- Understand the purpose of capital markets, domestic and international.
- Explore the major components of the international capital markets.
- Understand the role of international banks, investment banks, securities firms, and financial institutions.
What Are International Capital Markets?
A capital market is basically a system in which people, companies, and governments with an excess of funds transfer those funds to people, companies, and governments that have a shortage of funds. This transfer mechanism provides an efficient way for those who wish to borrow or invest money to do so. For example, every time someone takes out a loan to buy a car or a house, they are accessing the capital markets. Capital markets carry out the desirable economic function of directing capital to productive uses.
There are two main ways that someone accesses the capital markets—either as debt or equity. While there are many forms of each, very simply, debt is money that’s borrowed and must be repaid, and equity is money that is invested in return for a percentage of ownership but is not guaranteed in terms of repayment.
In essence, governments, businesses, and people that save some portion of their income invest their money in capital markets such as stocks and bonds. The borrowers (governments, businesses, and people who spend more than their income) borrow the savers’ investments through the capital markets. When savers make investments, they convert risk-free assets such as cash or savings into risky assets with the hopes of receiving a future benefit. Since all investments are risky, the only reason a saver would put cash at risk is if returns on the investment are greater than returns on holding risk-free assets. Basically, a higher rate of return means a higher risk.
For example, let’s imagine a beverage company that makes $1 million in gross sales. If the company spends $900,000, including taxes and all expenses, then it has $100,000 in profits. The company can invest the $100,000 in a mutual fund (which are pools of money managed by an investment company), investing in stocks and bonds all over the world. Making such an investment is riskier than keeping the $100,000 in a savings account. The financial officer hopes that over the long term the investment will yield greater returns than cash holdings or interest on a savings account. This is an example of a form of direct finance. In other words, the beverage company bought a security issued by another company through the capital markets. In contrast, indirect finance involves a financial intermediary between the borrower and the saver. For example, if the company deposited the money in a savings account, and then the savings bank lends the money to a company (or a person), the bank is an intermediary. Financial intermediaries are very important in the capital marketplace. Banks lend money to many people, and in so doing create economies of scale. This is one of the primary purposes of the capital markets.
Capital markets promote economic efficiency. In the example, the beverage company wants to invest its $100,000 productively. There might be a number of firms around the world eager to borrow funds by issuing a debt security or an equity security so that it can implement a great business idea. Without issuing the security, the borrowing firm has no funds to implement its plans. By shifting the funds from the beverage company to other firms through the capital markets, the funds are employed to their maximum extent. If there were no capital markets, the beverage company might have kept its $100,000 in cash or in a low-yield savings account. The other firms would also have had to put off or cancel their business plans.
International capital markets are the same mechanism but in the global sphere, in which governments, companies, and people borrow and invest across national boundaries. In addition to the benefits and purposes of a domestic capital market, international capital markets provide the following benefits:
- Higher returns and cheaper borrowing costs. These allow companies and governments to tap into foreign markets and access new sources of funds. Many domestic markets are too small or too costly for companies to borrow in. By using the international capital markets, companies, governments, and even individuals can borrow or invest in other countries for either higher rates of return or lower borrowing costs.
- Diversifying risk. The international capital markets allow individuals, companies, and governments to access more opportunities in different countries to borrow or invest, which in turn reduces risk. The theory is that not all markets will experience contractions at the same time.
The structure of the capital markets falls into two components—primary and secondary. The primary market is where new securities (stocks and bonds are the most common) are issued. If a corporation or government agency needs funds, it issues (sells) securities to purchasers in the primary market. Big investment banks assist in this issuing process as intermediaries. Since the primary market is limited to issuing only new securities, it is valuable but less important than the secondary market.
The vast majority of capital transactions take place in the secondary market. The secondary market includes stock exchanges (the New York Stock Exchange, the London Stock Exchange, and the Tokyo Nikkei), bond markets, and futures and options markets, among others. All these secondary markets deal in the trade of securities. The term securities includes a wide range of financial instruments. You’re probably most familiar with stocks and bonds. Investors have essentially two broad categories of securities available to them: equity securities, which represent ownership of a part of a company, and debt securities, which represent a loan from the investor to a company or government entity.
Creditors, or debt holders, purchase debt securities and receive future income or assets in return for their investment. The most common example of a debt instrument is the bond. When investors buy bonds, they are lending the issuers of the bonds their money. In return, they will receive interest payments usually at a fixed rate for the life of the bond and receive the principal when the bond expires. All types of organizations can issue bonds.
Stocks are the type of equity security with which most people are familiar. When investors buy stock, they become owners of a share of a company’s assets and earnings. If a company is successful, the price that investors are willing to pay for its stock will often rise; shareholders who bought stock at a lower price then stand to make a profit. If a company does not do well, however, its stock may decrease in value and shareholders can lose money. Stock prices are also subject to both general economic and industry-specific market factors.
The key to remember with either debt or equity securities is that the issuing entity, a company or government, only receives the cash in the primary market issuance. Once the security is issued, it is traded; but the company receives no more financial benefit from that security. Companies are motivated to maintain the value of their equity securities or to repay their bonds in a timely manner so that when they want to borrow funds from or sell more shares in the market, they have the credibility to do so.
For companies, the global financial, including the currency, markets (1) provide stability and predictability, (2) help reduce risk, and (3) provide access to more resources. One of the fundamental purposes of the capital markets, both domestic and international, is the concept of liquidity, which basically means being able to convert a noncash asset into cash without losing any of the principal value. In the case of global capital markets, liquidity refers to the ease and speed by which shareholders and bondholders can buy and sell their securities and convert their investment into cash when necessary. Liquidity is also essential for foreign exchange, as companies don’t want their profits locked into an illiquid currency.
Major Components of the International Capital Markets
International Equity Markets
Companies sell their stock in the equity markets. International equity markets consists of all the stock traded outside the issuing company’s home country. Many large global companies seek to take advantage of the global financial centers and issue stock in major markets to support local and regional operations.
For example, ArcelorMittal is a global steel company headquartered in Luxembourg; it is listed on the stock exchanges of New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Luxembourg, Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Valencia. While the daily value of the global markets changes, in the past decade the international equity markets have expanded considerably, offering global firms increased options for financing their global operations. The key factors for the increased growth in the international equity markets are the following:
- Growth of developing markets. As developing countries experience growth, their domestic firms seek to expand into global markets and take advantage of cheaper and more flexible financial markets.
- Drive to privatize. In the past two decades, the general trend in developing and emerging markets has been to privatize formerly state-owned enterprises. These entities tend to be large, and when they sell some or all of their shares, it infuses billions of dollars of new equity into local and global markets. Domestic and global investors, eager to participate in the growth of the local economy, buy these shares.
- Investment banks. With the increased opportunities in new emerging markets and the need to simply expand their own businesses, investment banks often lead the way in the expansion of global equity markets. These specialized banks seek to be retained by large companies in developing countries or the governments pursuing privatization to issue and sell the stocks to investors with deep pockets outside the local country.
- Technology advancements. The expansion of technology into global finance has opened new opportunities to investors and companies around the world. Technology and the Internet have provided more efficient and cheaper means of trading stocks and, in some cases, issuing shares by smaller companies.
International Bond Markets
Bonds are the most common form of debt instrument, which is basically a loan from the holder to the issuer of the bond. The international bond market consists of all the bonds sold by an issuing company, government, or entity outside their home country. Companies that do not want to issue more equity shares and dilute the ownership interests of existing shareholders prefer using bonds or debt to raise capital (i.e., money). Companies might access the international bond markets for a variety of reasons, including funding a new production facility or expanding its operations in one or more countries. There are several types of international bonds, which are detailed in the next sections.
A foreign bond is a bond sold by a company, government, or entity in another country and issued in the currency of the country in which it is being sold. There are foreign exchange, economic, and political risks associated with foreign bonds, and many sophisticated buyers and issuers of these bonds use complex hedging strategies to reduce the risks. For example, the bonds issued by global companies in Japan denominated in yen are called samurai bonds. As you might expect, there are other names for similar bond structures. Foreign bonds sold in the United States and denominated in US dollars are called Yankee bonds. In the United Kingdom, these foreign bonds are called bulldog bonds. Foreign bonds issued and traded throughout Asia except Japan, are called dragon bonds, which are typically denominated in US dollars. Foreign bonds are typically subject to the same rules and guidelines as domestic bonds in the country in which they are issued. There are also regulatory and reporting requirements, which make them a slightly more expensive bond than the Eurobond. The requirements add small costs that can add up given the size of the bond issues by many companies.
A Eurobond is a bond issued outside the country in whose currency it is denominated. Eurobonds are not regulated by the governments of the countries in which they are sold, and as a result, Eurobonds are the most popular form of international bond. A bond issued by a Japanese company, denominated in US dollars, and sold only in the United Kingdom and France is an example of a Eurobond.
A global bond is a bond that is sold simultaneously in several global financial centers. It is denominated in one currency, usually US dollars or Euros. By offering the bond in several markets at the same time, the company can reduce its issuing costs. This option is usually reserved for higher rated, creditworthy, and typically very large firms.
Did You Know?
As the international bond market has grown, so too have the creative variations of bonds, in some cases to meet the specific needs of a buyer and issuer community. Sukuk, an Arabic word, is a type of financing instrument that is in essence an Islamic bond. The religious law of Islam, Sharia, does not permit the charging or paying of interest, so Sukuk securities are structured to comply with the Islamic law. “An IMF study released in 2007 noted that the Issuance of Islamic securities (sukuk) rose fourfold to $27 billion during 2004–06. While 14 types of sukuk are recognized by the Accounting and Auditing Organization of Islamic Finance Institutions, their structure relies on one of the three basic forms of legitimate Islamic finance, murabahah (synthetic loans/purchase orders), musharakah/mudharabah (profit-sharing arrangements), and ijara (sale-leasebacks), or a combination thereof.”Andy Jobst, Peter Kunzel, Paul Mills, and Amadou Sy, “Islamic Finance Expanding Rapidly,” International Monetary Fund, September 19, 2007, accessed February 2, 2011, http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2007/res0919b.htm.
The Economist notes “that by 2000, there were more than 200 Islamic banks…and today $700 billion of global assets are said to comply with sharia law. Even so, traditional finance houses rather than Islamic institutions continue to handle most Gulf oil money and other Muslim wealth.”
“More worrying still, the rules for Islamic finance are not uniform around the world. A Kuwaiti Muslim cannot buy a Malaysian sukuk (sharia-compliant bond) because of differing definitions of what constitutes usury (interest). Indeed, a respected Islamic jurist recently denounced most sukuk as godless. Nor are banking licenses granted easily in most Muslim countries. That is why big Islamic banks are so weak. Often they are little more than loose collections of subsidiaries. They also lack home-grown talent: most senior staff are poached from multinationals.” But in 2009, one entrepreneur, Adnan Yousif, made headlines as he tried to change that and create the world’s biggest Islamic bank. While his efforts are still in progress, it’s clear that Islamic banking is a growing and profitable industry niche.“Godly but Ambitious,” Economist, June 18, 2009, accessed February 2, 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/13856281.
The Eurocurrency markets originated in the 1950s when communist governments in Eastern Europe became concerned that any deposits of their dollars in US banks might be confiscated or blocked for political reasons by the US government. These communist governments addressed their concerns by depositing their dollars into European banks, which were willing to maintain dollar accounts for them. This created what is known as the Eurodollar—US dollars deposited in European banks. Over the years, banks in other countries, including Japan and Canada, also began to hold US dollar deposits and now Eurodollars are any dollar deposits in a bank outside the United States. (The prefix Euro- is now only a historical reference to its early days.) An extension of the Eurodollar is the Eurocurrency, which is a currency on deposit outside its country of issue. While Eurocurrencies can be in any denominations, almost half of world deposits are in the form of Eurodollars.
The Euroloan market is also a growing part of the Eurocurrency market. The Euroloan market is one of the least costly for large, creditworthy borrowers, including governments and large global firms. Euroloans are quoted on the basis of LIBOR, the London Interbank Offer Rate, which is the interest rate at which banks in London charge each other for short-term Eurocurrency loans.
The primary appeal of the Eurocurrency market is that there are no regulations, which results in lower costs. The participants in the Eurocurrency markets are very large global firms, banks, governments, and extremely wealthy individuals. As a result, the transaction sizes tend to be large, which provides an economy of scale and nets overall lower transaction costs. The Eurocurrency markets are relatively cheap, short-term financing options for Eurocurrency loans; they are also a short-term investing option for entities with excess funds in the form of Eurocurrency deposits.
The first tier of centers in the world are the world financial centers, which are in essence central points for business and finance. They are usually home to major corporations and banks or at least regional headquarters for global firms. They all have at least one globally active stock exchange. While their actual order of importance may differ both on the ranking format and the year, the following cities rank as global financial centers: New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Zurich, Geneva, and Sydney.
Did You Know?
The Economist reported in December 2009 that a “poll of Bloomberg subscribers in October found that Britain had dropped behind Singapore into third place as the city most likely to be the best financial hub two years from now. A survey of executives…by Eversheds, a law firm, found that Shanghai could overtake London within the next ten years.”“Foul-Weather Friends,” Economist, December 17, 2009, accessed February 2, 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/15127550. Many of these changes in rank are due to local costs, taxes, and regulations. London has become expensive for financial professionals, and changes in the regulatory and political environment have also lessened the city’s immediate popularity. However, London has remained a premier financial center for more than two centuries, and it would be too soon to assume its days as one of the global financial hubs is over.
In addition to the global financial centers are a group of countries and territories that constitute offshore financial centers. An offshore financial center is a country or territory where there are few rules governing the financial sector as a whole and low overall taxes. As a result, many offshore centers are called tax havens. Most of these countries or territories are politically and economically stable, and in most cases, the local government has determined that becoming an offshore financial center is its main industry. As a result, they invest in the technology and infrastructure to remain globally linked and competitive in the global finance marketplace.
Examples of well-known offshore financial centers include Anguilla, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Netherlands, the Antilles, Bahrain, and Singapore. They tend to be small countries or territories, and while global businesses may not locate any of their operations in these locations, they sometimes incorporate in these offshore centers to escape the higher taxes they would have to pay in their home countries and to take advantage of the efficiencies of these financial centers. Many global firms may house financing subsidiaries in offshore centers for the same benefits. For example, Bacardi, the spirits manufacturer, has $6 billion in revenues, more than 6,000 employees worldwide, and twenty-seven global production facilities. The firm is headquartered in Bermuda, enabling it to take advantage of the lower tax rates and financial efficiencies for managing its global operations.
As a result of the size of financial transactions that flow through these offshore centers, they have been increasingly important in the global capital markets.
Ethics in Action
Offshore financial centers have also come under criticism. Many people criticize these countries because corporations and individuals hide wealth there to avoid paying taxes on it. Many offshore centers are countries that have a zero-tax basis, which has earned them the title of tax havens.
The Economist notes that offshore financial centers
are typically small jurisdictions, such as Macau, Bermuda, Liechtenstein or Guernsey, that make their living mainly by attracting overseas financial capital. What they offer foreign businesses and well-heeled individuals is low or no taxes, political stability, business-friendly regulation and laws, and above all discretion. Big, rich countries see OFCs as the weak link in the global financial chain…
The most obvious use of OFCs is to avoid taxes. Many successful offshore jurisdictions keep on the right side of the law, and many of the world's richest people and its biggest and most reputable companies use them quite legally to minimise their tax liability. But the onshore world takes a hostile view of them. Offshore tax havens have “declared economic war on honest US taxpayers,” says Carl Levin, an American senator. He points to a study suggesting that America loses up to $70 billion a year to tax havens…
Business in OFCs is booming, and as a group these jurisdictions no longer sit at the fringes of the global economy. Offshore holdings now run to $5 trillion–7 trillion, five times as much as two decades ago, and make up perhaps 6–8 percent of worldwide wealth under management, according to Jeffrey Owens, head of fiscal affairs at the OECD. Cayman, a trio of islands in the Caribbean, is the world's fifth-largest banking centre, with $1.4 trillion in assets. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are home to almost 700,000 offshore companies.
All this has been very good for the OFCs’ economies. Between 1982 and 2003 they grew at an annual average rate per person of 2.8 percent, over twice as fast as the world as a whole (1.2 percent), according to a study by James Hines of the University of Michigan. Individual OFCs have done even better. Bermuda is the richest country in the world, with a GDP per person estimated at almost $70,000, compared with $43,500 for America…On average, the citizens of Cayman, Jersey, Guernsey and the BVI are richer than those in most of Europe, Canada and Japan. This has encouraged other countries with small domestic markets to set up financial centres of their own to pull in offshore money—most spectacularly Dubai but also Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai and even Sudan's Khartoum, not so far from war-ravaged Darfur.
Globalisation has vastly increased the opportunities for such business. As companies become ever more multinational, they find it easier to shift their activities and profits across borders and into OFCs. As the well-to-do lead increasingly peripatetic lives, with jobs far from home, mansions scattered across continents and investments around the world, they can keep and manage their wealth anywhere. Financial liberalisation—the elimination of capital controls and the like—has made all of this easier. So has the internet, which allows money to be shifted around the world quickly, cheaply and anonymously.Joanne Ramos, “Places in the Sun,” Economist, February 22, 2007, accessed March 2, 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/8695139.
For more on these controversial offshore centers, please see the full article at http://www.economist.com/node/8695139.
The Role of International Banks, Investment Banks, Securities Firms, and Global Financial Firms
The role of international banks, investment banks, and securities firms has evolved in the past few decades. Let’s take a look at the primary purpose of each of these institutions and how it has changed, as many have merged to become global financial powerhouses.
Traditionally, international banks extended their domestic role to the global arena by servicing the needs of multinational corporations (MNC). These banks not only received deposits and made loans but also provided tools to finance exports and imports and offered sophisticated cash-management tools, including foreign exchange. For example, a company purchasing products from another country may need short-term financing of the purchase; electronic funds transfers (also called wires); and foreign exchange transactions. International banks provide all these services and more.
In broad strokes, there are different types of banks, and they may be divided into several groups on the basis of their activities. Retail banks deal directly with consumers and usually focus on mass-market products such as checking and savings accounts, mortgages and other loans, and credit cards. By contrast, private banks normally provide wealth-management services to families and individuals of high net worth. Business banks provide services to businesses and other organizations that are medium sized, whereas the clients of corporate banks are usually major business entities. Lastly, investment banks provide services related to financial markets, such as mergers and acquisitions. Investment banks also focused primarily on the creation and sale of securities (e.g., debt and equity) to help companies, governments, and large institutions achieve their financing objectives. Retail, private, business, corporate, and investment banks have traditionally been separate entities. All can operate on the global level. In many cases, these separate institutions have recently merged, or were acquired by another institution, to create global financial powerhouses that now have all types of banks under one giant, global corporate umbrella.
However the merger of all of these types of banking firms has created global economic challenges. In the United States, for example, these two types—retail and investment banks—were barred from being under the same corporate umbrella by the Glass-Steagall Act. Enacted in 1932 during the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act, officially called the Banking Reform Act of 1933, created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations (FDIC) and implemented bank reforms, beginning in 1932 and continuing through 1933. These reforms are credited with providing stability and reduced risk in the banking industry for decades. Among other things, it prohibited bank-holding companies from owning other financial companies. This served to ensure that investment banks and banks would remain separate—until 1999, when Glass-Steagall was repealed. Some analysts have criticized the repeal of Glass-Steagall as one cause of the 2007–8 financial crisis.
Because of the size, scope, and reach of US financial firms, this historical reference point is important in understanding the impact of US firms on global businesses. In 1999, once bank-holding companies were able to own other financial services firms, the trend toward creating global financial powerhouses increased, blurring the line between which services were conducted on behalf of clients and which business was being managed for the benefit of the financial company itself. Global businesses were also part of this trend, as they sought the largest and strongest financial players in multiple markets to service their global financial needs. If a company has operations in twenty countries, it prefers two or three large, global banking relationships for a more cost-effective and lower-risk approach. For example, one large bank can provide services more cheaply and better manage the company’s currency exposure across multiple markets. One large financial company can offer more sophisticated risk-management options and products. The challenge has become that in some cases, the party on the opposite side of the transaction from the global firm has turned out to be the global financial powerhouse itself, creating a conflict of interest that many feel would not exist if Glass-Steagall had not been repealed. The issue remains a point of ongoing discussion between companies, financial firms, and policymakers around the world. Meanwhile, global businesses have benefited from the expanded services and capabilities of the global financial powerhouses.
For example, US-based Citigroup is the world’s largest financial services network, with 16,000 offices in 160 countries and jurisdictions, holding 200 million customer accounts. It’s a financial powerhouse with operations in retail, private, business, and investment banking, as well as asset management. Citibank’s global reach make it a good banking partner for large global firms that want to be able to manage the financial needs of their employees and the company’s operations around the world.
In fact this strength is a core part of its marketing message to global companies and is even posted on its website (http://www.citigroup.com/citi/products/instinvest.htm): “Citi puts the world’s largest financial network to work for you and your organization.”
Ethics in Action
Outsourcing Day Trading to China
American and Canadian trading firms are hiring Chinese workers to “day trade” from China during the hours the American stock market is open. In essence, day trading or speculative trading occurs when a trader buys and sells stock quickly throughout the day in the hopes of making quick profits. The New York Times reported that as many as 10,000 Chinese, mainly young men, are busy working the night shift in Chinese cities from 9:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., which are the hours that the New York Stock Exchange is open in New York.
The motivation is severalfold. First, American and Canadian firms are looking to access wealthy Chinese clients who are technically not allowed to use Chinese currency to buy and sell shares on a foreign stock exchange. However, there are no restrictions for trading stocks in accounts owned by a foreign entity, which in this case usually belongs to the trading firms. Chinese traders also get paid less than their American and Canadian counterparts.
There are ethical concerns over this arrangement because it isn’t clear whether the use of traders in China violates American and Canadian securities laws. In a New York Times article quotes Thomas J. Rice, an expert in securities law at Baker & McKenzie, who states, “This is a jurisdictional mess for the U.S. regulators. Are these Chinese traders essentially acting as brokers? If they are, they would need to be registered in the U.S.” While the regulatory issues may not be clear, the trading firms are doing well and growing: “many Chinese day traders see this as an opportunity to quickly gain new riches.” Some American and Canadian trading firms see the opportunity to get “profit from trading operations in China through a combination of cheap overhead, rebates and other financial incentives from the major stock exchanges, and pent-up demand for broader investment options among China’s elite.”David Barboza, “Day Trading, Conducted Overnight, Grows in China,” New York Times, December 10, 2010.
- Capital markets provide an efficient mechanism for people, companies, and governments with more funds than they need to transfer those funds to people, companies, or governments who have a shortage of funds.
- The international equity and bond markets have expanded exponentially in recent decades. This expansion has been fueled by the growth of developing markets, the drive to privatize, the emergence of global financial powerhouses including investment banks, and technology advancements.
- The international bond market consists of major categories of bonds—including foreign bonds, Eurobonds, and global bonds—all of which help companies borrow funds to invest and grow their global businesses.
(AACSB: Reflective Thinking, Analytical Skills)
- What is a capital market? What is an international capital market?
- What is the role of bond and equity markets.
- Select one global financial center and research its history and evolution to present times. Do you feel that the center will remain influential? Why or why not? Which other global financial centers compete with the one you have chosen?