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Awards for Excellence 2016: Floats like a butterfly, stings like an HSBC

World's best investment bank: Global investment banks have spent the years since the global financial crisis trying to develop diversified and differentiated businesses. Few have succeeded. Quietly, but impressively, HSBC has stuck to its long-term strategy in global banking and markets and built just that. That division, led by Samir Assaf, with the backing of group CEO Stuart Gulliver, delivers impressive returns in difficult markets. And it is increasingly there for its clients on the high-profile deals where you would not have expected it.


Illustration: Kevin February

Li Ka-shing, arguably the most important investment banking client in Asia, had for many years been considering a rationalization of his myriad business interests in Hong Kong and beyond.

When he finally pressed the button to proceed with the reorganization of Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa, the $81 billion deal would prove to be one of the biggest of 2015.

Li and his senior management eventually put three banks on the ticket. One was involved from start to end, advising on a hugely complex restructuring that, taken in the wrong direction, could easily have fallen foul of regulators and stock exchange rules in Hong Kong or risked damaging the fortune that Li had built up over six decades. It was, even competitors admit, this bank’s deal. 

Another firm, with close ties to CK/Hutch, came in some way through the process, mostly because the lead bank had committed all the financing it could to the deal. The third was forced frantically to scramble to get on the deal at the very last minute, leveraging its long-standing relationship with Li’s business to at least get league table credit, if not much in the way of fees, and avoid the embarrassment of being left off one of the biggest deals in Hong Kong’s financial history. 

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