BEST M&A ADVISER
Despite a decent volume of deals it’s hard to believe that 2012 will be looked back upon as a vintage year for mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Deal flow was steady but depended in large part on the desire of Chinese state-owned enterprises to grow, particularly in natural resources.
Three banks stood out for their M&A work in this busily unmemorable year: Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Citi. Each enjoyed a good year and can point to triumphs, but Asiamoney feels that Credit Suisse stood tallest by a whisker.
According to Dealogic the Swiss bank was second overall for M&A completed deal volumes between December 2011 and November 2012, but it was the busiest bank in China, the most prolific market for M&A. Credit Suisse most notably helping advise Alibaba Group on privatising subsidiary Alibaba.com and then on buying 20% of its own shares from Yahoo! for US$7 billion, which has set the scene for the internet services company to conduct a major dual listing in 2013.
Credit Suisse also advised China Three Gorges International on its US$3.53 billion purchase of a 21.35% stake in Energias de Portugal. While effectively a distressed sale by the Portuguese government it still stands as a notable cross border development for China’s power sector.
Another eye-catching deal was Credit Suisse’s advice to Citic Securities on its bid for CLSA Asia Pacific. The acquisition makes it the first mainland investment bank to possess a thoroughbred Asian distribution platform, and if successful could offer strong competition existing international players.
Outside of Greater China Credit Suisse advised Lone Star Funds on its sale of 51.02% of Korea Exchange Bank to Hana Financial Group for US$3.38 billion, a politically-charged deal that had been on-off for years. In Malaysia the bank advised Kencana Petroleum on its US$1.97 billion acquisition of Sapura Crest in May, while in Indonesia Credit Suisse advised its long-time client the Bakrie family when PT Borneo Lumbung Energi & Metal bought a 23.78% position in their UK-listed mining company Bumi for US$1 billion in January 2012.
Credit Suisse was also one of the very few international banks to do any work in Vietnam, advising Vietcombank on a sale of 15% of its shares to Mizuho Financial Group of Japan for US$567.2 million in January 2012.
Rivals of Credit Suisse contend that its league table standing relied heavily on its work with the Alibaba Group and advising Heineken on its acquisition of Asia Pacific Breweries. But many other banks also benefited from these deals – including Citi and Goldman Sachs – and Credit Suisse did a great deal more than this.
Our biggest criticism would be that Credit Suisse’s India business was a little thin (although it was one of nine advisers on Vedanta Resources’ US$6.33 billion acquisition of Cairn India) and its announced M&A pipeline was smaller than its two main rivals (Citi in particular was unfortunate that Cnooc’s slated US$18 billion acquisition of Canada’s Nexim, on which it is sole buyside adviser, was held up by politics).
However, the fact is that Credit Suisse advised on many of 2012’s key deals. For that it deserves reward.
BEST EQUITY ARRANGER
Even investment banking rivals of Goldman Sachs reluctantly admit that the bank was able to find ways to dominate amid some of the toughest of equity capital market (ECM) conditions in Asia in recent years.
Volatile stock market and slowing economic growth from China proved to be formidable obstacles for equity issuance in the region in 2012, cutting volumes for January 1 to December 10 by 19% compared to the same period in 2011. Yet despite the trying conditions Goldman Sachs found a way to beat its rivals.
The grim environment and unsettled equity markets were far from reassuring for companies seeking to list new shares, and as a consequence it was Malaysia rather than China that ended up supplying three of the year’s top six initial public offerings (IPOs).
Goldman Sachs was able to get on two of them; IHH Healthcare’s US$2.1 billion deal in July, Southeast Asia’s largest healthcare IPO, as well as Astro Malaysia Holdings’ US$1.5 billion deal. Additionally, the US bank played a bookrunner role on Chow Tai Fook Jewelry’s US$2.1 billion listing, which was Hong Kong’s largest IPO of the year, and New China Life Insurance’s US$1.9 billion that was priced in December 2011.
But the weak deal flow from new listings made it important that equity arrangers also stand tall for secondary offerings. Goldman was able to do that through by acting as a joint global coordinator on the two largest and most anticipated block sales of the year: AIG’s sale of US$6 billion-worth of AIA shares in March, and a second follow-on worth US$2 billion in September. Although the first deal in March resulted in share prices tumbling, the second deal was able to redeem its upward trend.
The US investment bank ended up printing block trades every month of 2012. And during a time when Hong Kong and China blocks were the largest geographical markets to secondary offerings Goldman topped bookrunning volumes for both, garnering at least 20% of market share in each.
UBS ran Goldman Sachs close for this award, due in large part to its strong performance across products and geographies. But while the Swiss bank topped the ECM league tables in terms of bookrunner rankings, the fact that it missed out on IHH’s IPO and did not play a major leading role in the AIG block sales enabled Goldman to show stronger dominance in 2012’s equity capital markets.
BEST BOND ARRANGER
It’s undeniable that banks across the region have seen excellent results in the debt market this year.
Dealers such as J.P. Morgan have flown up league tables, fuelled by innovative ideas. Citi has yet again proved its strength, diligence and reliable performance. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and UBS have shown their savvy in navigating the fickle high yield market, while Goldman Sachs cemented a name for itself in the investment grade space.
Yet, when it comes to across-the-board strength in innovation, local-currency aptitude, efficiency across verticals and sheer volume, HSBC has again proven itself as the region’s leading debt house.
Between December 2011 and November 2012 the UK bank worked on 102 G3 deals that raised more US$61 billion for its clients, earning the bank 13.5% market share in Asia. Across the board, its most iconic deals have included Asiamoney honourees Genting Singapore, the Government of Mongolia and Bank of Communications, as well as Soho China, the largest deal by a Chinese corporate; SinoPec, the largest US dollar bond issue by an Asian borrower during the year; and Longfor, which achieved the largest-ever order book by a Chinese high yield issuer.
Within Dealogic’s league tables HSBC stands at the top of the G3, high yield and local currency charts, marking the first year it’s been top of the high yield table. Further, the bank has participated as sole bookrunner on five US dollardeals, up from just one in 2011. It has also conducted more follow-on G3 mandates than any other bank in the region, at 16 deals, and brought 21 inaugural issuers into the Asian US dollar market.
Volume comes naturally for HSBC. As a top commercial lender, the bank has been able to parlay business from its syndicated lending and equity capital markets divisions into its DCM unit, and it has encouraged wealth and private banking clients to become investors.
Yet HSBC does not rest on its laurels. It has pushed the envelope of innovation this year through its corporate hybrids, high yield bonds, liability management and securitisation. Through collaboration of its syndicate, origination, local-markets and financing solutions teams it can enter a client meeting to discuss the possibilities of G3, Islamic finance deal and including hedging solutions and distinct strategies for secondary market performance.
For its holistic approach to deal making, its strength generating new business and its ability to consistently retain clients, HSBC once again sets the bar.
BEST LOANS ARRANGER
It has been a difficult year for the loan syndication market, with volumes down on 2011 as many banks considered the ramifications of volatile markets and tighter capital requirements. Amid this uncertainty some players weathered the conditions better than others.
Standard Chartered (StanChart) was notable for its aggressive attitude to underwriting syndicated loans. This approach ensured that it conducted US$7.8 billion of volume from 69 deals. Notably, it boasted strong local currency loan capabilities in Singapore dollars and Indonesian rupiah.
But its ambition also led the bank to have the year’s biggest lending blot; a US$1 billion loan to Borneo Lumbung Energi & Metal that it arranged as sole bookrunner on January 16, 2012. StanChart fully underwrote the loan with the intention of syndicating it out later, but a mixture of tight pricing and concerns over the proceeds of the deal, which were intended to buy a 23.75% stake in UK listed mining assets company Bumi from Bakrie & Brothers, led to a dearth in demand from other banks. StanChart reportedly ended up only managing to sell US$230 million of the loan as of October; it was a big miscalculation.
Instead arch-rival HSBC takes this award for the third year running, in large part because it avoided conducting major errors due to a far more conservative lending policy. This meant that it could not boast the same volume of business as StanChart, conducting US$4.9 billion of syndicated lending from 44 deals in total, but the deals it was involved in were of a high quality.
A standout transaction was HSBC’s bookrunner position on a US$3 billion loan for Alibaba Group conducted on February 21, which was comprised of US$2 billion one-year and US$1 billion three-year tranches. The bank did not participate in the Chinese internet services company’s US$1 billion refinancing of the three-year tranche at a cheaper rate six months later, but that was largely down to a principled stand that borrowers should not refinance a long-term loan so quickly.
Other standouts for the UK bank included its role in Noble Group’s US$2.37 billion loan on May 22, which was comprised of a mixture of US dollars and euros, a US$1.25 billion one-year loan for Cargill Asia Pacific Treasury of Singapore on March 22, and a US$1.5 billion two-tranche loan for Reliance Industries on September 28.
HSBC enjoyed a strong presence among China and Hong Kong borrowers, two markets with which it is well connected. A mixture of the bank’s steady if unspectacular loan arranger volumes and conservative lending practices left it in good stead in a relatively thin year for syndicated loans, and for that we feel it deserves 2012’s gong.
BEST INVESTMENT BANK
The testament to Goldman Sachs’ success in 2012 is that it did everything well, and its key rivals could not boast quite the same uniformity of coverage.
While Asia’s ECM market didn’t have a great year Goldman Sachs made the most of it, fighting tooth and nail with arch-rival UBS in particular.
On the IPO side the US bank played a major role in some of 2012’s standout transactions, including IHH Healthcare’s MYR6.73 billion (US$2.15 billion) listing on July 12, which won our IPO of the year, and People’s Insurance Co (Group) of China’s HK$24.01 billion (US$3.1 billion) Hong Kong IPO on November 30.
Big secondary equity offerings were a particularly notable feature of 2012, and Goldman did its fair share. It was a bookrunner on Bank of Communication’s Rmb29.77 billion (US$4.7 billion) follow-on offering on August 24, AIG’s HKD46.7 billion (US$6.02 billion) block sale of AIA’s shares on March 6, and then its HK$15.68 billion further sale on September 6
Goldman was just beaten to the post in M&A by Credit Suisse, but it boasted some noteworthy advisory work. This included advising on SapuraCrest Petroleum on rival Kencana Petroleum’s US$19.6 billion bid on May 15, acting as one of many advisers on Yahoo!’s sale of 20% of Alibaba Group for US$7.1 billion on September 18, Lotte Shopping’s US$1.87 billion purchase of 65.25% of Hi-Mart on October 29, and most notably acting as one of two voices in Fraser & Neave’s ear when it sold its 58% stake in Asia Pacific Breweries to Heineken for SGD7.35 billion (US$5.86 billion) on November 15.
The bond market has not been a traditional strength of Goldman. But it enjoyed a good year for G3 DCM transactions, boasting US$11.2 billion of bond bookrunning to make it the fourth highest-ranked market participant.
It was particularly strong arranging bonds for investment grade borrowers. Standout deals included key client Hutchison Whampoa’s US$1.5 billion dual tranche bond issue in January 2012 and then a US$2 billion deal on January 31, Samsung Electronics’ US$1 billion bond issue on April 2, Sinopec Group Overseas Development’s US$3 billion three-tranche bond on May 10, Temasek Financial’s US$1.7 billion transaction on July 16, PTT Chemical’s US$1 billion issue on September 12, another US$1.5 billion financing for Hutchison on November 5 and finally a US$1.5 billion bond issue for Baidu on November 20.
Overall Goldman did an excellent job ensuring that it delivered funding or advice for its clients whatever the conditions, and in whatever sector they required funds.
Special mention also goes to Citi, which was the only bank that could boast top three league table positions for ECM, G3 DCM and M&A, respectively. After several years of middling capital markets performance in Asia it rose to become a strong contender during 2012 and only narrowly loses this award due to Goldman outperforming it in the ECM and M&A spaces.