Amer throws the ball into Egyptian banks’ court

Thursday, November 3 dawned as another regular day for banker Hisham Ezz Al Arab, the long-serving chief executive of Egypt’s biggest non-state bank, Commercial International Bank. At around 8am, Hisham was at home with his usual workaday routine: showering and dressing before a quick breakfast and a look through his … read more >>

Israel and Palestine – the practical partnership

The conference setting is stunning and fitting too; a sumptuous spa on Jordan’s Dead Sea shore, with magnificent views overlooking the West Bank. Corralled by the Union of Arab Banks, delegates come from across the Arab corporate mainstream; bankers (central and commercial), businessmen and officials, to talk banking in Palestine … read more >>

Cuba’s unlikely banking pioneer

Urbane and well-groomed, career banker Dave Seleski is an unlikely revolutionary. Tiny by US standards, with assets of around $3 billion, Seleski’s Stonegate Bank has found itself in the extraordinary position of being the only US bank to be authorized by both Washington and Havana to do business in Cuba. … read more >>

Ashraf Wathra ushers in a new era for Pakistan

Ashraf Wathra is a different choice as head of the State Bank of Pakistan. An outsider brought in to the inner sanctum of monetary policy, he is keen to promote market-based reforms, boost the banking sector and break the reliance on the IMF. Can he profit from the new positivity … read more >>

Mulyani rides to Indonesia’s rescue (again)

Indonesians well remember the moment when their popular finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati unexpectedly resigned her post in 2010, defeated by the country’s venal money politics, her reform work unfinished. It was a dark time, as Indonesians fretted that their most trusted public official had been crushed and, with her … read more >>

Shades of Kafka in Castro’s new Cuba

Franz Kafka, who wrote about European bureaucratic labyrinths, would have found much inspiration in Cuba officialdom’s Soviet-inspired maze.   Euromoney had hoped to see some of the state-owned Cuban banks during our visit to Havana in August, but multiple requests failed to gain any response.   The Banco Central de … read more >>

Banks at the heart of Cuba’s existential battle for reform

              “We don’t have banks in Cuba!” The taxi driver helming a splendid 1957 Pontiac Pathfinder clasico off the taxi rank at Havana’s Hotel Nacional snorts with scorn. Euromoney has asked him to drive us to a rare meeting at the Banco Central de … read more >>

Ukraine: The perils of PrivatBank

Assailed by conflict and politics, Alexander Dubilet admits that the task of running Ukraine’s biggest bank is complicated. But he insists that PrivatBank can cope with the loss of large parts of its network and dismisses rumours about secret loans and the need for state support.  “How’s business?” Euromoney asks … read more >>

Ukraine: Yulia’s tale: serving clients amid hostage-taking and betrayal

July 7, 2014 loomed as a normal business day for Yulia Vyalova, PrivatBank’s branch network boss in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. Normal that is, inasmuch as circumstances allowed Vyalova and her charges to do their job, staffing the 155 PrivatBank branches around Luhansk after war had erupted three months earlier … read more >>

Njoroge stresses need for Kenya banks to innovate

Patrick Njoroge, governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, is reflecting on the topic of weight. But it is not the balancing of fiscal levers or the appropriate spreads for Kenya’s $7.2 billion in foreign reserves that is concerning him. No, for this recent arrival – he took over the … read more >>

Kenya: central bank governor Njoroge: Calling it as he sees it

Patrick Njoroge has spent much of his career outside Kenya, mostly in Washington at the IMF as a senior economist. Two decades in that role took him around the world, occasionally as its ambassador, more often in a team of firemen fixing damaged economies. As for central banks, he has … read more >>

Technology: Traditional banking is Finn-ished

A conversation with Dr Tom Dahlström of Finland’s OP Group, the ubiquitous financial services firm, is like having one’s own TED talk about banking. Firstly there’s his ‘doctor’ thing. Not many banking executives can claim to be one – Dahlström’s doctorate is for economics, which he got in Helsinki after … read more >>

Kenya: Patrick Njoroge, corruption-fighter

Patrick Njoroge, governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, is reflecting on the topic of weight. But it is not the balancing of fiscal levers or the appropriate spreads for Kenya’s $7.2 billion in foreign reserves that is concerning him. No, for this recent arrival – he took over the … read more >>

Zeti ups the ante in fight with 1MDB

Malaysia’s formidable central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz endured quite a month in October. It began with her contemplating the fresh lows that her beloved ringgit had plumbed on September 30, having lost 40% of its value in a year to become Asia’s worst-performing currency, and taking much of her … read more >>

Zeti tries to rise above Malaysia’s creeping crisis

For Zeti Akhtar Aziz, the venerable governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), the country’s central bank, these should be the best of times. Deep into her last year of what will be, by her retirement next April, 16 years at the helm of BNM, it should be a period of … read more >>

Mugur Isarescu: Romania’s central figure

THE soaring walls and revolving doors of Romania’s communist-era finance ministry on Bucharest’s Constitution Square expose a deeply rooted instability that hampers one of Europe’s more volatile economies. Portraits of former ministers are displayed around the walls of the ministry’s foyer, their faces looking beyond those doors to the pompous … read more >>

Artistic licence in Romania

When Euromoney visited the hulking headquarters of Romania’s finance ministry in Bucharest in December to interview Ioana Petrescu, the then occupant of that prestigious office, we were taken by the portraits in the entrance foyer that honoured those who had served before her. There were 20 portraits – and that … read more >>

Turkey: The Battle for Bank Asya

Turkey’s president has tried to kick of one of the country’s largest banks into touch, through public attacks and behind-the-scenes pressure. Despite becoming a political football, Bank Asya is still in the game. Can Turkey’s reputation in the west as a place to do business survive Erdogan’s continued, politically-motivated vendetta? … read more >>

Downfall of a dynasty: The last days of Ricardo Salgado and Banco Espírito Santo

Bankers in Lisbon say the demise of BES is a watershed moment for the country: the turning point when old Portugal became new Europe. Ricardo Salgado tried every trick he knew to save his empire, but found that the Portuguese establishment could not – or would not – save him. … read more >>

Espírito Santos and Queiroz Pereiras: Duel of two dynasties

Ricardo Salgado went to war with a rival pillar of the Portuguese business establishment in his frantic efforts to shore up Espírito Santo group. But Pedro Queiroz Pereira had the last laugh…. For a man steeped in family honour, there is a rueful irony in the fact that it was … read more >>

Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s new president: Death and Taxes (from 2004)

Shortlisted for the 2005 British Business Journalist of the Year Award (Economics) Death and Taxes in Kabul Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani is battling warlords, cabinet colleagues, indifferent global donors and stomach cancer as he struggles to salvage Afghanistan’s ravaged economy. If he fails, the world could pay an enormous price. … read more >>

Inside Ukraine’s Economic Crisis

When Euromoney penetrated the economy and finance ministries in Kiev in late May, as well as the central bank, it found an atmosphere of unease and uncertainty. A supposed dream-team, which in reality is a collection of talented and driven novices, has a battle on its hands to keep Ukraine’s … read more >>

Spain: Laboral flies the co-op flag

Jon Emaldi Abasolo surveys the remains of Spain’s devastated banking landscape and scratches his head. He’s genuinely confused. “We know how we manage our bank,” says Abasolo, a director of the Basque savings bank Caja Laboral Kutxa, part of the Mondragon group of co-operative businesses (MCC), “and we know that … read more >>

Indonesia: Flight of the Navigator

Muhammad Chatib Basri is not a big fan of bureaucracies. “One of the reasons so many Indonesians have become religious,” jokes Indonesia’s 48-year-old finance minister, Jakarta’s ninth in 16 years, “is because they have to deal with the government.” Citing a common gripe of his 250 million compatriots – and … read more >>

Emerging Europe: A free market for Georgia?

By the seasoned standards of the world’s finance ministers, Georgia’s Nodar Khaduri, aged 43 and just over a year in the slot, is a relative babe in arms. Take Euromoney’s last five finance ministers of the year. Our 2008 winner, China’s Xi Xuren, was the oldest, at 61, while, at … read more >>

Morocco: Attijariwafa stakes claims south of the Sahara

It’s a steamy mid-September and l’atmosphere in downtown Casablanca could well be mistaken for a languid late summer in Marseilles. In myriad chic eateries, Fashionable Young Things in oversized Jackie O sunglasses tap instant messages to each other into new iPhones over café au lait, while their male equivalents motor … read more >>

Myanmar’s Little Helper

Revolutions have a way of revealing inconvenient truths; the dictator is toppled, his cronies flee in haste while they can, and in the ransacked files of the regime’s abandoned palaces, the dark secrets of tyrants – and the hypocrisy of their embarrassed enablers, too – are revealed. But sometimes revolutions … read more >>

Sri Lanka – Rajapaksa Calls “Bull Shit” On Global Mail Coverage

Last weekend, as a courtesy, The Global Mail emailed Sri Lanka’s unelected Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa a link to our story on the nepotism among Sri Lanka’s powerful elite. Gota, as Sri Lankans know him, is the country’s enforcer-in-chief. The former soldier is credited with having masterminded his presidential brother … read more >>


Greetings Singaporeans You’ve likely arrived here because of the recent fuss after the airing of some inconvenient facts about the corporate history and possible conflicts of Foreign/Law Minister Shanmugam, that seemed to have stirred him (and his followers) Whenever one writes about Singapore, I  get many emails from Singaporeans … read more >>

Out Of The Haze, A Singapore Spring?

When you are Singapore’s Lee family, and your clan has exercised absolute and uninterrupted control over its swanky specklet of Asia for 54 years, fellows like Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam are handy to have within your power court. K. Shanmugam, as he’s less tongue-twistingly known, may have escaped the attention of those … read more >>

Wendi…back by popular demand…

“Cheers to Wendi! Gan bei! Drink the cup dry!” It’s 8 pm on a freezing night in Xuzhou, and we’re having a jolly time in the Overflowing Fragrance dining room of the Sea Sky Holiday Hotel, an oddly named establishment given that this grim industrial city of 10 million people … read more >>

Europocalypse Now

What’s that shocking smell wafting around Europe? Well, if you were sniffing in a Netherlandly direction on Wednesday, you’d have caught an unmistakable tang of fear among the thrifty Dutch, who for a brief moment during a banking technical malfunction thought they’d become the latest Eurozoners to have their hard-earned … read more >>

Monte dei Paschi: Shaken to its foundations

Through late May and early June last year, an intriguing document suddenly appeared in the inboxes of those who make their living absorbed by the baffling intricacies of Italian banking. The paper was a challenge to anyone with a dodgy internet connection, a chunky 10 megabyte PDF file spread over … read more >>

In Spain, Running With The Bullshit

THE A369 road south from Spain’s literary retreat of Ronda, the mountain town that so inspired Hemingway, Welles and amigos, meanders photogenically through Andalucia’s famous pueblos blancos, whitewashed villages punctuating one of Europe’s more spectacular mountainscapes. With their architectural nod to Arabic neighbours, Andalucia’s charming white towns are daubed like … read more >>

From Machiavelli To Berlusconi In 500 Years (Is This Progress?)

ISN’T there a general election coming up in Italy? Yes, it’s to be held from February 24-25, and we know there’s a poll because, in this the 500th anniversary of Machiavelli’s The Prince — a kind of Lonely Planet guide to power — Italy is engulfed by a massive corruption … read more >>

Germany: Inside Der Spiegel’s Tent

BIG MEDIA is in crisis, this much we well know. The internet is the Fourth Estate’s enemy, or possibly its saviour, if once-eminent titles such as Newsweek, which killed its 80-year-old print edition last month, and companies such as Australia’s ailing Fairfax Media, can deliver to a readership wielding smartphones, … read more >>

German Banking Gets a Spanking

Gott im Himmel! Corruption in Germany? No matter that World War II ended 67 years ago, the jingoistic London publishers of the old British war comics Commando are going strong. And in Commando, lantern-jawed Germans still are always brutal, inhuman automatons, and most everyone else in Europe, particularly Brits, are … read more >>

EU Crisis: All For One, And Everyone For Themselves

Voters in Spain’s region of Catalonia gave secessionists a majority in November 25 regional elections. Why does Catalonia want to go it alone? As Spain suffers its sixth year of economic crisis, ‘Why not?’ might actually be the grumpy Catalans’ more likely question. Economic crises often create opportunities for long-simmering separatist … read more >>

EU: Austerity, Brie, Merci

Okay, let’s first deal with the boring but important bit — money. It’s Budget Time in Europe, and governments from London to Lisbon, from Rome to Riga are in a tizz over their commitment to the ailing European Union. On Thursday, a summit begins in Brussels at which Eurocrats — … read more >>

Conrad: The New New Black

Convicted fraudster Conrad Black, who once lorded over Australia’s Fairfax newspapers in another less-disgraced life, has been peddling around London, hyping his new book with the velocity of a Lance Armstrong EPO-ed to the eyeballs. And, like Lance, flogging The Big Lie that he’s innocent. Armstrong would have us believe … read more >>

If The Water’s At Your Neck, It Pays To Be Pragmatic

A FUNNY thing didn’t happen to Dutch voters on their way to recent elections. They didn’t debate climate change. Which, in one of the world’s more vigorous democracies, strikes one as astonishing. In the febrile atmosphere that marks the climate-change debate elsewhere, the discussion inevitably reduces to money — specifically, … read more >>

Calling a Scumbag a Scumbag: Rupert Murdoch’s Revealing Twitter Habit

Isn’t it just grand that older folk have embraced the Internet with such gusto? Why, Gramps and Granny can now Skype with the far-flung grandkids, and bitter octogenarian megalomanic billionaires can tweet about all the “toffs”, the “scumbags”, and the “lying” who’ve tried to bring their media empires down. Bitter … read more >>

What On Earth Is Going On In Spain?

THESE are very difficult days for Spain. Summer’s tourists have returned home from sojourning in the world’s second biggest tourist economy. And as the northern autumn descends into winter, that means that even more Spanish will now be out of work than the near one-in-three that entered the short holiday … read more >>

What If You (Mostly) Built A Ridiculously Ambitious City And Nobody Came?

UNTIL the recent years of Spain’s economic catastrophe, Spaniards mostly knew Seseña as the scene of a decisive battle in the country’s brutal civil war of 1936-39, during which the Molotov cocktail first found deployment in modern combat. The Battle of Seseña came early in that conflict, but it defined … read more >>

My Life As A Mighta-Been Millionaire

REGRETS, I’ve had a few but, like Sinatra perhaps, too few to mention. But this week as Apple, the much-loved technology company, became history’s most valuable public corporation, I allowed myself a look back at what might have been. Some 15 years ago, almost to the day, I ruefully recall, … read more >>

Spain: Rhapsody in (Smurf) Blue

GLOBALISATION isn’t a topic that ever much exercised the good pueblo of Juzcar, population 221. Tucked anonymously into the southern Spanish sierra dividing Ronda — the stunning mountain town made famous by Hemingway and Welles — from the tacky towers of the Costa del Sol, discussions in this sleepy, whitewashed … read more >>

Tower Of Sun

I NOW know what consumed Richard Dreyfuss as he entered The Mothership at the end of Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Like the ethereal glows that are Spielberg’s cinematic signature, the light emitting across southern Spain’s arid plains from Abengoa Solar’s soaring towers bewitch and entice much as it was … read more >>

The Man Who Divides Germany. Again.

THILO SARRAZIN, Germany’s most provocative author and self-styled public intellectual, wants to make a few things clear. Firstly, this economist who helped draft the template for the modern German welfare state is neither anti-euro nor anti-Europe. Yes, he has just written a book — which has soared rapidly on Germany’s … read more >>

Scrabble for Europhiles

A is for Absent. Leadership is made during crises: think Churchill, Giuliani and 9/11, Mandela’s inclusive grace, even Anna Bligh during the Brisbane floods. Overwhelmed by Europe’s most calamitous crisis since World War II, the rudderless European Union threatens to dissolve; it is in dire need of leadership. So where’s … read more >>

The Pain in Spain

Oh no, not another European economy going down the gurgler. What’s wrong with these people? Let’s start with The Binge, before we get to The Hangover. For the past 20 years, it’s been lots of fun to be Spanish. You got to party on someone else’s coin — Brussels’ and … read more >>

Laughing All The Way To Power

Italy’s most popular political figure has just told me to fuck off. At least that’s what Beppe Grillo’s hand gesture seems to say, emphatically “Vaffanculo!” as Italians like to curse. Or could his two-finger salute be more a Churchillian V-for-Victory gesture? Recent Italian events suggest as much — that his … read more >>


So what’s Greece’s problem, economically? And why is Greece’s problem also Europe’s? Hmm, how much time do you have? Here goes…Greece embarked on a decade-long borrowing and spending spree after it joined the eurozone in 2001. Membership of what was then a shiny, new, strength-in-numbers currency club — notionally anchored … read more >>

It’s Time, Rupert

IN THE blue corner, there’s ‘Dave Snooty’ as Private Eye depicts the British Prime Minister; a privileged old Etonian, an embodiment of the elite. He’s a royalist, the glorified PR schmoozer with little actual qualification except a profound sense of entitlement. In the other, more Thatcherite, corner, there’s Rupert Murdoch; … read more >>

Murdoch: All The Truth That Fits

AFTER swearing on the Bible to begin a two-day interrogation in Court 73 of London’s Royal Courts of Justice last Wednesday, an octogenarian once feared as the world’s most powerful media mogul began taking questions, the first few being perhaps the only ones he answered with clear and indisputable truth. … read more >>

Does My Neo-Nazism Look Big In This?

IT’S NOT HARD to imagine this is how it went. Last July, in a boardroom in Germany, a group of executives are brainstorming ideas to lift sales of their youth-oriented clothing line, Thor Steinar. As they thrash concepts around, a TV airs its usual schlocky fare in the background, broadcasting … read more >>

The Stain on Spain

LAST July 1, in a sweltering greenhouse in southern Spain, a black man from Africa was shot by a white man from Europe. Allegedly. The black man was Dinantou Barbosa, a 29-year-old from the impoverished West African state of Guinea-Bissau, one of as many as 100,000 Africans living and labouring … read more >>

The Schlock of Gibraltar

THERE are eyesores, there’s urban blight, and then there is Gibraltar, Britain’s last colony in Europe, a carbuncle of ocean-going ghastliness that’s in a class all of its own. Next April, its 30,000 people will have been officially and determinedly British for 300 years. That’s the anniversary of the Treaty … read more >>

What’s Rupert’s Game in Scotland?

  IT WAS a humble tweet, just 52 characters, one of around 300 million made on February 20 — initially little noticed in London but resonating across the bonny Caledonian highlands. “Let Scotland go and compete. Everyone would win,” tweeted one Rupert Murdoch last month. While that’s not how London … read more >>

Irish Eyes Are on Australia

IN Kilkee, a sleepy retreat from the stormy Atlantic on Ireland’s remote far west coast, they still talk about the day the West Clare Gaels Ladies Football Club won the 2010 All-Ireland Ladies Intermediate Final. It was, by all accounts, an incredible victory, a bright moment of glory that briefly … read more >>

Free The Billionaire! Would That Help President Putin?

IT’S unlikely that Forbes Magazine has too many subscribers in Segezha, a grim town of 35,000 in Russia’s wintry northwest at the edges of the Arctic Circle. But if by chance it did, the magazine would take some time to get there. Segezha is a train station that became a … read more >>

The Anti Rupert Murdoch

ENGLAND can be confusing, and John Bird isn’t helping. Bird is the Anti-Rupert, a social entrepreneur who in 1991 founded – with Gordon Roddick, who also founded The Body Shop with his late wife, Anita – The Big Issue, that ubiquitous “street newspaper” distributed by homeless people from Brisbane to … read more >>

An Environmental Problem For Brisbane Roar

  THEY DO things differently at the Football Federation of Australia, the peak administrator of soccer in Australia.

Top banker breaches FSA rules in £2 million share trade

A Standard Chartered plc director has breached Financial Services Authority regulations over millions of pounds of his personal share dealings in the bank’s stock. A joint investigation by Euromoney and The Global Mail into the share dealings of Stanchart’s Hong Kong-based group executive director and CEO for Asia, Jaspal Singh … read more >>

Europe’s Leaders-In-Waiting Face The Mess Ahead

HINDSIGHT. It’s a wise and beautiful thing. And there’s a lot of it about Europe at the minute. In Britain, the Murdoch kids believe, with hindsight, that Rupert shouldn’t have handed Rebekah Brooks the reins at News International. Much of the rest of the country reckons, in hindsight, that Rupert … read more >>

LONDON: Starbucks, Star Pupils and Protest

THE Starbucks on St Paul’s Church Yard is one of the chain’s biggest and busiest outlets in London. And no wonder, servicing disciples of two deities, The City and The Church, and myriad tourists too, at £3.50 per winter-warming, triple-shot venti latte. Worshippers of Mammon swing by here in their … read more >>

Egypt: Banking on a revolution

CAIRO – In January and February this year, as revolution coursed through Cairo and beyond, Egypt’s central bank governor, Farouk Abd El Baky El Okdah, called the heads of the country’s main banks to a series of urgent meetings at the Cairo Marriott on Zamalek Island in the middle of … read more >>

Thailand: Korn puts Shinawatra government on watch

BANGKOK: What a difference a year makes in Thailand. This time last year, Bangkok’s downtown Ratchaprasong crossroads at the Thai capital’s commercial core was a mess. The iconic Central Department Store was in ruins, trashed after the scorched-earth tactics of the crippling protests earlier in the year. Much of Bangkok’s … read more >>

Australia: Hockey needs more than Google for his economic research

Federal shadow treasurer Joe Hockey. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Joe Hockey presents as a pleasant enough chap, in a matey, Billy Bunter type of way. But he needs help. The man who seems poised to hold Australia’s economic future in his hands needs to try harder. At the least, he needs to read more extensively, more deeply and of … read more >>

How Euromoney’s finance minister award became an Aussie political football

ALTHOUGH it applauds sound stewardship of an important global economy, in jeering Australian hands Euromoney’s finance minister of the year award has become a political football punted around Canberra since Paul Keating was honoured in 1984, his first year in office, for floating the Australian dollar and rejuvenating a moribund … read more >>

Australia: Wayne Swan Confounds His Domestic Critics

BLESSED WITH, and industriously exploiting, a natural resources bounty pointed at China that would embarrass Croesus, some Australians will find it strange that Euromoney has chosen their treasurer, Wayne Swan, as finance minister of the year. The less charitable might even recall the words of Donald Horne, in his 1964 … read more >>

Indonesia: Helman’s play on Asia

MENTION the name Aburizal Bakrie in the smart bars, clubs and restaurants of Singapore and Jakarta where bankers gather and the name Helman Sitohang is often uttered in the next breath. Sitohang is Credit Suisse’s chief rainmaker in Jakarta and Singapore, a man regarded by many as perhaps the best-connected … read more >>

Libya: Untainted talent leading from front

Ali Tarhouni

TUNIS: It’s somewhat alarming, when awaiting a flight to Benghazi, to receive word from Libya that the arranged interview with the economist one is flying to war-torn Libya to see is suddenly cancelled because he ”got the bullet”. Nuance is not always the strong suit of revolutionaries. And neither is … read more >>

Why David Cameron is sounding a lot like Hosni Mubarak

CAIRO: David Cameron doesn’t look like Hosni Mubarak — hated scourge of Egyptians. That would be Robert De Niro. Nor does dapper Dave look like Tunisia’s ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, or Syria’s aptly-onomatopoeaic Bashar al-Assad, or any other tyrant from Pyongyang to Minsk. But in making a … read more >>

TV hit blasts Kabul bumblers

KABUL: If, near a decade after 9/11, you’ve been wondering about the billions taxpayers have spent to build a shiny new Afghanistan, spend a few minutes YouTubing the trailer for The Ministry, a TV comic hit that’s sweeping Kabul. Among the first few results, it’s an excoriating little piece of … read more >>

Behind Wendi Deng’s billion-dollar spike

TIGER WIFE or Trophy wife? Slam-down Sister or caring partner doing a Tammy Wynette? New York socialite or about-to-be global media mogul? When Wendi Deng soared on Tuesday, 42 and pretty-in-pink, left across our TV screens to clobber the idiot cream-pieing her struggling octogenarian billionaire husband, my first thought was … read more >>

Murdoch: No profile

LAST WEEK, as the corruption eating at Rupert Murdoch’s British operation threatened gangrene over the rest of his global empire, I sent an email to Judith Whelan, editor of Good Weekend magazine. This was ‘the media’s Arab Spring,’ I wrote. ‘Nobody is scared any more… no more meetings in the … read more >>

Syria: I would like you to meet my cousin

Illustration: John Spooner

THEY lurk in the shadows of every autocracy, monopolising business deals and jealously guarding their access to the political power that provided them. In economies across Asia and the Middle East, they’ve become a virtual proxy for the dictators crucial to the massive commercial fortunes they’ve built, often impervious to … read more >>

The Philippines: ‘Sick man of Asia’ looking a bit better

Philippines president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III

PERMANENT sick man of Asia? Or tiger in waiting? Once Asia’s richest country save Japan but now with reasonable claims to be one of its poorest, the Philippines confounds. Progress in the Philippines can be measured in unexpected ways. The first time I arrived in Manila, the Marcos kleptocracy was … read more >>

India: Hunt for next top Tata man seems an inside job

IN AN aspirational and caste-ridden society, corporate India intrigues at the best of times. Perhaps it’s the lopsided wealth of its business titans who present as both hope and fantasy for the 50 per cent of India’s billion-plus population who somehow struggle by on 50¢ a day. The lavish lifestyles … read more >>

Avoiding the grip of Singapore Inc

The island state’s government-owned corporations need us more than we need them, writes Eric Ellis. Yet we all know national interest goes both ways. ”A MISSED opportunity for both sides,” or so claimed the Singapore government’s quasi-official mouthpiece, The Straits Times, yesterday after the shock of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s knockback of Singapore … read more >>

With Tamil Tigers slain, booming Sri Lanka makes up for lost time

What to call the emerging Sri Lanka? The country seems like a construction zone, with ports, highways and airports sprouting and former rebel strongholds blossoming, writes Eric Ellis in Colombo. SO TINY Sri Lanka has made it to today’s Cricket World Cup final, to face mighty India in Mumbai in … read more >>

Egypt’s reluctant finance minister gets to work

Samir Radwan was a surprise choice as Egypt’s new finance minister, even to himself. Appointed at the height of the chaos, the retired economist is working hard to sustain Egypt’s finances and economy through a period of extraordinary upheaval. Eric Ellis joins him in Cairo IN EGYPT’S chaotic last days … read more >>

Bahrain: The West practises selective dudgeon

DUBAI: It was the 19th-century British statesman Lord Palmerston who coined the maxim that nations have no permanent friends, simply permanent interests. And rarely in recent times has that adage been so nakedly displayed as near here in the tiny Gulf petro-kingdom of Bahrain, the first place in the Middle … read more >>

Egypt still waiting for someone to lead

BE IT by accident or design, the massive new billboard framed by Cairo’s October 6 bridge across the Nile speaks to a telling transition in these revolutionary times. The bridge marks an Egypt whose time has passed, the 1973 war when Cairo’s military regime led an Arab coalition across the … read more >>

Indonesia is no role model for Egypt

JAKARTA: Let’s hope life after Mubarak does not resemble the post-Suharto era From Barack Obama to prolix purveyors of punditry in Australia and abroad, it has become fashionable in these heady revolutionary times to cast Indonesia as the democratic vision for a post-Mubarak Egypt — largely, it seems, because the … read more >>

Making turmoil pay- Egypt’s richest man is not for fleeing

CAIRO: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris knows a thing or two about operating among strongmen in their dictatorships When tyrannies teeter to people power, as we are witnessing in Egypt and beyond, the cronies and rentiers who got rich from their cosiness to authority usually cut their losses and run for … read more >>

Orascom: A very modern tale of corporate finance

North Korea. Zimbabwe. Tunisia. Algeria. Iraq. Pakistan. Egypt. It’s a list of the world’s flashpoints. And they’re all part of Egyptian entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris’s unique telecoms empire. So when his Orascom group needed financing, and then sought a buyer, it presented Sawiris’s advisers with a unique set of challenges. Eric … read more >>

Orascom: How do you solve a problem like Korea?

Naguib Sawiris has built large parts of his empire by being prepared to do business where other companies would fear to tread. He explains how he became a telecoms operator, banker and even an hotelier in the biggest rogue state of all, North Korea. “We looked at a map of … read more >>

Hot money threatens to scorch Asia again

JUST 13 years after the Asian Contagion, Eric Ellis questions whether the region’s reforms would prevent another crisis A few weeks before the Rabbit replaces the Tiger on Asian lunar calendars, the region’s investors must wish the zodiacal bunny’s more rational attributes – sagacity, shrewdness and tranquillity – will mark … read more >>

Asian sirens cast a spell but leave some things to be desired

THEY’RE robust and the road to the future, but our nearest and dearest could resolve to do better, writes Eric Ellis THE new year is upon us, a fine time for cleansing resolutions. Corporate Asia could use a few, too, if only to make it more user-friendly for corporate Australia … read more >>

Singapore slung

SINGAPORE: THE city-state’s success as a financial haven for Asia’s wealthy is turning sour as GFC fallout enters the courts THE scene: the bar of an exclusive Singapore sports club in a pre-Christmas jolly. The clientele: a well-heeled coterie of expatriate and local private bankers, Asia’s masters of the universe … read more >>

Media mogul makes his mark in a troubled land

Melbourne-raised Saad Mohseni is forging an empire in his homeland of Afghanistan SAAD Mohseni is the Australian media mogul you’ve probably never heard of. His writ runs wide and influentially in a country at the crossroads. At 44, his authority is sought by some of the world’s most powerful people: … read more >>

Afghanistan: Media mogul makes his mark in a troubled land

Melbourne-raised Saad Mohseni is forging an empire in his homeland of Afghanistan SAAD Mohseni is the Australian media mogul you’ve probably never heard of. His writ runs wide and influentially in a country at the crossroads. At 44, his authority is sought by some of the world’s most powerful people: … read more >>

Turks might not wait

TURKEY, with its strong economy and links to Asia, may not need to be part of the European Union ISTANBUL: Is it European? Asian? Both? Neither? It’s a millennia-old question; culturally, religiously, geographically and economically. And one that could be posed more and more of Australia and its embrace, if … read more >>

Why Farnood was flushed out of Kabulbank

In the battle to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan, Kabulbank inserted itself as a key player, building the country’s largest deposit base and becoming the payment agent for many government enterprises. But a run on the bank in August led to the ousting of colourful poker-playing bank owner Sherkhan Farnood. What does … read more >>

“Double-A Team” inspires new hope for Indonesia

Left to right: SBY, Agus Martowardojo and Darmin Nasution

Government officials hope that international investors will look afresh at Indonesia. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government made history with its re-election. It is using a strong popular mandate to tackle corruption and bureaucratic shortcomings head-on. Eric Ellis reports from Jakarta AFTER 30 YEARS of kleptocratic dictatorship and a decade or so … read more >>

Afghanistan: Why Farnood was flushed out of Kabulbank

In the battle to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan, Kabulbank inserted itself as a key player, building the country’s largest deposit base and becoming the payment agent for many government enterprises. But a run on the bank in August led to the ousting of colourful poker-playing bank owner Sherkhan Farnood. What does … read more >>

Court of the Lion Kings; the moneymaking machine of Singapore Inc

IN THE fomenting debate over Singapore Inc’s bid to buy a most vital pillar of Australia’s economic architecture, there’s something deliciously apt that the decisive call on the Australian Stock Exchange will probably be made by Canberra’s independent members of parliament. Singapore doesn’t do independents, Mr Oakeshott. Indeed, it would … read more >>

India: A most uncivil service

ASIA’S monumental sporting events change nations; indeed, that seems to be the point of the billions lavished on them. Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics heralded Japan’s revival from World War II, and its future as a tech-savvy economic power. Likewise the Seoul Olympics in 1988 signalled a new trading giant also rising … read more >>

Indonesia: New dawn slowed by speed limits

JAKARTA: In December 1967, the prominent US magazine The Atlantic made a foray into the Pacific, to look at Indonesia. Written by John Hughes, who won a Pulitzer Prize that year for his Indonesia reportage, the piece examined the aftermath of the Year of Living Dangerously, when the independence hero … read more >>

Malaysia stumbling

ONE of Australia’s key partners in Asia is struggling. Given the way its leaders have taunted Australia over the years, schadenfreude at its plight would be understandable. But this should be resisted, for if Malaysia stumbles, the effects may ripple across the region. Erstwhile sponsor of the Carlton Football Club, … read more >>

Don’t bet on Kabul Bank

On the verge of collapse, Kabul Bank operates in a financial system we would barely recognise. SHANE Warne’s post-cricket pursuits and the murky nightmare that is Afghanistan would not appear to be obviously connected. But had you swung by London’s Empire Casino in 2008 during the World Series of Poker, … read more >>

Say a little prayer

New evangelical, deal-making networks are tiptoeing to the edges of power in south-east Asia. HOW to penetrate and plunder the supposed mysteries of corporate Asia? Many words, seminars and hectares of print space have been devoted in Australia to this apparently vexed question over the years. Leader after leader – … read more >>

Evangelical business network takes Asia

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Thailand’s perfect solution

BIG problems require big ideas to fix them and, in Asia, few problems are bigger than the red-yellow divide that bedevils Thailand. Now four years old and no closer to resolution, the discord has been a huge problem in Bangkok: six governments in four years, hundreds dead as the military … read more >>

Gibraltar – Cracks in the Rock?

TINY Gibraltar is an ocean away from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, but it doesn’t take much traversing of the Rock’s lanes to get a distinctly Groundhog Day feeling that Bill Murray might recognize read on…  

Thailand’s finance minister Korn faces the ultimate stress test

Thailand’s finance minister Korn faces the ultimate stress test Finance minister Korn Chatikavanij has steered the Thai economy successfully through huge political and social upheaval. But his long-term aim is to connect with Thailand’s people, and not just its financial and business elite, to bring prosperity to the majority. Eric … read more >>

Indonesia: Here’s mud in your eye, says president-in-waiting

Comparisons between how US and Indonesia have dealt with their respective environmental crises are striking CLEARLY, after the BP oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s beyond preposterous that its gaffe-prone chief executive should be considered for higher public office, or for much longer at BP for that … read more >>

China: Pearls for the Orient

WHAT is ”The String of Pearls?” If you are a mainland Chinese ”bizoid”, it is your toil for the motherland in joining strategic points of the globe, including Australia, to secure China’s imminent dominance of the world economy. And in doing so, you’ll be ably assisted by compliant locals wherever … read more >>

Sri Lankan brotherhood

The model in war-weary Sri Lanka is Singapore but the feel is more Suharto’s Indonesia, writes Eric Ellis in Colombo. NATIONS can be run as democracies or dictatorships, monarchies or even as products, for instance the widely admired production-to-port ”Singapore Inc” model. But is there a country run by a … read more >>

Karachi under siege

KARACHI: IT IS a measure of the limited appeal of Karachi, Pakistan’s bumptious commercial capital, that eager taxi drivers try to lure their few tourist passengers to a laundry. Admittedly, Karachi’s ”dhobi ghats” are perversely impressive in a modern world of Whirlpools; kilometres of downtown riverbank are strewn with shalwar … read more >>

Pakistan’s central bank governor Syed Salim Raza resigns before our very eyes

Euromoney’s correspondent has spent more than two decades navigating Asia’s often fathomless vagaries. But this was an exceptional experience. Having been lured to the most dangerous city – Karachi – of one of the world’s most dangerous countries – Pakistan – to interview the governor of the central bank we … read more >>

Qataris score own goal in banking stoush

WHAT is more important, money or liberty? David Proctor is in no doubt – it is liberty every day of the week. In 2007, the British banker and his Australian wife Trinh were lured by big salaries and prime ministerial patronage to the tiny, gas-rich Gulf emirate of Qatar, which … read more >>

Islamic finance: Hub or hubris?

Shariah banking is becoming big business in Southeast Asia, with Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta battling for the title of regional Islamic finance centre. But even the most optimistic bankers fear further expansion could be stymied by arcane regulation and lack of cross-border consensus. Eric Ellis reports. HERE ARE SOME concepts … read more >>

Kuala Lumpur a world financial centre through growth in Islamic banking

FORGET the City, Wall Street, Frankfurt and Tokyo, here’s a revelation that will rock you, and probably Gail Kelly at Westpac too. One of the world’s biggest financial centres is Kuala Lumpur. No, you didn’t read incorrectly – tropical KL, capital of the infamously ”recalcitrant” Malaysia, a country better known … read more >>

Qatar? Be warned

DOHA – WHAT do you know about Qatar? In Australia, Qatar probably begins and ends with those nice ads on the radio and telly. There’s a soothing soundtrack, attractive air hostesses serving sumptuous tucker to weary travellers doing the Kangaroo Run between Australia and London – spruiking the new ”five … read more >>

Thais in a bind

Thailand has found much-needed stability under the Abhisit Government but maintaining it is a problem IT IS – apparently more than most new years – the season to note anniversaries; 240 years since Cook’s Endeavour arrived on our shores, 200 years of Peugeot, 75 years of Elvis and 20 years … read more >>

The Banker Who Couldn’t Get Out of Qatar

DAVID PROCTOR’S biography as a career banker remains proudly displayed on the website of Al-Khaliji Bank, the three-year-old Qatari bank where “we pride ourselves in finding ways to do things differently”. Outwardly, there’s nothing particularly unusual about that. Bank executives often have their CVs puffed on the ‘About us’ tab … read more >>

City Life, Dili

Sleepy Dili, capital of East Timor, doesn’t have much going for it. Its tallest building is just three storeys. The most obvious economic activity is the purveying of SIM cards and pirate CDs of ‘jiggy-jig’. The harbour is full of ships, but only because some dopey official misordered an import … read more >>

Dubai’s debt crisis – a ‘new paradigm’ built on sand

DUBAI – At Dubai’s soaring, spurious peak, one factoid the emirate’s bling-burdened battalion of ‘corporate communications consultants’ liked to slip to junketing media was that Dubai had the world’s densest concentration of cranes. Impossible to verify but too good to ignore, the glib observation almost always made it into media … read more >>

The Dubai ‘miracle’ was always a mirage of spin

NOW that the external impact of Dubai’s sovereign debt crisis seems to have passed, for now at least, what’s the big lesson from this drama-in-the-dunes? I think it boils down quite simply: don’t believe the hype. Dubai claimed to have the ”biggest this”, ”largest that” and the ”most of just … read more >>

Sycophancy lavished on Asian hosts

THERE must be something about Asian potentates, benevolent or otherwise, that gets those expatriate corporate hormones racing to lavish love in spades on them. In nearly two decades trawling through corporate Asia, I’ve seen it time and again. Foreign businessmen who’d be the first to trash the business policies of … read more >>

Fire rages over Red Dragon ‘prawn ultimatum’

JAKARTA – IT’S THE EMERGING market investor’s lament – if it’s Tuesday it must be Shanghai, Wednesday Mumbai and Thursday Rio. But it seems that if it’s most any day of the week, it’s Jakarta: there’s yet another financial drama to upset Indonesia’s emergence as a credible investment destination. Indonesia’s … read more >>

After the war comes Sri Lanka’s refugee crisis

Menik Farm refugee camp, Northern Sri Lanka. LAST week at her bowls club, in a bucolic town in Victoria’s whitebread Western District, my mother mentioned to ‘the girls’ that I’d soon be in town for a school reunion. Her bowling mates know that I’m a foreign correspondent, reporting from sometimes … read more >>

Indonesian reform the path to investment

PESKY corporate regulators sniffing around the business? Stock exchange on your case? Not in Jakarta, where it’s plain sailing for all manner of corporate governance fiddles. Indonesia’s peak regulator, the Capital Market and Financial Institutions Supervisory Agency, known as Bapepam by its Bahasa acronym, has rarely seen a deal it … read more >>

From financial powerhouses to the houses of power

AUSTRALIA has one as prime minister-in-waiting, while across the Tasman, New Zealand is actually led by one. And it is happening in Asia, too. It seems that bankers don’t retire, die or get sent to Guantanamo Bay, as many victims of the global financial crisis might prefer, but get their … read more >>

Sri Lanka’s Next Battle

AFTER the end of Sri Lanka’s long and often barbaric civil war, there’s no avoiding President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Banners espousing his election manifesto Mahinda Thought line the nation’s roads and railways. Pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and his mustachioed visage appears a dozen times, illustrating the … read more >>

Indonesia looks forward to continued reform

WITH Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) re-elected for a second term as Indonesia’s president, the big question Jakarta bankers are asking is whom he will appoint to his cabinet. Bankers have been happy with the incumbent finance minister, the capable and – more important for one of the world’s most corrupt … read more >>

Formula for Excess

Singapore’s free-wheeling private bankers enjoyed the ride of their lives in the precrisis years, but with government intervention and a clutch of lawsuits looming, it looks as though many are finally running out of road. DESPITE ITS GLITZY new image as the latest hotspot to host a nighttime Formula One … read more >>

Ten years on, East Timor looks to the future

EAST Timor’s Finance Minister, Emilia Pires, remembers well her first days at Moreland High School in the tough Coburg of the 1970s. Neither European nor Asian but something of both, Pires and her six siblings, exiled from their invaded country, perplexed her fellow students. “We got called so many things,” … read more >>

The World’s Most Powerful Women – Emilia Pires

Exiled to Australia at age 15, she spent 24 years away from East Timor. Good experience for her job as finance minister. East Timor’s finance minister, Emilia Pires, is nothing if not ambitious for her struggling country, one of the world’s newest and poorest. It’s not enough for East Timor … read more >>

Afghanistan needs an economic leader

DEMOCRACY IS a wonderful thing, at least it’s supposed to be. But sometimes democratic elections don’t deliver the type of leader a country needs. That looks likely to happen in Afghanistan, a barely formed nation economically more desperate than most, next week. If the West and its misspent billions in … read more >>

Is Turkey Ready for the EU?

ISTANBUL: It was Kylie Minogue who made me think Turkey and Europe might just about be ready for each other. There was the pop poppet — well, life-size images of her — flaunting her curvaceous clunes at shoppers in the Agent Provocateur lingerie outlet at Istanbul’s Kanyon Mall. It was … read more >>

Hot spots, pot shots and gold pots for the brazen and the bold

Hot spots, pot shots and gold pots for the brazen and the bold Compile a fake CV, head for a war zone, and a fortune in taxpayers’ dollars can be yours, writes Eric Ellis.   RESOLVED to make big quick money in 2007 at the frontier of commerce? Sure, YouTube … read more >>