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October 2004

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  • Euromoney's annual cash management poll shows surprising results. A familiar group of leading banks continues to slug it out for market share leadership but the names customers rate most highly in qualitative rankings are often not those that lead the quantitative league tables.
  • The University of Virginia's endowment fund has put itself at the cutting edge of investment from university funds, wringing out high returns by inspired market timing and bold allocations to alternative asset classes. But can it keep working the magic, especially as it is looking for new leadership?
  • After years of negotiations, Serbia has signed a deal with London Club creditors to restructure about $2.8 billion in debt. The deal paves the way for the sovereign's return to the capital markets later this year. But how will Serbia be received there, and who did the deal favour?
  • Without much fanfare, the American Stock Exchange has achieved remarkable success over the past two years in attracting new listings, especially from foreign issuers.
  • Leveraged buy-outs
  • While many focused their attention on JPMorgan Chase's acquisition of the hedge fund Highbridge, another nimble operator was busily getting ready for its initial public offering. On September 30 Primus Guaranty raised $139.7 million.
  • The SEC's authority to reform the US funds sector is coming under fire — even from law firms. Legal action against the SEC is being expected in some quarters.
  • Forget PPP or indeed IPOs; what you should really be focusing on is PPLI. That's professional and personal life integration, in case you didn't know. US law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart has come up with this handy acronym because they've just appointed Jeannine Rupp, who has a masters degree in organizational and social psychology from the London School of Economics, to be director of the firm's PPLI initiative. This, says Peter Kalis, chair of K&L's management committee, will make lawyers “happier, more productive and thus better able to serve our clients notwithstanding the challenges of life in the 21st century”.
  • Investec Asset Management is celebrating its success in UK managed funds by offering punters the chance to win a Land Rover. To win, entrants must answer four questions about the firm's Cautious Managed and Managed Distribution Funds.
  • With credit analysts predicting that overall levels of investment-grade corporate issuance in Europe will end the year even lower than they had previously expected, banks are turning their attention to the more lucrative and active European high-yield market.
  • As Oscar Wilde said, there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. For structured finance professionals, there can't be much that is more gratifying than being talked about at the annual Global ABS summit in Barcelona. With anyone who is anyone in attendance, it's the ultimate confirmation of your status in the industry. So when US monoline insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (FGIC) announced in June that it had hired Rick Watson, formerly head of ABS and CDOs, structured capital markets, at HSBC in London, the timing was perfect. The news went round the Hotel Arts and the adjoining bars and beach-clubs and Watson was a celebrity.
  • For New Yorkers 'wait' is like the f-word, but in recent weeks they've had to display uncharacteristic patience.
  • By Camilla Palladino
  • Wealthy Americans are getting more demanding when it comes to investment advice. Independent advisers claim to have tapped significant client defections from full-service brokers. The brokers say this is not happening. What's clear is that objective advice is a crucial selling point. Brokers need to do more than pile up new product offerings and must focus on their strengths, being prepared to offer their competitors' expertise when they lack it themselves.
  • A burst of primary market activity in Europe last month had equity capital markets bankers predicting a busy fourth quarter. This might be wishful thinking. Although historical data suggest that the months after a US presidential election are usually relatively buoyant, confidence surveys indicate that equity investors are still in cautious and highly selective mood.
  • Latin American domestic structured issuance has caught up with the more established cross-border market, thanks in large part to the work of the International Finance Corporation and structured products expert Lee Meddin. But this is just the start of Meddin's plans for the emerging markets, with Latin America likely to take a pioneering role again.
  • Growing investor interest in foreign exchange as an asset class is leading to a rapid expansion of volume and has prompted service providers to offer new products featuring greater speed, transparency and efficiency.
  • Automation of short-term investment is at the cutting edge of cash management, but deciding how to take advantage of this is not easy. Banks are making an effort to rationalize the routines involved.
  • For years, Thai Military Bank remained an anomaly in Thailand's financial sector. Founded by the armed forces to provide financial services for their personnel, the bank has struggled with both its business and identity. Having just completed Thailand's only three-way banking merger, management aims to change all of that.
  • Josef Ackermann is giving Deutsche Bank a spring clean. He has streamlined the board and reaffirmed an ambitious return on equity target in the face of mounting doubt about its feasibility. He is preparing the bank he leads for hefty restructuring and job cuts. That might be what it needs but is not in itself a strategy.
  • While the Gazprom-Rosneft merger will make FDI in Russia easier, Ukraine's attempt to keep the retail petrol market competitive is on hold.
  • Property company mixes secured and unsecured debt technology to preserve operational flexibility after its refinancing.
  • This year, for the first time, Euromoney has presented its award for central bank governor of the year to someone who isn't a central bank governor (see Euromoney September 2004). At the end of September, two weeks before the IMF/World Bank meetings, the mandate of Argentina's Alfonso Prat-Gay expired and president Néstor Kirchner did not renew it. By Argentine standards, Prat-Gay had a good term. As he said, when receiving his award from Padraic Fallon, chairman of Euromoney Institutional Investor: "When we took office in December 2002 we had a lot of ambitions, the main one being to make it to the end of the term – this being a country whose central bank is only 68 years old and has had 48 governors along the way."
  • India
  • If you're looking for enlightenment from Bush or Kerry on how best to shape the economy over the next four years, look again. Neither presents a viable strategy for the deficit or the entitlement programmes, social security, medicare and Medicaid.
  • Nothing indicates better how a business has matured than when established forces start buying and upstarts are willing to sell.
  • Belarus
  • For children with backgrounds of poverty, neglect and abuse, the City can seem an incomprehensible and daunting place. Commerzbank's head of treasuries, Can Biritrim, however, is keen to show them it can be a source of support. Working with the charity Kids Company, which supports London children who have severe behavioural, emotional and social difficulties as a result of childhood trauma or neglect, Biritrim, together with head of prop trading Tim Fisher, invited three of the children the charity works with to the London office for the day.