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LATAM Debt capital markets: Merrill’s not so steady ship

What’s going on at Merrill Lynch? The investment bank has posted impressive overall first-quarter results, as revenues hit the $8 billion mark, but the Latin American debt capital markets desk seems to be lagging.

The bank has fallen dramatically in the league tables and uncertainty seems to surround the identity of the person leading the origination business for the region. Dan Vallimarescu, who was head of Latin American debt capital markets for a number of years, left in September – he has just resurfaced at Banco Santander – and it now appears that the role of his successor, Michael Lucente, will change.

No official decision has been announced but a source at the bank suggests that Lucente will move from being head of debt capital markets to a role with more involvement in proprietary trading. His is not the only personnel change. In a sign that an experienced hand is needed to steady the ship, James Quigley, vice-chairman of the executive client coverage group and president of Merrill Lynch International, has taken on an official role for the region. At the end of the first quarter he was also appointed head of Latin America global markets and investment banking.

This instability might explain Merrill Lynch’s slide in the Latin American debt capital markets bookrunner league tables. The firm was fifth in 2004, 10th in 2005 and 19th at the end of the first quarter, with two small deals.

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