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September 2000

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  • The great triumph of last year’s IMF/World Bank meeting was the unveiling of an agreement on debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries. But now that the promises are coming due, the international financial institutions are claiming poverty. This is special pleading - they have more than enough resources to cover the entire $45 billion multilateral share of the debt. The familiar cycle of debt and default will repeat itself, Adam Lerrick argues, unless the reform required of borrowing nations is matched by reform in the agencies themselves.
  • Brazil looks set to meet fiscal targets agreed with the IMF and also seems to have inflation under control. But fiscal discipline has rested on increasing revenues rather than cutting expenditure, a course that will eventually restrain rather than promote growth. Reform of the tax and welfare system has barely been tackled and doubts persist about whether the government has enough political clout to see it through. A key gain is that the real economy is moving out of stagnation and into growth. Jonathan Wheatley reports
  • When hurricane Mitch washed away the bridges, houses and crops of Honduras two years ago, many of its banks remained open and the staff at the finance ministry came into work. The authorities wanted to give a message: business as usual. The economy survived the devastation and recovery is now under way. But Honduras had to seek help from the multilaterals and the Paris Club. And that comes at a price, reports Nick Kochan
  • With broken china still littering the office of the World Bank’s chief economist, Nicolas Stern finally arrived this July to start picking up the pieces. Stern, a mild-mannered man with degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, comes to Washington after six years as chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. His predecessor, the celebrated and unconventional Joseph Stiglitz, raised an unprecedented ruckus during his brief but stormy tenure in the job. His final controversy was the manner of Stern’s appointment to succeed him. So what is Stern’s agenda now, asks James Smalhout
  • Some emerging markets have found the route to salvation, others are a whisker from damnation. By Michael Peterson
  • Few banks better illustrate how the market has shifted from cashflow to synthetic CLOs than Deutsche Bank. The bank has been one of the biggest issuers of conventional CLOs, securitizing several billion euros-worth of corporate loans through its Core series of transactions in 1998 and 1999.
  • Asia’s equity markets have seen their fair share of triumphs and disasters in the past 12 months, with technology stocks still baffling market watchers in some markets and seducing them in others.
  • As the huge conglomerates that have long dominated Germany's economy transform themselves into sleek, focused businesses, a procession of corporate assets has come to the market.
  • The economic boom of recent years has created a large class of wealthy individuals with money to spare. These high-net-worth individuals now form the most enticing target market for fund managers. Meanwhile the internet is democratizing financial services, in the process opening the markets up to a swathe of new private investors. The pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap supermarket philosophy which has already swept through the US is now set to engulf the rest of the world. What does this mean for the markets? Julian Marshall reports
  • We are not quite at the end of the current equity market correction. The next few months may be volatile or downright violent. But I'd start buying into any downturn in US and European stocks right now - particularly in traditional economy sectors where smart management can apply cyber-magic to the benefit of shareholders.
  • Protests against her austerity package and calls for her resignation have failed to stop Brigita Schmögnerovà from doing the most exciting job she has ever had. By Jonathan Brown
  • Financial talent is hard to come by these days, as any headhunter will confirm. And it can be even more difficult to keep. Case in point: Ricardo Hausmann, until recently the Inter-American Development Bank’s chief economist. Hausmann joins the Harvard faculty this month. But don’t expect him to be saying many good-byes. The international financial community seems bound to hear quite a bit more from this dynamic player. Hausmann shared some of his characteristic all-or-nothing views with Euromoney’s James Smalhout as he was packing his bags for Cambridge
  • War, famine, AIDS, corruption: the news out of Africa is always bad. Yet a handful of international banks and investors say that their African operations are hugely profitable and the rest of the world is overlooking wonderful opportunities. A number of sub-Saharan countries are throwing off their reputations for economic mismanagement, liberalizing their markets and promoting the private sector. Chris Cockerill reports
  • Securitizing whole companies may be seen as the future of securitization in Europe, but so far only a few examples of this technique have taken place – and most of them have been in the UK pub industry. What is it about UK drinking dens that makes them so suitable for securitization?
  • In the heartland of Gotham and the Bay Area of San Francisco, dwarfed by the high-rise headquarters of those they seek to challenge, lurk a select few individuals waiting to strike. These men are behind the mutant companies seeking to change the dynamics of equity capital-raising forever. They are much smaller than their prey, but less weighed down by legacy systems. The time has come for the internet-based new issue houses to show what they can do, reports Antony Currie
  • Washington wags used to quip that former IMF managing director Michel Camdessus wanted to be “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral”. They had a point. Camdessus put the Fund on an ambitious course to be many things to many people during his 13-year tenure. That ended in February and today his successor Horst Köhler is getting back to core principles. He says he wants a leaner, meaner IMF. Now he has to deliver. James Smalhout reports
  • Taiwan avoided the excesses of Asian equity market euphoria last year and has escaped the worst of the stock market corrections in 2000. Some imaginative plays have helped it to the top of the Asian primary equity market this year. But even now concerns about a slowing economy, political uncertainty and a fragile banking system have many analysts believing the market has peaked for Taiwan issuers. Gill Baker reports
  • There's a lot of hot air in Khartoum, and according to one lawyer working for Talisman Energy, the Canadian oil explorer, not all of it is blowing in from the Sahara. "Well, if you include planting date trees along the roads adjacent to the Nile - well yes, I suppose the infrastructure is improving." He pauses: "Oh wait, they died. Nobody watered them." The taxi driver swerves to miss a huge pothole in the main road and then quickly veers back into the street in an attempt to avoid those sleeping on the footpaths.
  • By most economic and development measures, China would seem to have taken a firm lead over India in the great race between these two Asian contenders to become regional and global economic superpowers. Yet India, despite its slower economic growth, its poorer yet faster-increasing population and its confused politics, now has thriving new-economy sectors.
  • Traditional institutional fund management no longer holds much appeal for Prudential. Earlier this year the UK insurer sold off its pension fund equity business - some £11.5 billion ($18.5 billion) of assets under management - because it was not turning enough profit.
  • The increasing pace of developments in both the syndicated loan and the debt capital markets
  • Independent market regulation and a more relaxed approach to foreign investment are among new policies setting Arab states on the road to more dynamic markets. Not before time – accession to the World Trade Organization means the doors will have to open to foreign competition.
  • After the fanfare of the meeting between chairman Kim Jong-Il and president Kim Dae-Jung in Pyongyang in mid-year, moves toward a closer relationship have been slow. North Korea’s Tokyo-based unofficial spokesman, Kim Myong-Chol, has predicted peaceful reunification of Korea within five years. It might happen. But the road to unity will be longer and harder than was the path to German unification, finds Kevin Rafferty
  • The collapse of the Sogo department store, the largest bankruptcy of a non-financial corporation yet seen in Japan, is significant in two important ways. It shows the fragility of economic recovery. Persistently slow growth may leave many more Japanese companies at risk and the country’s banks may suffer more bad debts. Second, it shows the old conservative consensus breaking down. Shinsei Bank, the old LTCB under new American ownership, refused to play along with a bank-led bail-out. And when politicians attempted a public rescue, an angry populace shouted it down. Painful corporate restructuring is at hand, reports Kevin Rafferty
  • At some point the government plans to privatize the Hong Kong Airports Authority, and is expected to give it more attention once it has sold off the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC).
  • To date, most Arab countries have been insulated from outside pressure due to highly protected markets and huge oil reserves. But foreign competition is set to increase, especially for markets joining the World Trade Organization. The biggest banks in small countries will have to look outside their domestic markets for growth, either through acquisitions or alliances. Darren Stubing reports
  • Information technology is by far India’s most dynamic sector but its success comes despite rather than because of government initiative. The BJP government has sloughed off the Congress Party’s socialism but is desperately slow at implementing its objectives of privatizing and increasing foreign investment. There’s some hope, though, in the initiatives being taken by state governments. Kala Rao reports
  • The boom in yen-denominated bond issuance looks likely to be sustained. Foreign corporates are coming to the samurai market because they need yen funds, not because they intend to swap into dollars. There’s also strong demand for emerging market sovereign bonds from Japanese investors starved of yield by low domestic interest rates. Anja Helk reports
  • As Asia's markets emerge battered and bruised from three years of crisis and recovery, the region’s shell-shocked bankers and issuers are starting to pick up the pieces and look towards a brighter future. Bond and loan markets are showing signs of tentative recovery, equity markets are alternating between bewilderment and elation, and the samurai bond market remains intent on defying conventional economics. Gill Baker reports
  • Conversation in Kazkakhstan in recent months has centred on one topic: oil. What appears to be a major new find has excited locals, multinationals operating in the energy sector and buyers of an oversubscribed sovereign Eurobond. The prospect of this impoverished country, where the average wage is barely $100 a month, becoming the next Kuwait has also enabled the nation teasingly to play prospective bride to both the West and Russia. Ted Kim reports
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