Committed to omnipresence
UBS professes not to mind losing its top spot in Australian ECM to Macquarie. As Mark B Johnson discovers, it still has a secure position in the market.
In 2004 UBS was knocked off its perch as Australia's leading equity capital markets house by volume of deals, but its consolation is that top-ranked Macquarie achieved that courtesy of the large flow of in-house issues from companies and trusts in which it has a stake. Whether ranked one or two in the table, UBS is a class act in Australia, which can be seen clearly by the amount of repeat business it captures from prolific issuers such as Macquarie-related companies and trusts, structured finance company Babcock & Brown, foods group Goodman Fielder and plenty of others, many of them household names in Australia.
Guy Fowler, joint head of ECM at UBS in Sydney, puts the case that his firm's commitment to the market, the long track records of its senior bankers and the regularity of its deal flow give UBS a leading edge in the market.
"The team here has been remarkably stable," he says. "That wealth of experience, combined with our very regular presence in the primary market, gives the highest possible level of competence to our clients."
Fowler explains that both he and co-head of ECM, Guy Foster, have been at UBS in Australia for more than 10 years, as have Richard Hunt and Matthew Grounds, co-heads of investment banking, as well as Brett Paton, the firm's former ECM head, who is now chairman of capital markets. "I cannot stress enough the importance of the firm's stability and teamwork," says Fowler.
Guy Foster, who focuses more on the syndicate and distribution side of the operation, highlights a different point: "ECM leverages an outstanding investment banking presence throughout the full array of industries and companies across the land. Together with our unparalleled sales and trading capability, the ECM platform is a natural winner."
UBS has built a formidable reputation in hybrid securities, with groundbreaking deals such as the A$550m perpetual reset exchangeable issue for insurance company IAG in late 2004 and more recently the tier one security issues for Westpac (A$700m), and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (A$1.12bn). "Our deal structuring expertise and innovation is market-leading, as is our understanding of the needs of the investors," concludes Foster.
Fowler, who is more focused on client coverage and deal origination, points out that UBS's roster of business is full of high profile transactions.
These include lead roles in the three big deals on the Australian ECM horizon, the government's third selldown of shares in telecom company Telstra, the privatisation IPO of hydroelectric generator Snowy Hydro and the flotation of Emeco, a privately held distributor of earthmoving equipment.
"We have the critical mass at UBS to cover the market thoroughly and to take on a large deal flow," he reports. "There are almost no competitors out there who can reach across as many industries and deals as UBS."
Matthew Koder, who heads the UBS ECM effort in Asia Pacific and is co-head of global ECM, sees Macquarie as a competitor, but also a friend. "We are not in any way threatened by the rise of Macquarie Bank and its equity capital market successes," he says. "Macquarie is a very important UBS client in Australia and across the globe, not only for ECM but also for the full range of M&A execution and advisory roles, debt market fundraising and other financial services."
Koder reports that, as in Asia, UBS has a commitment to be omnipresent in the Australian market, working, he says "in a focused and enthusiastic manner" on small as well as jumbo size transactions. He concludes: "We have a goal to remain at the forefront of corporate finance and capital market innovation, and to provide the widest range of clients with the solutions that best suit them."
|Key staff: Guy Fowler, Guy Foster, Matthew Grounds, Richard Hunt, Matthew Koder, Brett Paton
Key clients: Babcock & Brown Capital, Seven Network, Macquarie Goodman Group, Alinta Infrastructure Holdings, SP Ausnet, Goodman Fielder, Westpac TPS Trust
Key deal (2006): Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group's A$105m mutli-party share offering to finance its acquisition of PD Ports in the UK
League table position (2001-05): 1, 1, 1, 2, 2