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November 1999

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  • It's been going on for seven years, and has taken up more of the US Federal Accounting Standard Board's (FASB's) time than any other rule. US bankers and issuers hate it, claiming it will force an unwanted change in borrower strategies and will even hit earnings. They've lobbied Congress to get it nullified, and the board has responded with a year's postponement and by changing some of the strictures. Yet still the complaints roll in from those few who claim to understand it. Systems still aren't ready, and there is less than a year to go before it comes into effect. Who'd have thought that an accounting rule-change could cause such a furore? Antony Currie reports on the dilemmas and debates around rule FAS133
  • It has been a banner year for new issues of convertible bonds, with many forces working together, especially in Europe, to support the primary market. Low interest rates and hopes for equity market growth have prompted more and more investors to buy convertibles and the pressure on companies to enhance shareholder returns and to unwind cross-holdings has prompted the issuers. High stock market volatility, following last year's financial meltdown, has also helped the market. This is the full text version of a roundtable discussion, exclusive to Euromoney On-Line.
  • They may be a decade late, but Japan's banks are finally restructuring. The headline deals will create the world's two largest banks. An exclusive interview with Masao Nishimura, president of IBJ and a prime mover in the recent combination of IBJ with Fuji Bank and DKB, gives an insight into the thinking of Japan's financial elite. But, as Simon Brady reports, bad debts, low profitability and economic malaise will prevent even these new giants from becoming world leaders.
  • Last month's €2.3 billion issue of convertible bonds for Mannesmann promised to mark a revival of the convertible market, but within a week of its (successful) launch it was hit by Mannesmann's bid for Orange of the UK. At its launch on October 6, the deal was significantly oversubscribed, though it had been done on terms which raised plenty of eyebrows. The yield to maturity was 3.875%, towards the bottom of the indicated range and the premium conversion - the share price at which the bond could be exchanged for equity - was one of the highest seen this year at 38% above the prevailing share price. A high conversion premium usually points to a bullish equity market, but this deal came as the equity markets were looking rocky.
  • Edited by Rebecca Bream
  • We live in a time when the necessity, desirability and inevitability of ever more bank mergers is simply taken for granted by bank executives, shareholders and regulators. The model of the ruthless cost-cutting merger, so firmly established in the US in the last seven years, has increasingly been adopted worldwide. As producing shareholder value becomes the prime motive of managers in national banking industries which for years have been overprotected by governments, overpopulated by too many unprofitable players, and inefficiently run, mergers - it is now taken for granted - are the only way to boost returns by cutting costs.
  • To the casual visitor Prague seems a very civilized place. The city is bristling with church spires, historic buildings, museums and elegant squares. Every night is a cultural feast with opera, classical music and theatre of the highest quality. In this rarefied atmosphere, artistic and intellectual endeavours thrive and it is difficult to believe that the country was once under the dead-hand of communism.
  • Want to buy a bank stacked full of bad loans and losing money? The Czech Republic may be able to oblige. While the second-largest, Ceska Sporitelna, looks like going to Austria's Erste Bank, the biggest, Komercni Banka, is still up for grabs. Finally, after years of dithering and excuses, bank privatization is now happening. But the assets are worth much less since the banks ran into serious trouble. Czech government problems don't stop there. Many companies the banks lent to are floundering, capital markets are still in their infancy and the legal framework falls short. The Czech Republic is a case study of how not to handle transition. Brian Caplen reports.
  • Mannesmann has pitched into some speedy, expensive takeovers, but is still a takeover target. That's a symptom of the rush for change affecting nearly all German companies. For years investors complained that German managers were too slow and cautious; now many have become dangerously impulsive. By Laura Covill.
  • Edited by Antony Currie
  • Edited by Rebecca Bream
  • It's been a rollercoaster ride. First investors were desperate to buy any stock available, now they are withdrawing funds. But how much is the grey market to blame? Laura Covill reports.
  • Trading on indigestion
  • Joining the Wall Street party
  • Edited by Brian Caplen
  • The dollar and the Dow have dived. Serious imbalances in the US economy are now evident. The current account deficit is nearing unfinanceable proportions. The US economy could only grow at an above-average, yet disinflationary, pace while the rest of the world remained stagnant. That's no longer the case. Global growth is accelerating. So the dollar is no longer the currency of choice. And a weak dollar is synonymous with rising commodity prices and resurgent inflation. And it's not just the US economy and financial markets that are becoming paralysed. I reckon 2000 will be a year of US foreign economic policy paralysis. At its heart lies the presidential campaign. The impact on international relations could be severe. Those with Russia are already becoming strained. A deal on Chinese World Trade Organization accession may be missed, undermining Zhu Rongji and China's reformists. Trade tensions with the EU will escalate. And no action will be taken to support the dollar.
  • Suddenly, euroland, or rather Germany, is full of the urge to rate companies great and small. Partly, this is a swipe at giants Moody's and S&P, but it's also recognition that medium-size companies will pay more for capital if they aren't transparently rated. The regions back their own Mittelstand, while Frankfurt roots for the Finanzplatz. David Shirreff reports.
  • Before the internet was heard of, Instinet, the 31-year old agency broker owned by Reuters, used new technology to challenge the world's mainstream stock exchanges. Now suddenly, it is being cast as the dinosaur. New electronic commission networks springing up in the US equity market threaten to eat its lunch. Instinet chief executive Doug Atkin tells Antony Currie how Instinet intends to thrive amid the electronic trading revolution
  • Deutsche Bank wanted to buy it because it wanted a bigger presence in investment banking in the US. Merrill Lynch considered putting in an offer because it wanted to improve its coverage of the technology sector. But Chase Manhattan is the bank that finally secured the 30-year-old California-based investment-banking boutique Hambrecht & Quist. And this time, the rumour mill has it, it's because Chase needs it as a way into equities. Antony Currie reckons that's not the case
  • From the mid-1990s enabling legislation and corporate issuance guaranteed a rapid take-off for Japan's securitization market. But economic recovery, recapitalization of the Japanese banks and their renewed enthusiasm for holding corporate assets may leave the market dependent on consumer finance and residential mortgage deals. This might not be enough to sustain the sector. Luciano Mondellini reports.
  • Edited by Rebecca Bream
  • Turkey is supposed to be privatizing; it's also ostensibly following policies that will bring down inflation. But vested interests that benefit from the unwieldy structure of state corporations and a banking industry dependent on earnings from high-interest treasury paper are thwarting these processes. The privatization of Turk Telekom is a tangled tale of delay and indecision, and a banking industry that can cope with a low-inflation environment is something to hope for rather than an immediately practicable reality. Metin Munir reports.
  • Edited by Brian Caplen
  • Joining the Wall Street party
  • Traditional active equity asset managers are alienating their institutional clients through underperfomance and high fees. Many pension funds and insurance companies in the US, UK and Europe are embracing passive index tracking, while others are devoting more attention to the rewards - and the risks - of hedge fund investing. The search is on for performance, or alpha, wherever it may be found. The whole asset management business may soon be transformed. Peter Lee reports.
  • Even after a wave of mergers and takeovers there are still 7,000 banks in the US. No-one doubts that consolidation is the way to go but the fate of recently merged banks suggests that it has to be based on something more substantial than cost-cutting. The emergence of e-commerce hammers home the point that revenue growth is still crucial. Antony Currie reports.
  • Privatization is still keeping lawyers busy the world over - and benefiting from the vital contribution they have to make. By Christopher Stoakes
  • NatWest gambled on bancassurance, lost its acquisition target and its chief executive and triggered a raid on itself from Scotland. Many in the City of London are pointing the finger of blame at adviser JP Morgan for encouraging NatWest's delusions. How did an investment bank that prides itself on telling clients which deals not to do get so much egg on its face? Marcus Walker reports