INVESTMENT BANK SURVEY 2010: A better year

By bne IntelliNews February 23, 2011

bne -

Welcome to bne's inaugural "Investment Bank Survey 2010", compiled from interviews and using data from Dealogic. From our survey, it can be deduced that 2010 was markedly better than 2009 for Central and Eastern European investment banks, though still a tough year in many respects.

Equity markets across the region rose strongly as emerging markets in general rallied, but it was only toward the end of the year and start of this year that companies have grasped the IPO nettle - and in many cases were met with feeble demand as inflation fears led to an outflow of money, undermining the increasingly fragile recovery. In all of CEE, the top 20 banks ran equity capital market deals worth $23.3bn, which was up from $9.6bn in 2009, reports Dealogic.

Bond desks had a better time as companies and governments turned to the debt markets to look for financing. The top 20 investment banks managed $116.4bn worth of deals in 2010, up from $92.2bn in 2009. And cheap asset prices and plentiful liquidity, thanks to the bailout cash, meant there was a frenzy of M&A activity as economies across the region rebalanced and the strong took over the weak. Investment banks advised on $192.0bn worth of M&A deals in 2010, versus $99.5bn in 2009.

The competition for the bne 2010 Best Investment Bank Eastern Europe was comfortably won by VTB Capital, the investment arm of the state-controlled VTB Group. VTB Capital has only been in the game since 2008, but topped the list of equity ($1.2bn) and bond ($10.2bn) deals, and came 11th for M&A deals ($20.6bn), giving a total of $32bn worth of deals it managed in 2010. The bank also reported healthy results with a pretax profit in the last three quarters of 2010 of RUB16bn ($500m), up 55% versus the year-earlier period.

The competition for the bne 2010 Best Investment Bank Central and Southeast Europe was closer, but won by UniCredit Group with $1.7bn of equity deals and $4.2bn of debt deals. Raiffeisen Bank International came a close second.

More local

The final category is the bne 2010 Best Local Investment Bank for the crop of banks operating in frontier markets. The investment banking business in the smaller economies of emerging Europe is very mixed, as investment banking in many of the countries of the region remains in its infancy and very underdeveloped, so we have tried to choose the most interesting.

Dragon Capital in Ukraine is a clear exception and winner of the bne 2010 Best Local Investment Bank Ukraine. Founded almost a decade ago, Dragon has been a pioneer in the Ukrainian capital markets, starting operations before the country had any meaningful capital market. These days Dragon accounts for about a third of the turnover on the Ukraine Exchange and the lion's share of bond underwriting and M&A advisory. Since its establishment, Dragon has completed more than 90 deals, including IPOs, private placements and M&A transactions for major Ukrainian companies in the fastest growing sectors of the local economy, including several of Ukraine's first post-crisis capital raising transactions.

BG Capital is also the clear winner of the bne 2010 Best Local Investment Bank Georgia. A spin-off of the super successful Bank of Georgia, BG Capital (formerly Galt & Taggart) has focused on what it has dubbed the "BUG markets" (Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia) and pioneered the nascent Georgian capital market, dominating trading on the local exchange and introducing a constant flow of new products. In 2010, the bank successfully completed the first ever IPO of a Ukrainian coal mine, Sadovaya Group, on the Warsaw Stock Exchange in December. The bank is growing and last year finalized the acquisition of DBL Capital, a brokerage company in Georgia, taking its share of trading on the Georgian securities market to nearly 80%.

However, the award for the overall bne 2010 Best Local Investment Bank goes to Eurasia Capital Limited based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. This Central Asian country is on the cusp of a massive boom thanks to several large mining projects under way that will come to fruition in about two years. Barring some unforeseen accident, Mongolia should "do an Azerbaijan" from about 2013 - the small Caucasian republic's economy exploded about five years ago, growing by over 35% a year after its oilfields were hooked up to international export pipelines. Likewise, Mongolia's economic growth is expected to balloon by 20% a year from 2013 after the biggest mines come online.

Eurasia's CEO, Alisher Ali, has been tireless trotting the globe to raise awareness of the story and set up the country's first western-style investment bank, which is now the largest with a team of 25. The firm provides cross-border M&A advisory, capital raising, sales & trading services, and targets western investors through a research house that has the largest research team with the most comprehensive coverage of the Mongolian economy, industries and companies. In 2010, Eurasia completed a number of M&A and capital raising transactions, including the $40m capital raising for Prophecy Resource. The firm says it has mandates for domestic IPOs and secondary offerings from Mongolian companies in excess of $100m.

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