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Thain Will Be Beta-Testing Those Whiteboards For The NYSE Next Month

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Heads will more than likely roll over in Dallas when David Lear and his Halliburton cronies find out they didn’t come up with this genius money-making scheme first: the Babylon Fund, a hedge fund that invests 50% of its money directly in Iraq and the other 50% in Iraq by-way-of Halliburton-esque companies. The fund was launched in September with US$8 million in assets by Godvig Capital, an asset management firm run by Björn Englund who, for what its worth, bears an interesting resemblance to Lex Luthor. It is domiciled in the Virgin Islands, and managed from Godvig’s Luxembourg HQs and a Baghdad office.

It’s also aiming for the sort of returns hedge funds used to make routinely. “Over a business cycle…let’s say five to seven years, I would be disappointed if I didn’t get a 30% return per year,” Englund says, adding that to do that, you have to be in Baghdad.
Foreign investors are not yet allowed to trade on the two-and-a-half-year-old Iraq Stock Exchange—“They have said, ‘within six months,’ for the last two-and-a-half-years,” Englund laments, though he adds optimistically, “there is a possibility it will happen by the end of the year, but nobody really knows”—so you need locals on the ground.

While Englund is hopeful about making returns in spite of violence, corruption, illiquid markets and a potential drop in oil prices, he is admittedly “fantastically disappointed” in not having any money from American investors. Nonetheless, he believes that the “Iraqi financial markets will turn the corner” and that Saddam’s execution will not have an impact on the market. The one hobgoblin of the operation may be that Englund includes casualty figures in the appendix of his prospectus, but once you get over that it’ll be smooth sailing.
Bridges To Babylon: New Fund Focuses On Iraq [FINalternatives]


John Thain Is Ready For His Next Challenge

After he was unceremoniously fired from his post at the newly formed Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for reasons that included paying out big bonuses to ML executives and decorating his office with $1,500 garbage cans, John Thain understood that he would have to recede from the limelight for a bit. Take a job at a smaller firm and keep his head down for a while. Spend more time with his honeybees. Get back to his fighting weight. Drink a raw egg for breakfast every day. Run up and down the stairs of the Met. Work in a hideously decorated space, no matter how much it hurt.  Win some awards. Get his confidence back. Let people miss him. Well, Thain did all that. And now? He's ready for you to make him an offer. Thain, currently the CEO of a small lending outfit called CIT Group, has been quietly shopping the firm to a larger player with the goal of selling possibly to a big bank and emerging as a candidate to run the bigger company, according to investment bankers with direct knowledge of the matter. Bankers say Thain began putting out feelers to sell CIT after the firm failed in its bid to purchase ING Direct earlier in the year. “They've been shopping themselves off and on because they have virtually no deposit base and thus no low-cost source of funds to run their business,” said one banker at a major firm with knowledge of CIT’s activities. “Thain may also be putting out feelers, trying to get a drumbeat going. Who knows, but it's certain he's up to something.” Anyone want to give him a big boy bank (or something) to run? Read more: Looking For A Comeback, John Thain Shops CIT [FBN]