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September 2006

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  • Indonesia’s young finance minister has made some key decisions since her appointment, winning many friends abroad. Some tough challenges lie ahead; to meet them, Mulyani will need to win more friends at home. Chris Leahy reports.
  • Riad Salamé faces yet another test of his skills following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hizbullah. He has dealt with previous challenges with flying colours. There’s little to suggest it will be different this time. Sudip Roy reports.
  • Delegates are warmly welcomed while protesters' placards are policed.
  • The recent dramatic widening of euro swap spreads means that euro-denominated debt is becoming cheaper for agencies and supranationals. Could this signal the start of a fundamental shift away from dollar bonds for these issuers? Lawrence White reports.
  • “The events of February and March can be blamed in part on the relative lack of knowledge about the Icelandic economy and its peculiarities, which was reflected in some reports,” says prime minister Geir Haarde.
  • A few big foreign banks have recently suspended their activities, but they are far outweighed by institutions that intend to maintain a connection. And Iran’s prominence as an oil producer means that it sustains substantial economic relations with foreign export credit agencies and governments. Philip Moore reports.
  • Iran’s authorities are looking to invigorate the country’s private sector with plans to sell up to $110 billion-worth of state assets over the next 10 years. Can the programme attract the foreign investors it needs to succeed? And can Iran’s government learn from past mistakes? Euromoney reports.
  • After EU accession in 2004, the next target for central Europe’s governments is the euro. In the scramble to comply with the Maastricht criteria, have they started to borrow techniques, invented by their western European counterparts, for massaging the numbers? Kathryn Wells reports, with research by Pauline Thomas.
  • In an investment banking world dominated by US bulge-bracket operations, UBS has muscled its way into the global league. Success has come despite its singular provenance, say critics, and, argues CEO Peter Wuffli, because of it. The Swiss bank’s head explains this reasoning to Chris Leahy and discusses developments on banking’s latest battlefront.
  • The latest country risk poll reflects a global economy in good health, despite a period of stock market volatility and the prospect of a slowdown. But the Middle East and the high price of oil could have far-reaching implications, writes Florian Neuhof. Research by Paul Pedzinski.
  • Oji Paper’s bid for rival Hokuetsu breaches a Japanese taboo on hostile takeovers. It has also prompted some extraordinary, perhaps illogical, defence tactics. Is this the shape of things to come in Japanese M&A? Chris Wright reports.
  • Lebanon’s finance minister, Jihad Azour, told Sudip Roy in early August how his country is coping with conflict.
  • As an investor dedicated to the region, East Capital Asset Management is in the vanguard of a growing breed. Oonagh Leighton reports.
  • Ebrahim Sheibany is governor of Iran’s central bank, a position he has held for three years. He tells Eric Ellis in Tehran that as far as economic policy is concerned, little has changed, despite the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president.
  • Árni Mathiesen, Iceland’s finance minister, speaks to Laurence Neville about this year’s economic troubles and the economy’s prospects.
  • The unbundling of execution and research costs will dramatically accelerate the global consolidation of equity broking firms. But it also raises questions about the quality and efficiency of the buy side.
  • Iceland’s financial supervisory authority, the FME, has kept a close eye on the health of Iceland’s big three banks, says Jonas Fridrik Jónsson, director general.
  • Compass Asset Management’s chief investment officer expects his funds under management to grow from $20 million to $100 million in the next 12 months. Is Kazakhstan the next great emerging Europe play?
  • Foreign investors have made fortunes investing in Russia. But now they are looking to go deeper, and are packing their bags to discover Russia’s regions. Julian Evans reports from three of Russia’s developing regions.
  • Güler Sabanci, who chairs Turkey’s Sabanci Group, talks to Peter Koh about foreign partnerships, international expansion, the group’s strategic direction and the difficulties of running a family business.
  • Israel’s conflict with Hizbullah began just as Lebanon was finding its feet again following the assassination last year of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The government was in the middle of a series of reforms that it hoped would provide the capital markets with a bigger role in the country’s economic story. Those reforms are now on hold but it is imperative that they are implemented as soon as circumstances allow. Sudip Roy reports from Beirut.
  • Despite Gulf coffers brimming with oil cash and aggressive expansion by some of the region’s banks, inherent barriers to regional consolidation are set to limit fundamental change in the Middle East and North Africa’s financial sector landscape over the next five years. Alex Warren reports.
  • For many years the accepted wisdom in global banking has been that bigger is better. The full-service banks dismiss smaller competitors, saying that to succeed in modern finance you need to offer all things to all clients. And yet a number of European banks continue to demonstrate success in their chosen specialist fields. Peter Koh profiles the financial institutions that prove you don’t have to be everywhere and everything in the world to be a world-class operation.
  • The hedge fund industry has exploded; conservative estimates suggest there are almost 500 funds based in the region. Most have ridden the wave of Asia’s rising markets. Now those returns are getting harder to come by. But, as Helen Avery reports, increased opportunities to take short positions offer managers hope of generating new, enhanced returns.
  • Its capital markets are a hive of activity – with record levels of IPO activity, decreasing funding costs and a first hostile takeover attempt. But many of the most active companies say that the queen bee of government is too strict: tax and infrastructure problems are preventing the country from reaching full potential. Lawrence White went to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to investigate.
  • Only incorporated in 2005, Almaty-based Max Petroleum shows that smaller, independent energy companies can still make their mark against the more powerful Russian and global firms.
  • CDS trading volumes in Latin America are growing fast as credit derivatives become an increasingly important investment tool. Leticia Lozano reports on the impact on the region’s capital markets.
  • French bank BNP Paribas is being sued in the US federal courts by a hedge fund over the financing of contracts for oil from Congo-Brazzaville. Rather than settling out of court, BNP says it will fight the lawsuit all the way. Felix Salmon reports on a grey area of black gold.
  • When Fitch put Iceland on a negative rating outlook in February the country was facing a heavy current account deficit as well as an asset price and credit bubble. But the banks and politicians think that it was all a misunderstanding. Laurence Neville reports.
  • Bank TuranAlem is growing fast and has set its sights on toppling the largest bank in the country, Kazkommertsbank. The next stage in its growth strategy could involve an IPO to attract international investors.
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