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October 2000

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  • The EBRD is coming under a barrage of fire for its lending policy in Russia. Over the last nine months the pace of lending has been picking up momentum. But the bank is catching flak for three big deals.
  • The European Central Bank's intervention on Friday, 22 September in support of the falling euro, acting in cooperation with the Bank of Japan and the US Federal Reserve, briefly evoked memories of the 1985 Plaza accord which successfully drove down the dollar. But the time when world central banks could dictate exchange rates to the markets have passed.
  • One of the longest-running sagas in asset management is finally set to come to a head - well, in another year's time at least.
  • Want to find out who the financial markets think will be the next US president but don't have the time to pore through a forest's worth of research? Take a look at the futures exchange dedicated to tracking just that.
  • Why would anyone want to murder a portfolio manager? Well it seems there is so much professional jealousy on Wall Street that former fund manager Cliff Cavanaugh runs a detective agency just to nail those cads who pick off stockpickers.
  • At last month's IMF/World Bank meeting, amid the rococo splendour of Prague's Kaunicky Palace, Padraic Fallon, chairman of Euromoney Institutional Investor, presented the annual finance minister of the year award to Slovakia's Brigita Schmögnerová and the central bank governor of the year award to Turkey's Gazi Ercel.
  • When the euro was first launched in January 1999, the consensus was that a strong central bank, a huge trade surplus and low inflation would drive the new currency upwards from its opening level of $1.17. I had little confidence in that view.
  • The recent mergers of CSFB with DLJ and JP Morgan with Chase signal a new desperation among those near bulge bracket firms to amass the scale, capital strength and full product capability they consider crucial if they are ever to gain entry to the very top ranks of global investment banking. In recent years, Wall Street firms have busily allied with retail distributors and acquired specialist boutique firms. But such full-blown mergers of large investment banks are something quite new. For these deals to succeed, profound misgivings will have to be overcome among many senior managers at DLJ and JP Morgan: firms that have traditionally stayed aloof from Wall Street alliances and have strong cultures. Although it's not clear these mergers will help firms leap ahead, it's quite certain the merging firms' rivals will take advantage of any discontent. Antony Currie reports
  • An ever-increasing blizzard of broker research is making it difficult for equity analysts to deliver visionary advice. By altering their coverage, delivery mediums and client relationships, research departments at sell-side houses in Europe are working hard to stand out from the crowd. By Rick Butler
  • Just what is Goldman Sachs doing buying Spear Leeds Kellogg for $6.5 billion? Is this not the same Goldman Sachs which just six months ago, together with Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, was sending executives down to Washington to lobby regulators at the SEC and politicians in Congress, to take steps which might do away with such businesses? And didn't Merrill buy a similar operation in June, Herzog Heine Geduld? The object of the big firms' desire was a central limit order book (CLOB) for US equities trading. Without it, ran their argument, equities trading would continue to fragment between electronic order matching via ECNs, and electronic quote-driven market making systems. Fragmentation, they continued, would run counter to a broker's duty to execute at the best price, so a far better platform for clients would be the CLOB.
  • At the World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Hong Kong three years ago the powerful interim committee gave the IMF a green light for yet another mission. The fund was keen to promote unrestricted international capital movements.
  • With foreign exchange platforms popping up all over the internet, competition and consolidation are sure to separate the winners from the losers. But will the web’s power to disintermediate ever allow corporate users of forex services to trade currencies directly with each other? Rick Butler reports
  • I'm sitting on the 86th floor of the world's tallest hotel and its third-highest building, sipping a $5 bottle of Tsingtao beer, and I don't feel welcome. Even though I'm a guest, the waiting staff have glanced with obvious disapproval at my jeans and at the fake designer polo shirt I picked up for next to nothing in Beijing, and frogmarched me towards an uncomfortable high-backed stool in a quiet and poorly lit corner of the bar.
  • Investors responding to Global Investors’ poll voted the following brokers as the best in Europe. By Ben Wright
  • OM Gruppen’s takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange is a symbol of Scandinavia’s technological edge in financial services. Nigel Dudley reports
  • Capital markets in the Gulf are rich with potential. The markets are developing rapidly, especially in the UAE, but international investors will only get involved once the requisite legal framework is in place. By Nigel Page
  • Not only western governments are worried by the oil price. Oil wealth has left Arabian Gulf countries ill-equipped to develop dynamic economies that can cope with the needs of growing populations. Abu Dhabi is aware of the dangers of this inertia but Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah is the man doing most to change attitudes and structures. Michael Field reports
  • Emerging market governments can default on their international bonds with impunity. That seemed to be the clear message on August 23 when Ecuador secured the support of 99% of investors for its oVer to swap defaulted Brady and Eurobonds for paper worth 41% less than the old debt.
  • Issuer: Telefónica Amount: $6 billion equivalent Type of issue: Global bond Date of issue: September 15
  • A crucial prerequisite of Japanese economic rejuvenation looks to be a burst of merger and acquisitions activity Or so many of the investment banks that would arrange such deals say. With the notable exception of the auto industry, corporate Japan is more hesitant. Legal changes have made M&A easier, but corporate culture remains a stumbling block. Kevin Rafferty reports
  • Chase Manhattan has never made a secret of its desire to buy an equities franchise to complete the line-up of its wholesale and investment-banking operations. So the announcement on September 12 that it was buying JP Morgan for about $35 billion was no great surprise. But it is also well known that JP Morgan was far from being Chase’s first-choice partner. It would have preferred a deal with Merrill. Inside Morgan, too, there is lingering disappointment that the bank could not complete its transformation into global investment bank unaided. The two sides must put these disappointments aside quickly.
  • Leading Dutch telecommunications provider KPN faces an uncertain future following the failure of its attempt to link up with Telefonica in Spain. Analysts see an obvious solution to its small home base: it must move into new markets and expand its subscriber numbers in order to survive. The company has been trying to do exactly this. But it has strained its finances and its credit rating in the attempt. Andrew Rosenbaum reports
  • After 40 years of self-imposed isolation, Syria has finally opened its doors to foreign banks. Last month the economy minister Mohammed al-Imadi issued banking licenses to the three Lebanese institutions: Banque Européene pour le Moyen Orient, Fransabank and Société Générale Libano-Européene de Banque (SGLEB).
  • Chairman, Barclays Bank, Germany
  • The news last month that Optimark has failed in its bid to change the dynamics of US equities trading stands as a timely reminder of the difficulties e-commerce start-ups face.
  • Guy Hands made his name at Nomura International buying pubs. However it was his move for the Millennium Dome, followed by his decision to drop the bid, that brought him into the public consciousness in the UK. With the Dome already fading into the distance, Hands’ Principal Finance Group is dusting itself off and looking for other business ventures to invest in. He tells Julian Marshall why his great white hope turned into a white elephant and what his plans are now
  • Renegade Czech financier Viktor Kozeny is soon to face in court angry American investors who claim he bilked them in a fantastic scheme to acquire Azerbaijan’s state oil company. From his luxury Bahamas base, Kozeny has been telling any journalist who will listen that he has few assets left to seize, while issuing wild threats to expose his accusers and even to sue the president of Azerbaijan. The ending to this colourful tale of greed and double-dealing in a wild frontier market may yet come down to dense legal arguments over trading records. Ben Beasley-Murray reports
  • They throw 80% of research straight into the bin; regard sell-side analysts as reactive and herdlike; and suggest that brokers see small hedge funds as being more valuable clients than major asset managers. So is there anything about brokers’ research that fund managers actually like? A panel of investors give their views. By Graham Field.
  • Head of fixed income, Aspect Capital.
  • Germany Inc doesn’t like outsiders, especially those challenging the fundamental building blocks of German finance. Cobra, a group of opportunistic shareholders, took on Commerzbank and forced it to consider change. But things didn’t go as planned and both sides are licking their wounds. What’s next in the game of who gets what and who pairs off with whom? David Shirreff reports