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Capital Markets

Asia: Debt markets race for the top again

The competition for debt capital market share in Asia is fiercer than for years. Hungry new franchises are using their balance sheets and aggressive pricing promises to win deals. The region’s top equity houses are bulking up their debt offerings and traditional powerhouses are back in force. Lawrence White reports.

WHEN EUROMONEY SURVEYED Asia’s top debt capital markets bankers recently, it asked them what issue most concerned them. One replied in an email: "Fee cutting/margin cutting/imprudent lending/people who don’t have any track record getting mandates and then being a passenger on deals at the other underwriters’ expense!"

If the comment shows some exasperation at the level of competitiveness in the first quarter of 2010, it should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following the fortunes of Asia’s debt capital markets. The race to the top ranks of the league tables is back on, and there are perhaps more competitive runners than at any time in the past two years.

The competition for debt capital markets mandates in Asia-Pacific can be broken down into a few categories. First come the franchises that are aggressively trying to build market share from a low base as part of an overall strategy to transform themselves into genuine Asia-Pacific investment banking franchises. Chief among these are Nomura and Standard Chartered, both of which are acquiring reputations for aggressive hiring in capital markets, fierce competition on deal pricing and a willingness to back that pricing with the firm’s own balance sheet where necessary.

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