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Testing new ideas in-house

Issuer: investment banks

Amount: $21 billion

Launched: continually

Arranger: investment banks

Investment banks are willingly seduced by the discreet charms of an MTN programme, not only a flexible funding tool but a secretive one. These trysts can be very productive. It's no coincidence all the major MTN dealers also have active programmes in their banks' own names.

According to CapitalNet MTN Ware, the top 15 bookrunners of non-syndicated MTNs accounted for over $110 billion of business last year. Between them they also issued over $21 billion from their own bank programmes.

Merrill Lynch was both top bookrunner and most active issuer among the investment banks. Over $3.2 billion of non-syndicated trades came off its own programme, making it overall the sixth most active MTN borrower of the year. In all there is almost $16 billion outstanding off its programme. It may be high profile in volume of issuance, but as far as publicity goes Merrill prefers to keep its head down. The bank does not wish to talk about its own programme.

It is not alone in this. Finding investment banks willing to be profiled in this column proved remarkably difficult. Such reticence breeds curiosity, and investment banks are certainly among the more intriguing borrowers.

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