Will Greece be the first euro-zone country to restructure its debt?

The latest deal for Greece, including a new policy package and possible financing, does not contemplate the restructuring of its debt, but financial markets keep speculating on the possibility it may be the first of the euro-zone countries to reschedule its public debt. Who do you think may follow?

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When is a threat not a threat?

By Kirstin Ridley

British bankers are not threatening to head for the Swiss hills. But that doesn’t mean they won’t pack their bags. So says Angela Knight, the head of the British Bankers Association.
Knight told the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit that if British-based banks such as HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered consider whether to keep headquarters in London – given the banker bashing, punitive taxation and pay restrictions imposed here -- that is merely a fact.

Speaking one day after Europe’s largest bank HSBC cut profitability targets as tougher bank regulations eat into earnings, Knight conceded that she did not expect banks to move lock, stock and barrel to Geneva – and that images of jumbo jets laden with London bankers in pinstriped suits were mere “cartoons”.
But she said the simple truth was that the British economic growth lagged that of peers, while fixed costs were rising. Britain was not an obviously attractive place to be for bankers.
To remain an international financial centre, the country needed to be clever and get its regulation right. Banks, she said, were just telling it as it is. “Is there an expectation that employment in banking will be reduced? Yes … Is there an expectation that sentiment will turn around? No,” she said. “We are living in a country and a region where the costs of operation are high and (there is) a lot of personal condemnation (of the banking industry)... so I think that we cannot pretend that somehow that has no effect and no impact.

“Why anyone calls it sabre rattling, I do not know, other than the fact that they must themselves be in denial,” she said. “Because these are just facts. These are not threats, they are not sabre-rattling. They’re not pretence. They are straight forward facts.”

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David and Goliath had an easier time of it in the comparison stakes

By Huw Jones

The planned merger of Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext will create the world's biggest bourse with 90 percent of on-exchange traded derivatives in Europe.
It has certainly focused minds and boosted CEO airmiles.
Speakers at the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit were upbeat about their chances of winning a slice of this market which shows more promise for the bottom line than share trading, where competition is as ferocious as margins are thin.
Chi-X Europe, busy finalising its merger with BATS, took time out to explain how it too is targetting derivatives -- believing that a heady brew of shares, futures, options and ETFs on one platform will turn trading heads their way.
Last week saw the London Stock Exchange unveiling plans to turn its Turquoise pan-European platform into a derivatives winner too. And LCH.Clearnet, the clearing house, also sees
derivatives as the future.

The only way is up, it seems.
"The important thing in these markets is it's not about first mover advantge," is how Chi-X Europe CEO Alasdair Haynes bravely puts it.
LCH must also be hoping that is true -- it wants to clear credit default swap trades, a niche ICE has largely to itself in Europe so far.
And the clearer's CEO Roger Liddell hopes there will be an opportunity to clear derivatives linked to the STOXX indices --which are currently cleared and partly owned by Deutsche Boerse's Eurex.
So all well and good.
If you have a killer contract everyone wants to trade, that is.
Deutsche Boerse's Eurex was able to bulk up its derivatives volume in the Bund contract. Euronext's LIFFE has short term interst rate derivatives in the bag for now.
On-exchange derivatives contracts are proprietary, unlike shares which have no patent and can be traded by any platform.
Past efforts to create new derivatives contracts have often run into the sand as turnover failed to materialise.
It may be a case on being able to bring a horse to a new derivatives platform but it will be harder to persuade it to drink unless the liquidity is there.
So far, nobody has a compelling answer to that dilemma.
Huw Jones, Reuters London

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Cure for lending constipation needed

DUBAI/ Yes, the market for IPOs is opening up, investors are regaining confidence and the worst seems to be over, but challenges are still looming and there's a dire need for a change in regulation. Or so suggested Shuaa Capitals' chief Sameer al-Ansari.

"With the balance sheet of banks, whatever is keeping them constipated, we need to give them something to start. Banks have to be more comfortable and confident that there are no more shocks on the horizon," said Ansari at the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.

The right provisions need to be made -- and that means more acknowledgment of non-performing loans -- in turn bringing adequacy ratios down, so that banks get a boost and start
lending again, Ansari noted.

"We need to open the tap a bit, even if its a drip," the banking exec said, using hand gestures to illustrate his point. "We can't have growth in the economy if its negative."

Ansari, who'd made recommendations - simple to drastic - to decision makers in Dubai, suggesting solutions, cited the Irish example of gathering all bad debts linked to real estate and placing them in a government bank.

"It should be looked at here. If that's what's making the banks constipated, then lets do it!" he says.

Dubai, one of seven emirates that make-up the UAE federation, was hard hit by the global financial downturn and endured billions of dollars in projects cancellations, not to mention the $25 billion debt restructuring of Dubai World.

So is the worst over? Ansari opts for cautious optimism.

"We've seen the worst, been through the bottoming out process. I see growth coming back," he said. "We'll see a slow gradual recovery but the pace will be different in different places of the region."

The region still boasts strong fundamentals, underpinned by strong oil prices which drive government spending, a young growing population, a developing consumer society with regional risk ratings that are far better than any of the other regions by several notches, he said.

All of this makes one wonder why the region is undervalued compared to the rest of the world, he said.

On anti-Dubai comments, Ansari said: "When people go through a Dubai bashing exercise, you have to remember Dubai isn't sitting on the moon by itself."

While Dubai and the UAE have greater challenges than the rest of the region, Dubai's been going through a vicious circle that hit its main three economic pillars.

"If you look at Dubai, we've been through the impact of the global financial crisis, a severe regional real estate crisis and a major stock market crash," he said. "There has been phenomenal wealth erosion."

But the decline has finally been arrested and an upward trend is taking place.

"Recovery can only happen if these pillars bounce back. These three pillars are what will drive growth. I am cautiously optimistic that the vicious circle is beginning to come back up," he said.

(Writing by Tamara Walid in Dubai)

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No bonds for Arabtec; not for now anyway

MIDEAST-SUMMIT/ARABTEC Just to be clear, Arabtec is not considering a convertible bond issue.

The builder has no need for funds and has adequate access to capital if needed. But nonetheless its chief financial officer Ziad Makhzoumi is watching the region's increasing capital raising activities with interest.

"I don't think we need any funding whatsoever... As a CFO I have to look at all the options all the time," he told the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit in Dubai on Monday.

Convertible bonds are an attractive way to raise funds for listed companies, he said, highlighting Emaar Properties' recent issuance plans.

Earlier this month, Emaar, the builder of the world's tallest tower in Dubai, outlined plans for a $500 million convertible bond issue.

Makhzoumi said he saw more convertible bonds coming to the market, but there was no mention at all of Arabtec.

Arabtec has expansion plans which include a push into Central Asian states like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which could be funded from internal resources, he said.

"Any company needs working capital. Usually it's in the form of equity or some form of borrowing. In our case our gearing is very, very low. Any process takes time, the decision has to be made first. And I don't think we are at this stage to consider."

So Arabtec is not considering a convertible bond issue. For now at least.

(Writing by Jason Benham in Dubai)

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Is investor confidence returning to the Middle East?

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES/A recovery in the Middle East and the prospects for investment are on the agenda at the Reuters Middle East and Investment Summit, taking place in Dubai, Riyadh, Cairo, Kuwait, Beirut, Bagdad, Abu Dhabi and London.

In the wake of Dubai’s debt crisis, which rocked financial markets globally and dented confidence in the region, top executives and officials will discuss whether the investment climate in the region is improving and confidence returning. 2011 will be a year of more restructurings, but the region’s capital needs will lead to a surge in debt issues and even a possible revival of the IPO market.

Reuters Middle East Investment Summit will generate exclusive stories, investable insights, online videos and blog postings. Check back here for more over the course of this week.

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Infrastructure still top-of-mind in India

INDIA/
On Monday, we kick-off the 2010 India Investment Summit. We'll have exclusive interviews in Mumbai and Bangalore. In 2006 we held the first Reuters India Investment Summit. It was my first time in India. I've had the privilege to return every year. How time flies. Here we are four years later. Some of the key players may have changed but the big, over-arching theme is still the same: Infrastructure. It's the key to realizing the country's potential but bureaucracy, tough financing and hesitant overseas investment have slowed development in the sector, calling into question the future of India as a powerhouse.

India has had only mixed success in its efforts to accelerate construction of roads, bridges and power plants. The statistics are mind-blowing...the country is growing at 8.5% and has a population of 1.2 billion that is making a mad-dash from the countryside to sprawling cities. Call them growing pains...in India's expanding cities there is an acute need to speed project approvals, implement new financing models and attract overseas investment for much needed infrastructure. But, while the business opportunity is tremendous investors looking to India as a way to play the emerging markets are wary given the history of missed deadlines and red tape that makes getting projects completed a challenge.

Is red tape getting better or worse? Which sectors are attracting most interest? How do returns compare with similar projects globally? How do sector companies attract foreign investment in large projects? Are the challenges forcing investors and developers to look overseas instead?

These topics and more will be the key points of discussion at the Reuters India Investment Summit in Mumbai and Bangalore September 27-29.

To read our exclusive stories and analysis starting September 27 copy and paste the link below to your browser:
www.reuters.com/summit/IndiaInvestment10

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Lady Gaga may not be the only one singing a new tune in November

USA/
The 2010 Reuters Washington Summit included 4 days of on-the-record interviews with policymakers, congressmen and Obama Administration officials here in the DC bureau. The interviews covered a wide range of topics…from the impact of the mid-term elections to the importance of the Lady Gaga vote.

With less than six weeks to go before the mid-term elections the focus was on what a potential shift in power to a Republican-controlled Congress could mean for policy priorities in the coming year. We heard from Senators’ McCain, Dodd, Gregg and Bingaman. On the House side we spoke with the man responsible for getting Democrats elected…Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He called this election season a “tough and challenging environment,’ but predicted Democrats would retain control of the House.

From the Obama Administration, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened his comments by admitting that early on the administration did not have a “real understanding of the depth of what we were in.” News of Larry Summers’ departure as White House advisor came on the eve of our interview with a man who has worked with Summers, Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Goolsbee said he expected that Mr. Summers’ replacement wouldn’t be part of “a dramatic change in direction.” On the economy, Goolsbee noted that he does not see a double dip on the horizon and that “pulling back on current spending programs could spook the markets.”

On the regulatory front, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair was adamant in her remarks about “ending too big to fail” and said that “the banking system is healing…and there is continuing improvement in low quality loans.” Meanwhile, Treasury’s Special Inspector General for TARP, Neil Barofsky, the man charged with policing the government’s exit from GM and AIG, said his group would begin a probe into the GM IPO after it launches to make sure that it was in the best interest of taxpayers.

On Afghanistan, we heard from Richard Holbrooke, Special Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan who was measured in his response to the Obama Administration’s planned timetable for withdrawal.

And, what about the Lady Gaga vote? Senator McCain brought up the pop star and her opposition to 'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell' which was scheduled for a vote the day after McCain’s visit to our bureau, saying “I didn’t Twitter back. I only twitter with Snooki as you know. I did say, I said, look, I welcome her in the debate, I’ll welcome all of her young fans into the debate. Let’s have everybody in the the debate…it’s good to have lots of people involved.”

The summit upshot: if polls are correct and Republicans win more seats in the Senate and retake the House, all of Washington may be singing a different tune come November 3rd.

To read more stories from the 2010 Reuters Washington Summit copy the link below into your browser:
www.reuters.com/summit/Washington10

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Shift in power on the horizon in Washington?

USA/
Republicans stand poised to gain substantial influence in Congress, putting at stake billions of dollars in investment as a shift among power brokers throws legislative initiatives old and new into doubt. Reuters Washington Summit will bring together an influential line-up of insiders just weeks before Americans cast their votes, promising a must-read stream of exclusive news on the outlook for Congress and President Barack Obama's agenda. Editors and correspondents from the Reuters Washington bureau are sitting down with senior lawmakers, including GOP heavyweights in line for leadership, and regulators whose implementation of Wall Street and healthcare reform could be complicated by a change in control on Capitol Hill.

The Summit will generate exclusive stories, investable insights, online videos and blog postings, which will be immediately available only to Thomson Reuters clients during the Summit. Key interviews will air live exclusively on Reuters Insider - a new multimedia platform delivering relevant news, analysis and trade ideas presented through a personalized video experience. Visit http://etv.thomsonreuters.com/

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Lockheed Martin bracing for a new reality

Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens says despite cost cutting, the defense industry will survive based on new global security needs and adds that Lockheed's portfolio is well positioned for change.

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