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from Breakingviews:

Britain can gain from China’s empire builders

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By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Britain once had nothing to offer China but silver and opium. Now it has holidays, banks and building sites. George Osborne, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, and London’s mayor Boris Johnson are using visits to Beijing to say just how welcoming the UK is likely to be. It’s a triumph of openness, and provided the UK chooses its partners carefully and the Chinese are tactful, both sides will benefit.

Simpler visa rules, and Chinese funding for landmark building projects, are easy to like. Overall Chinese tourist spending, according to Barclays, grew an annual 22 percent in the second quarter of 2013. Meanwhile, property developers are putting their ambition, and their access to credit, behind redevelopment of Royal Albert Dock and the Crystal Palace in London and the Manchester Airport complex. It is hard to see how these initiatives pose threats to sovereignty, or security. They will help Britain fund its trade and budget deficits, however, and may lead to more useful investments, say in high-speed rail.

Banks are more contentious. China’s lenders want to set up branches rather than the subsidiaries most of them run today. This would let them take their parent banks’ capital into account. In return, the UK may win a bigger role trading China’s currency. London may get more finance jobs. Yet questions remain about how Chinese banks would behave in a crisis. State lenders and regulators answer to the ruling Communist Party. In the pecking order, foreigners come close to the bottom.

from Reuters Investigates:

Morbid money-spinners

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If the life settlements market seems ghoulish, here’s a British scandal which isn’t doing the image of the business any favours. It’s one of the worst the country’s seen.

Around 30,000 mainly elderly investors in the UK put their money into a company called Keydata, hoping to make a little extra cash to fund their own retirement with the promise of a healthy return.

from Global Investing:

Pity Poor Pound

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Britain's pound has long been the whipping boy of notoriously fickle currency markets, but there are worrying signs that it's not just hedge funds and speculators who have lost faith in sterling. Reuters FX columnist Neal Kimberley neatly illustrated yesterday just how poor sentiment toward sterling in the dealing rooms has become and the graphic below (on the sharp buildup of speculative 'short' positsions seen in U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data) shows how deeply that negative view has become entrenched.              

 While the pound's inexorable grind down to parity with the euro captures the popular headlines, the Bank of England's index of sterling against a trade-weighted basket of world currencies shows that weakness is pervasive. The index has lost more than a quarter of its value in little over two years -- by far the worst of the G4 (dollar, euro, sterling and yen) currencies over the financial crisis. The dollar's equivalent index has shed only about a third of the pound's losses since mid-2007, while the euro's has jumped about 10% and the yen's approximately 20% over that period.

from Global Investing:

Is it time for a Scottish wealth fund?

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Oxford SWF Project, a university think tank on sovereign wealth funds, is looking at reports that the latest entry in the field could be Scotland. The project has a new post about the Scottish government floating the idea of an oil stabilisation fund to use oil and gas revenues.  It cites Scottish cabinet secretary for finance John Swinney looking abroad gleefully:

“We want to harness the benefit of oil revenues now for future years. An oil fund can provide greater stability, protect our economy and support the transition to a low carbon economy. Norway’s oil fund is worth over £200 billion – despite the first instalment being made as recently as the mid 1990s – and Alaska’s oil fund even gives money back to its citizens every year.”

from Commentaries:

Will Murray success at Wimbledon be RBS’s best return?

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Royal Bank of Scotland is not best known for backing winners.

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So the Scottish bank must be savouring Andy Murray's run at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

World number three Murray is one of the "sports personalities of present and past" sponsored by RBS during the heady days of Sir Fred Goodwin.

Walking the risk-reward tightrope in Iraq

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It’s fair to say that investing in Iraq is not for the faint-hearted.

Just last week more than 200 people were killed in suicide bombings across the country, while kidnapping and armed assault remain commonplace.

That said, more than 600 delegates still turned up to the Invest Iraq 2009 conference held in London this week, eager to find out what opportunities there might be in the oil, construction, petrochemicals, engineering, agriculture, transport and tourism industries, to name a few.

from Global Investing:

Who gets the last laugh?

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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.

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