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Asian capital markets: Enthusiasts need cooler heads

Asian markets are probably the place to be for the next decade or so. But over-enthusiastic expectations cannot yet be fulfilled.

To travel from the ash-cloaked, no-fly zone of Europe in mid-April to the buzzing financial hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore was to experience in reality a journey that many bankers will have thought about in recent months. Asia’s markets are alive and well, as the non-stop flow of headline-grabbing deals such as the Prudential AIA takeover and the IPO of Agricultural Bank of China demonstrates. The region’s hubs offer attractive tax environments. The world’s developed markets are struggling for growth and to be competitive and Asia looks to be the most exciting frontier for investment banking and global markets practitioners for the next decade at least.

But hold on. As senior bankers managing businesses in Asia can and do attest, there is an expectation of deal flow, galvanized by such optimism and by the supposedly inexorable eastward shift in the centre of gravity of global financial markets, that cannot yet be matched by results.

Asia’s markets are exciting and broad but they can also be cruelly shallow for regional heads being pressured by global bosses to deliver now. Dealogic data figures show that Asia excluding Japan’s $627.5 billion of total debt capital markets volume in 2009 was just 10% of the global total.

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