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OPINION

Where to make money in Latin America

The region’s equity markets are beginning to outshine debt and M&A.

Last year was a very good one for investment banks in Latin America. Data accumulated by Dealogic show that net fee revenues for the year were up by more than 30% on the previous year. Net revenues from all public deals in equities, debt, loans and M&A reached $1.37 billion last year, compared with $1.04 billion in 2005.

The difference is even more striking when the figures are compared with 2002-04, when average net revenues for each year were just $639 million.

Between 2002 and 2005, the biggest revenue earner among banks in the region was either Citigroup or JPMorgan. This was not surprising given that both had (and still have) strong debt capital markets franchises and that DCM was by far the most prosperous area to do business.

Last year, however, there was a big turnaround. The two banks perched at the top of the table were Credit Suisse and UBS. The former generated $235 million of net revenues and the latter $163 million. Citigroup and JPMorgan followed behind in third and fourth place, with $121 million and $92 million, respectively.

What was the reason for the Swiss banks’ success? The simple answer is their dominance of Latin America’s equity market.

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