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Investment banking: HSBC builds a force to be reckoned with

HSBC’s global banking and markets division has netted profits of $20 billion over the past three years. So much for those who say it can’t do investment banking. Clients, even in equity capital markets, are turning to HSBC. The challenge facing Stuart Gulliver and his team is to maintain the momentum.

OVER DINNER IN the City of London, in March, a group of investment bankers talks long into the night over recent high-profile deals. Will Prudential succeed with its $35.5 billion bid for the Asian business of AIG? The UK insurer’s share price has been tumbling since the acquisition was announced the previous week, prompting talk that the company has only succeeded in putting itself in play.

The bankers agree that there is strong industrial logic for the deal, that it gives the Prudential a lead position in the world’s most exciting growth markets and puts competitors on the back foot. Rival insurers will have to respond in turn and more deals will likely follow. The bankers like this thought.

The roadshow for the record rights issue – the UK’s biggest ever – accompanying the deal will require Pru chief executive Tidjane Thiam to do a good job of explaining the plan. It’s just as well the equity and debt portions of the financing are underwritten and in the bag.

Conversation turns to the debt market’s new obsession with sovereign risk and worries over the capacity of high-deficit developed market borrowers to roll over their funding.

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