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November 1998

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  • Hong Kong's financial secretary Donald Tsang, who successfully used market intervention to see off speculators, has warned his peers against overreacting to the threat posed by hedge funds.
  • Just a handful of finance and securities companies in Thailand remain independent after a year in which foreign players have virtually taken over. "It still takes some time for acquirers to get their feet under the table, but change it will," says Philip Adkins, research head at Seamico Securities, one of the few remaining independent brokers.
  • Early last month, just after the downbeat IMF/World Bank meetings in Washington, a beleaguered group of once pre-eminent investors gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York to discuss the prospects for their business. In such bleak days, these men and women, managers of some of the best-known funds invested in emerging-market debt and equity, had one overriding question to confront. Can emerging markets any longer be considered a viable asset class? Euromoney, which organized the conference, listened eagerly to the debate.
  • Investment bankers devoted hefty resources in 1997 and 1998 to promoting and gearing up for a European high-yield bond market. Following the Russian crisis, it collapsed. But proponents of European junk won't let a catastrophic market crash deter them. They argue that plummeting values could be the market's making. Spreads that have widened beyond all economic justification have finally made high yield sexy for the end-investor.
  • There have been four changes of government in Italy since 1991 but Mario Draghi has rarely seemed threatened as director general of the republic's treasury. While treasury minister Carlo Ciampi - who also appears certain to keep his post in the new administration of prime minister Massimo d'Alema - has concentrated on reducing Italy's budget deficit in readiness for the European single currency, Draghi has emerged as the most powerful figure behind wide-ranging financial reforms. He and Ciampi were also central to the planning and implementation of the "euro tax" and a major deficit reduction, which enabled Italy to meet the criteria for entry to the first round of Emu.
  • Publicity-shy Investcorp has spent 16 years channelling Middle East wealth into property and corporate ventures in the US and Europe. Nemir Kirdar, the firm's head and founder, explains the Investcorp philosophy to Peter Lee.
  • From his unassuming manner you would never guess that Alberto Albertini is one of the most influential figures in Italian finance. But when he decided to study economics at Milan's prestigious Bocconi university in 1974 he was embarking on a well-worn family path. His father had been a prominent stockbroker since the 1950s and in the early 1970s started the family business, now called Albertini & Compagnia, one of Italy's most well known and successful independent brokerages.
  • The near-collapse of several hedge funds, including Long-Term Capital Management, was a symptom of increasingly reckless market practices, particularly in the handling of collateral. Perhaps the shock will send banks back to revise their repo agreements and to look less at mark to market, more at potential future exposure. By Michelle Celarier.
  • Those wiseacres who say there is no such thing as systemic risk have been proved right again. Look, no global meltdown, no market chaos of Herstatt or even Black Monday proportions.
  • Russia will probably default on its Eurobonds. Other sovereigns may well do the same. That's not such a big deal, say the markets. It's all in the price. But are they ready for the consequences? The Euromarkets have grown up with the idea that Eurobonds are immune from rescheduling. But every debt crisis in history has been messy; the instruments involved have been discredited for years. What happens when international bond default becomes normal again? Antony Currie reports.
  • Since 1927, when the first American depositary receipt was launched by JP Morgan for UK department store Selfridges, thousands of non-US companies have used ADRs to list in New York. This has enabled them to sell their equity to US institutional and retail investors in a manageable form. In 1990, global depositary receipts (GDRs) were created for companies that wanted to list and trade on other exchanges, notably London and Luxembourg.
  • Russia's freeze on payments to creditors overseas raises the usual questions asked when a country defaults. Christopher Stoakes gives some answers.
  • Shielded from the full force of international competition, suckled by a government with a voracious appetite for debt, banking in Turkey has long been a very profitable business. But the country's big family-owned banks know this state of affairs can't last for ever. They are investing in technology and broadening their business mix. And any foreigner with a $2 billion appetite for Turkish risk might find a welcome in at least one bank boardroom. Metin Munir reports.
  • When Meriwether invited Union Bank of Switzerland to eat a special dish with him at high table, it seemed too good to be true. It was. Why did a bunch of Swiss bankers rush in where the rest of Wall Street feared to tread? By David Shirreff.
  • In the wake of the global economic crisis there are victims on both sides. Investors have excess cash but are afraid to move it. Issuers need to raise capital but are afraid to sacrifice their hard-won reputations with issues that flop.
  • Many market participants in Asia reckon the region is overbroked. Nomura is more sanguine, continuing apace its recruitment drive. Its latest hiring is veteran research star Bill Overholt to head Asian strategy.
  • It's a tough time for issuers in the Eurobond markets. So tough that only the big agencies and supranationals are getting much of a look in. Even they, though, are having to bend to the wind, issuing at wider spreads, making quasi-private placements and reopening existing bonds. Are nervous investment bankers offering them poor value? Marcus Walker reports.
  • Have we seen the worst? That's the question bankers, issuers and investors are asking after the spectacular recoveries in several emerging stock markets and the reopening of various sectors of the bond and equity markets.
  • If 145 simultaneous sell orders are booked, suspicions are bound to arise.
  • Type of deal: Block trade of BSkyB shares
  • Yet more losses are rumoured at Warburg Dillon Read, this time in the bank's European closed-end fund sales department. The team tracks, researches and makes markets in closed-end funds, has 40 dedicated analysts and salespeople, and is the biggest player in the market.
  • Until a few months ago syndicated lending was a borrower's market. Banks were desperate to do deals and offered seductive terms. Now the bankers have stopped calling. They're sitting back and revising the rules of the game. From now on they want it played on their terms. Michael Peterson reports.
  • Too many consultancies offering their services these days? No more niches to find? Not according to Rob Heyvaert, a 34-year-old financial entrepreneur from Belgium. Having already set up and run a software business, and having had a stint at IBM, he's now returned to running his own show. In April this year he started canvassing for capital, and partners, to help develop his new business, the Capital Markets Company, or CapCo.
  • While taking flak over job losses and cost-cutting, senior bankers claim their measures will provide shape for future growth. It's now becoming clear how this will look with emerging-market operations closing while the euro and private equity take the limelight. Peter Lee reports.
  • Marketing strategies in the newly competitive Italian banking sector are becoming increasingly bizarre - the latest ploy is a lottery linked to a bond issue that offers Porsche cars as prizes.
  • September's successful flotation of wine producer Federico Paternina reflects the IPO potential for family-owned companies in Spain. Although recent volatility in the stock market has slowed the pace of change, many other small to medium-size companies are poised to go public in response to increased global competition. Jules Stewart reports
  • Global interest rates are falling, and will fall dramatically. Alan Greenspan has already cut rates by 0.5%, with one surprise cut in between meetings of the Federal Reserve. And the Fed is going to cut some more this month.
  • Sir,
  • Was it the summit meeting that saved world financial markets from Armageddon? Or was it the night on which Wall Street's crony capitalists, backed by the taxpayer, looked after their own - John Meriwether at Long-Term Capital Management? Whatever the interpretation, fear was in the air, and there wasn't much time to philosophize. David Shirreff reports on five days that shook the world. That's followed by a study of over-leverage, by Michelle Celarier, and another sad tale at UBS, by David Shirreff.
  • Credit analysis based on equity prices is the basis of models built by KMV Corporation to log expected default frequencies (EDFs) for single companies and credit portfolios. Is this state-of-the-art or already passé? Euromoney editor Simon Brady grills KMV CEO David Nordby, and managing director Peter Crosbie, on the models' vices and virtues.