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Israeli banks up in arms over proposed reforms

October 4, 2004

Israel’s Finance Ministry is planning sweeping reforms of the country’s capital market and the banking sector. The reforms have the support of Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his top officials and the Bank of Israel.

High hopes as Dubai financial centre issues its first licences

October 4, 2004

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) issued its first three licences on September 20, marking the launch of a free zone that Dubai officials hope will catapult their city into the major league of global financial hubs.

Emerging markets private capital flows on the up

October 4, 2004

Net private capital flows to emerging markets are likely to increase to $226bn this year from $213bn in 2003, with a further slight rise to $229bn next year, according to the latest forecast from the Washington-based Institute of International Finance (IIF). The increase is attributed to a rebound in direct equity investment from the eight-year low seen in 2003, continued strength of bond purchases and substantial net lending by commercial banks. This growth of flows comes at a time when the 29 economies involved are growing more rapidly than at any time in the last 20 years.

Report condemns Mexican banks

October 4, 2004

Foreign banks are under attack in Mexico for charging high fees although the criticisms have been rejected by the Mexican Association of Banks. In September, Oscar Levin, head of the Mexican government’s banking consumer protection agency, sided with those taking a bleak view of Mexico’s banking system by delivering a report that slammed the institutions for charging high financial service fees.

Gulf bond issuance mushrooms

October 4, 2004

Bond issuance in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states has more than quadrupled so far this year as high oil prices, massive liquidity and booming economies have sent issues soaring. The relatively new Sukuks (Islamic bonds) have played a key part in the rapidly expanding Gulf bond market, rising by a factor of 10 this year and accounting for almost one-third of the total issuance.

Barclays in talks to acquire majority stake in ABSA Group

October 4, 2004

In a surprise move, Barclays announced in late September that it was in early discussions to buy a majority stake in South Africa’s second biggest bank, ABSA Group.

Bank Muscat, NBO conclude merger deal

October 4, 2004

Oman’s largest bank, BankMuscat, and the second largest bank, National Bank of Oman, have agreed a merger in a move that will greatly strengthen BankMuscat’s operations both at home and abroad. The merger follows NBO’s $130m loss in 2003 and a number of senior management changes in recent months. The effective date of the merger is expected to be 1 January 2005, subject to receiving regulatory approvals. NBO’s net worth as of the end of December 2004 has been put at RO100m ($256m)

Kirchner courts controversy over central bank appointment

October 4, 2004

Nestor Kirchner, the president of Argentina, has reinforced his authoritarian reputation by replacing the country’s central bank president.

Time for the old dog to learn new tricks

October 4, 2004

The World Bank may have turned 60 but it should not be too late for the group to change, says Richard H Frank.

Flying blind is not a recipe for electoral success

October 4, 2004

The row in Greece over whether the former government massaged its 2000 budget deficit figures to qualify for EMU entry demonstrates more than ever the need for greater transparency.

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