Global Investing

from MacroScope:

Scams from Abuja to Reykjavik

It suffered the collapse of its currency, economy and banking system so being invoked in a version of the notorious Nigerian email scam is one of the smaller humiliations endured by Iceland.

The confidence trick, which has roots in the 18th century, usually involves an email from someone claiming to be either a deposed African dictator or a Nigerian lawyer, promising a sum of money in return for help to access a substantial fortune.

But the latest spam email making its rounds purports to be from Iceland, one of the highest profile sovereign casualties of the global financial crisis. This version of the email is supposedly from a "devoted christian (sic)" from Iceland", a widow seeking help to access $6 million in a Canadian bank left to her by her husband who worked for an oil giant for 19 years.

Besides the grammatical errors, the email stretches credulity with the notion that the widow's husband would have chosen to park his savings at a Canadian bank rather than the Icelandic ones that would have -- at least until their collapse late 2008 -- offered interest rates in excess of over six percent.

These high-flying banks, which once took in so-called Icesave retail deposits in London and Amsterdam, are now at the centre of a dispute that pits the North Atlantic island nation of 320,000 people against Britain and the Netherlands.

Iceland: slipping again?

Just when you thought it was all over, Iceland looks like it’s in trouble again.  The cost of insuring Iceland’s debt against restructuring or default has risen this week to 720 basis points in the five-year credit default swap market, its highest since mid-2009.  That means it costs 720,000 euros a year for five years to insure 10 million euros of Icelandic debt against default.

Icelanders are to vote by March 6 on a deal to repay $5 billion lost in online Icesave bank accounts in Britain and the Netherlands. Those governments compensated savers when the bank collapsed and now want their money back from Reykjavik, but opinion polls show voters are likely to reject what are seen as the harsh terms of the agreement.

ICELAND/The uncertainty has driven debt insurance costs back up towards the levels seen just before the country’s banking system and government collapsed in Oct 2008.

Who gets the last laugh?

Public critisicm may be heating up against banking executives being rewarded with huge bonuses despite taking too much risk (especially ex Merill Lynch head John Thain who requested a bonus and spent $1,405 on a garbage pail during a $1.22 million renovation of his office).

However, there are smaller fish who are being rewarded after doing something similar — taking too much risk and choosing the wrong bank in which to put their deposit. We’re talking about those who deposited in the collapsed Icelandic bank Landsbanki.

Around 300,000 British savers had accounts worth some 4 billion pounds in Landsbanki’s online savings provider Icesave, which offered competitive interest rates of up to 7-plus percent.

And the next Iceland is…

If there’s one thing you don’t want to be, it’s the next Iceland.

Since its currency, colossally indebted banking sector and economy collapsed in spectacular fashion in October, the country has become a byword for an economy that has truly hit the rocks.

Within weeks, banking problems and currency falls meant Hungary was being hyped as a “second Iceland”, at least until a joint International Monetary Fund and European Union rescue package restored some stability.

Greenland – new and poor country?

Greenland, an arctic island with a population of 57,000, voted for self-governance from Denmark in a referendum on Tuesday. The “Yes” camp won an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote.

Shrimp and halibut fishing and tourism form the backbone of the economy but the island is rich in minerals and its waters may hold vast hydrocarbon reserves.

The resources setting is very much like one of Iceland, although Greenland – made up mostly of Inuit people who live in small, isolated villages – does not have a huge banking sector. (Neither does Iceland these days, some might argue.)

Iceland for sale — collect in person

Iceland for saleIceland is for sale — on ebay.

It has great scenery and wildlife but the financial situation is in need of repair and a buyer must collect in person.

Bidding started at 99 pence but had reached 10 million pounds ($17.28 million) by mid-morning on Friday.

Globally renowned singer Bjork was “not included” in the sale, according to the notice, but there were nonetheless 26 anonymous bidders and 84 bids.

Icelandic saga spreads chill from freezer cabinets to soccer clubs

icelandic-glacier.jpgIt’s already on a geological fault line — now the economy of Iceland risks being torn apart by the banking crisis.

But the saga of the North Atlantic island of Iceland does not stop at its own rocky shores.

Riding a wave of cheap borrowing, Icelandic investors spread their interests far and wide, taking stakes in companies as diverse as New York department store Saks, Finnish insurer Sampo and English soccer club West Ham United.

The curse of English football continues

After the collapse of Northern Rock, AIG and XL group – which sponsored Newcastle United, Manchester United and West Ham respectively — the curse of English football is getting stronger.
Curse of football
Today Iceland’s Landsbanki went into receivership. Its chairman Björgólfur Gudmundsson owns West Ham football club.

In November 2006, Gudmundsson, Iceland’s second richest man, led an 85 million pound buyout of the east London club in November 2006, investing another 30.5 million pounds in December 2007.

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sold his Manchester City football club to an Abu Dhabi-based company having gone into exile in London in August on corruption charges.