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September 1997

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  • Its issuers are good enough for the international capital markets. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell are eager lead managers of their deals. Futures contracts on its equity index are listed in Chicago and Singapore. Its stock market has risen by over 30% this year, in stark contrast to neighbours Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand whose stock markets have each crashed between 25% and 35%.
  • Belt-tightening is not easy, particularly when the belt is an imported fine leather one with a high-priced Louis Vuitton label. As the IMF urges financial self-control, Thailand's elite are finding the austerity package hard to swallow.
  • It seems anyone from eastern Europe can launch a Eurobond these days.
  • Credit Suisse First Boston can't keep its staff, it seems, once they've seen Moscow. Less than two years after losing Boris Jordan, who opened the Russian securities market for CSFB and the rest of the world, the firm has parted company with local equities chief Peter Halloran.
  • With a rare combination of rising oil prices, bumper harvests and policy reforms lifting the economic fortunes of the Middle East, its banks enjoyed a good year in 1996. Tony Wynne and Anthony Christofides take a look at the top 100 Arab banks and assess their prospects for 1997.
  • Did Bankers Trust buy Alex Brown to make itself more attractive to a potential buyer? And should NationsBank buy First Chicago to give it more bargaining power in any future merger talks, possibly with BankAmerica? As America awaits its biggest-ever banking mergers, such are the advanced strategies under discussion. All will become clear after the final round of mega-mergers, reports Peter Lee.
  • Rather than demonizing George Soros as the prime mover of the run on their currencies, Asian central bankers need to ask themselves hard questions. Why did the hedge funds go on the attack, and who provided the funding? Do they realize what banks are up to, have they decided which of these activities are legitimate, and are there any effective means of restraint? Laura Covill reports.
  • International investors this summer gained their best chance yet to invest in Transcaucasia, the region of the CIS separating Russia and the Middle East, with the start of voucher privatization in Azerbaijan. The country's programme is more open to foreign investment than almost any other in the CIS and lets investors take exposure to an economy that is growing at more than 5% a year.
  • How can Russia's small and underfunded equity brokers break into the more lucrative areas of investment banking? By joining forces with foreign institutions, according to the conventional wisdom. But one local broker may have found a different way to turn itself into a major player. In mid-August, details emerged of a deal that brings together Russia's largest securities broker, Troika-Dialog, and the city of Moscow, likely to be one of the country's major sources of financing business over the next few years. The Bank of Moscow, in which the city of Moscow holds a majority stake, will form a strategic alliance with Troika-Dialog. After completion of a share purchase for an undisclosed sum, Bank of Moscow will own 20% of Troika and Andrei Borodine, the Bank of Moscow president, will have a seat on its board of directors.
  • Want to buy a biggish local bank at a knock-down price? Join the queue of foreigners bidding for former state-owned banks in central Europe - but watch out for messy loan books and murky questions of ownership. Antony Currie reports on the restructuring of the region's banking systems and profiles three of the newly foreign-owned banks.
  • Not all the central bank governors in Hong Kong this September for the IMF/World Bank annual meetings are staid middle-aged men in suits.
  • In the old days, regulators set the rules and bankers followed them. Now, the Group of Thirty wants to create voluntary standards for global risk management. Some people applaud this experiment. But bankers who Oppose it have been biting their tongues. James Smalhout reports.
  • Private-sector Brazilian and Argentine institutions top our table of the leading banks in Latin America ranked by shareholders' equity. Commentary by Rebecca Dobson.
  • The 1997 Euromoney poll reveals some sharp differences of opinion between borrowers and bankers themselves about which are the best capital market intermediaries. But JP Morgan stays the overall favourite. By Rebecca Dobson.
  • Taiwan's Shanghai Commercial & Savings Bank is an unknown name in global finance. But this private-sector bank is very special. It gets a top ααα in Euromoney's new emerging market bank (Emba) ratings, covering 450 lesser-known banks. Pakistan's state-owned United Bank came bottom. The ratings go where others have feared to tread. Brian Caplen explains their use as a vital tool for counterparty risk.
  • Currency crises in emerging markets are the result of too much foreign capital, not too little. An early warning barometer is a country's "fundamental balance" - current account plus foreign direct investment. But even then, if small economies can't absorb the inflow they should form regional currency blocs. Roll on the Singapore yen, the Polish euro and the Mexican dollar, writes Michael Howell.
  • Foreign banks looking to diversify in international markets have pinpointed Latin America as the new growth area. But whereas in the past they largely confined themselves to investment banking and elite customers they are now seeking to build broader retail operations, either through outright purchases of local banks or buying large stakes in them. Michelle Celarier reports on a race that has sent the prices of even the shakier institutions to surprising levels.
  • Much more private-sector activity from Brazil is expected on international capital markets as the privatization programme progresses. Unsecured bond issuance is only part of this expansion. And as hyperinflation becomes a distant memory, the domestic capital market is also growing rapidly. Michael Marray reports.
  • The Mexican financial scene has substantially changed since the 1994 crisis. Out of the dust of the crash broader and better organized capital markets have emerged. Debt restructuring has built up yield curves and bank asset sales are creating new instruments. Even the equity markets seem more buoyant. Jennifer Tierney reports.
  • Australia's financial markets have hit the headlines this year. While Australian dollar-denominated Eurobonds have been in vogue with European investors, privatization and a changing mortgage market have spurred a wave of issuance by Australian companies. Albert Smith looks at some of the landmark deals.
  • France's banks are stifled by bureaucratic management, crippled by the over-expansion they undertook in the 1980s and hampered by regulatory obstacles to restructuring. What better time for an outsider with deep pockets to buy into one of the largest banking markets. By John McGrath.
  • The new South African government's enthusiasm for the free market has surprised some sceptics. But does it have the right plan to tackle the country's problems of entrenched unemployment, fitful economic growth and a heavy dependence on gold exports - not to mention rampant crime? Bruce Cameron reports.
  • After two successful privatizations this summer, foreign investors have become highly enthusiastic about Polish stocks. And there's more to come: some 80 companies have applied to the SEC to issue shares before the end of the year, and 60 of these would be IPOs. Antony Currie reports.
  • For emerging-market bond investors in the know, the former Soviet Union - especially central Asia - is the place to be. Debt markets have rallied across the board, yields are mostly buoyant, and currencies have held their own against the dollar. But title and settlement can sometimes be a little hairy. Theodore Kim investigates the excitement.
  • Issuer: World Bank
  • The New Zealand economy's been riding a switchback. Stability would offer a welcome breather, as Albert Smith explains.
  • His combative approach - along with $70 billion reserves - has seen off all the currency speculators so far. But does Joseph Yam sleep easy at night?
  • When Armstrong World Industries, a $2 billion US company, announced in early June that it was launching a $354 million hostile takeover of Domco, a Canadian floor-products maker controlled by Sommer Allibert of Paris, investment bankers were surprised to learn that the company's long-time investment banker, Goldman Sachs, was not advising Armstrong.
  • Next month marks the biggest change to London's stock market since Big Bang of 1986. On October 20 the London Stock Exchange (LSE) will replace its current quote-driven system of market-makers with an electronic order book - initially for the market's top 100 shares and later, perhaps, for the whole market. This innovation, accompanied by a number of other changes to trading practices and regulations, will have a major impact on both the liquidity and transparency of the stock market, But it may, inadvertently, erode the LSE's virtual monopoly on securities trading in the UK.
  • The African Development Bank (ADB) gets full marks for its efforts to reform and modernize its operations in what is arguably one of the world's toughest banking environments.