal, which is veiled under a hefty shroud of secrecy but which seems to be scheduled for the launch pad in mid-May. I wonder if that will mark the peak of the equity market this year? Morgan Stanley is the lead underwriter for this fiercely contended deal.
  • The end of QE support means that markets must face up to a repricing of assets on the basis of economic reality.
  • Research rules resurrect conflicts of interest; Cost savings ‘compromise safety’
  • The Abigail with attitude column hosted one of its quarterly round-table dinners this month. Several of the UK’s most senior bankers mingled with a media mogul and some veteran continental financiers. A few points linger in my mind. First, there was a general anxiety about the potential for significant social disruption in Europe as austerity programmes bite and youth unemployment spirals ever higher. Secondly, some senior bankers are still in denial about the reasons why they are deeply disliked. "It’s all the fault of the press," one banker moaned. "They are stirring up the people and the politicians against us." Media mogul responded firmly. "No," he said. "The people are angry because billions of taxpayers’ money was spent to bail out the banks. Ordinary people’s standard of living has gone down: taxes are up, inflation is up, wages are stagnant yet bank bosses continue to earn millions. Bankers need to justify their role and worth to society." I know whose side I am on in this debate. What do you think?
  • China leads the pack; Apac firms seek expertise, R&D
  • A return to risk-off investment in mid-April ended inflows to high-yield and emerging market funds. However, bankers and investors report that strong underlying fundamentals will continue to drive offshore issuance from high-yield Latin American credits.
  • Figures from Dealogic suggest that bankers covering EEMEA should not get carried away with the realities of the Middle East and Africa.
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