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Convertible issuance: Nomura makes or breaks with bond deal

Nomura’s handling of SK Telecom’s $300 million five-year convertible bond has left the market asking if it was the bold stroke that will establish the firm as a big player in Asia’s equity-linked market or an over-aggressive piece of business that could harm the market and the bank alike.

The deal, issued by the South Korean telecom firm on March 19 to refinance a similar bond maturing in May, was the first convertible bond to be issued by a company from Asia for some eight months. Initial price talk had been for a coupon of about 3%, and Barclays, Credit Suisse and Citi were believed to be handling the mandate. It came as something of a surprise, then, when investors discovered that Nomura had not only joined the deal but in fact taken over all distribution duties and finalized the coupon at 1.75% with a conversion premium of 23%.

Nomura handled all the marketing for the deal, directing the other bookrunners to forward their calls to the Japanese firm. Nomura is a strong – the firm says "dominant" – player in secondary trading of convertible bonds in Asia, and believed that its strength in that market would allow it to place all of the bonds by itself.

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