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November 2000

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  • India has hit on a not-so-novel idea to shield an economy made vulnerable by high international oil prices. The government has got State Bank of India, the country's largest bank, to sell Five-year foreign currency deposits to expatriate Indians to help tackle a worsening balance of payments situation.
  • It's just one piece of bad news after another for markets at the moment. Falling stocks of oil in the US and the Arab-Israel nightmare are keeping oil prices well above Opec's stated target of $28 per barrel. Major US corporations announce each day earnings results that disappoint investors. The dot com and hi-tech sector takes a huge pounding.
  • Daniel Vasella has had a tough time as chief executive of life sciences company Novartis, with a collapse in its agribusiness, management turmoil in pharmaceuticals and weak performance in the US. But he's restructured the company and now hopes new drugs can deliver growth.
  • Ireland’s high inflation, say eurosceptics, shows that Emu is a failure. Without higher interest rates, the boom will shortly turn to a bust, they argue. Emu supporters recognize the problem but think a soft landing is still possible. The outcome may have profound consequences for Europe. An Irish crisis could hasten the arrival of a common economic government in the eurozone. It clearly shows the dangers of tying export-led tiger economies, such as Ireland, to mature restructuring economies, such as Germany. But in the end, the failure to raise productivity may be more crucial to Ireland’s future than its euro difficulties, reports Brian Caplen
  • Investors' memories are notoriously short but a 1,000% increase in the share price of Yukos, Russia's second largest oil company and its most notorious shareholder rights abuser, seems to denote nothing less than mass amnesia.
  • Desperate times demand desperate measures. But the decision by politically embattled Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid to shore up support by allowing indebted conglomerates to get off the hook could easily backfire.
  • Global fixed-income markets are undergoing dramatic change as government bond supply dwindles and corporate bonds take greater prominence. This presents new challenges for fund managers, who can see opportunities to produce higher returns but at higher risk. Recent hard times in the credit markets have created short-term performance headaches. Investors have learnt that avoiding big blow-ups is even more important than spotting winners.
  • Author: Avinash Persaud
  • Not for the first time Ghana, called by independence leader Kwame Nkrumah the Black Star of Africa, has sought to build on prosperity to create a regional leadership position. As before, such hopes have crumbled as commodity prices have fallen, the local currency has depreciated and import dependency has persisted. Chris Cockerill reports
  • The unthinkable is happening in European covered bonds. German mortgage banks no longer sneer at any attempt to mimic their market and its proud history of never producing a default. New and sophisticated covered bond laws in France and Luxembourg have improved on the Pfandbrief model. Because of this, German banks are now scrambling to copy other issuers’ refinements. Lack of uniformity is still a problem. International investors must comb through the different laws and regulations that characterize distinct European covered bond markets. Perhaps one day a single European market will finally emerge. Anja Helk reports
  • For a horse-racing enthusiast like Martyn Arbib, the sale of Perpetual, his pride and joy, will prompt mixed feelings.
  • In the end Hong Kong put its red-blooded capitalist instincts First, but for a long time it looked as if old friendships and the idea that nanny government really knows best might prevail. At issue was the award of licences for the new third generation (3G) mobile telephones. Sale of these has produced windfall gains for European governments, but for months the Hong Kong telecommunications regulator declared that it would run a "beauty contest" under which the government would assess bids and award licences for free, having decided which service suppliers would benefit the community best.
  • The complex demands of global capital market dealings suggest that law firms that have close links with accountancy arms should be able to attract an increasing amount of business
  • Four tobacco companies have agreed to pay a proportion of their revenues to 46 US states and territories as compensation for the costs of treating tobacco-related conditions. This amounts to $206 billion over the next 25 years. The master settlement agreement is the largest civil settlement in US history. It has created a massive opportunity for the securitization market, as recipients become keen to turn these future flows into cash now. Even the lawyers want their future fee receivables securitized. Recipients are worried lest any future settlements or event risk bankrupt tobacco companies before they make over these windfall payments. They want bond holders to take that risk. Kay Binnie reports
  • If you opened up the Financial Times on Thursday October 26 and turned to the people section, you might have read that Michael Buckley is chief executive designate set to replace Tom Mulcahy at the head of Allied Irish Bank when Mulcahy retires in June. Buckley has been running AIB's Polish operations. In September he told Euromoney about the increasing competition among foreign bank entrants and AIB's hopes to turn its Polish branches quickly to profitability.
  • The City of London took to fancy dress on ice recently to raise funds for Sense, the charity working with deafblind people. On the eve of Halloween, bankers, lawyers, and accountants competed in speed-skating round the Broadgate rink and - even more keenly - for best costume prize. Assorted vampires, skeletons and ghosts helped to raise over £30,000.
  • Demand for structured medium-term notes, particularly equity linked, has exploded over the past two years. Yet it is retail buyers rather than sophisticated institutional investors who are purchasing these complex products. It’s not just the investor profile that has changed. The route map for the origination and distribution of structured debt is being redrawn too. In the heart of euroland some surprising new players and alliances have emerged to service structured debt’s most important new client: the man on the street. Mike Tims reports
  • The Turkish government is committed to banking consolidation, privatization and restructuring. It will also sell off the ailing banks it has taken under its wing. The country’s numerous banks are no longer able to live off interest payments from government debt. Metin Munir reports
  • Head of institutional coverage for German-speaking clients, Société Générale
  • Tough competition, thin margins and the application of electronic technology are crucial themes in custody in Asia as in the rest of the world. With customers driving hard bargains on basic services, custodians are doing their best to persuade them of the benefits of a range of add-on services including performance and risk management tools. In the process, smaller local custodians are losing ground. Gill Baker reports
  • The traffic may have eased a little in Bangkok since the crash, but there is still gridlock in Thailand's banking system.
  • The outcome of OM Gruppen's bid to take over the London Stock Exchange remained uncertain as Euromoney went to press, but OM's dynamic founder and chairman, Olof Stenhammar, remained characteristically resolute. "We will go on until the last day [the 60-day bid timetable ends on November 10]," he reported from his car phone between meetings. "We think we have a good case and we will continue to preach its virtues."
  • The price of oil is at its highest level for nearly a decade. Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the per-barrel price of crude has traded below its historical average of around $20. And it’s no coincidence that during this time the global economy has enjoyed almost unparalleled prosperity. Low energy prices have allowed new-paradigm economists to declare inflation dead. It may be stirring in its grave. And while industrialized nations are less dependent on oil than in the past, it’s importance in transport is still enormous. No-one is sure where the oil price goes from here, nor what the consequences might be of a sustained price rise. Jonathan Brown reports
  • Collectively the world’s leading commercial and investment banks are making rather a mess of transferring parts of their businesses to the internet. Many are committing fundamental business mistakes they would never allow in their traditional operations. Leadership of internet initiatives is often confused, as are their objectives. A few banks may have built good sites for specific businesses but none has come close to putting together a complete set of internet offerings. So say the editors and journalists at who put together this year’s inaugural awards for the best sites in wholesale finance. Matt Ball reports