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September 1996

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  • Financial crises have a habit of hitting where the world least expects. No-one predicted that disaster would strike Barings in Singapore, the Mexican peso, Daiwa Bank, the copper market, Morgan Grenfell Asset Management ­ to mention only the worst debacles of the past year. So where is next? Euromoney writers identify some possibilities. A crash in credit cards? Gridlock in foreign exchange settlements? A catastrophic loss of confidence in Hong Kong after the handover to China? First, Brian Caplen reports on the results of brainstorming with forecasters and analysts and highlights some dangers ahead
  • Banks measure credit and market risk because they can, not because these are the biggest risks they face. Operational risk is larger, more dangerous and no-one knows exactly what to do about it. Mark Parsley looks at banks' first faltering steps in this area
  • Next year's IMF/World Bank meeting will be held in Hong Kong, by then three months into Chinese communist rule. What will delegates find: a thriving boom town or a ghost of its former self? Confused local opinion suggests things could go either way. To get a view from the top, Steven Irvine sounded out more than 30 of Hong Kong's tycoons, politicians and bankers, and drew some far-reaching conclusions
  • Ask any central banker what is his worst nightmare and he's likely to say one word: Herstatt. Herstatt means gridlock in the world's financial system as hundreds of banks, which yesterday trusted each other to make payments, no longer do. What can shatter that trust? A technical snarl-up, a political shock, or worst of all, the sudden failure of a major bank. By David Shirreff
  • It's the job of senior managers in banks to identify, worry about and make contingency plans for future shocks. Brian Caplen asks two of them how they do it
  • Bernard Connolly, whose critical book The Rotten Heart of Europe lost him his job at the European Commission, continues to write unwelcome truths about the Maastricht Treaty and "Euroland" after January 1999. Here, he looks at the future of no-longer-sovereign government bond markets. Good news for Italy, bad news for Belgium.
  • All over Europe, banks are counting the cost of preparing for the single currency ­whether their home country is "in" or "out". Apart from buying new bank-wide technology, they face a loss of trading revenue and a threat to their corporate client base. Not to mention the thought that it may never happen. Peter Lee reports
  • Edited by Steven Irvine
  • Korea has been negotiating to join the OECD. But the country's financial structure is still partly shackled, despite reforms in recent years. And president Kim's call for Korea to accept globalization has not been welcomed by many of his compatriots involved in finance and business. They believe opening the country's fragile financial markets to foreigners too quickly will create instability. Andrew Horvat reports
  • Foreign investors are piling into Korea's stock market. But why? The country seems to have lost its competitive edge, the stock index has plummeted, and the country's corrupt practices have been exposed with the guilty verdicts on two former presidents. Overseas investors, however, are undeterred. They believe profits are there for those who can stomach the roller-coaster ride
  • Italy's almost 1,000 banks are the least profitable in Europe and depend heavily on traditional loan income. Consolidation of institutions and diversification of products is seen as inevitable, particularly if further privatizations are to succeed. Philip Moore reports on the problems and progress of reconstruction
  • The concept of shareholder value is transforming the way Hungarian companies communicate with investors ­ at least it is for the 50 or so companies traded on the Budapest Stock Exchange. By Henry Copeland
  • Komarovsky and Ingersoll sit at the feet of Wall Street's self-styled literary genius
  • Mexico, Brazil and Argentina have adhered to their structural reform programmes despite the side-effects ­ on growth and employment ­ in order to maintain investor confidence. But, David Pilling argues, high financing requirements could still lead them into difficulties. A sudden outflow of capital might result in default
  • by David Roche
  • Antonio Fazio, governor of the Banca d'Italia since May 1993, has steered the Italian economy towards low inflation and further enhanced the central bank's reputation for independence.
  • Brazil's privatization programme has been given a new lease of life. With no fiscal constitutional reform in sight, the government has accelerated the sale of the biggest public utilities as the best way to downsize the public sector. And that's vital if the Real Plan is to stay afloat
  • Over the past seven years Polish companies have had to restructure to survive. New accounting rules have helped improve the quality of management. And Polish workers have begun to understand that foreign investment brings with it security and new technology. By Graham Field
  • Edited by Brian Caplen
  • The watchdog of corporate governance has been let loose in the bearpit of Russian companies. But like old bears, Russian companies can be stubborn and bad tempered ­ and they don't like anyone getting in their way. Rupert Gordon-Walker reports
  • Pakistan's successful private power initiative has helped overcome an electricity shortage but has created a foreign exchange burden. The government is gambling on increased capacity leading to greater consumption and higher productivity. But will this be sufficient to pay for imported fuel and the tariffs charged by the foreign-owned power stations? By Philip Eade
  • Slovenia was in economic pole position in eastern Europe when communism collapsed in 1990. But it has now fallen behind its neighbours, held back by lack of investment and political uncertainty in the former Yugoslavia. Many companies are 60% owned by management and employees, and often do not welcome outside investors. The investment companies formed to buy into privatization have disappointed, with few taking a positive approach. This could be starving Slovenia of much-needed funds. Gavin Gray reports
  • Competition in French banking is distorted by an outdated legal framework. French banks need to be downsized and made more profitable. Their returns on equity and cost/income ratios are deplorable. Strong statements. But those aren't Euromoney's views, they're the views of Marc Viénot, chairman of one of France's biggest banks, Société Générale. He spoke to Felix Salmon
  • The world's big borrowers have found a new source of super-cheap funding. In the past year, a group of small, hitherto almost unheard of Japanese institutions ­ most famously the Teachers' Pension Fund ­ have bought as much as $100 billion of structured Euro-MTNs. So desperate are these investors for certain types of securities that a top-rated borrower can raise funds via a private placement in Japan for as little as Libor minus 60 basis points. Garry Evans explains how
  • The new dawn in South Africa is not an unmixed blessing for its banks. They now have to face foreign competitors muscling in on a sector they previously monopolized. But with their strong networks and increasing overseas resources, local banks are finding that alliances with foreign institutions can be mutually beneficial. Bruce Cameron reports
  • On his first day as treasurer of the World Bank ­ March 1 this year Gary Perlin was winding up a trip to China, the bank's biggest borrower. By contrast, the first overseas trip of his predecessor Jessica Einhorn (now promoted to managing director) was to Japan, the biggest investor in the bank's bonds.
  • The Philippine government is recruiting the private sector to develop and upgrade the country's infrastructure. But how will the private sector raise the financing it needs on the international capital markets? By Maggie Ford
  • Peter Lee and Steven Irvine
  • The next cycle of sovereign debt default will be different from the last. Lawyers hope that the mechanisms for coping with it will have evolved as well. By Christopher Stoakes