Wednesday November 4
8.55am: Arrive in office I begin my day by checking my voice mails from last night. They tend to be calls from our US offices in Chicago and New York plus calls from the affiliate offices in Turkey and Egypt where their day started two hours ago. This is my critical time as these calls will usually set the mood for the day. I'm lucky this morning only one "fire" to put out an urgent message from Jermien, our local general manager's administrative assistant that the international rating contract for Egypt Metal Co has to be revised before the client will agree to sign. No details as to what needs to be changed. It's probably the fee amount, it's always the fee amount. I move on to my e-mails. The day is looking even better, only 15 e-mails from overnight
9.30am: It's time to call Cairo. After the fourth attempt, I get through. Calling Cairo is always an experience. Fifty percent of the time, once I get through, I have to deal with a scratchy line and a clear echo which makes it sound like I'm talking to myself. In between echoes I learn that the revision is in the term of the contract. Money seems to be no object. A real pleasant surprise. The day is indeed shaping up. We agree that shortening the term of the contract is acceptable and I give the OK verbally to make the change.
10am: We have a rating client in Azerbaijan, an oil company, that we signed up a couple of years ago. That was one of the few due diligence trips I managed to get on since I now spend most of my time on the market development and administrative side. Although these opportunities increase as our coverage expands it seems that I have less and less time to get involved in the direct analysis. I do miss that. So when an interesting new client comes on I make an effort to get on the rating team, if only to keep my analytical skills current.
This client in Azerbaijan is interested in renewing the rating contract which is due to expire soon. I have to draft a letter to propose the new terms and to present a schedule for the next due diligence visit. This time around it will be someone else's turn to visit the old oil fields on the banks of the Caspian Sea. Once written the next challenge begins. I have to fax the letter to their office in Baku, Azerbaijan. I see the dreaded message "Unsuccessful transmission" and sense a long day at the fax machine.
11.30am: A few discussions in the hallway with a colleague who has just returned from meetings in Cairo on another rating. It seems to have gone well, he even had a chance to visit the Pyramids. We have two and half weeks to turn the rating around. That is, to analyse the business and financial information received from the company's management, put together a presentation to the rating committee, assign the rating and inform the company of the outcome. It will be a tight schedule but with some of the work divided between the back-up analyst in London and the local office analyst in Cairo, it should be possible. A call comes in from the Turkish Office. The general manager there has met a prospective rating client and wants to discuss the proposed fee structure. Did I mention it's always the fee. We reach an agreement as to the proposed fee after being convinced that there may be strategic reasons to be "flexible" in the pricing. "Flexible" is code forgiving a discount. The Baku fax has still not gone through Re-send Baku fax
12.15pm: It's lunchtime and I do my usual lunch routine. I slip out of the office to go down to the sandwich shop on the corner, grab my usual tuna sandwich, crisps and a Coke, and return to my desk to surf the web. I read the online newspapers, looking for any leads on potential bond issuances which could lead to a rating mandate. If there were any major developments in my market - defaults, wars and so on - I would have already heard about it.
I move on to review this afternoon's rating committee write-ups on two Turkish structured transactions that will be presented later this afternoon. Structured transactions are bonds that are secured by some kind of cash-flow-generating asset. They tend to be very complex. DCR has a reputation for being very good at understanding and rating these types of deals.
The Turkish market has been particularly active in these type of bonds issuances and we have rated them all. The two this afternoon will be fairly straightforward, as we have rated these specific types of structures before and the originating banks are already rated by us. Nevertheless I expect the rating committee to last around two hours and will be attended via teleconference by at least nine or 10 analysts located in New York, Chicago, London and Istanbul. I check on my Baku fax and still no go.
2pm: Well it's 2pm in London which means the Chicago and New York offices are opening up. It's now time to begin my calls to the US. But first is a call to Washington DC to the International Finance Corporation. The IFC forms part of the World Bank and focuses on private sector investments within emerging markets. It is a partner with us in a number of our joint venture offices throughout the emerging markets. These joint ventures are set up with local businessmen to establish locally owned rating agencies. We provide technical assistance and training and these offices act as our local marketing and research centres. So far, this strategy has been very effective and distinguishes DCR from the rest of the international rating agencies. This afternoon's call is to the desk officer for Poland.
We are attempting to set up meetings in Poland with prospective local partners and the IFC is assisting us in that regard. So far it has gotten very complicated as I have a trip already planned to Africa for the dates that they propose. We'll have to re-work the schedule. I'll get back to them via e-mail tomorrow morning.
The next call is to Mitch Lench, who heads our emerging markets structured finance group in London. Mitch is currently in New York after a two-week trip through the Middle East. I need an update on those meetings, as well as an update on investor meetings he is running in New York. It looks like he will make it back to London this weekend and the trip has proved to be very successful. We'll go over the details when he gets back into the office next week.
4pm-6.30pm: The telephone conference call comes through and the international structured finance rating meeting is set to begin. It takes another 15 minutes before everyone is connected and it sounds like we have a clear line. The meeting proceeds as expected. A few new issues arise which the lead analyst has agreed to address with the banks, but otherwise the recommended ratings are approved. The meeting lasts two and half hours. I had been a little too optimistic earlier. My day is done and on the way out I check to see if my Baku fax got through. "Unsuccessful transmission" flashes back at me. Oh well, we are talking emerging markets.