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The rebalancing of Asian investment banking

The flood of Chinese IPOs in the 1990s skewed the focus of investment banks in Asia towards ECM. With the near demise of this business, banks face the taxing problem of finding an appropriate balance between ECM, DCM and M&A.

The emergence of Asia Pacific on the global stage has, to all intents and purposes, been preordained. Demographics, economics and a host of geopolitical and anthropological factors have combined to make it so.

But success for companies seeking to capitalize on the rich opportunity provided by the region’s coming of age is far from similarly assured.

More than a decade into the Asian century, for investment banks and financial services companies, the problem is how to turn the undeniable potential of the region into sustainable profit.

As a banker based in Hong Kong puts it: "It’s all very well saying the opportunity is boundless – you hear that all the time out here. The problem is focusing on the things, as a bank, that you do best, not expending valuable resources trying to be all things to all people. And doing this while making a profit is easier said than done when competition is fierce and revenues, while growing, remain small on a global scale."

For a while the way to prosper in the region was clear. Privatizations by large Chinese oil and gas and telecoms companies and banks provided big payouts, through advisory fees on their IPOs and on the investment side.

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