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October 2003

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  • Talk about getting them when they're young. Merrill Lynch has joined forces with Elmo and the Cookie Monster to develop a "financial fitness" curriculum aimed at children between the ages of two and six.
  • HSBC's retail and corporate bank marketing has stressed its prowess as the world's local bank. However, the quest for a much enhanced global investment banking business demands a break from group tradition, one that redeployed and enhanced top management seems intent on implementing.
  • Serbian debt is undergoing something of a rally. The restructuring of the country's $2.4 billion in London Club debt seems finally to be gathering momentum, and analysts are calling it the next big CEE convergence trade. But are they getting over-excited? The Serbian minister of finance thinks so.
  • FOR THE PAST 10 years investors have looked on with incredulity at the inaction of those charged with directing the Japanese economy, particularly the banking sector. For while it is plain that it needs comprehensive restructuring, nothing seems to get done. And as long as fighting between political factions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party persists, and decisions and plans in the banking system are driven by self-interest, nothing will change.
  • Contraversy has dogged Mahathir Mohamad's 22 years' dedication to making Malaysia a healthy modern economy. Now on the brink of retirement the prime minister spoke to Chris Cockerill about his country's achievements and his refusal to bow to the prescriptions of the developed world.
  • Investing in China is tricky enough without having to offer coherent data on performance. Fund managers, under increasing pressure to outperform benchmarks, are struggling with the fact that index providers offer a mystifying range of products covering Chinese stocks.
  • At the IMF/World Bank meetings in Dubai last month, Padraic Fallon, chairman of Euromoney Institutional Investor, presented the finance minister of the year award to Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf of Saudi Arabia, describing him as a symbol of the new Middle East. Fallon praised the reforms of Crown Prince Abdullah, which have created a liberal foreign investment regime. The minister cautioned that the award "does not mean that we have achieved our ambitions but is a reminder of the need to work diligently to reach our potential".
  • Issuer: RHG Nord Size: e65 million Arranger: Rabobank International Issue date: September 17 2003
  • IPO fever is yet to sweep the equity capital markets, but there has been a marked upturn in other types of issuance, putting pressure on banks' depeleted ECM division. Some are rehiring, but can the revival be sustained?
  • Source: is Europe's leading financial commentary service.
  • Source: is Europe's leading financial commentary service.
  • Foreign insurers, asset managers and banks are preparing to tap India's retirement savings. On August 23 the Indian government cleared a plan that is a first step towards pension deregulation.
  • Private-equity houses are trawling Europe for cheap listed companies. Critics say shareholders shouldn't sell out so cheaply but should rather seek enhanced value for themselves. Some are already rebelling against the loss of future value.
  • When John Studzinski, Studs to his friends, left Morgan Stanley after 23 years with the firm, a lot of people thought he would retire to devote time to his many other interests in and around London, such as his sponsorship of the arts, notably opera, and his support of the homeless. There are other interests too - he breeds pedigree dogs and spent the weekend before meeting Euromoney assisting with the delivery of eight male puppies.
  • The Russian private-equity market has had a great few months and many of the big houses are establishing funds. But are they prepared for russian condition, and are there enough deals out there to be done?
  • The explosion in demand for telecoms services in sub-Saharan Africa is having a knock-on effect on the region's capital markets. Uganda Telecom, for example, recently set up a USh54 billion ($27.35 million) secured medium-term note programme. It is one of the first local-currency MTN programmes to be listed on the Ugandan Stock Exchange, and the first secured bond issued by a Ugandan company.
  • A quiet suburban street a few blocks from a university campus is not where you'd expect a groundbreaking research shop to be set up. But that is where State Street has sited the headquarters of State Street Associates, a 55-person subsidiary set up in 1999 to organize expansion into research provision for institutional investors. The buildings are two regular-looking houses in Cambridge, the Boston suburb most famous for Harvard University.
  • Hedge fund proliferation is set to continue for some time, or so the services offered by the latest support business setting up in London seem to suggest.
  • September is a popular time for international get-togethers. Near the end of the month there was a small one in New York, organized by the Brazilian/American Chamber of Commerce. It took place while the IMF/World Bank meetings were still under way in Dubai, shortly before the opening of the UN General Assembly, and a week after the collapse of the World Trade Organization talks in Cancún.
  • Last month's G7 finance ministers' meeting in Dubai prompted a sharp fall in the dollar. I reckon this is a turning point in the fortunes of the currency since its peak in February 2002.
  • When banks develop fancy new structured products, they usually describe them as value-added, yield-enhancing solutions that do everything a client could possibly want except, perhaps, washing the dishes. No discerning investor or corporate should be without them.
  • Germany is about to enact a law that will create a new asset class for investors in the federal republic that should also attract foreign investors. The star attraction of the next set of financial reform bills set to go before the Bundestag this autumn is an easing of the rules covering hedge funds.
  • Travelling eastwards from Dubai after the IMF/World Bank meetings it is striking to encounter near universal scorn - among bankers, economists, corporate treasurers, investors and central bankers - for US policymakers' attempts to bully China into revaluing its currency.
  • The arrival of a new clearing house in Spain challenges the balance of power in Europe. Can it succeed against competitors such as LCH.Clearnet that are pushing for a horizontal solution?
  • Investment banks are turning to new research strategies as they fight to win back investor confidence and wash away the stigma of bias and conflicts of interest that have tarnished sell-side research in recent years. There appears to be a stress on intellectual honesty but can this coexist with turning a profit?
  • The race to take market share in the fast-growing area of credit default swap indices is gathering pace.
  • BackTrack Reports' office might bring to mind Philip Marlowe's but the founders of the background check firm, a specialist in hedge funds, reckon the methods of investigative journalists serve its clients better than private-eye or police approaches.
  • How to pay for research is one of the toughest riddles on Wall Street. The challenge, says Smith Barney's director of global research, Bill Kennedy "on a global scale as well as in the US, is to take the talent we have and find a way to package it that is both investor-friendly and commercial".
  • The Argentines had fun at the IMF/World Bank meetings in Dubai. First off they secured a $12.55 billion three-year standby credit from the IMF - enough to keep the country current on debt service to, well, the IMF. This was controversial enough, mainly for the near total absence of conditions to which the agreement holds Argentina's government, beyond that of running a 3% of GDP primary surplus in 2004. "It's not a dollars and cents programme," said a rather defensive Anoop Singh, director of the IMF's western hemisphere department.
  • As the rugby World Cup gears up for its big kick-off, one former star is settling into his new job in the far more aggressive world of inter-dealer brokerage.